The A-League must continue expansion plans post COVID-19, says Kiwi coaching great Ricki Herbert, who believes the future is bright for the competition.
"And seeing some of the best up and coming coaches working in an educational environment, certainly gave the understanding and vision to create and develop my coaching views and philosophies for the next 10 years,” the Kiwi great says.
"I really felt confident that the direction I wanted to take became much clearer and allowed me to set out a plan for my coaching career not only as a national team coach but as a full-time coach working in a professional environment.
"The success against Bahrain in 2009 to qualify for the World Cup 2010 was also a watershed moment as it provided the success that the previous four years of planning and organizing was bought to a very successful conclusion.
"I had tested different methods and strategies prior to those playoff games, and continued to challenge myself, staff and players through different variations and situations so that when the final recipe needed to be delivered, I could truly feel the confidence in obtaining success," says the former A-League coach.
However, Herbert’s coaching zenith came in South Africa at the World Cup.
The Kiwi national team grabbed the attention of the world by going unbeaten in its group, drawing with Slovakia and Paraguay either side of a 1–1 draw against reigning world champions Italy.
Having faced the Azzurri a year earlier at the Confederations Cup 2009, Herbert hatched a plan around shoring up the Kiwi backline.
"We lost the game 4-3 after leading three times," he recalls.
"On reflection, I thought that if we could strengthen our backline for the World Cup a year later, then the balance of the side had so many positives to it.
"We managed to do that with Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen, and Tommy Smith all who were absent from that game being integral players for the Italian game at the World Cup.
"I had a very good analysis team who I provided a scope of information on all our opponents that we needed prior to the World Cup.
"This analysis provided the framework to articulate a playing strategy against the Italian team that we could deliver in parts to the team across our training sessions, along with individual, group, and team presentations.”
Herbert’s New Zealand was lauded as being both physical, well organized, and dangerous up front, with Kiwi star Shane Smeltz enjoying a breakout tournament as the team's go-to striker.
"I was always very strong on being conscious not to be too overwhelming on data and information on the opposition to the team and making sure that the delivery provided a strong part of personal confidence to my players.
“And it reflected that we had a very good team that was very organized and each individual knew his role and responsibility and that the opponents would need to focus on us as much as we needed to focus on them."
He notes: "A very calm influence for the days leading into the game was also important to keep the players relaxed."
And it’s a calm and reasoned strategy that’s needed now as the A-League tries to find a way forward beyond this truncated season.
He adds: "I truly feel the A-League is developing well.
"And whilst the momentum of the current A-League season has been put on hold, there has been the time to reflect on what it can or could be like moving forward over the next few years.”