Monday, April 9, 2007

Interview: Adelaide United Coach Aurelio Vidmar

Interview: Adelaide United Coach Aurelio Vidmar.
Aurelio Vidmar is the caretaker coach of Adelaide United. He took over the A-League team in February after a 6-0 defeat in the Grand Final against Melbourne Victory.

The 40 year-old, who played over 50 times for the Socceroos, wants the job on a permanent basis and hopes that the Asian Champions League will give him the chance to show what he can do.

Adelaide have won one (against Dong Tam Long An of Vietnam) and lost one (against Chinese champs Shandong Luneng) in their first two games in the continental competition so far and face their toughest test yet on Wednesday night when they meet Korean champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

You took over the team just after a 6-0 defeat in the Grand Final and the resignation of the coach, it must have been a difficult situation to come into…

It was extremely difficult. We had planned a week off after the final but during that time, John Kosmina resigned and Ross Aloisi was stripped of the captaincy so there was a bit of turmoil going around the club.
When that happened all of a sudden they threw me into the position so it has been difficult.

Firstly, trying to get the players motivated again after a difficult time but after a couple of training sessions, everything went slowly back to normal. I have been very happy with the attitude of the players up to now.

What, if anything, have you changed since taking the job?

It is hard to change too much. We changed a little of how we play our game. Everyone would like to think that it is a physical game and a big part of Australian football is like that but we try to play football when we can. That’s a difficult part too, not having much time to work on that.

Now you are an interim coach, would you like the job on a permanent basis?

Yes, I would. We are going through the process now. The club closed the applications window last Saturday and in the next 3-4 weeks they will be doing all the interviews and all that. I would love to take the job permanently.

Does it depend on results in the Asian Champions League?
I am not really sure to tell you the truth. I am not in the business of losing, I can tell you that. It is possible that being the coach during the Asian Champions League could be detrimental if performances are less than what we expect.

However, we have already come back from the 6-0 hiding to turn it around in a short space of time but there is still an awful lot of work to do.

Does it make your job as coach more difficult when you know you may only have a few weeks?

I’ve taken the attitude that I have got the position for next year. That is my mindset. We’ve already included two players for next season, players who can do a job at this club and I was part of that process.

I am here on an interim basis but it would be irresponsible of me not to take a long-term look at the future of the club.

How important is the Asian Champions League to Adelaide?

It’s very important as I am sure it is very important to all teams taking part in the competition. I am a football person and understand the prestige of a massive competition like this in Asia.

People in Australia are still getting to grips at just how important the competition is. In a way this is a testing ground, not just for us as a football club but also for the supporters. After a long season, our fans don’t know so much about the Asian Champions League and when they see teams like Shandong and the Koreans coming here they will realize just what kind of competition this is.

We are in the competition next year in 2008 so this is a good grounding for us.

You have only played two games but has the competition been what you expected?

Yes, Shandong are a good team as are Seongnam. The trip to Vietnam taught us a few things about what to expect in Asia especially with dietary requirements and those kinds of things. The ground in Vietnam was something that most of us had not experienced before. All these little things take a toll on you when you are unprepared and that was the lesson in Vietnam against one of the weaker teams in the group.

The big tests comes in the next couple of weeks against Seongnam. First, at home and they don’t get any bigger than when you go away.

How much do you know about Seongnam?

Quite a bit. We saw the game they played against Shandong and they are a very good footballing side. They have good players in every position and I thought they were unlucky not to have won the game.

Who do you see as the Seongnam’s dangermen?

Obviously the foreigners. They are the first people to be concerned about because they have ability to turn the game –Mota, Naega and Itamar. Their captain (Kim Sang-shik) is very central to the way they want to play in the middle of the park. The full-backs are quite speedy and they are a very good all-round side.

I know that some of their Korean players are national team players. It is going to be a massive test for us.

How about Korean football in general?
I haven’t seen Korean clubs play football for many, many years. They are very typical of what I would expect in Asia. They are all very, very fit, they work tirelessly for 90 minutes and technically they are very good. They try to play football.

I think that Asian football in general has moved on so much in recent times. I was last in Korea about ten years ago with the Posco Atoms and those kinds of teams. They were difficult opponents back then and they have taken more than one step forward in their development since.

How will you approach the Seongnam game?

We try to get across to the players that every game we play at home, we want to win. We are going to have to be very smart, very aggressive in order to take the points. You have to remember that a lot of our players have not had the international experience that Seongnam have. The players must believe they can win, regardless of who they play. There are 11 players on the opposite side and although they are very good players, they shouldn’t have any fear.

Would failure to win the home game then it will spell the end of Adelaide’s chances?

Only the first team qualifies so it would make it extremely difficult but I have a very strong belief that we can win. I am not too worried about how Seongnam approach the game, I am more concerned that our attitude is right and if it is then we can beat anyone.

Some of Seongnam’s players will earn in a year a similar amount to what Adelaide spends on its squad. Is the salary cap in the A-League a disadvantage, especially when competing against richer Asian teams?

Without a doubt, it is a disadvantage. The cap has just gone up to around $1.7-1.8 million for a year and that is for a squad of 23 players. We can’t compete with other teams in Asia. I am sure that the three foreign players earn more than our entire squad.

It makes it extremely difficult but that is the way the rules are and unfortunately, there is not much we can do about it. We just have to be as competitive as we can be on the field.

Would you like to see the cap removed or the amount increased substantially?

I can understand the Football Federation Australia’s position. The competition is in its infancy and it is going into its third season in the next few months. They need to be quite wary of what has happened in the past with football in his country with the administrators letting a lot of things go and clubs fell flat on their faces and went bankrupt. They want a slow start, a modest start and to gradually build on that.

We have already taken steps forward in terms of having a television deal which is very good although it is only small; it is a step in the right direction.

Last week, Terry Butcher told a Scottish newspaper that the standard of A-League football was worse than League One in England. How would you respond to that?

There is a different mentality altogether in England and there is a different one here too. It is very hard to judge. What we don’t have here is a squad of 25 players with 15 or 16 of them being hard-nosed professionals. I think that is the difference with league One in England. What we have here is seven or eight players that have some international experience.

I would say that if we had to play someone from League One in a play-off, then we could get a result but if we played them ten times, then the results would be less successful

You have a varied playing career and spent time in many countries. Which one left the biggest impression on you in a football sense?

Probably Spain and Holland. Two very nice countries and the way football is played in those countries is very good. Spain, for me, being, besides the PL in England which is very fast but I think the foreigners have made it more appealing.

Are Australia the strongest national team in Asia?

They’d be pretty close. The Koreans, Japanese and China are there, although we had a great result against China in China last week, that has given us a lot of confidence especially going into the Asian Cup.

Would you like to the get involved in the national team set-up at some point in the future?

I would love to. I would love to be involved in the national team. I am still very young in the coaching side of things and we’ll have to see where it takes me.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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