AS he prepares for his 100th game as Newcastle’s A-League coach against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Stadium tomorrow night, Gary van Egmond says he is in it for the long haul.
‘‘It’s a little bit like when you get to a certain age you don’t want to be reminded about birthdays any more,’’ van Egmond said yesterday of his century milestone.
‘‘But it’s nice to do it with the one club. I’m very proud of that.
‘‘I love coaching, I love Newcastle and I feel very privileged to be able to represent Newcastle as a city. Hopefully it can continue as long as possible.’’
Van Egmond was the man with the Midas touch when he was asked to replace the sacked Nick Theodorakopoulos in the hot seat in October 2006.
The Con Constantine-owned Jets were winless and last after seven games.
Van Egmond promptly steered them to three consecutive victories, into the play-offs and within a penalty shootout of the grand final.
The following season Newcastle won the premiership and van Egmond was named A-League coach of the year.
But if success came quickly for the former Socceroos defender, he soon learned its value.
Within a year of clinching the ultimate prize, van Egmond had collected the wooden spoon.
Frustrated with Constantine’s constraints, van Egmond walked out on a long-term contract to accept a job at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Both experiences, he believes, have broadened his understanding of the game, his players and what it takes to build a winning team.
‘‘I’m a lot more knowledgeable about the game, a lot more aware of outside factors that can help within the team itself, different areas that can benefit the team,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘I think it’s an ongoing process in regards to man management of the group, because the group always changes.
‘‘But definitely I’ve changed from the beginning to where I am now.’’
Though older and wiser, van Egmond still fundamentally adheres to the same footballing principles, he says.
‘‘I don’t think I’ve changed so much with the vision and the philosophy. It’s more the know-how and ability to do it.
‘‘I mean, everyone looks at Barcelona and says they want to play like that.
‘‘But how do you play like that and what do you put in place?
‘‘Now I feel a lot more capable as a coach of being able to instigate that.’’
When he left Newcastle for the AIS it was ‘‘very difficult’’ to envisage that one day he would return to the club, van Egmond said.
He feels blessed to have received that opportunity and now believes the Jets are ‘‘better resourced’’ than ever and capable of developing a system that ensures prolonged success.
‘‘We’re building a club here; we’re building a culture,’’ he said.
‘‘Each year we have to keep on improving.
‘‘Obviously we want to do well in the A-League, but we’re looking on the Emerging Jets program as being really important as well, because it will give the kids from the Hunter a pathway to represent the Newcastle Jets in the A-League, or better.
‘‘And that is something that is pretty close to my heart.’’
Seeing that dream through to fruition was a major reason the 47-year-old, who is contracted to Newcastle until the end of next season, recently knocked back a long-term deal with Sydney.
‘‘It was pretty public with the Sydney job,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘It was a lot more money.
‘‘But I just felt it was the wrong moment and not the right message to be sending out there.
‘‘Probably previously I got accused of leaving when I had a four-year contract, but ... this year I got offered a considerable contract [at Sydney]. But from my point of view it was more important that I stay.’’