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Exclusive: Wales legend Robinson on Newcastle Jets & state of the A-League

The A-League is entering its 15th season and has come a long way since its inception in 2004, however for some it still has an element of being a young, fledgling league on the footballing landscape of the world.

While it may be working its way up the food chain, the league itself still has much to work on and develop in order to become a worldly power. For Welshman Carl Robinson, it's the perfect breeding ground for the next generation of Australian footballers as well as taking steps forward in its own development as a league.

"It's a mini gold mine, there's so much to work with," Robinson tells Tribalfootball.com. "One thing the A-League has always had is good young players, and there's so much potential for these young lads.

"Look at Aaron Mooy and Adam Taggart, they may be in different countries but they're playing top flight football abroad, and these are great examples of what we can do to develop not only the league, but the players and the national teams."

Robinson's current managerial role is at the Newcastle Jets in the A-League, who in recent seasons have struggled to recapture the form that propelled them to title contention just 3 years ago.

There were other offers on the table for him between Vancouver and Newcastle, but Robinson was adamant that his next stint would have to be the right move at the right time. While it came somewhat unexpectedly, it's a move that Robinson has embraced wholeheartedly and looks forward to the future.

"The easy option would've been to remain in the MLS somewhere, and during my year off I got a few calls from MLS clubs wanting to hire me which I declined. One thing my managers always used to say was it's good to take a year off between gigs, I never understood why until after my time at Vancouver, it's an enormous responsibility that weighs on you.

"I flew out of my own accord to meet with Lawrie McKinna, and I could see there were a lot of positive signs and potential to work with. Developing players is one of our strengths that we can continue to work on. We as a league can coach, develop and sell our young players which is great exposure for the league and great opportunities for the players themselves."

Robinson has been retired since 2012 but prepared for management during his playing career. Taking a page out of every book he encountered, it has provided Robinson with the functional knowledge of man management as well as tactical knowledge to yield some impressive seasons at Vancouver. Under his reign, the Whitecaps had some great league finishing positions, took out the Canadian Championship tournament and had a quarter-final and semi-final appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Despite only managing the A-League side for a few short months, Robinson has hit the ground running and quickly identified the areas where the league thrives, as well as room for potential to grow. He has recognised the need for continual strengthening of the pathways from grassroots, as well as the potential to play intercontinental football against some of Asia's strongest clubs.

"There are hundreds of players who are good enough. There's a big gap between the National Premier Leagues (Australia's semi professional tier) and I'd like to see that gap bridged and strengthened for all parties. Every young player should want to play in the A-League as a first step.

"The prospect of playing in the Asian Champions League is something that attracted me. While I managed Vancouver, we made it to the semi finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, and I got to pick my wits over Tigres in Mexico, I really enjoyed the experience of going up against a foreign manager."

The A-League is preparing to restart the season on July 16, with the Jets playing their first match against Sydney FC on July 21.

Having unveiled their new manager in February 2020, the Jets' form improved dramatically but still sit 3 points adrift off a playoffs berth with a packed schedule ahead for all clubs.

While Robinson concedes that his vision and philosophy won't come to full fruition this year, he remains committed to the Jets beyond the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.

"I've not come here for a holiday, I've come here to win. Moving forward I want a team of winners who will wear the badge with pride, knowing there's players who will fight for their spot in the squad.

"At the moment I'd say it's about 50% of what I want, I need time to properly break down my methodology of how I'd like to play. It's going to be a lot to take on board but I assure the players whenever their time comes, they'll leave the club a better player and a stronger person than when they first walked in."

About the author

Chris Sermeno

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