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Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Nick Montgomery: “I really want to be a leader now of this club moving forward”

Nick Montgomery coach

As a captain of both Sheffield United and the Central Coast Mariners throughout his career, one would be hard-pressed to unearth a figure as prepared as Nick Montgomery to lead a renewed Mariners into the upcoming A-League season.

A player distinguished by his displays of leadership and hard work on and off the pitch, Montgomery’s arrival as Head Coach at the Mariners provides him with the opportunity to build on the success of the recently departed Alen Stajcic – whilst forging the team in his own image.

Rising through the Mariners’ coaching ranks with several triumphs at youth level, having taken out double premierships and a Grand Final with the Under-23s and the Under-20s, equips Montgomery with the know-how to facilitate success.

Ahead of the season, Montgomery has likened his takeover of the Head Coach role from Stajcic – following a resurgent 2020/21 season – to the pathway forged by Melbourne City’s Patrick Kisnorbo. Similarly motivated by a desire to emulate the success of Kisnorbo, who took over at City from previous coach Erick Mombaerts after a season where a Grand Final win eluded the side and proceeded to follow it up with the impressive feat of an A-League Premiership and Championship double, Montgomery is poised to build on the side’s positive momentum. Undoubtedly for Mariners fans, this would be as enticing a prospect as one could ask for.

Montgomery with players

Q: Just to start off, how are you feeling now that you’ve been announced as the Head Coach of the Mariners?

Nick Montgomery: Obviously it’s a great honour for me to get the Head Coach role at such a special club. [I’m] just really excited to get into being the Head Coach and I’m looking forward to next season’s A-League kicking off.

Q: As someone who has been at the club through incredible highs and challenging lows, what have you seen in the club lately that has helped to turn it around? Has it been a case of pushing through the tough times or is it something else?

Nick Montgomery: I’m fortunate to have been in football for a long time. I’ve been at the club for nine years and I’ve seen the good times and the bad times. I’ve got my own reasons for why the club has struggled but I think that’s all in the past now.

The good thing when you become Head Coach is that it’s now in my hands to implement what I want in terms of how I want the club to be known and in terms of the foundations we’ve laid in the academy. [It’s about] building on last season to try and make the club sustainable and that [involves] developing players like Alou Kuol. Players who come in and are given the opportunity to not only play at the highest level here but to play at the highest level overseas and to achieve their dreams.

Player development is something I’m passionate about, but also winning games of football. It’s just about finding the right balance.

Montgomery working

Q: The Mariners U-23s side is currently sitting at fourth in NPL 2, and last year you won the competition. It is clear that a focus on youth development is a big part of the Mariners identity, do you have an ambition to build on that success and momentum with the youth as Head Coach?

Nick Montgomery: Definitely. Like I said when talking about the foundation of the club it’s the academy and developing our own players through our academy.

When I first came out here in 2012, [if you] look at the team we had when we won the Grand Final we moved on Bernie Ibini, Oliver Bozanic, Tom Rogic, Mat Ryan. So many of those players went on overseas and have had fantastic careers as well as playing currently for the Socceroos.

I think the club lost its way a little bit over the years and to be honest it’s a great idea to develop your own players, but unless you’ve got the knowledge of doing that recruitment, coaching, mentoring and developing this generation of young players then you may struggle. There are some very good young players in this country and the challenge is bringing them in, identifying them and giving them that pathway to push on into the first team.

With Alou, we scouted him, brought him in and sort of bypassed a lot of big clubs that weren’t willing to look at him because we understand player development and we understand potential in players, and I think that equips me really well for the role at the Mariners.

I think the club has to be known for that and my vision – [which is] a shared vision – and goal for the club is to continue to do that. Obviously as you mentioned there in terms of last year and NPL, we dominated both Under-20s and First Grade, won both leagues and Grand Finals which was fantastic for the club. And from that success we had seven or eight players that pushed on and not only played in the A-League, but made a massive impact as everybody saw. I think that with the ability to do that and to be known as a club that can give young players pathway, we hope to attract the best players from around the country because we know that we can give them an opportunity here.

The big clubs are going to be spending big money again post-Covid and opportunities will not be as clear as they probably have been this year at a lot of clubs because obviously everyone’s now chasing Melbourne City. So, for us it’s an opportunity to try and bring in some of these really good young players and give them an opportunity to come play first-team football.

CCM Youth

Q: Obviously last season was a resurgent year for the Mariners, what do you believe are the key aspects from last season that need to be maintained for this season?

