Anthony Limbrick is far from a household, or even hardly known, name in Australian football.
He never played in the NSL or A-League, never starred for the Socceroos or in a top European league, and has not coached professionally in his homeland.
But 11,000 miles from his birthplace in Hobart, Limbrick is catching the eye in the UK. After spells coaching in the academies of Southampton and West Ham, assisting with England’s Under-17 national team, and managing Woking and Grimsby Town, the 38-year-old has landed at Welsh club The New Saints (TNS).
After taking over at TNS in April, Limbrick has sparked a revival at the Cymru Premier outfit. The Aussie led TNS to a second place finish after joining late last season, and this season his team is undefeated after seven matches.
The New Saints are currently top the league with six wins and one draw, four points above second-placed Bala Town, and Limbrick was awarded manager of the month in August. After impressing in European competition as well in the off-season, life is good for the Tasmanian product.
“I came in with 10 games to go at the end of last season and that was pretty busy,” he told FTBL.
“It was after the Covid period and we had 10 games in six weeks. We just narrowly managed to miss out on the title, we came second. And the goal at TNS is to win the league. We haven’t won it for the last two seasons.
“So we’ve had a good start to the season, which has been pleasing after Europe. We’ve managed to be unbeaten in the league so far and we’ve had a good start.”
TNS are the most successful club in the Welsh league structure with 13 championships, seven Welsh Cups and nine Welsh League Cups in their history.
“It’s a full-time club, the players are all full-time,” Limbrick explained.
“We’ve got great facilities there, we’ve just put in a new gym so we can really work the players physically. We do video analysis there, we treat it exactly like a full-time set-up, which it is.
“Not all the clubs in the league are full-time, sometimes you’re playing against teams that are part-time, which is a challenge in itself also. But one I’ve enjoyed.
"The standard of the league is quite good actually, all the coaches are A License or Pro License coaches and there’s been a lot of tactical battles and challenges.
“I’ve really enjoyed it so far and the club’s really set-up. They want to progress, they want to push forward. They’re long-term goal is to make the group stages of the Europa League, which would be a really tough ask but an ambitious target.
“And that was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to the club was the ambition of the owner Mike Harris and where he saw the future of the club and the investment they’re putting into it and how they want to move forward. It’s been really pleasing.”
Perhaps most impressive so far was TNS’s performances in the Europa Conference League qualifiers. The Welsh side first beat Northern Irish club Glentoran 3-1 on aggregate over two legs, before overcoming Lithuanian team FK Kauno Zalgiris 10-1 over two matches.
This set up a huge third round tie against Czech giants Viktoria Plzen. TNS beat Plzen 4-2 in the first leg in Cardiff, but then fell 3-1 in the return leg away. They were then heartbreakingly eliminated 4-1 in a penalty shootout.
“Viktorian Plzen two years ago beat Roma in the Champions League group stages, so that’s the level of team we were up against,” Limbrick, a UEFA Pro License holder, said.
“The stadium, the players they had, the budget they had was really reflected in that. They’re a really good side. [But] it was a great experience, something I’ve never done before.
"And that was one of the big pulls of coming to this club was to have that European experience. We were so close to really doing something outstanding, so we were disappointed that we didn’t get through.
"But the players gave absolutely everything, they were fantastic so we can’t complain with the results we got.”
Limbrick is after more though and determined to bring silverware back to Park Hall.
“It’s nice being a head coach again and being back in charge – I’ve really enjoyed that,” he said.
“The club’s ambition matched mine – their style of play, their philosophy that they’ve already had set here for many, many years of playing attacking football, expansive football, dominating the ball – that really fit in with mine.
“The pressure to win games every week is a really exciting challenge for me, something that I haven’t had much in my career.”
It’s been a tough 18 months for Australian coaches in Europe, with Tony Popovic, Kevin Muscat and Harry Kewell all sacked, and Ange Postecoglou facing rising pressure at Celtic.
However Limbrick, without the added high profile or big-name, could buck that trend.
“I’m a very different Australian coach having come from a hugely different background, having never been a player at any level of the game,” the former Riverside Olympic, Bundaberg Waves and Rochedale Rovers fullback said.
“I’ve had to be different and adapt and really work on my craft in terms of coaching and academy level, before I even went into men’s first-team football, which is probably different to a lot of other Australian coaches.
“It’s just a different pathway I’ve been on. But for me personally I’m ambitious, I want to keep progressing and I feel like that I can do that here at TNS. But one day I want to represent Australia as a coach, that would be one of the proudest moments.
“I always keep an eye on the A-League and watch the games regularly. One day I would love to manage in that league as well.
"But the exciting thing about football, in Europe especially, is you’ve got the opportunity and you never know what’s just around the corner."