Graham Arnold is set to be appointed to a new football development role by FFA in a passion project the Socceroos coach hopes will help re-open pathways and begin to reshape the futures of Australia’s next gen talent.
It’s understood Arnold has taken a 50 per cent pay cut to grasp the gig for four months during the coronavirus crisis, as FFA chief executive James Johnson leans on his expertise to begin the process of removing the roadblocks which have reduced Australia’s talent tap to a trickle in recent years.
With incumbent Technical Director Rob Sherman resigning earlier this month and football’s global shutdown sidelining the Socceroos from FIFA World Cup qualifiers and Copa America action, Arnold put his hand up to step into the breach, rather than taking up the opportunity of a four-month sabbatical.
Arnold will aim to be a galvanising figure amongst clubs and assorted stakeholders, working within existing structures and frameworks to make some radical reforms.
The impending redeployment looks like a bold step and innovative step by Johnson, who as a former Australia U-17 international is intimately acquainted with the game’s development structures and shares Arnold’s passion to find a circuit breaker to a long period of decline at junior national team level.
Arnold’s recent dual coaching role with the Olyroos - whom he guided to the now suspended 2020 Tokyo Olympics - sharpened his desire to rescue a generation of players largely left on the shelf at A-League clubs.
His disenchantment at a system which forces promising teenagers to spend more time in the stands than on the pitch at elite level is well known. Arnold has previously pointed to “a blackhole which needs to be filled” when referring to a talent pipeline no longer producing the Cahills, Vidukas and Kewells.
When once there were over a dozen Australians gracing the Premier League, there are now just two.
It’s likely one of Arnold’s main priorities will be seeking to funnel youngsters unable to garner meaningful minutes at A-League clubs into the top tier of the NPL to raise the level of that competition.
There is widespread disquiet within FFA at NPL clubs paying some of their stars five-figure sums to play on a semi-professional platform.
Johnson, meanwhile, during the enforced coronavirus shutdown is expected to double down on his efforts to tackle such issues as soaring registration fees and what form a national second division might take.