For a player who initially joined the Central Coast thinking it would only be for one season, Patrick Zwaanswijk has achieved a lot as a Mariner. Retiring at the end of last season, Mariners fans were pleased to know Zwaanswijk would remain at the club as the new Youth League head coach. I spoke with Patrick just over a week out from his side’s opening season game.
Matthew (M): Patrick firstly, how has it been for you personally to not be preparing for a new season as a player? And to not walk out with your former team mates on Saturday evening against the Wanderers?
Patrick (P): Well, I wasn’t there as a player; I was there in my new role as assistant coach with the first team as well, to help Arnie (Graham Arnold) and Mossy (Phil Moss) and it felt good. I didn’t have the hunger to play anymore, but don’t get me wrong, it’s great to walk on the field with 18,000 supporters there – that’s what everyone wants – but it came to a certain time in my career that I had to make a choice physically and mentally because last year it was taking a lot out of me doing a lot as a professional player. In the beginning I thought I could play one more year, but as soon as this opportunity came, and I laid them side by side, it was pretty easy to pick what to do and sign a three-year deal with the Mariners and look to the long term instead of the short term.
M: Is coaching something you’ve always wanted to do post playing, or is it something that came up when you were in discussions with the club?
P: No, I didn’t actually. The last five or six years I wanted it. When I started my first matches in 2005/2006 in Holland I hated the idea of being a coach with everyone screaming in your ear if you make mistakes and have you done it the right way. People don’t realise that and as soon as you make one mistake, people hammer you down with the media and I told myself I didn’t want to become a coach, but, as soon as I did my first matches, I understood what it was to be a coach and I looked at it from a different angle – from the coach’s point of view instead of the player’s point of view. That’s when I started to realise that there could be something after my football career, there could be something in a new career in coaching. I then developed myself to like it more and more and as soon as I started to play here for one more year – I only wanted to come here for one year then head back to Holland – but it turned into another year and another year. I then started to think that maybe I could go straight into coaching and that’s the way it went. I have loved every minute of it so far.
M: Who is your biggest coaching influence?
P: It’s a mix. I think you learn from every coach. When you come close to being a professional coach you try to take it all on board and try and develop your own style. My philosophy is based on a lot on what Arnie’s doing because we have similar ideas on how teams should play. Obviously, my philosophy is a defensive structure because of me being a defender, and also what wins you games is the one that wins clubs championships and prizes for every club in the long run. The good thing here is that they have given me time; they gave me a three-year deal to work with the young boys. I have practically picked a totally new squad – a lot of locals, but also a lot of young players which is to develop players instead of just to win the League. Of course, I want to win the League. If it’s not going to happen, I know why and the club knows why and that’s why they said a three-year deal. They said they want to see development instead of prizes because in the end there aren’t a lot of prizes to be given out.
M: You will be working with the first team during the season, how much input do you have and vice versa; how much advice do you receive in regards to how the senior coaching staff want the youth team developed?
P: They give me a lot of input I speak with Arnie and Mossy a lot. We have now taken over the Academy and we run it like the way Arnie and Mossy want it run. Here I am just learning them and the way they look at and do things and they have a lot of the same vision that I have. It’s good to see with the bigger names (at the club) are now starting to look at me as a coach and that’s a new transition for me as well and that’s probably where I learn a lot from Arnie and Mossy – the way you present yourself as a coach and the way the players react to you – and that’s great. Before training and preparation I am here every morning to talk and I can have my input, advising and working together. As soon as we go out to the training session and Arnie has organised his plan, takes the lead and we assist with anything he wants us to do.
M: You mentioned the Academy – the Central Coast Mariners group have taken it over and you’ve named several players in your squad that have come from the Academy. How much input do you have personally with the trials coming up soon? Will you be working closely with the new coaching staff and technical director?
P: That’s the idea. Mossy is the new Technical Director, so he is planning all the technical director stuff, appointing new coaches, building up a pathway for coaches as well as players in the way we want to run it. We acknowledged all the CVs that the coaches sent out and we tried to pick the best coaches for the job because that is the whole set up – good qualified coaches for a good academy and that’s the start of something really successful. We have picked really good coaches in our eyes, all the way from the junior programme to first grade. Hopefully, in a few years we are going to produce our own players, because that’s the way the Academy should work. In Europe you produce your own players and once they are good enough, hopefully they will do really well, be sold and have a great career overseas. If we can try to follow that lead that Europe is doing, and do it for a long time, then we have a really good future ahead of us.
M: You are 10 days away from your opening game of the National Youth League season. How is the team shaping up and are you happy with preparations so far?
P: Yes, I am happy with preparations. It’s been a long off season. I’ve only had 8 weeks preparation. We have trialled over 120 players – I wanted to give everyone a chance to show themselves and to be able to be picked for the team. We just picked the players that we thought we could work with in every position they could play. It’s just new for me as well and I have to prove myself as a coach, because it’s a long term process we look at. I don’t care if we lose a lot of games as long as we play good football and we start to develop good young players into first team players in maybe year two, three, four and that is what the Club says as well. It’s a mix-and-match at the moment. The players love it and they love the training, they love just coming here and being part of a professional organisation and the best thing at the moment is that we are professional in the way that we do it. Whether we come first, third, tenth in the League should not matter because it’s about trying to get the best kids to play in the highest league possible for their age group and get them ready if they are good enough for the A-League and that’s exactly what we do.
M: Who have you been most impressed with in the pre-season and who should Mariners fans who come to Tuggerah be looking forward to seeing play?
P: I would say a 15-year old player, Daniel MacFarlane; he has been trialling with Swansea and Birmingham. He won’t be coming in the first few weeks because he needs to get ready and get used to the rhythm of the way we do things. Josh Bingham who came from Wollongong is doing really well. He’s already involved with the first team a lot. Physically and skill wise he’s doing really well. Technically, he needs to be taught, but he is willing and able to learn, so he is one to look out for and there is a young boy, Jesse Curran, from Blacktown City. Those three names at the moment will be good to watch. The supporters should come out because we have a number of local players and whether they are playing or not, they should come and support the Youth League whenever they can because there would be a lot of players they would recognise from the Academy.
M: Finally, It’s very early in your coaching career, do have ambitions of coaching a first team one day, or do you enjoy the idea of remaining in youth development?
P: No, I want to coach a first team, because you always want to improve and obviously my improvement should be in the position of assistant coach of the first team. That’s in the short term as well because in the long term you look at coaching overseas clubs or a national team. In the end it’s going to define how good I am as a coach and whether I will be able to coach at a high standard. This period I hope to be involved with the first team. If Arnie gives me one or two years because he gets a better opportunity overseas and Mossy takes over, I will assist Mossy in that setup. From there, we will go and support the first team like we did with Arnie.
The Central Coast Mariners National Youth League side open their season against Adelaide United at the Centre of Excellence, Tuggerah on October 27. Kick-off is at 10:30am.