Opinion

Corica the perfect man to uphold Sydney FC's winning culture

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The secret behind Sydney FC's domination of the A-League that has given them a record fourth Premiers' Plate lies in a key decision taken by the club four years ago.

The Sky Blues have added the premiership to the championship they won last season with four matches to spare after closest challengers Wellington Phoenix were held to a 1-1 draw by Adelaide United.

There are many reasons for Sydney's domestic pre-eminence in the last four seasons that so far has yielded two championships, three premierships and the FFA Cup.

The Sky Blues have assembled a highly competitive side that is strong in all departments and has the right temperament to succeed.

Yet the club's appointment of Steve Corica as head coach made sure that the Sky Blues would not lose their winning culture based on family values and respect for the jersey.

Corica was a member of the Sydney team that won the first A-League championship in 2006 and when he quit playing in 2010 and set his eyes on coaching, the club offered him the position of youth coach.

After five years of apprenticeship Corica was appointed assistant to head coach Graham Arnold and when 'Arnie' left Sydney to lead the Socceroos in 2018 the club had no hesitation in giving 'Bimbi' the top job.

It was a no-brainer, really, even though high-profile coaches from abroad had shown genuine interest.

Corica was seen as the perfect man to maintain the team's style and stature on the field of play and protect its values away from the spotlight.

In other words, Sydney will not sign a top player unless he also is a good person who fits into their template. And if there are any doubts about his character, then it's no deal. As simple as that.

"We made a conscious decision four years ago to build a club culture rather than a team culture," chief executive Danny Townsend explains.

"A winning culture is driven by what you do around your team rather than what you do inside the playing group – we invest in putting the players in an environment that allows them to be the best they can be.

"So the board made the decision to appoint Steve as head coach in the interests of continuity. Steve was a key part of that culture that brought us success, so giving him the opportunity to continue that was important.

"We also spend a significant part of recruitment time on evaluating a player's character – how they will fit into the club. We develop and recruit winners with a work ethic that drives that success."

Experienced defender and captain Alex Wilkinson is ideally placed to appreciate the value of a club culture.

He played with distinction for several clubs including Northern Spirit, Central Coast Mariners, Jeonbuk Motors and Melbourne City before joining his hometown club in 2016.

"I am a huge believer in a positive culture that leads to success on the park and this is more important in a salary cap league because if players buy into the mentality and values of a club it could make all the difference," Wilkinson says.

"We have a 'no ego policy' here and for this reason the club spends a lot of time thoroughly vetting any prospective signing so they'll know exactly what they're getting.

"We are also well looked after as players. People at the club do whatever it takes to make sure we are in the best frame of mind to be successful. The club does not look at us as just players but first and foremost as people with the sort of day-to-day problems anybody else might have."

Culture is a word used very liberally in the world of sport and you sometimes have to take such claims with a pinch of salt.

With regard to Sydney FC, however, it rings true.