THOSE in Australian football who claim to have discovered, trained and developed Harry Kewell are vast.
Numerous coaches, scouts and mentors have tall tales of their involvement in the blossoming of Australia's favourite footballing son. The truth is Harry has picked few shoulders to lean on in his rise to the top, but the ones he has chosen have proved vital.
Ultimately it is Harry Kewell whose hard work and determination shaped his destiny but without the guidance of certain individuals along the way, who knows how different his career might have turned out.
From his first coach to his trusted agent and confidante and from his Leeds youth coach to the physio who saved his body from the brink of collapse, there have been some significant figures in the moulding of a Socceroo legend. FourFourTwo meets the men who made Harry Kewell...
Harry's trusted manager has advised him for over a decade
A misunderstood figure in many circles, Bernie Mandic is seen by some as a stereotype for slick agents greasing their palms with the misguided talent at their disposal. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Mandic's relationship with Harry Kewell.
The stem of Mandic's false reputation comes from Harry's 2003 transfer from Leeds to Liverpool where it was alleged that Mandic received £2m of the £5m transfer fee. That is an unconfirmed figure, but the British press chastised Mandic for engineering the move to swell his own bank account.
Mandic has been Harry's agent since 1998 when Harry was due to renegotiate his Leeds United contract. And despite a watertight and ongoing relationship between the two of them, no formal agreement has ever been signed.
"We formalised everything via a handshake and said 'that's it, no-one else'", Mandic tells FourFourTwo. "There were a few fly-by-nighters that were coming to Harry's Dad and making a few promises. However Harry has always been a guy with simple expectations and he used to say even as a 17-18 year old, 'I'm going to let my boots do the talking'. He loves football for loving football. A lot of people love football to get their dream girl or dream car and get their status in life, but for Harry it was just football. His ruthless approach to being a pro separated him."
Mandic was coaching at Sydney Olympic when he first crossed paths with Harry. At the time Harry was playing for Marconi under 13s, still aged only 11.
"My mate Frank Arok, who was then the national team coach, alerted me to Harry and a few of the other stars there like Brett Emerton and Paul Reid. When we played Marconi, Paul Reid was the best out of all of them. I made the point on how good Reid was and Arok said, 'No, no, no - that little bastard over there' pointing at Harry."
It was not until 1998 that the relationship between Harry and Mandic became more formalised. "My involvement with Harry didn't start until he renegotiated his initial contract [with Leeds]. Even though Harry was contracted to Leeds, the sort of money that would have been on offer as a transfer fee to Leeds would have been massive and difficult
to resist. At one point when Harry had just turned 20, Inter Milan were prepared to pay £25million," says Mandic.
Harry's Leeds career continued until 2003, when aided by Mandic, he targeted a high profile transfer at the end of his Leeds deal.
"My advice was that you have to do what your heart tells you to do. Harry said, 'What do you think is fair, what should we ask for?'
"So we went through everything, picked some numbers. AC Milan and Liverpool were his two favourite boyhood clubs. So he said he would like to go to one of those clubs, preferably Liverpool. However, these are the parameters and whoever meets those first, we have got a deal."
Before inking a deal with Liverpool, a host of top European clubs launched bids to land Harry's services in 2003. "Liverpool was the second worst offer," explained Mandic. "The best was naturally Chelsea and that was about 30 percent above what Liverpool were willing to pay. Then it was Man United and Barcelona equal second, then AC Milan, before Liverpool and Arsenal had the worst offer. All great clubs, all great managers and Harry could have gone to any of them."
Mandic says the Liverpool deal was in the pipeline for several months before Harry's contract expired with Leeds. "When Liverpool realised Harry was interested they were the first to say 'Okay, we agree to those terms and conditions'. The other clubs played their media games and said, 'Yes we are interested in Harry' or 'No we're not interested or he's asking for too much money'. When they realised we weren't playing the media game, they came back with better offers."
The day of Harry's medical at Liverpool, Mandic received a call from Man United who stated, 'Whatever it takes we will do the deal, right now'".