Nick Montgomery: In terms of the squad, we’ve got a real good core group of senior players that understand what the club’s about – Bozanic, Matt Simon, Mark Birighitti, Ruon Tongyik, Kye Rowles – and these are players that have been at the club for a couple of years so they understand the club. There are players in there that have won championships, you’ve got Marco Ureña; for me he can be the best foreign striker in the league and I think you saw that towards the end of last season.

In terms of that there is a wealth of experience and young boys with enthusiasm behind them. We just need to search the market and try and bring in a couple of players within our budget. On top of that, we’ve got some very good players coming through the academy that I expect to make an impact next season in the A-League.

Q: Having been involved in the Mariners setup for a number of years now, you’d have a great insight into the personality and expectations of their passionate fans. What do you identify as the key values off the pitch that need to be represented on it?

Nick Montgomery: It’s a real community club and a family club. We’re not in Sydney or Melbourne, we know we need the community behind us and we need the sponsors behind us. And that’s [about] engaging with the fans and that’s making the players that come here understand what the club is about.

So, you know for me as Head Coach I won’t be bringing any player in here that doesn’t understand what the club is about before we sign them. Because they have to know what the club is about and they have to buy into the culture. One thing I know from being a player here, if we can perform on the pitch then fans will come to the stadium because it’s a fantastic club and it’s the only club on the Central Coast so it’s quite unique.

But we have to give the fans something to come and watch and that’s enjoyable football and winning games of football. So, that’s my job as Head Coach to make sure I do that. And when we do that and get the stadium packed it’s a fantastic atmosphere, we’ve got some amazing fans.

CCM Fans

Q: What of your own values do you try to impart on your players?

Nick Montgomery: Look, I’m demanding, hard-working – I’m honest, I’ll always be honest with the players. Fortunately, I’ve worked with some of the best coaches in the world that are coaching at some of the best Premier League clubs in the world as well. So, I’ve got a lot of mentors and people I can call on for advice. Any coach will tell you that [with] your experiences as a player, as a coach and with the people you’ve worked with, you take the good and the bad and the things you like and disregard the things you don’t like. I think that really does mold you into the coach that you are.

But, like I said, I’m fortunate to have captained two clubs that I played at as well. So, in terms of leadership skills I think that that’s a strength of mine. I really want to be a leader now of this club moving forward and try everything I can to bring success back.

Q: With so much happening in Australian football at the moment, including the announcement of television rights and the push towards alignment, what do you feel are the things Australian football needs to get right over the next few years?

Nick Montgomery: It’s obviously been a big transition with new owners taking over the league and the TV deal. There’s been a lot of noise around the last couple of years, but in terms of what needs to be improved I think there’s a severe lack of Australian players going overseas at the minute and making a name overseas. And that impacts on the national team and its future as well.

It’s a very good league here. I think too many young players have this pipe dream of wanting to go to Europe or overseas without actually making a name in the A-League. When you go overseas it’s very cutthroat and for me playing in the A-League, or going overseas and playing at a lower level, I don’t see how they’re developing when they could be playing first team football here. With a few seasons of success and games under your belt here you’re more equipped to go overseas.

The amount of young players that have contacted me during my time at the Mariners, and now since I’ve become Head Coach, that are overseas and are desperate to get back here who think that just because they’ve been overseas, you’ll put them back into the first team is so far off the mark. For anyone coming back you have to understand that we’ve got good players in all these NPL teams that have chosen to stay here and fight to get into the A-League.

A lot of players who are coming back from overseas and who haven’t played first team football think they’ve got the right to get into the A-League, and that’s something I don’t understand. Once they come back, they realise the need to knuckle down, work their way through the NPL system and be a standout in the NPL because that’s a very good pathway for kids to get into the A-League.

Paramount+

Q: What do you want the 2021/22 season to be for you and the Mariners? What can the fans expect?

Nick Montgomery: They can expect that we’ll build on last season. They can expect that we’ll go out and try and win games of football – we’ll be passionate and we’ll be youthful and energetic. We’ll have a real team effort and that’s what the Mariners are about. We can’t compete with everybody financially but football is 11 versus 11 and for me, in my experience, we can put the right blend of youth and experience together and have that team mentality. It’s amazing, anything is achievable [with that mentality] and for me I want to aim for the top and that’s where you start.

I did my UEFA Pro Licence with Patrick Kisnorbo, so I am motivated by a desire to emulate what he’s done, with a much bigger club, in the season ahead with the Mariners.

Football Coaches Australia and XVenture announce ‘Play it Forward’ support

XV FCA

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) welcomes all Australian advance licence and community football coaches to the FCA XVenture College and the Essential Skills ‘Play it Forward’ program.

In a world first opportunity for all Australian football coaches, FCA and XV are offering a program which connects directly with FCA and XVenture’s DNA. A global mentoring (or buddy system) program which will allow for Australian coaches to help a fellow coach from around the world to undertake their own FCA XV Essential Skills study as a result of their helping hand.

