The Mariners’ Development Manager has a new challenge.
This season, a younger brand of Central Coast Mariners talent will take to the park for the inaugural National Youth League competition.
The man charged with the mammoth task of pulling the team together is the country-s most capped Qantas Socceroo and Mariners Development Manager, Alex Tobin.
Tobin knows more than anyone the importance of this new league to the future quality of Australia-s playing stocks and the role it will play in developing players ready to make the next step into Hyundai A-League football.
All of the players to come through the Mariners- ranks so far have benefited from Tobin-s vast skills, experience and knowledge, and now between ten and twelve hopefuls from around Australia are set to benefit also.
Tobin speaks exclusively to www.ccmariners.com.au about what to expect from the Mariners- first National Youth League tilt.
Some would say you were the brains behind last year-s Hyundai A-League Premiership triumph, how does it rate amongst your achievements so far?
It was great to win the Hyundai A-League 2007/08 Premiership, but the Championship would have been great also. I think that everybody involved in professional football would see the Premiership of a particular league as being the pivotal to actually be judged over the entire year and that is what how it works almost everywhere in the world with the exception of Australia. For sure, a Grand Final win would have been fantastic but the Premiership was very pleasing for myself and the boys and to have led the charge for most of the season on top was fantastic and great credit to them.
Congratulations on your induction into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame and Football Federation South Australia Hall of Fame, is there anything out there in the football world you haven-t achieved yet?
There are always things that you want to work towards. I guess you always have to look forward, I think that anyone who stands still and looks backwards generally doesn-t progress much further. I don-t spend a lot of time thinking about what has gone on in the past, I-m very happy with the career I had and the number of opportunities I had to play at a high level, but now my focus is on coaching and developing the next group of players and basically growing in my career as a professional coach wherever that may be.
You have done a fair bit of scouting for potential Mariners prospects, particularly in the various state league competitions, have you been impressed by what is out there?
There are a lot of very good players and it is a very difficult process picking a National Youth League team, harder than picking a Hyundai A-League team in a number of ways. We now have a number of players that we might be looking to select. With the youth team, the competition is so varied and there is so many players from around the state and country of decent quality and the reality is you cant see them all so it-s been difficult. We-ve probably seen 80 or so players in a trial situation and now that-s down to about 15 which will get cut down to 10 or there abouts, but the quality has been good overall.
Are there any particular stand-out players so far?
Nathan Sherlock and Brady Smith have been our first signings and that is rather fitting for the quality of these guys. They have both actually played for the Mariners- Hyundai A-League team in trial games this year already and have proved themselves at that level, so that-s obviously a good sign that young players can develop and become Hyundai A-League players of the future and a very positive endorsement of the quality of players we can expect to come through the ranks.
How important is the National Youth League to the overall game of football in Australia?
It-s very important, I think the Hyundai A-League has done fantastic things over the last three years, and now with the National Youth League we are filling the gap for 17-18 year olds, creating a stepping stone that will give more opportunity for more players to come through the professional ranks. You-re far more likely to get a level of success at the highest level such as the various national sides including the Socceroos with this structure now in place. It is quite clear that we have to develop players earlier in this country in order to perform at this highest level and this is just the beginning of that process. Some will progress quickly into the Hyundai A-League, others will need a year and this is giving them the opportunity to train full time. It is also vital that these young players get more game time and more training time. They may have been used to training two nights a week with their state league clubs in winter and now with the Mariners they will be training four nights a week over summer which is a vital increase to their regime. They need to be able to afford that amount of training and to grow with an increased work load as they get better.
Do you think this league will eventually stem the tide of talented junior players leaked to overseas clubs at a young age?
It will certainly help – I think that what young players tended to believe before the announcement of the National Youth League is that if they didn-t get a sniff of a Hyundai A-League contract then they had to go overseas. You generally find that of all the players who have gone overseas at a young age to trial, not many are successful. The cold reality of trailing overseas is that for every 100 who try, only one will land a professional contract with a club. I think that I they now have a lot more confidence in the fact that the National Youth League system will produce much better players. Then after playing in the National Youth League and developing here, they can go to trial overseas with a lot more confidence that they will actually be able to succeed rather than just everybody having a go. So the National Youth League is going to make the process of trialling overseas easier. They can make the transition to a Hyundai A-League contract if that-s what they choose and if they are good enough, but if they do go overseas, they will do so as a better player after playing in the National Youth League.
Would it be another feather in the Alex Tobin cap to win the first National Youth League Championship? Or is the focus more on your role in developing players?
I think that it-s a two-sided coin. Firstly, instilling a winning attitude in the players that they want to go out every game and win is part of the development process. We also need to develop them skill wise, tactically wise and of course in technique, but they have to have that competitiveness to succeed as well. Both aspects are important but I would say that given the big age difference between some of the teams, some teams may have players that are three or four years older than other teams, I think the reality of judging the merits of a program based on winning or losing is probably not so relevant here. I would hope that every clubs philosophy is that we want to produce as many players who can be Hyundai A-League players in the future rather than hugging the trophy at the end of the year and saying “we-re great”.
What advice would you have for those aspiring to come through the Mariners National Youth League team?
I think you should train hard, listen to your coaches and do all the basic things that you have been taught. If they listen to all advice and try hard and really commit themselves to their game, I think that-s what it-s all about. National Youth League doesn-t necessarily involve a lot of money for players, but it involves a lot of training and that-s what those players need to build a certain attitude, that they realise that being professional is about working hard at your football, not loads and loads of dollars. I think this attitude will help make them successful. So be ambitious, work hard, be confident that you can have the ability and when you get your chance – take it.
You will stay on as Development Manager for the Hyundai A-League team, how do you think the squad is shaping up heading in to the new season?
We are shaping up well, we-re playing well. We-ve got a lot more injuries at this time of year than we would have liked. I don-t think we like injuries at any time but given that the season hasn-t started and we-ve already had a number of guys drop out through injury, it has been a bit disappointing but apart from that, we have being playing really well. We-ve made steady progress and the guys who have come in have done well, so we-re quietly confident it-s going to be a very good season for us. We just can-t afford too many more guys dropping out.