Time is an illusion for Rob Stanton.
The Newcastle Jets men's football head coach frequently talks about the lack of time during a two-hour interview about what makes him tick.
For starters, he doesn't sleep. He goes to bed, but his head is full of small details that need to be taken care of.
He's always up before the alarm clock hits 6am.
He's up and out of the Honeysuckle apartment he shares with his assistant coach, Damier Prodanovic, by 6.20am, on their way to Maitland where the team trains.
First stop, coffee. A double cappuccino for Stanton.
By 7am on this Tuesday, after a road game in Melbourne on the weekend, he and Prodanovic are in deep discussion. Soon after is a staff meeting, where they review every player - how they pulled up, availability, any medical issues, what the plan is for the day, anything that needs to be addressed on training loads.
That's a staff of six, and playing group of 24. Information and details are a constant in Stanton's world. The little things count.
Practice with the team starts at 10am, and runs roughly until 2pm.
But football never stops for Stanton, who's been living a football life since his childhood.
Before he meets with players, he'd have already been with the team's analyst, dragging up information on the next opponent.
"I'd sit with him, spend three hours watching video and different clips, designing a plan for how we can win the game, and building the training sessions to bring it to life on the pitch, and then also building separate information that we present to players, either individually or as a group," Stanton says.
"So I might present three times in a week plus set pieces. Four times if you include a review.
"Plus the goalkeeper coach now will do set pieces on goalkeeping, and my assistant will do individual clips with players as well.
"It's constant, what we do well and what we need to do better. Strategy and information. When I present stuff to the players, these are our principles, the way we play, and how we bring those to life to beat our opposition in tactical ways and things like that."
JOURNEY TO THE TOP
Newcastle is Stanton's first head-coaching job in the A League. At 51, it may seem like a late arrival to the top ranks for a long-time coach. And Stanton is taking nothing for granted.
"I'm willing to risk everything," he says of taking the job.
He was on holiday in Vietnam with his wife Kristy and their two daughters, in June, after a long season with Sydney FC when his agent gave him the heads-up he might get a call about the Jets' coaching position.
"On day two I got a call," he says. "From then I started to do some prep work in case. Then I did some interviews online with Shane [Mattiske, the Jets executive chairman], I just wanted to understand, do research."
Stanton won the job and within four days of returning from the holiday he was on his way to Newcastle with his new assistant coach Prodanovic.
We had two bags each, it was pouring down, we got in the car and drove to Newcastle. The next day I was introduced and started work. I had 17 days to get the team ready for the first game.- Jets men's coach Rob Stanton on the beginning of his new job in Newcastle
"We had two bags each, it was pouring down, we got in the car and drove to Newcastle," he says. "The next day I was introduced and started work. I had 17 days to get the team ready for the first game."
Determined to succeed, Stanton has not slowed down since that day. He's only spent a couple of days at the family home in Greystanes in Sydney's western suburbs, which he has called home his entire life.
"I said to my wife, every time I come home and sleep in my own bed, I wake up and feel like I'm dreaming," he says. "I've got to go back to Newcastle. It's just been a dream."
KNOWING THE RISK
It's really a wonder why Stanton hasn't coached in the A League before. His football pedigree is remarkable. He was a member of the 1991 Young Socceroos team that claimed fourth place at the World Championships in Portugal. That famous squad included Paul Okon, Tony Popovic, Mark Bosnich, Kevin Muscat, Steve Corica and Brad Maloney, who all went on to greater heights as players or coaches.
But he stayed in Australia, playing more than 300 games in the NSL and then entering coaching, with considerable success, eventually working at Sydney FC as a youth coach and assistant head coach until resigning to take the Newcastle job.
"I could have stayed comfortable at Sydney for a little longer, 'til we were told we were done, or I could accept this challenge, be uncomfortable," he says. "Try and turn it around - time restricted, resource restricted, how can I be a better coach, how can I fulfil my purpose as a coach."