The program supports football coaches in Australia and other countries who will be able to influence their community immensely as a result of our help.

XVenture Founder and CEO Mike Conway:

“For every coach who undertakes this program with Football Coaches Australia, we will “Play It Forward” by providing a coach who can’t afford the program full access to this body of work too. Imagine – coaches around the World helping the next generation! Improving lives and growing the game. Surely that’s what it’s about? There are no barriers.”           

This program is also in line with the FCA mantra of “Promoting and strengthening the reputation of football in Australia and the reputation of Australian football on the world stage”.

Glenn Warry FCA CEO:

“During the ongoing impact of COVID on world sport we at FCA, along with our valued partner XVenture, are just so proud to present the ‘Play it Forward’ program.

In 2020 FCA worked hard to lead in connecting the coaching community via an extensive coach PD webinar program for community and accredited coaches.

“The FCA XV College Essential Skills ‘Play it Forward’ Program is an incredible opportunity for Australian coaches to enhance the continuing education of every coach’s journey around the world no matter what level they are working at or what their circumstances are”.

How will the FCA XV ‘Play it Forward’ program work?

For every FCA XV Essential Skills full program undertaken by an Australian football coach a complimentary program will be provided to a coach from around the world who can’t afford the program to allow you both to work through the completion of the program together.

Initially FCA and XV will offer this program to coaches nominated by their current football network partners:

  • Association of Indian Football Coaches
  • John Moriarty Foundation
  • RISE Football Academy

FCA is also engaging with the Nepal Football Association, other Asian Football Coach Associations and the Oceania Football Confederation regarding the provision of support for coaches who meet the criteria.

As the program grows FCA will be looking to expand their network to provide this unique opportunity to coaches from all around the world, by connecting with organisations such as ‘Coaches Across Continents’.

The series of FCA XV College modules are delivered completely online, in a revolutionary virtual world environment which aims to develop the ‘essential skills’ of coaching across 5 modules – Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Resilience, Culture and Communication Skills.

Phil Moss, President of FCA, introduces the course to participating coaches as they make their way through the virtual world of the FCA XV College foyer. View here.

XVenture Founder, Professor Mike Conway provides an Essential Skills Introduction which can be viewed here.

Find out how you can be part of this coaching revolution by visiting FCA XVenture’s College

Will Melbourne City eventually move all of their games to the south east?

Melbourne City were the benchmark in the A-League last season, lifting the Premiers Plate in May and eventually the Championship in late June.

It was their first taste of A-League success after years of hard work on and off the pitch.

The club has invested heavily since City Football Group (CFG) took over the Melbourne Heart in 2014, initially building a $15 million City Football Academy in Bundoora, in the city’s north, which has housed the club for the past few years.

In what seems like a strategic investment however, the club revealed late last year that they will move from their Bundoora headquarters and relocate to Casey Fields in Melbourne’s south east.

Earlier this month, the club announced construction had begun on the new elite City Football Academy facility within the 84-hectare Casey Fields Sporting Precinct.

“The first stage of construction includes the central elite training pitch, with its 115m x 115m hybrid grass surface, and is due for completion by the end of 2021. The new pitch is adjacent to the site’s existing four full-sized pitches – one grass and three synthetic – which will be primarily used by the Club’s Academy teams and for City in the Community programs, as well as for City of Casey school and club programs.

“The next stage of construction will see the development of Melbourne City’s new two-storey administration and high-performance building at Casey Fields, currently in detailed design phase. Construction on that phase of the facility is due to commence in the coming months, with completion estimated for mid-2022,” a Melbourne City FC statement read.

Stage three of construction will look to implement a 4000-capacity mini stadium in a significant space in the precinct.

With the club’s A-League players to officially begin training in the facility in August, recent developments in regards to the possibility of a 15,000-capacity stadium in Dandenong may see the end of the team playing all of their games at AAMI Park, in the years to come.

The Victorian Government has already pledged $100,000 in funding for a feasibility review and development of a business case to build the 15,000-seat boutique stadium, with the City of Greater Dandenong also set to match that contribution.

According to Cranbourne Star News, The Greater Dandenong Council is lobbying for $110 million to build the stadium, which will also host festivals, concerts, rugby matches, alongside hosting future Melbourne City games.

While of course at this stage there is no guarantee the stadium will be built, Melbourne City head honchos may have to grapple with the idea of permanently leaving AAMI Park behind, the stadium they have hosted games at since their inception.

With Victory ditching their deal with Marvel Stadium to move all their games back to AAMI Park next season and Western United set to play the majority of their games at AAMI for at least the next two seasons, the 30,000-capacity rectangular stadium is not short of regular football content.

