The most wholesome breeding ground for an A-Leagues coach: ‘I’ll never turn my back on them’

Here is everything you need to know heading into the third round of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Robert Stanton has had quite the journey, as a player and a coach, but staying patient on the road to his first senior role in the A-Leagues has him primed to make an impact with Newcastle Jets.

There are some things more important than winning and losing. Just ask Robert Stanton.

His journey to Newcastle Jets has been one of patience. It’s also been shaped by a humbling experience with a team he will never turn his back on: The Australian Deaf Football team.

Stanton volunteered as head coach of the side from 2012-16, coaching at the Deaf World Cup and in Olympic qualifiers. He has been involved with Deaf Football Australia over the last 15 years and remains on the board.

It’s given him a unique perspective on life and taught him to make the most of his privileged position in the midst of a first senior head coaching role in the A-Leagues at the age of 51.


“I had to become a better coach when I worked with them,” he told

“My way of developing them was to teach them football and that’s how we connected. The connection came from me teaching them football and we created an understanding. The communication is different and you have to find ways to connect with them.

“It was a huge challenge but one I was enjoying. I had to be better in how I delivered stuff to help them be better. The design had to help them learn. It was less about the language I portrayed and more about the design in the training to help them develop as players.

“I found it exciting and rewarding. Again, it’s humbling to work in different levels of football. It made me a better coach. It made me understand that when you coach at a high level, it’s a privilege. Don’t waste it. It’s an opportunity.

“I’m trying to make sure if I can influence others and give something back.

“I’m still there in the background if they need me for anything. It’s always going to be there. I’ll never turn my back on them. I want everyone to get the opportunity to play the game.

“It’s one of the best things for me personally. There’s some things more important than winning and losing. Sometimes it’s about the relationships you build the opportunities you help people get. The growth of people and what they learn and pass onto others.

“It’s an industry where you can (get) caught up about yourself but for me, my profile isn’t big and I’m happy to have a low profile but I like the fact I work with good people and that’s the starting point of doing great things.”

Playing for Australia at the ‘extraordinary’ 1991 World Youth Championship

Stanton was part of the Young Socceroos squad that famously took the World Youth Championship by storm 32 years ago.

Led by former Australia boss Les Scheinflug, Stanton and co. finished fourth in Portugal.

In a youth tournament boasting future stars like Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Rui Costa, Dwight Yorke and Mauricio Pochettino, the Young Socceroos lost to the Soviet Union on penalties in the third-place playoff, having fallen to eventual champions Portugal in the semi-finals.

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Headlined by Mark Bosnich, Kevin Muscat, Tony Popovic and Paul Okon – the latter trio going on to coach in the A-Leagues – Australia won all three of their group games to top the standings before edging Syria in the quarter-finals.

“1991 was a massive eye-opener,” Stanton reflected. “I still remember our coaches Les, Rale (Rasic), the boss, they were saying we were going to make a semi-final of a World Cup and we did.

“Quite extraordinary when you think about it back then. Some of the players we were playing against, you didn’t know in the future they would become world stars like Roberto Carlos, Joao Pinto, Luis Figo, Rui Costa.

“Now when you look back on it, there’s half a dozen guys from that team who have gone on to become A-League coaches. Even national team youth coaches. The keepers that were there – Bozza (Bosnich), Zeljko (Kalac) – all had prominent careers as well.”

Image source: Football Australia

Scheinflug’s impact has never been lost on Stanton.

The first man to captain Australia in a FIFA Men’s World Cup qualifier, the German-born icon twice took the Young Socceroos to Under-19 World Youth Championship semi-finals, while he also guided the Joeys to the final of the U17 World Youth Championship.

“He just instilled strong principles and values into the group. He made everyone determined and strong. He gave us a lot of belief,” Stanton recalled.

“I still see Les at different things. Always call him boss. He still watches a lot of us and I’m sure he is proud.”

That wild NSL Grand Final

As a player, Stanton won a pair of NSL Championships and the Oceania World Cup Championship with Wollongong Wolves, to go with a Premiership during his time with Marconi Stallions.

There is one match – and trophy – that stands out: the 2000 NSL Grand Final in Perth.

In one of the wildest Grand Finals in Australian football history, Wollongong overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit with an 89th-minute equaliser via Paul Reid against Perth Glory as they silenced a crowd of more than 43,000 fans at Subiaco Oval.

Wollongong went on to prevail on penalties as Socceroos legend Scott Chipperfield was named the Joe Marston Medallist.

“I previously played in a Grand Final. The late David Cervinski had played in a few. So myself and him were the only ones with a bit of Grand Final experience at the time,” Stanton remembered. “We had a young and exciting team. We scored lots of goals but we were 3-0 down at half-time.

“There was a strong belief from (head coach) Nick Theodorakopoulos. He instilled a belief that we could score more goals than the opponent. He was very confident and at half-time, made some changes and said go out and do what we’ve done all year.

