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'I thought it was a joke!' - Joe Montemurro on The Best FIFA nomination, coaching Arsenal and Warren Joyce

05:49 GMT+3 15/08/2019
Joe Montemurro Arsenal
After being nominated for one of football's most prestigious awards, the Melbourne-born tactician has emerged as a flag-bearer for Australian coaches

"I thought someone was playing a joke on me, I’ll be honest with you."

Joe Montemurro was in disbelief when he was told of his nomination for the The Best FIFA Women's Coach.

The Arsenal Women's boss was informed of the honour by a former player - but it wasn't the most trustworthy of sources.

"I walked off the park and went in to my office and there was a text message saying congratulations from an ex-player of mine," Montemurro told Goal in an exclusive interview. 

"She’s a bit of a joker and we always have a bit of banter between us. I thought she was being silly. Then a couple of other people came in and showed me stuff and I realised it was true."

It's been a rapid journey for Montemurro, who only accepted his first women's football role with the National Training Centre in Victoria in 2014, before moving on to become the manager of Melbourne Victory's W-League side in that same year.

After defecting to rivals to Melbourne City in 2015, to be in charge of their inaugural W-League side, Montemurro showed his coaching capabilities by leading the team to both the premiership and championship - in an incredible unbeaten season that saw them score 42 goals and concede only five.

HIs stunning success saw the City Football Group head honchos take note and he was shifted to be a part of the men's setup, first as an assistant to John van 't Schip before retaining that role through the interim tenure of Michael Valkanis and the appointment of Warren Joyce.

After starting as assistant to Joyce in the 2017 A-League pre-season, Montemurro switched to a different role at the club because of creative differences between the two tacticians, but in contrast to reports, he says there was no friction in the change and expressed his admiration for his former colleague.

"There was no tension, issues or sacking whatsoever. It was obviously just a new coach coming in and [Joyce] had his beliefs on the way things should be done," Montemurro said. 

"Warren had his own ideas and it was a situation where we had different views and approaches on the game – which is normal. He wanted things done his certain way and I supported him 100 percent to the point I could. 

"Everyone has their own opinion on the way things should be done and we had some style differences. We just felt it was better if I took on another role, instead of working with Warren. I’ve got a lot of respect for Warren and for what he does."

This was the start of Montemurro's journey to Arsenal and only two months later he was in charge of their women's team after the English giants sought out his services - incredibly landing his first big coaching role at the club he had supported his whole life.

Uprooting your life and moving overseas is a huge thing for anyone to undertake, but Montemurro knew he was ready to test himself against peers regarded as the best in the world and work at an organisation of Arsenal's size.

"There wasn’t any second thoughts at the journey overseas. There is a big change in terms of difference in lifestyle and ideas and attitude. But I can’t thank Arsenal enough for giving me this opportunity - I’m very happy," he said. 

"I think like anything, you want to test yourself on the best scale possible and you want to be the best in the world at the highest level. I’m grateful that I’ve got this opportunity.

"It’s amazing [to work at Arsenal]. Just the constant learning and the values and humilities of these big organisations – they really value who they are and how they are perceived. This is right throughout the club and everyone who works at the club from the people doing the operational work to the football people to the people in the media to the people in commercial.

"And when you are in there, you understand why they are the size that they are and what they mean to a lot of people around the world. I’ve been blessed to be an Arsenal supporter my whole life and have seen the club develop. Now I have the opportunity to see hands on why they are a great club."

Montemurro has only been at Arsenal for less than two years but the progress of the team under his watch has been truly astounding.

When he took over in November 2017, the Gunners had not won a league title for six years, their last trophy was the 2015 FA Women's Cup and they had not been in the Champions League for three years.

By March 2018 he had claimed his trophy with the team winning the FA Women's League Cup and two months later fell just short in the FA Women's Cup final.

After finishing third in his first Women's Super League season, Montemurro led the Gunners to the 2018-19 title with a game to spare - in a campaign that included nine straight wins - with the club also reaching their target of Champions League qualification.

"The role was to bring the club back to competing with the best teams in Europe. We always said that Arsenal needs to be in the top four-six teams in Europe," Montemurro said. 

"There was a lot of work stabilising the squad and getting the mentality right. The players have been fantastic. They are the ones who have brought forward the ideas and methodology in the way we want to play. They have also brought this to life in everyday actions and in training too. They deserve the credit to bringing it back to where it is.

"We think we have stabilised it now and got somewhere we hope we can move forward and keep going at the level we are going at."

And there is no reason to think Montemurro's progression as a coach won't continue, especially when you hear him speak of why he loves the profession.

He also understands that he is in a position to be a flag-bearer for Australian coaches, hoping to pave the way for others to reach the top.

"The beauty of coaching is that it never ends. There is never a day where you can’t learn anymore. The constant journey of development is the exciting bit that I love about the profession," he said.

"Sometimes you have just got to pinch yourself and realise where you’re at. But in the end I’ve got an opportunity to test myself on the highest level possible in the world.

"Hopefully I can bring the flag forward for Australian coaches that we are good enough, that we are talented enough and we can do things on the world scale."