Not content with just establishing a Youth Academy from scratch at Sydney FC, Sky Blues Academy Director Kelly Cross is looking to play an integral role into the development of football in Asia as he attended the AFC National Coaches Conference in Kuala Lumpur this month.
We sat down with Cross to see what he picked up during the recent conference and what knowledge from the seminars he hopes to instil in the Sydney FC Youth Academy.
Why were you invited to the National Coaches Conference in Kuala Lumpur?
I was there as a member of AFC’s Technical Study Group (TSG) for the Asian Cup in January. With a colleague from Kuwait I was at every game in Canberra and was responsible for the detailed technical analysis of the teams and the way they played. The TSG were invited to KL last week to provide our insights into the football we observed as well as some recommendations for the development of Asian football.
What did you get out of the National Coaches Conference?
There were some detailed insights from a range of speakers from both Asia and Europe. As an Australian, it was great to see Ange Postecoglou speak so well, providing a deep insight into the Australian way and the rewards we have gained by having a strong alignment through every stage of the development pathway. Carlos Quieroz gave many interesting stories from his time at Manchester United (‘Rooney and Ronaldo were always the first players to arrive at the training ground’).
Overall, there was some good analysis and debate about where world football is heading in terms of trends but also in terms of Asian deficiencies.
With the calibre of guest speakers at the Conference including Gerrard Houlier and Carlos Quieroz, how beneficial was it to hear from them?
Hearing Gerard Houllier talk of his experience in Technical Director roles, like he did with France, I found many parallels with the role of an Academy Director. For example, he spoke of the need for a clear philosophy and the patience to bring it to life, which he did with a whole country, and which we will be doing with our club. I’ve heard Gerard speak many times now, and he is also very strong on the importance of being a good person, and insisting that people in your environment are also good people. Those things will be a feature of the Sydney FC Academy.
What were the highlights of the Conference for yourself?
Lars Isecke from the German FA provided a detailed presentation on their approach, much of which I was familiar with. For example, the DFB spends 13 million Euros to employ 1300 coaches across the country, who give additional training to young players who were not selected by Bundesliga academies. However, it was also interesting to hear that the Germans think too many of their coaches are only focussed on tactics, formations and strategies; the new push in their education is to teach them to focus more on individual skill. I think it’s been a similar situation in Australia, but a lot of progress has been made since, during my time at FFA, we began a real focus on the Skill Acquisition Phase, teaching players the functional game skills they need to become team players.
What can you apply to the Sydney FC Academy based on what you picked up at the Conference?
In a technical sense, the moment of transition is regularly mentioned as the defining factor when you attend conferences like this. In our Academy we will make players constantly aware of the need to anticipate what’s about to happen and this will lead to a better individual and team response to losing and gaining possession. In regards to the critical aspect of ‘Club Culture’ I particularly liked Gerard’s advice that players (and coaches) must always ‘Balance ambition with humility’ and also ‘Everyone in the team is important, but no-one is more important than the team’
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