New Sky Blues boss has no doubt about how he wants his team to play – and how it can be successful again.
In every sense, Ufuk Talay is back where it all began.
As Sydney FC’s new head coach parked his car on Thursday morning ahead of his first training session in charge, it was in the same carpark in north-west Sydney where the Sky Blues players – Talay included – gathered at the start of the club’s very first season in 2005.
It’s not just the team’s temporary move to the headquarters of Football NSW during pitch maintenance at their usual home that’s giving Talay a sense of deja vu.
At the club where he won the league title in that first season, and then was Steve Corica’s coaching assistant in winning another title four years ago, he now replaces his close friend with a brief to kickstart Sydney’s season.
Football is brutally unsentimental and everyone knows that, even friends who succeed each other. In the short term, Talay wants to be both pragmatic and sufficiently respectful of what’s come before.
“I’d be naive to come in and say that we’re going to scrap in two days everything that’s been done previously,” Talay said. “For me what I look at is how can we improve what’s been done previously and how can we get the best out of the players?
“We’ll find out today, once we get through the session, how (quickly) we can make an imprint on the players. There’ll be a few tweaks in the way that we set up and the way that we play.”
Beyond that, though, and with only three games gone in this season, Talay has no doubts about the outcome he’s expected to deliver, nor the method.
The Bling FC nickname of that first season has long faded, but Sydney fans – particularly given the success of the past six years – expect to win and expect to win in style.
“I think if you look at Sydney and what it stands for, we want to be big, bold and iconic,” Talay said. “That’s a brand of football that we need to play.
“The expectation’s there. The external expectation for me is quite irrelevant. The expectation of myself and the expectation of the group to be successful is more important. I think that’s what really matters.
“When I’ve spoken to some of the boys this morning, they know that this is a big club and the expectation is high. We’ve got a very talented squad. We’ve got some really good attacking players and good attacking flair.
“We’ve got some really experienced midfielders and I think the squad has been rejuvenated with some young players adding to the team.
“So I think we’ve got some good quality to push for top things. There’s still a bit of time, we’re only three rounds in so I’ve got a bit of time.
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“I’ve only got two days to prepare the boys for the game against Adelaide (on Friday night) but we’ve got a talented group that take information on board pretty quickly. So I’m sure we’ll head in the right direction.”
Talay was happy to concede that his aspirations had lain overseas after building a significant reputation with his work at Wellington Phoenix, fashioning a side that played pleasing football on minimal resources and which had to be led in exile for much of his tenure thanks to Covid border restrictions.
“Don’t get me wrong, I worked very hard to be able to make that (overseas move) happen and unfortunately it didn’t happen,” Talay said.
“But look at the timing in football, things change very quickly and now I’m here.
“I’m very excited very happy to be back. This is where, when I came back to Australia (from Europe), I continued to play and then came back as an assistant under Stevie and now back as a head coach.
“It’s the nature of the game and it’s full circle. So it’s a familiar scenario for me. I know a lot of people (on staff) that have been here for a long time.
“And the boys are good, they’re in good spirits, it’s always a clean slate for players when a new coach comes in.
“Players that previously might have not started, it opens up a door for them. So basically, really everyone should be on their toes because anything’s possible.
“I think we’ve got the players (to be successful). I think we have the attributes. We’ve got quality staff here to be able to achieve that.
“For me it’s about creating the environment for the players where they can go out there and perform at their best.”
Talay clearly can’t wait to coaching again, but there are other important matters that have already been attended to.
“I have spoken to Stevie, through text yesterday,” Talay confirmed. “So yeah, everything’s good on that end.”
The team on the Official Isuzu UTE A-League podcast broke down Sydney FC’s form prior to this announcement. Listen below or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or where you get your podcasts.