Newcastle's challenges are well known: the club has a public for-sale sign on it, the head coaching position has been a revolving door - 10 coaches in 10 years - and funds are scarce. The club's lack of success on the field in recent years is a reflection of those issues.
"This is the best challenge to do, 'cause you've got to with work with people, you've got to build relationships, you've got to develop people, you've got to develop yourself, " Stanton says.
"I've got to learn new skills, I've got to lead, I've got to know my leadership qualities. I want to challenge myself."
Stanton's known strengths are strong tactics, an eye for young talent, and developing players. They are all priorities for him at Newcastle.
The foundations of success come from a basic recipe that is clearly part of Stanton's coaching mantra.
"If you empower them, they'll give you what you want," he says.
"If you believe in them, they'll give you what you want.
"If you provide them the right program, they'll give you want you want.
"They'll go to the ends of the earth for you. Because they believe. But you've got to build that. You've got to earn that."
He's proud of his ability to spot young talent, reeling off names like Marco Tilio, Joel King, Harry Van der Staag and John Iredale, all of whom he had a hand with in their development as players.
He's excited about all the young players now at Newcastle, including Archie Goodwin, Clayton Taylor, Lachy Bayliss, Dane Ingham, Lucas Mauragis, and Jacob Dowse.
"I like to have young players, a balance of Newcastle players would be good," he says. "That should underpin everything we do. Youth development should underpin it. It should be the supporting structure. You really want to find and set up a program where you can develop players from within here. I'm always searching."
With youth often comes speed, and speed is another essential ingredient of this Jets' team.
In Stanton's words: "From the brand we're trying to create, the actual playing style philosophy, I think they realise it's intense, we want to go forward, we want to press, we want to make chances, and when we go forward, we don't want to come back."
Stanton firmly believes that growing local talent and playing an exciting brand of football is a reflection of what Newcastle fans want, and that's important to him. If he can develop a Socceroo from Newcastle, all the better: he sees more value in young fans aspiring to be like a local hero than worshipping an import who has come here late in their career.
"I want to play an attacking brand of football," he says. "I want to excite the fans, I want to connect with the fans, I want the best people in Newcastle involved."
Stanton knows Newcastle has a rich football history, and he's long had his eyes on Newcastle as a great city, full of belief in itself. That's part of why he's so excited to be here.
"I think the club's stable," he says "I think it's a very good club. I think there is one thing we can do is build a brand. Build a culture. Build better connection with community. These things don't cost money. They take effort, belief."
IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY
Stanton grew up in western Sydney, the son of George and Barbara Stanton. Barbara came from Aussie convict stock. George was born in Lebanon and came to Australia as a child.
George Stanton got a foothold in the car parts industry, and still runs a Japanese auto parts yard in Bankstown.
Rob Stanton made ends meet during his own football career and early coaching days working in the office of the family business. His parents supported his ambitions, even though they made no pretense of having football knowledge.
He admits it was a rugby league household - his older brother George played reserve grade for the Parramatta Eels and Rob spent his early youth learning the hard knocks of rugby league playing neighbourhood league with his brother and his brother's mates before switching to his true passion, football.
Rob's brother George died of Hodgkin's disease more than 15 years ago. But in his final days, George gave Rob a stopwatch, telling him he was going to need it because he was destined to become a coach.
It's been Rob's lucky charm ever since - the first year he had it he won the "double" in the NSL coaching the Sutherland Sharks.
Years later, when he was alone in the offices of Sydney FC, he spotted a stopwatch just like the one George had given, dangling from a balcony. He claimed it, made the two watches into one working watch, and went on to claim seven titles with Sydney FC youth teams that year.
For Stanton, the lucky stopwatch, which he keeps in his pocket on game days, isn't about winning, it's about something more.
"It wasn't about titles," Stanton says, "It was about him saying,' you can do it, I believe in you'. I carry it now."
IN THE NEWS: