Steve Corica: A battle he can’t win or absolutely nothing to lose?

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    Steve Corica is taking over from Graham Arnold at Sydney FC. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

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    Stephen Christopher Corica just landed one of the most highly pressurised gigs in Australian football.

    For the next few months, as the squad takes shape, players return to full training and the new blood starts to gel, life will be pretty easy for the 209-game NSL and A-League legend.

    The mantra emanating from the new manager and the club itself will be about continuing the work done by impending Socceroos boss Graham Arnold and staying successful both on and off the pitch.

    The language will emphasise the continued push for trophies but also a maintained professionalism and diligence; required if they are to continue their dream of one day conquering Asia.

    After the rhetoric, somebody will light a blowtorch under Steve Corica’s backside. He will have his feathers well and truly ruffled at the first sign of anything less than the dominant brilliance of Sydney FC over the last two years.

    Sydney FC A-League 2017 Grand Final

    Sydney FC celebrate their 2017 championship. (AAP Image/David Moir)

    According to the fans, Sydney suffered two foundation-shattering losses in the regular season just passed.

    The first, a Round 6 defeat to the Mariners in Gosford, saw the fan-base start to question some of the cracks that had appeared. There were even more pronounced rumblings when the Newcastle Jets held on for a famous, ten-man victory at home in Round 22.

    Throw in the opening match of the Asian Champions League, where Sydney were towelled up by Suwon Bluewings, and the fickle nature of the city’s market was clearly in focus.

    In typical Sydney style, as their team slumped to less than perfect, the fans wanted answers.

    In reality, the team had been ‘up’ for a long time, sustaining an incredibly high level of performance and, despite Graham Arnold doing a solid job of maintaining that standard, it had to drop at some stage.

    In Sydney FC’s case, they were simply beaten well on all three nights by teams that exposed weaknesses. The fans, promised A-League and Asian glory by the manager, barely knew where to turn.

    As Corica will surely already know and soon discover even more intensely than ever, Sydney isn’t a nice place when it comes to patience, acceptance and perspective around their A-League franchise.

    In fact, as 5 million people shove their way around, burdened by band-aid infrastructure and poor state services, the city lacks those qualities in general – not just when it comes to Sydney FC.

    The Wanderers are living that reality as we speak; a vast distance from the early glory days under Tony Popovic, and Sydney FC have enjoyed the microscope being focused elsewhere.

    Of course, when you are winning things are easy.

    An astute footballing mind with eight years in various coaching roles at the club, including a period as caretaker before Frank Farina was signed, Corica should be a snug fit.

    In terms of adjustments and a cooling off period, as the players learn to work with the new mentor, Sydney have minimised that impact by appointing from within. Theoretically, it should be business as usual with a different voice shouting the instructions and a few tweaks to the gameplan.

    Anyone expecting a vastly different approach next season will be disappointed. Corica himself has said, “My style will be much the same, entertaining and winning.”

    However, is there an issue in appointing a manager with little experience and knowledge from elsewhere? All Corica knows is Sydney FC and its structures, and considering he is now in the cockpit of that very club, is that an issue?

    Many in the fold felt an experienced European head was needed to take a club seeking to make a serious impact in Asian football to the next level.

    Things will play out as they will and Corica will suffer the slings and arrows of a demanding and intimidating city that will expect things to roll on as they have done for the last two seasons.

    Admittedly, the applecart was well and truly toppled in the semi-final, yet that loss might just open up a window of opportunity for Corica. Following Arnold’s juggernaut after back-to-back titles and a squad more than capable of winning another, might just have sent him on a doomed mission.

    Alternatively, at 45, the relatively young Corica may use his new position as a stepping stone to greater things. For the continued development of our mangers and ex-players, we would all celebrate that.

    It will be a significant test and one, I am sure, for which Corica feels ready. Sadly, if the show does indeed go on and Sydney continue their roll, he probably won’t get the credit he deserves.

    If they stumble? Steve… Duck!

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • May 18th 2018 @ 7:20am
      Football is Life said | May 18th 2018 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      I cannot believe that Sydney gave the job to Corica. They could have had anyone but it seems like a jobs for your mates culture exists at Sydney e.g. Matt Simon was there purely because of his history with Arnold.
      If Corica doesn’t cut the mustard then it’s Sydney’s own fault and nobody else’s.
      Personally I think that they will be half the side they were last season. The teams to watch will be Newy Adelaide and Perth.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 8:15am
        Kangajets said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        Newcastle Adelaide and Perth are my top 3 next year .. depending on recruiting of marquee for Melbourne City which could change things .

        Does everyone remember Arnold second season where Sydney finished 7th .
        While a very successful coach , some reality is lost in the myth of Arnold’s time at Sydney .

        Corica will enjoy having the talented Ninkovic and Mierzejewski and bobo too , but there are some weaknesses at Sydney just as at every team and it will be interesting to see who Corica fills these gaps . I’m assuming Ryan grant will be back , so he brings some aggro as well …
        It would be exciting for the A league if Corica proves to be an attack minded coach .

      • May 18th 2018 @ 8:15am
        Kangajets said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        Newcastle Adelaide and Perth are my top 3 next year .. depending on recruiting of marquee for Melbourne City which could change things .

        Does everyone remember Arnold second season where Sydney finished 7th .
        While a very successful coach , some reality is lost in the myth of Arnold’s time at Sydney .

        Corica will enjoy having the talented Ninkovic and Mierzejewski and bobo too , but there are some weaknesses at Sydney just as at every team and it will be interesting to see who Corica fills these gaps . I’m assuming Ryan grant will be back , so he brings some aggro as well …
        It would be exciting for the A league if Corica proves to be an attack minded coach .

      • May 18th 2018 @ 8:27am
        jupiter53 said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

        When you assert “they could have had anyone”, you left out the rest of the phrase which should have been “that they could afford”.

        SFC are not in the market for a proven top level overseas coach; not affordable and never will be. Obviously we have had Lavicka. Without being rude to the Czech league, you would probably describe him as proven at the 3rd level. I would reckon that the A League is about that level anyway.

        So SFC were looking for either a proven 3rd level overseas coach, or an unproven overseas coach, or a proven Australian coach, or promoting from within. I don’t think there is a long list of available proven Australian coaches – Poppa and Kalac were never going to be acceptable.

        Promoting from within is always controversial [there were big questions about Zidane at Real Madrid], but it makes as much sense as anything else, and now we will see whether Steve Corica can do it. The big challenge is going to be team renewal; he knows the squad better than anyone new, and should be well placed to work out who should stay and go.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 7:55am
      Buddy said | May 18th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      One of the biggest reasons for not being a “fan of the club” was the unsettled nature of the mangement of the team with a steady turnover of coaches and quite a few very poor decisions relating to appointments. I recall many conversations with people who were trying hard to be fans of the entity but found it difficult in the face of what appeared to be a poorly run outfit that lacked many of the basic ingredients of a well run club, and yes, supporting a club is about more than just the eleven players on the field – well for some at least.
      The appointment of GA and 4 seasons of stability changed the landscape dramatically. A few years earlier and he would have been sacked after missing the play offs but thankfully for the club and fans, there was a bigger picture and longer term planning.
      Now that he has moved on, it appears that the succession plan continues and there should be a straightforward transition under Mr Corica. There is rebuilding and disruption both on and off the pitch which would have been the same regardless of who is in charge so let’s hope he gets a fair go with a time frame similar to Mr Arnold’s at his disposal. Surely nobody – except the detractors wish to return the days of a manager a season and all the accompanying headlines?

      • May 18th 2018 @ 9:35am
        Kangajets said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        I hope Corica brings some an attacking Entertaining style , the A league needs a bit more dazzle and bright positive football imo .

      • May 18th 2018 @ 11:21am
        SquareBall said | May 18th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        Well said, I can only see positives here; continuation and continuity regarding development of a team and club culture and a local coach being given an opportunity.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 10:45am
      Redondo said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      Hopefully Corica will turn out good like the hand-me-down managers of the great Liverpool teams of the past. I hope so because he does seem a far more lovable character than Arnold.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 11:13am
        Buddy said | May 18th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        Yes Liverpool with Shankly passing to Paisley and then onto Fagan has to be one of the most succesful succession plans even though it ended with Heysel. After that came Dalglish – a strange time and the whole legacy was lost. Love to see more of that rather than the continual shopping around for a total stranger that will be the next messiah!

    • May 18th 2018 @ 12:40pm
      Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 18th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

      Good choice: the Italian supporters who live in the inner Sydney district of Leichhardt will support him (as I’m sure they will) and hopefully they’ll come back in big numbers as when ADP graced the fields of the SFS. The man SC is a legend and has a good football career both for club and country. It’s now his time to shine in the sun. Good luck Steve!

