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Graham Arnold's resurrection: How the 'Coach Whisperer' helped create a Sydney FC beast

12:36 PM SGT 31/1/18
Graham Arnold Bradley Charles Stubbs
EXCLUSIVE: Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold and life coach Bradley Charles Stubbs talk to Goal about the partnership which helped transform the Sky Blues

Sydney FC and their coach Graham Arnold were at rock bottom at the end of the 2015-16 A-League regular season.

The Sky Blues missed the finals less than 12 months after narrowly falling short against Melbourne Victory in the grand final.

Questions were raised about Arnold's future at the club - finishing seventh in a 10 team league is most certainly a failed campaign.

But the negative noise about his future wasn't just external, it was also felt by the man himself.

"When things are good, there is no self doubt," Arnold said to Goal in an exclusive interview.

"But when things aren’t great, it doesn’t matter who you are, you always question yourself."

Enter Bradley Charles Stubbs. The man dubbed the "Coach Whisperer". The man who deserves significant credit for the transformation of Arnold into the super coach he is today.

Stubbs met Arnold briefly in 2015, but it was the infamous on-air argument between the Sky Blue coach and Fox Sports personality Adam Peacock in April 2016 that perked his interest.

His teachings and subsequent work with Arnold prove the science of belief is one of the most powerful factors in sport.

"I saw his energy everywhere and I saw the things that were coming out of his mouth and I thought this is not the guy I met (in 2015)." Stubbs told Goal .

"One day in August 2016 I was at home and something just said to me ‘ring Graham Arnold’.

"I rang Graham on a blocked number and he answered.

"After we chatted for a while, Graham said to me, “Bradley, I never pick up blocked numbers and I don’t know why I picked up today and here you are and we’re having this chat’."

It was the beginning of a working relationship that would lead Stubbs to become Arnold's coaching mentor and also one of his closest friends.

This was Stubbs first foray into the world of football - having previously worked with other high profile sporting coaches including Michael Cheika, Eddie Jones and Michael Maguire.

Stubbs says he knows why coaches struggle, and the first step to start winning is for them to take responsibility for their actions.

He also reveals one of Sydney FC's ultimate goals for last season was set at the start of the campaign - an achievement they missed by the smallest margin.

"I put in place with Graham one of my programs with the goal of going undefeated for the season," Stubbs said.

"To me, that’s not a big deal – and there is plenty of coaches that believe but how much belief do they actually have?

"If you look at coaches in their interviews, when they lose, they make all these excuses.

"The only reason a coach doesn’t win is because the problem is in the mirror and they need to be aware of that.

"The problem is with them - nowhere and no one else."

Stubbs introduced his 'Expect To Win' program to Arnold - a phrase you would have heard the Sydney FC coach use many times over the past 18 months.

It involves introducing positive, energy filled words into the coach's vocabulary and is designed to help the coach believe in themselves.

"Bradley's big strength with me was making me believe in myself and being someone that I can talk to about issues when you don’t usually someone to discuss those things with," Arnold said.

"He drummed into me ‘the words you speak are the words you get, the thoughts you think are the thoughts you get’.

"He corrected my words – got me to get rid of the words ‘hope’ and ‘want’. In the past I would say to my players ‘I hope we win this weekend’.

"I’m a big communicator. Every player I’ve coached would probably say one of my strengths is man management. The only way you can man manage is by communicating.

"Other coaches don’t talk to players or don’t really communicate that much. But I’m the opposite.

"And when you communicate as much as I do, the messages and the words I speak are important to the players because what goes into their subconscious mind they then believe."

But it isn't as simple as reading a program and changing your language.

Stubbs always makes himself available to mentor Arnold and the pair often discuss specific situations about opposition teams.

"Graham rings me 4-6 times a week and when he talks to me I ask him what kind of language he is using with the players," Stubbs said.

"I tell him, ‘don’t say that, say this. That word you just said there has no energy in it.

"Every coach I have worked with, we use the media to put out the ‘mental warfare’ to bring out the doubts in the subconscious minds of opposition coaches and players."

If you have watched Arnold in press conferences and interviews over the past 18 months, the change in his use of words is profound.

Although it may appear almost arrogant, the positive and ultra-confident language used by Arnold and his players is a product of the self belief that has been built.

"My belief is so high and has been for the past few years, the players run off my belief and they believe in themselves," Arnold said.

"If you speak to my players, I don’t tell them what to say anymore at press conferences and interviews.

"I used to tell them don’t say ‘hope’ or ‘want’, but instead say ‘will’ and other positive words. Now I don’t even talk to them about it, they just do it."

The mentality of the Sydney FC squad becomes clearer once you understand the work Stubbs has done with Arnold - in a period which has seen the club lift the A-League Championship, Premiers Plate and FFA Cup.

This Sky Blue team have lost two games in 18 months and have repeatedly got results in matches when they have been behind or not played well.

Even in the recent Australia Day clash with Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC were only behind for two minutes before Bobo's equaliser deflated Kevin Muscat's side.

And who could forget last year's A-League grand final? Victory led for 50 minutes and were ahead in the penalty shootout, but the Sky Blues got the job done.

It's all about belief.

"We started seeing miracles happen," Arnold explained.

"The penalty shootout last year, I knew it was going to happen. I know it sounds weird but you can get to a stage where you can expect things and predict things.

"That’s down to the self belief that has been built."

You can feel Arnold bleeds Sky Blue and the incredible connection he has with the club.

Two of Stubbs' most important teachings are about sacrifice and belief - and it's clear Arnold has invested heavily in both.

It's probably a reason why he isn't leading the Socceroos to the World Cup - because of his desire to finish the job at Sydney FC.

You can be sure the Sky Blues would have been keen to go undefeated this campaign - a goal already dashed by defeat to Central Coast.

But while they have a similar amount of points and goals difference now compared with the same stage last season, Arnold explains there is one important difference.

"I can’t see a trophy in the cabinet for 2017-18. Where is it?" he said.

"It’s all about getting greater and greater. You have done nothing yet. You haven’t achieved anything this season..

"I say that to my players today. You are in a great position but we’ve achieved nothing.

"It’s all about what we do from here going forward. Don’t rest on your laurels and the past. It’s all about being greater as individuals and as a team."

You can contact the "Coach Whisperer" Bradley Charles Stubbs at his website.

His book 'The Science Of Belief' can be purchased on Amazon.