“I had a feeling we were going to win. It was extraordinary, you had 40,000-odd people, down 3-0 and they were celebrating as if they’d won and it just goes to show, the game is never over if you have that belief.

“What we did during the season, no one really gave us a chance. But we had this strong belief. We worked really hard, we were fit and mobile. We had a fantastic culture and that went a long way as well.

“I won’t forget it. The game, I still remember it, basically being on the pitch. It was brilliant.”

Why he feels ready for his Jets role

During his days on the pitch, Stanton never quite felt he had what it took to be a top player, but he found other ways to bridge the gap.

From being able to play with both feet to establishing the versatility to play in any position on the field, he was always proactively improving his understanding of the game. It was this, along with the ‘profound impact’ of Ron Smith that lit the fuse for a career in coaching.

His first footsteps in coaching saw him guide NPL NSW side Sutherland Sharks to Championship and Waratah Cup glory in 2009. He also won the latter again three years later.

Stanton was soon poached by Sydney FC to spearhead the club’s youth and U20 teams and won the National Youth League in 2015-16.

He also worked with Graham Arnold and Steve Corica at senior level in Sydney.

“I’ve enjoyed the journey. I’ve been doing it now for 15 years. I wanted to learn everything about the coaching journey too,” said Stanton.

“I’ve done state league and you’re doing everything, NYL where you’re doing everything again. NYL became NPL Men with the young ones which I liked because you had to work a lot harder. You were developing players and you had to get a certain amount of results because of promotion and relegation. Then that moved into the A-League and (I) got to do Champions League and things like that.

“It was a nice progression too. Working with people like Graham. I’ve known Steve for 30 years. Working with him was tremendous. I had a lot of good people who influenced me.

“You start to see there’s a bit more to it. I’m happy I’ve been patient on the journey because it’s allowed me to become a head coach at A-Leagues level a lot smoother and understand things more clearly.”

During his time with Sydney’s youth, Stanton not only won the National Youth League in 2015-16, he helped develop some of the most exciting talents in Australian football.

From the likes of Marco Tilio (Celtic) and Cammy Devlin (Hearts), to Cameron Peupion (Brighton and Hove Albion).

“It’s a big responsibility because you can see they want to be successful, they’re hungry and they have put a lot into it. You want to make sure you can assist as many as you can to go as far as they can.

“There’s boys that also fall short and you can get a bit down on that because you’re trying to make every opportunity for them a winner.

“I like to help people and develop people. You start to realise what’s really important in life when you get to a certain age. I like to have a positive influence on people.”

Out of his comfort zone in Newcastle

Not since 2017-18 when they reached the Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final have Newcastle Jets featured in the Finals Series.

The Jets and their supporters are craving a return to the finals. That drought is part of the reason why Stanton stepped out of his comfort zone in Sydney at the end of 2022-23.

Newcastle have one point from their opening two rounds, but there have been encouraging signs with an eye on youth.

The Jets lost 5-3 away to Melbourne Victory last week but new signing Clayton Taylor came off the bench to score a memorable double, which included a stunning volley from the 19-year-old midfielder.

“I went from a comfortable role at Sydney and put myself in a more uncomfortable position,” he said.

“My view is that connection with the community is probably a big part of moving forward the team and the club. Building a brand that fans can see represents the region with a balance of local talent coming through.

“We’re looking at the talented players coming through and re-thinking that next group that we might possibly grab in the next 12-18 months.

“That’s our focus and it will be really important. It will lay the foundation and underpin what we can do with the A-League team this season and next season.

“Fans want players there that they can connect with. You also need a balanced squad too.

“Budget-wise we’re restricted but we’re just trying to maximise our resources and the way we train and prepare.

“We’re trying to create an environment that the players we have in the academy will be able to have opportunities to grow and become A-League players. That’s a strong area we need to get right.”

The success of F3 rivals Central Coast Mariners has also motivated Stanton and the Jets.

With limited resources and an emphasis on young talent, the Mariners conquered the Isuzu UTE A-League last season.

“Recruitment is a big part of success in the A-League but also development. Maybe early on in the league, you could win if you spent a certain amount of money,” Stanton said.

“The Mariners broke that ceiling. Their budget was one of the lowest and they managed to develop players or bring the best young talent in. They probably brought the best young talent in.

“Adelaide are trying to develop young players too. The Mariners did a really thorough job though. They mixed it up. Brought a bit in, developed a few, got a few good foreigners too. They deserve everything they got.

“What it does, it changes peoples thinking. At the end of the day, you have to make the product exciting because that’s what fans want to see.

“They proved that you can playing exciting football with some local talent, some good foreigners and players that are passionate. They connected with the fans with the style they play.

“There was a good connection there. It’s fantastic for the game because it just shows what you can do. It’s a platform that others can look at and say if you can do it, why can’t we?”