‘Nothing less than the premiership will do’

February 18, 2011 by David Weiner-Maccabi NSW
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After years of empty rhetoric, Hakoah-Maccabi FC is making some serious strides forward in 2011. As the club’s players returned to Centennial Park for pre-season training last week, they were greeted by former Olyroo Mark Robertson, and all 7 Federation teams have already begun playing pre-season trials. The club means business this season and Maccabi News caught up with Robertson to get the first glimpse of what to expect in 2011.

sydney fc.jpgMark Robertson enjoyed a distinguished professional football career in Australia and abroad, but when the decision came to be made on where to start his senior coaching career, the stars aligned.

Ask Jewish football fans with fond memories of their days supporting Hakoah about the name Robertson, and they’ll probably tell you about growing up watching Mark’s father – Australian international Alex, who played for Hakoah Eastern Suburbs/Sydney City in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“(My dad’s history at the club) had a massive bearing on my decision (to accept the club’s offer),” Robertson told Maccabi News.

“The first person I always ask is my dad, and as soon as I mentioned this he said he had such great
years in a playing sense at Hakoah, he saw no reason why I shouldn’t from a coaching sense.

“Everyone knows this is my first senior coaching role. I did get offered a few roles beforehand, but I didn’t think they were for me until the club put a proposal I thought was good because of the ambition they showed.”

Now father (under-20s/reserve grade) and son (first grade) will return to the club as coaches, with the aim of re-building the club and chasing the dream of promotion.

wolves.jpgIn fact, nothing less than that will do for Robertson, whose football career spanned stints in Australia (pictured left playing for Wollongong Wolves in the 2000 NSL Grand Final against Perth Glory), England (Burnley and Swindon Town), Scotland (Dundee and St Johnstone) and Hungary (Sopron FC) before finishing in the A-League with Perth Glory and Sydney FC.

When asked what his goals were in his first year at the club, ‘Robbo’ was unwavering.

“Nothing less than the premiership, mate,” he said. “I think I’ve built a good enough squad around me. Coming second and third is not what I come to jobs for.

“If we don’t win it, I’ll hold my hand up, but at this moment in time, we’ve got a good enough squad, with the right pepple around me.
“We’ll win the premiership.”

The club has worked tirelessly building the Youth Development League (YDL) side of the club over the past three years. Bringing in a coach of Robertson’s calibre is the final piece of the puzzle for the club to push forward from the top through to the youngest junior.

becks-robbo.jpg“I need to try get (Hakoah) into a better division than what they are playing – and that’s not for my personal reasons but for the future of the club,” said Robertson, pictured right playing with Tony Popovic for Sydney FC against David Beckham’s LA Galaxy in Hawaii in 2008.

“There’s some good young talent I want to see playing in a better division.

“In an ideal world, after a four year period, we’d like to try get the boys into the NSW Premier League (the top league above Super League, Division 1 and where Hakoah now sits in Division 2).

“I’d like to think people will think I wouldn’t get involved in something that’s not at the standard he was as a player. Anything my team does from now on will be as professional as I am about the whole thing.”

The club has declined since its glorious 2005 premiership season, and last year had to stave off relegation. But Robertson has brought a core of former Premier League players into his first-grade side to inspire and lead the younger players on the path forward.

“I’ve been around a lot of clubs building for the future.

“You have to make sure the youth is there first. You’re talking kids that are now 13, 14, 15, who in a few years will be teenagers almost ready for first-grade. So we’ve got the youth set up organised.

“With my first-grade, I’ve got 5-6 players to build around and they’re coming with a hell of a lot of experience. Some played in the Premier League, I’ve asked them to drop down with a view of going back to where they want to be.

“They’ll have the hunger to get back. Match that with the youth and I think we’ll be more than fine this year.”

Robertson, also known as Mr Soccer because of his coaching academy in Maroubra, will also take charge of the under-16s YDL side – a group he took overseas late last year.

robbo1.jpgThe is plenty to be excited about.

“I’d like to think people will get behind us. I want to guarantee people that there is a change at the club.

“I’ve changed it personally. I’ve got the full backing of the club otherwise I wouldn’t be involved.

“If people come and support us, and I hope they will, it will be something quite worth supporting.

“A few bums on the seats (out at Hensley Athletic Field) will be a big bonus for the boys.”

Picture right: Mark Robertson and another former Maccabi coach David Zdrilic in their Sydney FC days, coincidentally at a Maccabi junior sign-up in 2008.

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