True blue Corica out to scale new heights with Sydney FC


When Sydney FC named loyal club man Steve Corica as head coach in May 2018 the move was seen in some quarters as a gamble or a stab in the dark.

Many club fans greeted the appointment with optimism and enthusiasm yet some pundits were not quite sure about the credentials of the rookie coach who is known as 'Bimbi'.

In his first assignment as a senior coach, Corica was to be given the reins of one of the A-League giants, with all the pressure that goes with the position.

Yet the Sky Blues management knew exactly what they were doing because in Corica they had a man in their own backyard who knew the club like the back of his hand.

He is a true blue, Sky Blue who has been at the club since day one and understands its values, culture and expectations.

He scored the winning goal in the first ever A-League grand final in 2006 when Sydney beat Central Coast Mariners 1-0 and served the club with distinction as an attacking midfielder for five seasons.

He also was an exemplary footballer who earned the respect of friends and foes alike.

And when he hung up his boots at the end of 2010 he was rewarded for his sterling service to the club by being given the youth coach job.

Five years later he was named as assistant to Graham Arnold.

Corica is now part of the club's furniture and he is to Sydney what Kevin Muscat is to Melbourne Victory: the face of the organisation.

But while Muscat has won the championship twice as a player and twice as a coach, Corica has yet to leave his mark as a manager after winning two league titles as a player.

After watching Sydney crush Victory 6-1 in the mother of all 'Big Blue' demolitions at the weekend, you wonder if Corica the apprentice is nicely poised to become Corica the master and the latest manager to lead the Sky Blues to championship glory.

Victory over premiers Perth Glory at Optus Stadium on Sunday would give Sydney their fourth championship and install Corica as one of the club's managerial heroes, up there with Pierre Littbarski, Vitezslav Lavicka and Arnold.

Arnold, who is now Socceroos coach, said he never had any doubts about Corica's ability to cut it on his own.

"I was very supportive of him and told the board he was ready," Arnold said.

"He was a great assistant and was always keen to learn.

"He's been very clever in not changing too much and building on what we did with a lot of boys knowing how it all worked.

"Having a great culture and working with a great group of people are key assets and he's done a fantastic job. I'm proud of him."

Defender Alex Wilkinson said the club's senior players were all hoping Corica would get the position vacated by Arnold.

"It was his time to step up and we all felt Steve was ready because he knew the club inside out and what it meant to play for Sydney FC," Wilkinson said.

"He recognised what made us so successful in the previous two seasons and as players we all wanted that to continue."

Sydney hit top form at the right time against Victory and will go into the showdown in the west with high hopes.

They have beaten Perth twice this season and would be entitled to feel they have as much attacking ammunition and defensive expertise as Tony Popovic's side.

It is probably fair to say that Popovic, who was an interested spectator at the mismatch in Kogarah, would have been highly impressed with Sydney's lethal cocktail of collective grit and individual brilliance that made Victory look like a National Premier League side.

He would not say this if asked but I'm sure Popovic must have preferred to meet Victory rather than rampant Sydney in the weekend decider.

Corica may or may not seal his first season as senior head coach with the championship.

But whatever happens on Sunday evening, Sydney can draw comfort from the fact that their bold decision to go with Corica was inspired and has already paid dividends.