He’s the new man at the Newcastle Jets in 2023/24, however Rob Stanton is no stranger to the game of football… it’s in his blood.
The A-League Men’s (ALM) mentor began his career at the Australian Institute of Sport before lining up in the National Soccer League with the likes of Sydney United (120 appearances), Marconi-Fairfield (52) and the Wollongong Wolves (152).
Following much success on the field as a player, he moved into the coaching arena in 2007, eventually becoming the assistant at Sydney FC from 2000-2003.
Now, the 51-year-old is set for his biggest challenge, returning Newcastle to its former glory.
“I’m settling in well, it’s been easy to be honest,” Stanton said.
“I’ve found Newcastle’s a comfortable place to live.
“Some friends of mine, when I was growing up, and guys who I played with that hailed from Newcastle used to talk about ‘Newy’ with this kind of passion.
“It really meant something to them.
“For example, I come from Sydney, which is a pretty big place and crowded.
“But, people from Newcastle speak about this city with pride, not everyone does that from Greystanes,” he added with a laugh.
“So, I guess – now that I’m here – I appreciate what they were saying.
“Having that connection to the community is extremely important.
“It’s funny, it’s something that was brought up in my interview with Shane Mattiske (executive chairman).
“One of the questions was: how would I interact with the community?
“I basically reflected on my time in Wollongong with the Wolves.
“It’s very similar to Newcastle, in terms of the city itself… it was a working city, with the steel works and things like that, as well as being coastal.
“I always had a ‘certain feeling’ in Wollongong and it’s been with me again since I arrived here.
“Until you live in those places or you grow up there, you don’t quite understand them.
“However, now that I’m in Newcastle, I get it.
“So, I’ve tried to connect with the community as much as I can.
“I want people to see I’m committed and passionate about being here and what the city means to me.
“And, I’m trying to make sure that reflects in the way the Jets play.”
Newcastle wrapped up its pre-season preparations, which included a Round of 32 clash with the Brisbane Roar in the Australia Cup, with a 2-all draw against the Western Sydney Wanderers.
For his part, Stanton’s impressed with his squad.
“The lead-up’s been great,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“We’ve had nine matches with A-League rivals, which will put is in good stead for the season ahead.
“About four of them were played in Maitland… I was told that was rare.
“But, those games and the road trip to Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, allowed us to gel as a team, learn about ourselves and, most importantly, gather information about the sides we’ve played.
“You know, find out what we’re doing well, what we need to do better.
“What I’ve been really impressed with is the way the players take things on board and apply it consistently.
“I’m surprised by their ability to back up and repeat that because we’ve made some adjustments to their training program in terms of strength and conditioning.
“We’ve added some layers, which means it’s physically demanding inside the gym.
“They’re lifting a lot heavier, which they haven’t done before.
“However, they’ve adapted to it and we’re gradually seeing good rewards.
“Then, from a tactical and technical point of view, we’ve taken the things they’ve been doing well in the past as a group and tried to build on that.
“Again, we’ve added layers to it, too, to improve the areas where they weren’t as strong.
“So, it’s a work in progress but one I’m very happy with.”
With the recent resurgence in the “world game”, thanks to the Matildas and Socceroos, Stanton is confident the Newcastle fans will also join them on their journey.
“It’s vital to have that hometown support, no doubt,” he said.
“I think the best way to do that (attract crowds) is offer a style that people will be proud of.
“That’ll help us make that early connection.
“And, I get the feeling if that part happens first, it’ll go a long way towards our results.
“If they [results] aren’t so great early on, but the fans see us giving it a red-hot crack and buy into it, the players will follow suit.
“That’s the reason I talk about standards to them.
“People expect certain things… and it’s up to us to deliver them in spades.
“Some might be happy with, say, top six, however we should always aim to be at “the top.
“And, once we get there, stay there.
“It means the base of what we do has to be spot on.
“So, we went back and looked at our culture, who we have as a team, what it should look like and, if it changed tomorrow, do we have an underpinning structure there or talented players coming through?
“You must bring in the right people.
“I think Jason Berthomier has been a really good addition because of two things.
“He’s come in and set standards in terms of what’s expected; and, as a professional, he’ll educate other players along the way.
“I believe Carl Jenkinson will do that, too.
“They’re here to excite the fans but I felt we needed a couple of guys to help the players because it’s a young squad.
“That’s what I was searching for.
“We’ve got enough exciting young Australian players, locally and from throughout the country.
“However, for the Jets, we needed to make sure we not only stabilised the squad but that we had some blokes to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away if things go well.”
Stanton believes there are plenty of skilful youngsters in the nation to guarantee a bright future on the international stage.
“If one thing COVID-19 has done for football in Australia, it’s made us have a look at ourselves and say we have talent, we just need to expose it,” he said.
“I think Graham Arnold did that, and the Matildas also proved that.
“There’s lots of evidence to support it as well.
“Dare I say, credit to the Central Coast Mariners for winning the A-League with a youthful team, so to speak.
“They fielded some really good youngsters, with a mix of experience.
“So, it’s a balancing act and, obviously, there are budget constraints.
“You have to work with the available resources and maximise what you have.
“When I arrived, I knew exactly what I had and what I didn’t have.
“So, it’s now how can I make things, improve things, to get the best out of everyone?”
Stanton’s first official ALM assignment is a showdown with the Perth Glory in round one.
The combatants will line-up at HBF Park on Sunday 22 October, from 7.45pm.
“We haven’t played Perth yet, however I’ve been watching some stuff on them,” he said.
“I’m expecting something a bit similar to us, they’ve also had a change in coach.
“They’ve undergone changes with an eye on the future as well.
“But, they’ll be tough.
“I think travelling to Perth is always difficult, so it’s a good test… and I’m happy with that.
“It will give us a chance to see where we’re placed and that’s why we’ve tried to heavily invest in A-League teams in our pre-season.
“We played some decent sides and we have been tested on every occasion.
“At the same time, I believe we’ve also put ourselves in a position to say ‘we can win that game, but we must do XY and Z.
“Our match against the Wanderers was another really strong test, with the score 2-all.
“So, I think in terms of preparation to play that game, it went really, really well; it was excellent.
“The challenge will be there [this weekend], then we’ve got another one straight after that and then another one after that.
“At the end of the day, it does not matter when they [challenges] come.
“We’ve just got to believe in our processes, do what we’ve been working on and be brave to play the style we want.
“I’m encouraged by the players.
“I think their youthfulness will naturally come to the fore, I’m seeing that already.
“It’s how we manage that and manage games when we get into those tight situations… that will be a big challenge for us.”
2023/24 Isuzu UTE A-League Men’s season
Round one fixtures
- Friday 20 October: 7.45pm AEDT, Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners (Coopers Stadium)
- Saturday 21 October: 3.30pm AEDT, Macarthur FC v Brisbane Roar (Campbelltown Stadium)
- Saturday 21 October: 5.30pm AEDT, Melbourne City v Western United (AAMI Park)
- Saturday 21 October: 7.45pm AEDT, Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory (Allianz Stadium)
- Sunday 22 October: 3pm AEDT, Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix (CommBank Stadium)
- Sunday 22 October: 7.45pm AEDT, Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets (HBF Park)
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