Jubilee Oval at Long Jetty is a far cry from the seat next to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. But this week former Manchester United player and Coach, Mike Phelan has been on deck at the Central Coast Mariners running sessions for the Academy and learning more about the Hyundai A-League.
With experience as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand-man at arguably the biggest football club in the world, his knowledge and expertise has been drawn upon over the past 10 days, with Phelan spending time at the Mariners’ A-League and Academy sessions.
Thanks to a chance encounter with Mariners’ Owner Mike Charlesworth in the U.K., Phelan has taken the opportunity to spend time on the Central Coast and provide and invaluable opportunity to the young talent at the Mariners Academy.
Although Phelan has not been appointed in an official capacity at the Mariners, the Manchester United Legend’s first visit to Australia has ignited a keen interest to learn more about football on the Central Coast and a passion to continue dialogue with the club about what opportunities could exist in the future.
For now, his time with Hyundai A-League Head Coach Mike Mulvey, Head of Football Nick Montgomery and Academy Director Ken Schembri has allowed Phelan to run sessions with the Mariners Academy.
The man who worked day-in-day-out with players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs has spent priceless time running sessions on the Central Coast with the Mariners Academy.
Phelan’s impressive CV as Ferguson’s Assistant includes six English Premier League titles, a Club World Cup, three League Cups and two UEFA Champions League final appearances.
Phelan, who works with Sensiblesoccer.co.uk (providing coach education at all levels of the game from professional to grassroots) has been pleasantly surprised by the young talent on display and we caught up with Mike Phelan about his time on the Central Coast.
CCM: How did the opportunity to visit the Central Coast come about and what are your first impressions?
MP: “The visit came about when I met Mike and we were talking football,” Phelan said. “We were trying to find time where my diary allowed for me to spend 10 days here and I’ve managed to do that.
“It’s surprised me more than I thought to be perfectly honest. The standard of some of the youngsters in the sessions I’ve been involved with has been very high. Hopefully I can leave them with something and we have some future stars on our hands here on the Coast.
“I look in the eyes of some of these youngsters here today – I was that 12-year-old kid one day and my career ended at 34-years-old. It’s great to put time in to developing young talent and I get plenty of joy out of that.
“I watch a bit of the A-League back in England and I’ve watched the Mariners play. You have to see it in person though, you can’t just judge on TV. After now spending some time here, the facilities have impressed me, as well as how beautiful this area is,” Phelan said.
CCM: What was the main purpose of your trip?
MP: “Speaking with the owner he was very keen to have someone like myself come over and have a look at his football club,” Phelan said. “I’ve had the experience of development and managing at the highest level so I can offer that bit of perspective.
“As much as everyone wants things to happen overnight, believe you me, in football they don’t. You can’t develop one minute and suddenly have the end product in a couple of years. It does takes time, but we live in a world with no time. You need to have that dreaded word, which is patience.
“At this football club, from what I now know and the first impressions, it’s clear to me that this football club really has something. It’s important now to get the right balance of people and if everyone can gel together and all believe in the same thing, you can make it a smart environment for everybody. There’s the potential to really give this region a football club that the community can be proud of,” Phelan said.
CCM: What’s next for Mike Phelan and will you stay involved with the Mariners?
MP: “Nobody knows what the future holds,” Phelan said. “But I’ve been in the game for 30 years, there’s a spell now where I’ve been out of the game for a little bit and it’s given me the opportunity to develop again, and see things that you can’t see when you’re living in your little football bubble.
“Spending time with the Mariners has been a real serious pleasure – and I can’t thank the football club enough for that. Of course, we will keep chatting and I will offer my help where it’s needed.
“For the club – it’s a new era. There’s a new coach and with that comes new players. I’m trying to get my head around how the A-League works but I think overall the potential here is to grow things. If we all work hard here and everything falls into place then I think there could be a great spotlight shone on the Central Coast as a real hub of football activity. The owner clearly sees that potential, the staff see that opportunity.
“I’m a football person, it’s been my life. I’ve achieved a lot of things in this game but deep down I want to do it all again. I want to experience the highs and the lows again. My family is up for the next step of my journey, so you never know what might be around the corner,” Phelan said.