Sterrey's island mission

Lee Sterrey is a man on a mission - to turn Fiji into an Oceania football powerhouse and improve his own chances of scoring a coaching job with an A-League club.

Lee Sterrey's appointment as Fiji national team coach on a two-year deal has gone largely unnoticed but he's a man on a mission - to turn Fiji into a powerhouse of Oceania football and improve his own chances of scoring a job with an A-League club in a few years.

His views on what's right for the game in this country may surprise a few people but these days Sterrey's biggest concern is getting football on track in Fiji rather than Australia.

"The Fiji national team has to play a lot more games at home and travel abroad to play more. The other thing, which is very important on this tour, is pushing as many young Fijian players to Australia - to play in Sydney or Melbourne competitions - where they will get a lot stronger," Sterrey told SBS during a recent trip to Australia to prepare his Under 20's side for the Oceania World Championship qualifying tournament that kicks off in Solomon Islands on Tuesday.

The former Marconi and Sydney Olympic coach has been in charge since October and this has been an important trip.

"It's been exactly what we needed. I have only had these players for four weeks and when you have a short period like that - the talent in the group of 20 is there - it's just a matter of picking the right starting XI," he explained.

"To do that we need games and to work on what are the best combinations across the park and friendly games are all important in doing to that."

Fiji's Under 20's thrashed a NSW Institute line-up 5-0 in its first match but the tour hit a bit of a hiccup after that, and not just in terms of results.

Scheduled matches with Penrith and APIA were cancelled at short notice but Sterrey used his Austalian connections to arrange a match with Sydney United to fill in for one of the missing fixtures.

A draw with Sydney United was followed by defeats to Sydney Olympic and Marconi.

Sterrey won't have to work hard on team spirit or national pride, and he's hoping his first taste of international coaching experience will lead to job opportunities back home.

"I'm learning all the time and I'm really keen on this job in Fiji for two years and then see what happens. It will probably take two years for the A-League to really settle down so hopefully I can play a role down the track. I do want to come home at some stage and if a job comes along then it doesn't hurt to listen," Sterrey said.

Being a 'foreign' coach himself in Fiji, Sterrey is well qualified to comment on the current debate in this country about overseas coaches taking jobs in the fledgling A-League.

"It doesn't hurt for overseas coaches to come to Australia, it's going to improve the game right down to the grass-roots level. As long as they are involved right down the tree then I think it's going to be good for our country."