Opinion: Van Egmond example shows experience the key for the development of home-grown coaches

Iain Strachan says the examples set by van Egmond, Arnold and Postecoglou demonstrate the way forward for Australian coaches

By Iain Strachan

According to Newcastle Jets boss Gary van Egmond, the next generation of Australian coaching talent would be well served by broadening their experiences at home and abroad.

Former Socceroo van Egmond cut his teeth coaching Northern Spirit between 1998 and 2000, before winning a New South Wales State League title with Manly in 2001.

He took the Jets to A-League championship success in the 2007-08 season.

Having been hired  on the cusp of the new campaign after the shock sacking of Branko Culina, Van Egmond has the team sixth on the table with two rounds remaining, and in contention for a finals campaign.

Newcastle are fortunate to have one of the country's more analytical, perceptive talents leading their players.

And it is a two-year spell at the Australian Institute of Sport which van Egmond has credited with playing a major role in his development as a coach.

Joining the AIS to oversee the men's soccer program in July 2009, he also assisted Under-17 coach Jan Versleijen, helping the Dutchman to qualify the team for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

"I think I'm a far different coach from where I was three or four years ago, the last time I was here (Newcastle)," van Egmond said, speaking after his team's impressive 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory on March 3.

"I feel a lot more capable than what I was.

"And that (came from) from being able to spend time with a very good coach like Jan Versleijen and being down at the Australian Institute of Sport and utilising everything that they have.

"You get more information and knowledge... which you then start to decipher about how you want your football team to play.

"I think I'm a better coach than I was. I've still got heaps (of development) to go of course, but it's a case of it being a little bit different ... now."

Both of Melbourne's A-League clubs, as well as Sydney FC and Adelaide United, will have new full-time coaches on the touchline next season.

The tenure of Dutchman John van 't Schip has been relatively successful at newcomers Melbourne Heart, while reports this week have indicated Northern Irishman Jim Magilton may be given the Melbourne Victory job on a long-term basis following his brief spell as caretaker.

The outgoing man at Sydney FC, Czech Vitezslav Lavicka, took the club to the A-League title in the 2009-10 campaign.

Needless to say, foreign coaches have played an integral role in the competition's early years, and are likely to do so for some time to come.

But it is home-grown tacticians Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold and their respective teams Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners which contested last season's Grand Final, and who occupy the top two spots in the standings as the 2011/12 season reaches its conclusion.

Both Postecoglou and Arnold have spent time away from the domestic game, with the former coaching Australia's Under-23 side for seven years between 2000 and 2007.

Arnold, meanwhile, was a member of the national set-up from 2000, first as Socceroos assistant coach, then head coach and Under-23 coach, until he joined the Mariners in 2010. 

Results-wise, both stints in the national system were considered unspectacular.  But the fact remains that both men leading the way in the A-League during the past two seasons are Australian, with a background of domestic development followed by exposure to international competition.  

Be that as it may, does van Egmond believe the pool of coaching talent in Australia is big enough for A-League clubs to start seriously considering domestic candidates, rather than the default option of an import from overseas?  

"I think the basis of it is definitely here, the issue is the information," he said.

"I was lucky enough to be in an environment with a very good European coach (Versleijen), plus the international experience.

"And you get put into scenarios when you're playing in Asia, you're playing in South America, you're playing in Europe, when you have to adapt ... [to] how you can get a result within that game and how you prepare for that game, and that puts you in a lot of good stead."

"Maybe what we need to look at is, we talks always about making players better, but we might also set up coaches to go to European and South American clubs, [from] which they can gain some experience.

"And maybe [establish] mentoring systems, which obviously will help as well.

"I'm a big believer that international football for coaches, no matter whether that's [Under-]17's all the way through to the national team, for putting coaches in situations they maybe wouldn't otherwise be put in here."

If Newcastle can make an impression on late-season proceedings, a large slice of the credit will surely go van Egmond's way.

And perhaps then, coaching hopefuls and struggling clubs alike will sit up and take notice of the path followed by the man in charge at Hunter Stadium.

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