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.

Parramatta City FC: Celebrating 50 years and a place to truly call home

As a Club entrenched in history, Parramatta City FC has secured a double milestone in its future towards providing a football team for the region.

For many years, Parramatta City had no authentic home ground, having been based in the neighbouring suburb of Rydalmere.

However, coinciding with the half century of existence is the confirmed move to Old Saleyards Reserve in the suitably located heartland of North Parramatta.

Thanks to the individuals and committee members and their negotiations with City of Parramatta Council, the new fields bring a range of benefits – such as increased capacity for participation, improved facilities and enhanced community engagement.

Two of those committee members to turn the plans into reality are Club Secretary Lou Mantzos and President Angelo Aronis.

Having been at the Club since day one in 1974 from their junior days in numerous capacities, both are still heavily involved in driving future growth in participants in junior and senior level.

Mantzos described what it was like at Rydalmere and how the move across to Old Salesyards Reserve unfolded.

Training at Eric Primrose Reserve in Rydalmere.

“We had been at Rydalmere since 1981 and it’s an older area that is now growing with some new housing,” he told Soccerscene.

“However, the only way for us to survive long-term was being back in Parramatta, rather than competing with Rydalmere FC who are based up the road and with brand new facilities.

“The breakthrough occurred last year with executive general managers of council in the parks & recreation area.

“We had follow up meetings early this year and eventually our mission was accomplished in leasing Old Saleyards Reserve which is a nine-year-old facility.

“The fields are in excellent shape and rated as one of three A-grade grounds in the Parramatta precinct.

“We now have a dozen teams training and playing at the venue and once the junior rugby league moves across to Doyle Park nearby, we will be permanently based at our new home in 2025.”

The new home of Old Saleyards Reserve.

Similarly to all clubs involved in the negotiation process, challenges are always going to occur, whether it be due to capacity or financially.

Aronis shared his involvement at the Club alongside Mantzos during a difficult period.

“We came into it 4-5 years ago as a sub-committee, working on the new grounds and other issues involved in the Club,” he said to Soccerscene.

“The previous committees did their best in trying times, worked hard, kept the club afloat especially during the Covid pandemic but lost numerous teams during and post this period, and potentially other clubs had similar problems.

“It did make us realise that Rydalmere was not a growth area.

“For example, across Silverwater Road, Newington and Sydney Olympic Park precinct was thriving and nobody wanted to cross over and get to us which is essentially walking distance.

“The other side of Silverwater Road, which includes Wilson Park, now NSW cricket academy, was growing exponentially and the previous committees just weren’t able to attract the numbers we needed.”

The Covid-19 pandemic was not immune to Parramatta City, who needed to navigate through postponed games and seasons.

It presented the confronting reality that even a Club like Parramatta City could fold due to mounting hardship and pressure.

However, Aronis and Mantzos persevered and played a crucial role in keeping the Club afloat.

It was one initiative in particular that Mantzos believes changed the Club’s fortunes entirely.

“In September last year, after failed attempts due to Covid-19 lockdowns, we finally held a reunion game to bring back some familiar faces,” he said.

“It was Andrew Charlton (Federal MP for Parramatta) who assisted with funding for some new equipment and together helped bring many former players back to participate on the day.

“There was a collective buy-in from all participants – the former Parramatta City state league (a powerhouse during the 90’s) and all-age players paid $20 to enter as a way to raise funds and interest.

“We got 40 players on the day and the game attracted a lot of attention as people started talking about it and that was the reason why we did it – we wanted to get traction back rather than see a slow demise.

“We had a ‘Beyond 50’ push that really urged Club members to get behind us and do what they could to keep us around for the next 50 years.”

The reunion game welcomed many familiar faces.

The reunion proved a major hit, paving the way for long-term success in participation.

Aronis added what the overall impact was like post-event and a great indication of what we expect to see.

“We had two teams in 2023 as a band-aid solution, and if it stayed that way, we would have had no choice but in folding the Club,” he said.

“For this season, the number of teams is up at 12 and the reunion was one of the springboard we needed as we reached that figure without really trying.

“Now, we anticipate that we will double that figure by 2025 which would be a fantastic result.

“We were really proud of the efforts of all involved on reunion day and every bit that went into it was worth it.”

“In closing, I sincerely thank all those individuals and recent committees of this proud club for the contributions.”

Football West achieves incredible growth of player registrations

Football West have confirmed that player registrations in the state have reached an all-time high after passing the 50,000 mark for the first time.

The number of players in Western Australia registered on Play Football currently sits on 50,231 – 18% up on the same time in 2023 and also includes over 10,000 female players, another record figure and 34% increase from last year.

There are also 3,806 registered coaches in 2024, a massive 74% increase of last year’s figure which stood at 2,226 coaches.

Referee numbers are also 25% higher than at the same time 12 months ago, 408 in 2023 while in 2024 it is 510.

Football West CEO Jamie Harnwell was ecstatic to confirm this new milestone being hit in the state amongst other participation records.

“These numbers are incredible, and we are delighted to share them with the WA football community,” Harnwell said in a statement.

“We were expecting a spike after the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. However, this is a wider success story and the result of much hard work done across clubs, associations and the Football West team over a number of years.

“We also know that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure these record numbers are not a one-off, rather part of a long-term growth that sees football continue to be the No1 participation sport in Western Australia.

“This includes tackling the extra demands on clubs by providing adequate facilities, including more female-friendly facilities. This will help attract new people and hopefully see them develop a lifelong love of football.

“This is why Football West is currently carrying out a new facilities audit across the state. We are also working closely with the State Government and the Local Government Authorities to identify key areas required for investment.”

Football West are doing a fantastic job in providing adequate funding at grassroots levels for facilities, encouraging the youth to play the sport and ensuring that across all divisions of participation there are more willing to sign up.

As Harnwell mentioned, it’s much more than the sudden boom of the Women’s World Cup that was expected but rather years of hard work and great decisions that have led to these promising statistics and the plan now is to sustain this growth to hopefully become the most played sport in the state.

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