"In the end Man United would have trumped everybody because they could [money-wise], but their back-up player was a great choice - Ronaldo. It was Ronaldo or Kewell. The way things have turned out Ronaldo has done extremely well."
Mandic conceded that Harry's Liverpool career "didn't turn out how we wanted it", but as his agent and close personal friend he was on hand to provide the help and support Harry needed at the time of his injury-plagued Liverpool stint.
"I always say to my players you can go from a rooster to a feather duster in a few matches and that is what happened to Harry. Injury after injury, problem after problem. I ran out of advice for him. You just sit there and shake your head in utter disbelief that a player of that quality and professionalism is slaughtered emotionally, physically and in the media. To Harry's credit, he always said he had a great support team around him, but I don't care who the player was and I've met a few players, no-one could have gone through what Harry went through and come out the other end like he has at Galatasaray.
"In terms of attitude, Harry is phenomenal. If Harry had gone into anything in life, if it had been a rocket scientist or fighter pilot, he would have succeeded. There is no option not to succeed with him. Hard work or pain has never stopped him. He has had his dark times, but came out the other end a better player and human being."
Mandic also lauded the ease and relaxed nature of working with Harry. "I hope that I have made Harry's life more pleasant as a player, a father and a husband to do the sort of things that are sometimes hard to do as a professional footballer. If it is a case of how many zeros are in his contract, when you have a player like Harry, his grandmother could have done his contracts. For Harry it had never been about the money, it has always been about doing the sort of things that are important to him. I'm there to give him an honest view.
"Harry is one of the easiest blokes in the world to look after. It's a case of talking to each other as two mates who can talk honestly and frankly about anything. Our relationship doesn't start and end at any particular point. It is more of a friendship than it is a business relationship. There is no political correctness and there is no walking on egg shells. He says it how he thinks and I say it how I think. If we disagree, we disagree. That is how the relationship works and it's not going to change and hopefully it can go on a lot longer, beyond football."
Mandic speaks about Harry with the affection of a father figure. If you asked Harry if Mandic was worth the amount he received in the Liverpool transfer, you can be assured that Harry would maintain he is worth every cent.
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The Youth Coach
Youth coach who nurtured Harry's talent at an early age
"Only two men made Harry Kewell - Harry and David Lee" is the view of leading youth coach Jeff Stanmore, a fair point considering the huge contribution of Lee towards Harry's vital early development.
"David Lee was a dry witted, sometimes cranky old man with a heart of gold and a great deal of love and affection for the players he was associated with," according to Mandic. "Harry was lucky to have someone like a David Lee."
"I first saw Harry when he was selected in the state primary school team when he was 11 going on 12," explained Lee. "I used to do a session every season once they'd picked the state primary school lads. I was taking a look at this lot and we were looking to start a development program in NSW.
"When I first met Harry I thought he was competitive, with a good approach to the game. At that stage it is not so much talent, but more their approach to the game. Harry always accepted things as they were, with a good attitude, very competitive, good left leg - you don't want more than that."
Three players from that crop of young players made the grade - Harry, Brett Emerton and Paul Reid.
"I worked with Harry three times a week for four years. We improved his basic technique. He only had a left foot, he had no volley or anything like that. We worked with Harry in the same way we worked with everybody. You start off working on their techniques, once that starts getting fairly good you start on their understanding of the game and what you could call skill. At first Harry's technique was pretty ordinary, his left foot wasn't bad, but the rest of his game was pretty ordinary. However he applied himself to everything we gave him and he picked things up quickly due to his concentration and drive to get to the top."
Lee recalled an occasion when Harry displayed his early confidence. After being asked if he had a Plan B if professional football didn't work out, Harry simple retorted, "I won't need a Plan B". He was 12.
"Harry never wanted to do anything else. His drive and ambition was to play for Liverpool when he was 11 and he never considered failure. I think that is a good thing. The Plan B blokes who are worried they're not going to make it often don't. I never doubted that Harry would make it."
So how would Harry rate David Lee in terms of importance in sculpting his career to date?
