Arthur Papas has been entrusted with the job of turning the Newcastle Jets' fortunes around. Here he tells James Gardiner why it is the perfect role for the young coach.
JG. You were in Newcastle 10 years ago. Your name has been thrown up seemingly for every job that has come up in the A-League. Why is this the right opportunity?
AP.It is a combination of reasons. The one that really resonated with me was to come back to Newcastle. I have spent quite a bit of time in the last 10 years in Asia - Saudi Arabia, Japan, India - coaching and trying to get better at my craft and gain more experiences. The last 18 months became quite difficult living away from home.
The owners really want to invest in the club in terms of making it more successful after a couple of difficult years. That is the kind of challenge I want, the kind of challenge I relish.
JG. On confirming your appointment, Jets boss Shane Mattiske said you would implement a style of play that resonates with Newcastle.
AP. Newcastle has a hard-working culture. The fans want you to have a go. They want you to be on the front foot. They can accept certain things as long as you are aggressive in the nature you approach it with. That suits the way I build my teams.
JG. The Jets went from last to a grand final in 2018. How quickly can this side improve?
AP. The objective is to improve. That is the reason I have come on board. It is step by step. We need to make sure that every day we work at a certain level. It is a process that takes time but in football you don't get much time. The objective now is to get on the ground, understand the landscape and build from there.
JG. If you get the players you want and all things fall into place, what type of team will we see?
AP. I have a really clear vision on how I like my teams to play and how I like to train them. You will see a team that wants to dominate with the ball, that wants to be really aggressive, that wants to play in the opposition half and win the ball back as quickly as possible. That has been my belief since my first job at Oakleigh Cannons in the Victorian Premier League. The difference is that I have added a lot of layers on how I go about achieving that, especially in the last three years.
Then you need players with the characteristics to be able to do it as well. We are working on that. There are some really positive things happening.
JG. You spent two years under Ange Postecoglou at Yokohama F. Marinos, helping them to a J-League title in 2019. What did you take from that experience?
AP. The main thing is to be yourself. Have conviction in what you believe and follow it through. If you look at Ange's career, it hasn't always been rosy but he has always had a belief on how his teams want to play and who he is as a person. He has set a blueprint for Australian coaches. You can be ambitious. I don't want to place a limit on what we can do in Newcastle. I just want to get on the ground and start running.
JG. You had 11 support staff at your last club in Japan. Have you been given assurances around resources here?
AP. People wouldn't believe at J3 level you are operating with that type of infrastructure. You want to aspire to create a best-practice model. I spoke about that with the owners. My approach is a very coach-heavy model. I have put forward a proposal on the coaching model I want to put in place. It involves existing staff and bringing in a couple of new staff. The whole idea is to create an environment for the players to be the best they can every day.
JG. You were very secure in Japan and may still be there had not it been for COVID. Is it a gamble coming to a club that has lacked stability in the past?
AP. It is like the teams I coach, there is going to be an element of risk in what we do. It is a risk versus reward scenario. There is a risk in everything you do ... I am really comfortable with who I am and the way I coach my teams to play and ultimately be successful. Newcastle is a special place. I really enjoyed my time there. The people, the lifestyle, the way they get behind their team. For me it was the story I wanted to be a part of in Australian football. Now it is up to the whole organisation and myself to make something of it.
JG. The decision to let Roy O'Donovan go. Was that more to do with the type of game you want to play? He has averaged nine goals a season for the past four years.
AP. Out of respect to Roy, I won't go into the reasons. I will acknowledge the great service he has given the club and the community in difficult times as well. We work in a salary-cap league. We need to fill certain spots and the important thing is that we are looking forward as well. That was part of the decision. I'm sure he has a lot to offer and I hope he picks up a deal in the A-League and can prove me wrong.
JG. What about Joey Champness and James Donachie. Both are contracted but have been linked to Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory? Have you spoken to them yet?
AP. At the moment they are required players. They are contracted to the club. The club went through some challenging periods last year with certain players leaving. My stance is that the club comes first now. We won't be pushed into any situations. Joey will go away to the Olympics with New Zealand, which will be a great experience. James will be in on July 12 when we begin pre-season and is part of our plans.
JG. When the Jets made the grand final, they had the silk of Dimi Petratos and, to a lesser degree, Ronny Vargas. Are you looking for players with those traits?
AP. Absolutely. We need a lot more creativity, a lot more penetration in the front third in terms of speed and an ability to get in the box. That is definitely something we are targeting but we will take our time with that. We want to make sure whoever walks into the environment knows they are walking into a special place.
JG. What is the priority when the group assembles for pre-season?
AP. We won't have everyone there at the start due to Olympic commitments, players coming back from overseas, the COVID situation with NSW has changed in the last few days. The minute we are on the park, it is about the football. How we are going to play? How we are going to behave in the environment? How we are going to get the best out of ourselves every day? That will be the message every single day. The first day is as important as the second day, and the third day ... that is the way we are going to work moving forward.
JG. What excites you most about this playing group?
AP. The season finished off with some hope regarding the younger players who were given opportunities and performed. From day one, everyone will have that same opportunity, whether they are new players coming in, existing players ... they will have the same opportunity to prove themselves.
JG. How quickly can your playing philosophy be implemented?
AP. It is a process you begin on day one and are working on it until the last day and every day after. The positive is that the A-League pre-season is long . Having experience in Japan, you don't get four-month pre-seasons. You get four-to-six weeks and you have to be ready. It is different here. I know we have to train very hard and be extremely fit to play this type of game. We have to be the hardest working team in the league.
JG. It is a 12-team league and six teams make the play-offs. What will the this group need to do to succeed.
AP. One is how do we create a unity in the group to want to achieve something special together. That is key. The club hasn't been able to produce that in the past couple of years. That is the first challenge - to make sure everyone who walks through the door feels really proud to represent the Newcastle Jets.
IN THE NEWS:
- Sydney cluster grows by 18 cases in June 28 figures
- Newcastle COVID-19 restrictions hit businesses as NSW case numbers rise
- Tough law for drunk drugged drivers in NSW
- Red-hot Blues clinch Origin series with 26-0 win at Suncorp
- Hunter region yet to return positive COVID-19 test in latest Sydney outbreak
- Fixtures in doubt with clubs hit by latest COVID-19 restrictions
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: