Former Matildas coach Tom Sermanni talks about his move to the USA ahead of Australia’s meeting with the Stars and Stripes in San Antonio tomorrow morning.
Tom Sermanni enjoyed eight successful years with the Matildas before taking the reins with two-time FIFA Women-s World Cup champions USA earlier this year. Ahead of Australia-s meeting with USA in San Antonio, the former Aussie boss talks about his move to the US, coaching some of the biggest names in the game and what he expects from Monday morning-s match.
Q. How was the transition been into the new role? A. It has been really smooth. I think what has helped me is that I have worked here before. I knew many of the players, many of the coaches and people here. Going all the way back to the 90s, there always had a good and regular relationship between Australia and the US so that connection helped the transition as well.
Q. Things are going well for USA with an unbeaten run since you started. Has it been as smooth as it has seemed? A. It has gone smoothly. It has been a good year to come here, as we have not gone immediately into a pressure cooker situation. I have had a little bit of time to assess things. And of course I have inherited a good team. Sometimes a coach comes into a system where things are broken in some way or other. I have come in where it has been a successful team, well coached and well managed. It is a case of coming in and tweaking things a little bit, bringing in my own philosophy and style of play.
Q. You have brought new players into the team, has that been a challenge? A. I was given the impression that life would be difficult for new players coming into the team, but that hasn-t been the case at all. The players have been really accepting of new players that have come in. I made it clear early on that this is a year in which we need to look at players, and see who can come up to the level of a US national team. It has created a healthy competition within the squad and shows the depth of the player base here in the US.
Q. What are some of the extra challenges you have found coaching the world No 1 compared to the Matildas? A. The general expectation here is that you are going to win games, although that is not different to Aussie players- mentality. Outside of that expectations are pretty much the same for me, creating a team that will win and play good football. But ultimately the expectation for this team is to win the 2015 World Cup. I think also the expectation for me was to deal with a period of transition and regenerate the squad moving towards the World Cup.
Q. Conversely, has there been similarities coming into the USA role compared to coming into the Australia role eight years ago? A.The expectation when I first came into the Australia job was to make our side a winning team and who good enough to qualify for World Cups when three, if not four, teams in Asia were ranked above us. We had to change our approach, the philosophy of what our team was about, the development structure and more, to be successful in the Asian Confederation.
Q. With some of the biggest names in the world in the US team, does that bring extra layers for you as a coach? A. Not from my perspective. In my view players are players and it still comes down to coaching players to perform at their best. Ultimately players want to be successful, motivated, coached well and be challenged. They want a positive environment and a learning one so it is about creating that regardless of the team. In every team there are normally the same ranges of personality types. The major difference to the Aussie squad is the actual maturity of the team. With the average age of this team being closer to 30, and having played in an inordinate amount of internationals so that is a big difference to the Aussie team. For me though the basic philosophy is still the same regardless.
Q. What are some of the impressive aspects to women-s football in the US that Australia may one day aspire to? A. Well, again the maturity of the national team is a difference and that is something we would ultimately partly aspire to. Also you would want the system to ultimately mature. The average age of the W-League is extremely young as well, which again is different to the US. With all that naturally comes an extra level of professionalism and intensity. I think there is some superb talent in Australia, technically and physically, but that level of football maturity is a difference at this point. The depth is also a factor. For Australia some of the issues are resources, size of the country, etc. The biggest danger for Australia is that resources being put into the development system need to be increased and improved. Australia recently lost some state academies and that will likely have an impact down the track.
Q. How have you settled off the field, and where are you living? A. Settled in really well in Long Beach California, which is not unlike my former home at Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney! I am about 12 kilometres away from the training centre and office. And the California lifestyle is not unlike the Sydney lifestyle.
Q. Are you keeping in touch with football and other things back in Australia? A. Big time! I keep in touch with all my friends back there, I regularly look at the Football Australia website, and keep up with the A-League and will be avidly following the W-League. I haven-t lost my connection with Australia in that regard and still follow Aussie football very closely.
Q. What do you miss about living in Australia? A I guess I miss my involvement in the football community having been a part of it for a very long time. Apart from friends of course, which goes without saying, I also miss degrees of the Australian lifestyle. And I still say Australian wines outdo the American wines, and where I live in LA there is no shortage of eating places - you just have to be wary of the calories!
Q. Will it be a little weird for you sitting on the bench against the Aussies on the weekend? A. It will be a little bit strange. The first thing I need to do is make sure I don-t walk onto the opposite bench! My first game with US was against Scotland, and this will be even more interesting as I don-t think I have coached against a team that I have had such a big connection with.
Q. What are you hoping for in this match? A. It is about winning the game of course, because that is part of what we are here to do. It is also about continuing the process of trying to change a few little things about how we play. I think it will be entertaining and they have already sold 15,000 tickets for the game, so hoping for 20,000 which would phenomenal for a friendly. We know it will be very competitive because that is the nature of Aussie teams. It has been the off-season for most of our players. The European-based players are late arrivals so the preparations are not as thorough as we like and it will be a really stern test for us.
Watch Australia-s match-up with two-time world champions USA in San Antonio on ABC TV on Monday 21 October at 11am (ABC 1). The one-hour programme will be replayed at 11:35pm on Monday.