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The "Coach Whisperer" behind Graham Arnold's resurrection at Sydney FC

Updated: Oct 28, 2022




By his own admission, Graham Arnold was "more of an actor than a coach" in the public eye. He was not nearly as relaxed and his real personality was buried far beneath the surface as his Sydney FC team laboured to a seventh-place finish last season, the only time his team has failed to reach the finals.

A year later, he has become the first man to be crowned the A-League coach of the year with two different clubs – and among the first people he thanked after winning his award on Monday night was a man who calls himself "the coach whisperer".

Bradley Charles Stubbs worked with Michael Maguire as South Sydney Rabbitohs ended their championship drought in 2014, Michael Cheika during the Wallabies' 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign and Eddie Jones before England's recent resurgence, and has now been revealed as the coaching mentor behind Arnold this season. After last season's disappointment, Arnold undertook personal work with Stubbs and his "expect-to-win" program.

"Personally I had a real good hard look at myself. I wasn't happy with my performance last year and the leadership I have to give is something that rubs off on the team. I went away, I came back with different ideas of what I needed done," Arnold said.

"I need to thank two people now who've done a lot of work for me. A guy called Mike Conway... and the other is a guy called Bradley Charles Stubbs, who is more of a coaching mentor. When you are a coach, you don't get a rule book. There's no rules, you have to learn the hard way and he [Stubbs] has helped me more as a coaching mentor with the expect-to-win program. I have to look at myself first and foremost and I have to move on."

Stubbs did not respond to interview requests from Fairfax Media. It is understood he was not hired or contracted by Sydney FC, but worked closely only with Arnold. The result, he says, is a greater sense of calm this season. It's reflected in his press conferences throughout the year, which have been slim on his famed mental games, barbs and taunts of rivals. Instead, he speaks of expectations to win games and conviction, rather than distraction. He jokes more but speaks almost solely of his own team and shows little public concern for opposition players and coaches.

"I'm much more relaxed this year and it's down to those two guys I've just spoken about. Also it's the group of players, when you come in every day it's a joy to work with. I've always been someone who's never happy with what I do," Arnold said.

"It comes with experience, being more relaxed. Last year I showed a lot of signs of not the real Graham Arnold. I showed publicly, a person that's more of an actor than a coach. When I did go away and resurrect myself, maybe I went away and I wanted to show people the real me, what I'm like away from football and I want to show that with my coaching."

Meanwhile, Sydney FC winger Bernie Ibini is in doubt to play in the A-League final due to a hamstring injury. The 24-year-old limped off the field in the final minutes of Sydney's 3-0 win over Perth Glory on Saturday night and underwent scans on Monday. While cleared of a serious injury, Ibini faces a race against the clock to prove his fitness in time for Sunday's decider.

"He'll be touch and go," Arnold said.

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