"I'm not sure Harry would say I'm the best coach he has ever worked with, but I tried to implemented discipline in him," says Lee. "If Harry played a bad game for me, I shot him off the park. I didn't say, 'Bad luck, Harry' and keep him on like a lot of people do. If you have a bad game no matter who you are, go off. 90 percent of coaches have this attitude that, 'He'll come good'".
Clearly a hard task master and not a man who suffers fools kindly, Lee guided Harry's early career at it's most vital stage between 11 and 15. At this age, Harry was sent to England to play for Leeds and meet the man to prep him for life in the tough English Premier League...
The Club Coach
Prepared Harry for life in the EPL
Despite working under the likes of Howard Wilkinson, George Graham, David O'Leary, Terry Venables and Peter Reid at Leeds, it is Paul Hart who Harry credits with his Leeds-based development. Hart was youth team coach of the Leeds team which won the FA Youth Cup in 1997 and formed the backbone for the Leeds senior team which progressed to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001.
"Paul Hart is just as important as David Lee in terms of Harry's football development," according to Mandic.
"Harry was sent over when he was 15 in 1995 on the Big Brother scholarship," recalls Hart. "Prior to that I was contacted by David Lee in Sydney who wanted a connection with a club in England. He contacted us and we arranged to the deal that they would send two boys.
"They wanted a club that was developing players and we fitted the bill. The first players sent over for a month were Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton."
Hart was keen to secure the services of both future Socceroos, but due to Emerton being a true blue Australian and Harry having an English father, it was a split decision on who to take on. "We sent two boys back on the plane - one absolutely distraught and one really happy with the situation.
"Harry was probably how we [the English] perceive Australians to be - bright, slightly cocky, great athleticism and exuding confidence. What we got to find out was that he is a lovely lad, very honest and open, always had a smile on his face and a positive outlook."
Hart worked with Harry for the next two years in the youth set-up, before leaving to manage first the Nottingham Forest academy, then the first team, and a 17-year old Harry broke into the Leeds first-team.
"In my time with Harry I just offered a bit of guidance, that's all they need when it comes to a player of his quality. We show them the importance of the basis, which we do with everybody. We also gave him challenges, we played him at left-back a lot of the time and he scored 17 goals in one season from left-back. That was the year we won the FA Youth Cup and the league and we had a fantastic team. We gave him different challenges and he responded to them all very well.
"I'm not sure he always enjoyed playing at left-back, but it might have stood him in good stead later on. We knew he was never going to remain at left-back, he was a forward. We played him in different positions and once he moved into the seniors he took up his rightful position."
Lee says Harry just got better as time progressed, but as a person he never changed, he remained, "a happy fella, positive and a pleasure to work with".
"Harry has had a few injuries, but I still think he went on to be a fantastic player. He became the exciting player that me and my staff thought he would become," added Lee.
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Dad's role was in the background
Much like his son, Rod Kewell is a private character. He resides in Sydney's West and doesn't seek out column inches on his personal contribution to Harry's career.
"What made Harry special were his parents," says Mandic. "The players that make it and make it big tend to have even-minded parents. They don't put too much pressure on the kids, if any. They allow their kids to find their own level and allow them to enjoy the game. Harry's Mum and Dad were exactly those sorts of parents.
"His first contract at Leeds is something his Dad did. His Dad had a lot of options in front of him because Harry was a very talented lad, but they went for Leeds. At that time they were a middle-range Premier League Club, but they had a lot of potential. "
Mandic believes that Rod Kewell is the most important person in Harry's career until the point he became a professional footballer.
"It was Rod's even-headed approach and calmness that still resonates with Harry now. Rod is just one of these guys who has a very strong, calm personality. People will tell you he can be volatile, but he is volatile because he wants to get a result. He is a shrewd operator and doesn't suffer fools whatsoever, he's very honest and hence Harry is the way he is. He is similar
Rod famous line to Harry was: "Little ones make big ones" when it came to money and to this day Harry takes that approach. "Rod's influence in many respects has made Harry what he is today - both as a human being and a footballer," added Mandic.