      • May 18th 2018 @ 1:40pm
        Football is Life said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        In this regard I do agree that a continuation or line of sucession is the ideal situation. I hope Corica steps up because he will be another deposit in the bank of Australian managers slowly but surely establishing. This will ultimately build a repository of Australian football knowledge and an “Australian Style”. I guess my real concern will be that he will take same approach as Arnold. Non-progressive, adverse to youth, use aggression as your major weapon and be so predictable with your substitutes that eventually everyone gets sick of the predictability and it comes back to bite in the semis.

        • May 18th 2018 @ 1:56pm
          Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Steve Corica, will have his own ideas. SC played as a midfielder and he was quite a good one at that. SC will need to step up—I agree with you on that point. However, I am sure he will as he lives and breathes SFC. I believe he has the backing of the squad and all of the support staff behind him. His character and strengths from his playing days will translate to his coaching role.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 2:44pm
        fadida said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

        You think the Italians might watch SFC because Corica is manager? I’d find that astonishing.

        • May 18th 2018 @ 3:10pm
          Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 18th 2018 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

          Steve Corica, is of Italian heritage and one of their local junior heroes who rose through the ranks and played for a Sydney based ethnic Italian club back in the NSL days. He was well loved and respected as a player then and I think the Italian community will come right back to support their own.

          • May 19th 2018 @ 11:55am
            Freddie said | May 19th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            And here is perhaps the biggest problem for the A-League. Suggesting “Italians” will turn up to cheer on Corica, then (I can only assume?) disappear again if he is sacked, speaks volumes. Those who remain stuck in ghettos of the mind, which is what the A-League was designed in part at least, to remove.

            • May 19th 2018 @ 12:34pm
              Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

              Well in turn here lies another problem—the Anglos never turned up when Arnold won two premiership plates. So what do you suggest SFC do?

              • May 19th 2018 @ 12:36pm
                Freddie said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                Just the Anglos huh? Still not recognizing the problem are you?

              • May 19th 2018 @ 5:26pm
                Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 19th 2018 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

                What problem Fred? Pretty sure everyone who turns up have Australian citizenship papers.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 1:31pm
      Football is Life said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

      I have to disagree with your comment re: Poppa. Poppa spent years learning from some of the best at Crystal Palace as Assistant Manager. He spent time in Japan. He proved his pedigree with Wanderers in the ACL. Arnold on the other hand. Struth, being practicality an observer at Germany 06 and lasting a week in Japan, at which time the players refused to kick a football is not exactly a positive addition to a resume that has no overseas experience.

    • Roar Guru

      May 18th 2018 @ 2:01pm
      Griffo said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

      Agree with the stability and getting someone that knows the culture and work done in setting up the club and current team.

      With that said there is still much work for Corica ahead.

      After all it is a results business. How much that will cushion a bad run like Arnold had a few seasons ago will remain to be seen.

      I hope he does well and turns out to be a talented manager. Australia needs and should grow as many as they can get.

      Corica may be another Muscat, just without the gum chewing barrage of ‘instructions’ to all and sundry from the technical area.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 2:01pm
        j binnie said | May 19th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        Griffo- I sometime wonder if the fans who write into these columns really appreciate what Sydney FC has done over the last 2 seasons.
        Here are the figures for the top two sides in each year to help the discussion along.
        Season 16/17 Sydney FC, P 27, W 20, D 6, L 1, F 55, A 12, Pts 66
        Second place Victory P 27, W 15, D 4, L 8, F 49. A 31. Pts 49

        Season 17/18 Sydney FC, P 27, W 20, D 4, L 3, F 64, A 22, Pts 64
        Second place Jets P 27, W 15, D 5. L 7, F 57, A 37 Pts 50

        As can be seen from these figures Sydney FC has totally dominated the HAL and for a moment, if the reader concentrates on the goals for columns it can be seen that Sydney have consistently outscored their 9 opponents in the league, not by a goal or two but by more than a few.
        If the reader then looks at the goals against figures it can also be noted Sydney have outperformed their opponents in the defensive side of the game.
        So the picture is of a well balanced team both in attack and defence and at this time of printing Steve Corica ,who has been part of that team’s accomplishments,needs to procure an experienced centre back and with the expected return of Grant the only other position to be filled I would suggest is the team captain Brosque,not because he has been a failure, but because time is catching up, and he could still be used as a sub. in place of the departed Simon.
        The question being asked ,can Steve Corica “cut the mustard”?. Personally I feel that today, far too much is made of the contribution coaches make to a team’s “on field” performances. a successful coach’s work is done before the first whistle is blown.
        Corica has been part of that scenario for some years now and should know what has to be done in game preparation. The interesting thing is going to be how he ,as a talented play-maker in his heyday is going to conduct what on paper, to date, has been a very very successful “on field” team. Cheers jb.

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