Crook steps up to take on Sky Blues

IAN Crook took Newcastle United from the wooden spoon to second place in his first year at the helm in 2000-01, ending a barren 23 years without finals action for the Hunter soccer faithful.

Yesterday the affable Englishman was named the new coach at Sydney FC.

Despite Crook’s early success, the Norwich legend, who with Gary an Egmond as his assistant took Newcastle to within a game of National Soccer League grand final, has no doubt he is far better placed this time around.

’’Myself and Dutchy flew by the seat of our pants a bit in Newcastle,’’ Crook told the Herald yesterday.

‘‘I feel like I am much better equipped to coach now.

‘‘With Newcastle being one-team, one-town and the expectation that came with it, it was a steep learning curve.

‘‘In saying that, I really enjoyed it up there.

‘‘Newcastle will always be a side I follow. It was the club which gave me an opportunity.

‘‘I loved the place, I loved the lifestyle, it was brilliant.’’

Crook was in charge at Newcastle for the final three years of the NSL. Overlooked for the Jets position, he joined Sydney FC as the assistant to Pierre Littbarski for the inaugural A-League season, which they won.

Since then he has worked as an assistant at Avispa Fukuoka and Norwich, helping the Canaries to win promotion to the Premier League before returning to Sydney FC, where he had the youth team until named as Vitezslav Lavicka’s replacement.

‘‘The Sydney board spoke to me previously about it but their first port of call was Arnie [Graham Arnold],’’ Crook said.

‘‘When Arnie pulled out it quickened pace.’’

Crook has remained close friends with van Egmond, who is in his second stint in charge at the Jets.

‘‘To say we speak on a regular basis would be an understatement,’’ Crook said.

‘‘Dutchy has done brilliant.

‘‘He is somebody I have always spoken to and bounced ideas off.

‘‘I won’t be doing too much of that now, but I will certainly be ringing asking what his team is going to be when we play them,’’ he joked.

Van Egmond, who had also been linked to the Sydney position, was not available for comment yesterday.

Not surprising given their history, Crook aims to play an up-tempo possession-based game similar to the style van Egmond has implemented in Newcastle.

‘‘We need to play attractive football to win the fans,’’ he said.

‘‘Sydney is the biggest market, and now we have competition right next door in West Sydney. If we want to get people inside this stadium we need to produce the style of game that will encourage them to come here.’’

Crook will be assisted by Steve Corica and said he was looking forward to going head-to-head with van Egmond and Arnold.

‘‘It is quite a funny thing,’’ Crook said.

‘‘Arnie, myself and Dutchy were all at Northern Spirit as coach, assistant coach and youth team coach. Now the three of us will be going against each other in the A-League.’’

Crook is the Sly Blues’ sixth coach in eight seasons and the second Englishman following Terry Butcher.

The 49-year-old said his recent experience at Norwich, where he had played 418 games and was named in the team of the century, was a good grounding for his latest challenge.

‘‘The expectation on us was massive,’’ he said.

‘‘Sydney is a big club as well. There is pressure in every single job. In football people expect success and if you don’t achieve it you are out. That is the way it goes.’’

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