However David Lee had a different view of Harry's family affairs. "Harry's mum, sister and brother did all the work. His dad only came on the scene when he made it. Everyone thinks his dad got him there, but his mum and sister were the driving forces. They used to drive him to training three times a week from. Harry's mum was a great businesswoman and she was never fazed by clubs coming along and offering to take him on. She'd always ring me and ask what I though and I'd always say, 'No, leave him where he is'".
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The National Coach
The reason Harry plays for Australia
Harry became the youngest player to play for Australia when he turned out in a friendly against Chile in April 1996, aged 17 years and 7 months. The reason for his debut was as much to secure his nationality to the Socceroos than anything else. The man behind his debut: the late Eddie Thomson.
In 1990 Scottish-born Thomson succeeded Frank Arok as national coach and took Australia through 59 games and two World Cup campaigns.
"Eddie's contribution to Australian football is immense," says Mandic. "If it wasn't for Eddie, you never know, the sneaky Poms could have had Harry playing for England. The pressure on Harry, not to play for Australia was huge and Eddie snuck in under everybody's guard and got him over to Chile. Thankfully people alerted him, as Eddie didn't know Harry, but some of his mates told him to get Harry in. Even after Harry had played for Australia, there was still pressure for him to wait four years and then play for England. That was very tempting and enticing. If Tommo had not done what he did then things could have been very different indeed."
However, straight talking Lee takes a different view of Thomson's influence on Harry's career. "Eddie cost Harry millions of dollars. He played Harry early to make sure he played for Australia and Harry made the wrong decision businesswise. If you look around at the figures he could have commanded if he hadn't played for Australia and was an English national and played in the European Championships, then he would have been worth twice what he is. Harry got bad advice, but I wasn't there to give him advice, I was there to coach him."
Central to Harry's return to fitness and move to Galatasaray
"I first met Harry back in 1997 in a World Cup qualifier in Iran, which was the first leg of the home and away qualifiers," says physio Les Gelis. "It was my first camp with the national team as part of the physio staff. I met Harry there, he was 19 at the time and he was a young, up-and-coming star. Harry was like a cheeky little kid when he first came onboard. He had a lot of confidence and cockiness about him."
Gelis worked with the Socceroos squad through to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when Harry moved to appoint Gelis as his own full-time personal physio.
"Harry was at Liverpool at the time, so I started working full-time with him there. I came with him over to Galatasaray too."
Mandic explains the vital role
of Gelis when it came to picking a post-Liverpool location. "One overwhelming, non-negotiable reason [for moving to Galatasaray] was Les Gelis. That was something that other clubs such as Roma, Juventus and Portsmouth all had reservations about. Before we discussed money, the first thing was the physio."
Harry's injury list runs longer than his glamorous wife Sheree's January sales shopping receipt. The million dollar question is why does he spend so much time injured?
"It's about the mileage that players play," believes Gelis. "If you look at the English Premiership in particular, it takes a massive toll on the athlete. If you are a good player, you get played all the time. The actual individual can get overlooked at times, as it is about what's best for the team. Harry is a good player, in demand and is driven and unlikely to shirk playing."
Gelis stressed that few players have the luxury of being 100 percent fit all the time and they are under a lot of pressure to play.
"Harry needed a prolonged lay-off after the World Cup, with several procedures and operations to be done. Then it is a case of rebuilding the athlete, both mentally and physically.
"Now in Galatasaray, Harry has had the opportunity to play regularly, play well and play a lot of minutes in those games too. It is like going back to a default setting for him, where he could play week-in week-out. "
Gelis explained that he and Harry have an excellent professional relationship, alongside getting on personally too.
"He is the kind of person who in every aspect of his life is very particular and demanding. He is demanding of himself, he does everything well and he expects the same from people around him. Harry will never dodge hard work, he is one of the hardest trainers on the pitch. This is something we had to address, as his way would be to train all day, everyday."
"Players are starting to have their own insurance policies and that is effectively what my role involves. You aspire to work with elite athletes and I acknowledge and appreciate the opportunity to work with someone of Harry's capacity."