Former Sheffield United youth coach hopes to build a bridge between A-League and Blades

Tony Walmsley - Sheff Utd ''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Tony Walmsley - Sheff Utd ''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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If Tony Walmsley ever tires of life at its coalface, Australian football chiefs should employ him to market their game.

“If you want a beachside apartment, to play professionally and enjoy travelling to different parts of the country and across Asia then the A-League is perfect. It’s an incredible life experience and a great sporting one too.”

Central Coast Mariners Stadium

Central Coast Mariners Stadium

Walmsley, appointed head coach of Central Coast Mariners earlier this year, is in the business of attracting young talent. Possibly, given his previous role as Sheffield United’s head of academy recruitment, from the development squad at Bramall Lane.

The Star can reveal that talks, designed to establish a “tangible” relationship between the League One club and their A-League counterparts took place when Walmsley visited South Yorkshire last month. Although United have previous when it comes to overseas partnerships - agreements with the likes of Chengdu Blades and Ferencvaros have produced varying degrees of success - Walmsley is convinced that promoting closer ties between the two teams makes perfect sense.

“When I was at the academy, there was a desire to strike a relationship which works for everybody,” he continued. “That intent is still there.

“There’s challenges. But, at some point in the future, there will be a tangible platform that works for everybody. Be it a player exchange or exchange of coaches.”

Those “challenges” include legislation designed to protect the A-League’s integrity and measures which aim to ensure its members, including the Gosford based franchise, do not overspend.

“If we take a Visa player, we have to be confident they’ll start games,” Walmsley, speaking during his recent return to England, said. “Once we are, the player can expect a different level of exposure.

“Our games are shown live on BT Sport now and, when Alessandro Del Piero was over here, every Sydney game was beamed to Italy. The spotlight is there without a shadow of a doubt.

“There are lots of Australians playing in Europe and elsewhere now. If you are good enough, you can go anywhere from the A-League now.”

“There’s one game a week so that equals more time for tactical education,” he continued.

“It’s a very professional environment.

“In England, that’s not the case because it’s all about winning. You can’t get relegated in Australia because of the model the league is based on. The pressure is on to win. Nothing else. Promotion or the title.

“But in Australia, because of the system, there’s more freedom to entertain by playing attacking football. And, coupled with that, more time to help develop skills and work on that side of things.”

Among those to benefit from the competition’s focus on technical development is Nick Montgomery who, after leaving United in 2012, is preparing for his fourth season with the Mariners.

“Monty signed two year extension just before I took over and has just been made captain,” Walmsley said.

“He brings big club experience from Sheffield United and leads from the front in training. He’s a great example to the rest of the lads.”

“If you asked what does a Mariners player look like, it’s Monty,” Walmsley added. “

We want to entertain and Monty is the type of player who provides the backbone, when others are surging forward, for that to happen.

“There’s more to him than that of course, much more, but he brings that knowledge and that base.”

Exploiting United’s critically acclaimed youth system holds an obvious attraction for the Mariners. But, from a Bramall Lane perspective, there are potential rewards too.

Citing Massimo Luongo’s move from Swindon Town to QPR six weeks ago, Walmsley said: “I would say to any young Australian, look at what he’s done. Don’t ignore League One.

“In Australia, we are bombarded with Premier League coverage but, at the right club and under the right coach, it’s a fantastic development to further your career.”

“I have a passion for Sheffield United. It gets under your skin,” Walmsley added. “I was born and raised in Manchester but Sheffield United doesn’t leave you. There something really earthy about it and the fans are a part of that.

“We all know the club is in the wrong place at the moment and I’m like any other fan, trying to do something to help.”