Rini Coolen’s Season in Review

Reds Head Coach Rini Coolen gives a wrap up of Adelaide United’s 2010/11 season and also on the challenges that lie ahead.

Season in Review
For me it-s normal after a season to have a break for a couple of days or sometimes a couple of weeks to review a couple of things, and then come together and give everybody the opportunity to ask questions and I try to answer as many of them as possible.

I think we had a very good start. When I came in everything was new and I think we started very well after a real short pre season. You have to be a little bit lucky in the opening games, not losing games is the most important thing at the start of the competition, and that-s what we did, we started with two draws and then we won against Melbourne Heart. Eleven games unbeaten at the start was a very good result. Did we play every game fantastic – parts of them. We created a lot of chances but we also made a lot of mistakes, but we were on the positive sides of the results so that was a very good period.

Then in Week 12 against Melbourne Victory, which was a very special game for us, losing Mathew Leckie, it-s the first time I-ve had to explain that losing one player was very important, and he was very important in our system and formation, especially with his speed on the right wing. After losing Leckie we had some problems and went through a period when we didn-t have enough players available. We had to change some tactical things that we had been able to do in the weeks before and there weren-t enough numbers to train very well, so that-s a period that I think what could we do better, and one of the problems is that we need a bigger squad.

When you lose a player to injury, you want to replace them with the same level players instead of bringing in replacement players from other clubs, so that-s something I think we can do better. It-s one of the reasons that we took a decision as a club to spread some money around in the salary cap and look for some more players for next season so we don-t have that situation again.

After that period I think we came back very well, started winning games and also had a couple of draws. If you look back at that period starting at the end of December, it began with a very good game against Sydney FC at the Adelaide Oval. Then we played Brisbane a couple of days later. We lost that game 1-0, they were definitely the best club in the league, but we also had chances ourselves to win that game. The game after that was a fantastic 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory. It was very important, not only the result, but also for our supporters, and the way we won the game was pretty impressive.

We then went through the next game winning 8-1 against North Queensland to give us 12 goals in two games, so we came back very well. The game after that we lost to the Central Coast in what was a battle between two teams fighting for second position. We then had a draw away against Gold Coast United and then the Wellington game where we lost 1-0. Then it was Melbourne Victory again and the question was ‘can we beat them again?- We did and I was very happy with that, especially for our supporters who deserve a lot for the way they supported us throughout the whole season. It was a fantastic game to prepare for the most important part of the season, the finals.

Winning against Wellington in the first week of the finals, it was a good start, and then of course we were very disappointed with the loss to Gold Coast. It is a moment we have to learn from because for me it-s a situation as a coach, if you play a home game and you-re 2-1 in front with 20 minutes to go but then to concede a goal in the same minute for 2-2, they are things to work on. We saw in the grand final, it was a fantastic grand final and things like that happen, so that means we all have to improve in a couple of areas.

If you ask me about preparing for the finals, it-s also a period where I think how can we do it better because of course we had some issues, there was some disharmony in our team. What are the reasons for that – there are a couple of reasons. One of them of course is the issue with contracts, so they-re things we have to manage because that happens everywhere in all the clubs and all the leagues. That is something for the future and for me a review of things that I think we can do better as a club and as a team to win some silverware.

But if you look back over the year as a whole, a couple of weeks ago a Team of the Year was announced and it comprised mostly of players from Brisbane, but also three players from us – Cassio, Flores and van Dijk. At the Hyundai A-League Awards Night, it was a positive that we had five players in the top ten players in the league. Sergio won the top scorer of the league, Marcos Flores was the best player of the league, and we also have the best supporters of the league.

I think we have to thank our supporters for supporting us the whole year in our home games but also our away games. They deserve in the future to see the same football that we played this year. We entertained and can we do this better – of course we can do better, but what they also deserve in the future is winning things and playing finals.

