EXCLUSIVE: Graham Arnold’s big-name coaching mentors

Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold is one of the Hyundai A-League’s most successful coaches, winning Championship’s with two different clubs and making four deciders.

His teams play some excellent football, he’s tactically astute and won of the real characters of the competition.

Ahead of Saturday night’s blockbuster Sydney Derby against the Sky Blues’ biggest rivals, we catch up with Arnold in the latest of our “Extra Time” series.

Here ‘Arnie’ opens up on two huge names in world football who have had a major impact on his coaching career – Guus Hiddink and Sir Alex Ferguson.


“My whole landscape of coaching changed – and I changed as a person – when I worked with Guus Hiddink,” Arnold, who worked with the Dutchman when he guided the Caltex Socceroos to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, revealed to www.a-league.com.au.

“The guy was a genius and he was a genius because he was a psychologist and a man manager.

“His tactics were pretty simple – the boys who played under him will tell you that.

“But he worked the players out and knew how to get the best out of people,” he said.

Graham Arnold on the training pitch at Sydney FC's Macquarie headquarters.

Arnold remembers one of Hiddink’s greatest skills was his unique reactions to the ups and downs of football and the way he handled pressure.

“He was opposite to the occasion. When you lost, he was happy and when you won he was angry. When there was a big pressure game, he seemed more relaxed and when it was an easy game he was more intense,” Arnold remembers.

“Before the Uruguay game [in 2005, to qualify for the 2006 World Cup], I woke up in the morning and because I’m Australian and we hadn’t qualified for 32 years I was a bundle of nerves.

“But he just seemed so relaxed. I asked if he was nervous and he said of course he was but what you saw on the outside wasn’t what he felt on the inside.

“I could write a book about him and the way he was and how he got the best out of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka.

“What I learned from him in eight or nine months he was in the job, it would have taken me ten years to learn.”

A few years earlier, Arnold also had the chance to spend a week at Old Trafford, observing the habits of legendary Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold at the club's season launch.

The opportunity was arranged by former Socceroos coach Eddie Thomson who had become a close friend of Ferguson’s at Aberdeen in Scotland.

The record-breaking Sky Blues coach was blown away by the experience and confirms the stories about Ferguson’s famous affection for everyone at the club.

“What you read is 100% true,” said Arnold.

“Sir Alex treated the laundry woman like he treated Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs – he knew everyone. But if there’s one thing I took away, it was how hard he worked.

“He was there at 6.30 in the morning and he’d be the last one to leave the place every day. He had so much attention to detail and Guus was like that too.

“I like to think I’m like that now – the preparation and attention to detail is the key. They both taught me so much.”