‘I wanted to come off crying’- How Arnold and a threat turned Sainsbury into a Socceroo

Some tough love many years ago looks set reap further rewards at the 2019 Asian Cup

Trent Sainsbury's rise from A-League youngster to UEFA Champions League defender has been a staggering one and it's a journey that owes a lot to current Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.

Now Sainsbury's father-in-law, Arnold first crossed paths with the defender at Central Coast Mariners in 2010.

Still just 18, Sainsbury was fresh from a year spent with the AIS and boasting a laid-back attitude he admits has rubbed people the wrong way.

Thankfully Arnold wasn't one of those and he handed the teenager one of the toughest possible tests early on as he looked to harness Sainsbury's talent. 

"One of my first games for Central Coast Mariners we played Brisbane Roar and we got absolutely spanked 5-0," Sainsbury told Goal

"I was probably playing against the best player in the league at the time, Thomas Broich, and it was one of those games where I wanted to come off crying.

"I think I got left on the pitch as a bit of a lesson, to try and toughen me up.

"I remember playing them two years later, I played the same position against the same player and I got man of the match that day."

Before Sainsbury's shot at Roar redemption however, Arnold once again didn't pull any punches when it came to deciding whether to offer the young defender a contract extension with the club. 

"At the end of my contract, I had two years there, he came up to me and said, 'Listen, I’m not sure if I’ll keep you on, you’ve got to prove yourself' and that’s all the motivation I needed," Sainsbury said.

"Going to the Mariners was the right boot up the backside I needed at the time. 

"I had Arnie there, Clarkey, Phil Moss and a lot of senior pros that wouldn’t let me rest on talent alone."

From those early days at the Mariners, Sainsbury has gone on to lift silverware with the Socceroos and grace Wembley in Champions League football.

While his rise has been an astonishing one, the player himself isn't pinching himself just yet as he pushes for more success and shuts out the critics.

"Once you become a winner you just want more and more, it becomes addictive," he said.

"I’m my own harshest critic. I don’t look at the positive things I do - that’s what I’m supposed to do. 

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"There’s a lot of people out there that want to bring you down when you start climbing the mountain.

"You’ve got to have thick skin in this game. People don’t want to see you succeed."

It's safe to say that Sainsbury is proving to be an undoubted success story however and Arnold will be hoping to see the seeds he sowed so long ago on the Central Coast continue to bear fruit in the UAE this month.