What are the negative things to come out of the season? Sometimes it-s not easy to explain some things as a coach – you prefer to keep some things to yourself, but you also read a lot of things about what happens around your team and around your club. So you can-t control everything, but what I prefer is to keep control of my team, my staff and my players as much as possible. But I have to bring something forward and that-s the situation with Travis Dodd.

I think it-s good and fair to clear some things up about that situation because we did everything to keep Travis Dodd with this club. I definitely don-t want to be negative because no one deserves that including Travis, we wish him all the best of luck with his future. But I remember the first time before the new owners were here, the first person we spoke about with their future was our captain Travis. We talked about a one year deal with an option, and at that stage he hadn-t kicked a ball on the pitch for the season. It was a very good one year offer and we told him there was the option for another year, not depending on whether he plays all the games but just if he was available for his fitness. He didn-t accept that offer directly and that-s understandable.

We were waiting and when the new owners came in he was again the first one that we talked to. We gave him some more security, that-s what he deserved. He still hadn-t played a lot of games at that moment. We offered him two years, about him being captain for the rest of his career and we talked about an option if he-s still fit after two years he could still join us. The club also told him that it would look after him after his playing career if he finished his career here, and to try and find a solution to keep him with the club for as long as possible.

So if you ask me did the coach and the club want Travis here – yes and it was disappointing to read that he and some other people thought in a different way. I think we did everything from the start to the end to keep him here. The last conversation I had with him I congratulated him on his next step and again I wish him all the best in the future, he-s a fantastic football player. So there are no issues, but sometimes it-s fair to clear some things up and that we did everything to keep him here and we wanted to keep him here.

So in conclusion I think if you look back at the season, was it a very good season? Yes it was from where we came from at the start of the season to where we are now. Yes it was a good season but there is still definitely a lot to improve.

The league this year was a very good level, especially at the end if you look at the grand final. I give both teams compliments on playing that kind of final, I think it was one of the best finals I-ve ever seen.

Looking Ahead
After the review of a season I think the most important thing is to look forwards. We had a review of the coaching staff and there were some rumours that we have a new coach and that-s true. We can confirm that Luciano Trani is going to take over the position from Phil Stubbins.

In terms of players, of course we have to look at our squad. As I said we need more numbers, there are a couple of spots available, maybe four or five positions. Of course they have to be quality players, we need the right balance, they have to fit in our budget, they have to proud to play for Adelaide United, and they have to have a challenge, and the challenge is to win something in the future with our club, and a personal challenge to use our club to make their next step for the future. That-s what we prefer, to develop young players and have a challenge for them to win something as a team but also personally to make another step. So they-re the kind of players that we want to have at Adelaide United.

When the new owners came in, one of the things I was really happy with was that they are looking at the big picture. We have to change the club culture and that means in short words that the club is number one and that there is no person more important than the club, not even the coach, so that-s a kind of thing we have to change for the future. Everybody has to go in the same direction, work together very well and support each other. I think we have to be more professional, put the club in position number one. Everybody knows during the season things happen, everybody has an ego, that-s no problem, but the ego cannot be more important than the club, and every decision I make as a coach, every decision players and staff members have to make has to be for the benefit of the club.

Another reason I prefer to stay here longer is to work better together with the local clubs. We prefer to bring more players from South Australia into the Adelaide United first team. If they are not available now then of course we have to look further than Adelaide, but in the future we have to bring in as many players as possible from Adelaide and give them a chance. The most important thing is to develop the young kids. I think there a lot of talented football players in South Australia and it-s a nice challenge to have, but you need time for it.

This is something we already started during the season, re-signing Daniel Mullen and Fabian Barbiero, bringing back Osama Malik, and also signing two young players who will join us in January, Paul Izzo and Jacob Melling. Also, when we start the pre season three players from the Youth Team, Evan Kostopoulos, Allan Welsh and Liam Wooding, will join us and get a chance to prove themselves. As I said, the squad has to be good enough to play for the top positions on the table. We did well this season but this club wants to play for the best positions in the league, play in grand finals and play in the Asian Champions League.