We catch up with former Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Lawrie McKinna – now enjoying life with Chinese League One outfit Chongqing Lifan FC.
Lawrie, you’ve been with Chongqing Lifan FC approaching two months now. Tell us about your new club, their facilities and the standard of the players who compete in the Chinese second division?
The club was relegated the season before last and at the half way point last season they were second in the league, but ultimately finished eighth. So my target for the club is to get them into the top five, but I am hoping for a top two finish. The clubs base is about 15 minutes from the city centre, and it has a business centre of its own, three training fields and an old stadium to train in. We have a fully equipped gym, a swimming pool and all the Chinese players live on site – the clubs’ offices are here as well. I have an apartment five minutes walk away and an apartment at the club as well, so the facilities are brilliant.
What approach are you and your assistant Mark Jones taking to pre-season and have you played any trial games?
Our season kicks off on March 17 and our first trial game is this Friday against Chengdu Blades in Chengdu. The Chinese players are used to getting the legs run off them in pre-season, so we have trained the boys hard, but most of it with the ball and the players have responded really well. We-ve been doing gym twice a week and have a session every day except Sunday, as well as an 11 on 11 intra-club game on Saturdays.
Realistically, what are Chongqing Lifan’s aims this season? Can the current squad you have earn promotion to the Super League?
The clubs target is to be in the top five but I think the squad we have can push for promotion. We are still to sign three foreign players and we need another few local players but I think the squad is better than the one I had at Chengdu last season.
Who are the main challengers for promotion in China’s League One?
Chongqing FC has just been promoted into our division and they are backed by the local government. It will be the first time the City has had a local derby so I think they will be a main challenger.
You added some Australians to your side when you were in charge of Chengdu Blades. Do you have plans to do the same?
We are speaking to an Aussie at the moment and it-s not a Mariners player. We can only sign three players from overseas so it could be hard to get more than one (Australian) in although I would like more.
What do you miss most about the Central Coast and how have you been keeping tabs on the Mariners?
I have just got the internet on in my apartment and I will now try and get the games on my computer, but I have been getting live text updates throughout the games plus following it on Twitter. It-s the middle of winter here and pretty miserable, whereas the Central Coast is one of the most beautiful places I have lived. I do miss waking up in the morning to the blue skies and nice beaches, and of course my coffee shops, but I have a few here as well now.