If the proposed stadium does get the go-ahead, City may look to move all of their home matches to Dandenong, and alongside their new academy location, this can prove to be beneficial in establishing a clear geographic identity.

They will have a stronger presence in the local areas and will have the chance to better connect with the local football community and grow their membership base.

City should also still have a reasonable chunk of members who live in the south and south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, with a report from 2018 stating 28% of their members came from those areas.

Adversely, a move away from AAMI Park has the possibility to alienate members and fans who may not want to travel to the proposed stadium for reasons such as proximity.

Sharing the home games between the stadiums could be a viable option, but also brings on the challenge of not having a singular home ground, as well as match scheduling conflicts.

A big call from City administrators may need to be made in the end and not all members and fans will be pleased.

Knights Stadium: More than just a home ground

Knights Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in Australian football – for many it is more than just a stadium.

The ground was built in 1989 with storied history. Melbourne Knights, formerly known as Melbourne Croatia SC, were two-time National Soccer League (NSL) champions and four-time minor premiers at the ground during the 1990s.

The Mark Viduka Stand can seat up to 3,000 people, while another 12,000 can stand around the pitch. The ground represents the largest football-only sporting ground in the state of Victoria – testament to the history and strength of Melbourne Knights FC.

Knights Stadium in 2002 with the Mark Viduka Stand.

Former Melbourne Knights president Andelko Cimera says he was part of the club while Knights Stadium was becoming a reality.

“We were playing at the old number two pitch at Olympic Park, where the dog track was, and that was virtually our home. We were looking for alternatives and a couple of properties came up – a drive-in in Altona and a drive-in at North Sunshine,” he said.

“We settled on Sunshine because it was a little bit cheaper. I think we paid $180,000 at that time in 1984. 12 months later we started developing the stadium.”

Melbourne Croatia at the time tried to secure the rights to play at Heidelberg United’s home ground Olympic Park and several other venues, before a decade-long donation drive allowed them to raise the money to purchase the land and develop a facility at the current site of Somers Street.

94/95 NSL champions

Melbourne Knights FC President Pave Jusup says that much of his childhood was spent at Knights Stadium.

“We only saw the stadium for games. We would always strive to go there, and sometimes the juniors would have an important game that’d let us on the second ground, even the main ground,” he said.

“If you walked into the wrong part of the ground the groundskeeper would grab you and make you be a ball boy, and you’d get a hotdog and drink after the game. It was a whole childhood for a lot of us.”

Jusup adds that Melbourne Knights and the stadium serve as a key pillar within the Croatian community.

“There are a lot of memories that have been created there. A lot of people are tied to the physical place and it is a hub of the Croatian community along with the Croatian club in Footscray and the original Croatian church in Clifton Hill. We are the three constant and long-term fixtures in the community,” he said.

Cimera explains that there were both positives and negatives towards the stadium being community ran and operated.

“There were advantages and disadvantages. It was our property, it was our ground. It was up to us whether it was Sunday night, Saturday afternoon, or Friday night game. It was always available to us,” he said.

“The disadvantages were that everything was up to us. The maintenance of the ground was up to us. The facility became a burden to the Croatian community, which involved all our payments, all our rates which were paid for by the community.”


Both Jusup and Cimera agree that the biggest games were always against South Melbourne.

“It became a fortress for us in the 90s. It was difficult to take points away from our ground for teams,” Cimera said.

“I think our record crowd was when Hadjuk Split was here, that was close to 15,000. I remember when we played South Melbourne we had 12,000 people. The games between South Melbourne and us were always the biggest crowds.”

During the 2000 National Soccer League season, over 11,000 people descended upon Knights Stadium to watch Melbourne Croatia vs South Melbourne Hellas.

“Around 2001, they were top of the table and unbeaten, while we were mid to low-end of the table. We beat them 4-0. That is one game that sticks out in my mind,” Jusup said.

For both Cimera and Jusup, they acknowledge that the supporters and members of Melbourne Knights want to see Knights Stadium and the club feature in a second division.

“It’s not only the Melbourne Knights. It’s the juniors too because they can have a career path. Right now they can’t see a career path. Without promotion and relegation, it makes it very difficult,” Cimera said.

“We’ve got a lot of latent fans who are disappointed in the situation we find ourselves in. There are a lot of people who would put their hands up and into their pockets to help propel the club if given the opportunity. We’ve gone through a period of consolidation, but there’s a new generation of people who want to propel the club into the limelight as their parents and grandparents did,” Jusup said.

If the opportunity to join a second division does arise for Melbourne Knights, then their home ground won’t look out of place on the national stage.

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