Q&A with Gold Coast United’s newly appointed Technical Director Craig Midgley.
Q: Give us an overview of your playing career?
A: I was very fortunate to earn an apprenticeship at Bradford City when I was 16. After I had completed my two-year apprenticeship I was offered my first professional contract there. I stayed on at Bradford for four years as a professional. They were promoted to League One and brought players in and I went down the pecking order. So for me it was a good time to move on and Bradford, my hometown club, assisted me in getting a move to the north of England to a League Two team – Hartlepool United. What followed was a great time in my career because I was playing regularly. We reached the play-off final to get into the next division, but sadly missed out. After four years at Hartlepool I had the opportunity to come back down to Yorkshire with a move to Halifax Town in League Two. I had six great years there. I never had any massive highlights, as in winning trophies. But the highlight for me was having my dream come true of making it as a professional footballer and then having a playing career for over 13 years. That is an achievement in itself.
Q: Why the move to Australia in 2007?
A: Australia was always a place I thought I would come to when my playing career was over. I would often come over in my off-season to visit. Then an opportunity to join Manly United in Sydney came. I thought why not and have never looked back. I came on a working visa and started to do some coaching within the club. I completed my FFA ‘A’ License in 2009. I then became the assistant coach and just continued to progress. When Phil Moss left Manly United to go to the Central Coast Mariners, I became the 1st grade head coach, then the technical director. I was the TD there for six years.
Q: Was eventually taking the coaching path something you had been interested in as a player?
A: Coaching was always on the cards for me. I started to do my Uefa coaching badges when I was 21 whilst at Bradford City. I always knew that I would go into coaching at some point in my career. Football has been my only job and the love I have for the game makes it a very pleasing career. Initially I came to Manly as a player, but once I got here I realised that Australia is where I would start my coaching career. Luckily enough people liked what I did (as a coach) and they offered me a full time role as a technical director long term. Manly Warringah Football Association has over 18,000 members and the NPL club have good relationships with the whole community. I take great pride in being an integral part of building the club into one of the best development clubs there is in Australia. I still have many, many friends down there.
Q: You have been the technical director of the Cairns-based NPL franchise FNQ Heat in 2016-17. How have those two seasons been?
A: Not good. Cairns has a lot of difficulties delivering a pathway for the best players as they are so far away. I had plans that in my opinion would have given the best players the opportunities, but unfortunately my plans were not really listened to. The way that they chose to go forward wasn’t for me and I felt that my skills would be suited elsewhere.
Q: Your task at Manly United and Gold Coast United have similarities – uniting a large football community. What excites you about coming to Gold Coast United?
A: First of all the vision that this new club has. I had other offers – one to work on the national scene with coach education. Other TD opportunities were offered to me. But when I sat down and spoke to this board and heard the things that they wanted to do long term, I was impressed. To get up and go to work every day you have to believe in what you are doing. I believe 100 per cent that I am the right person to lead the vision this club has. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but with the backing of the board and the support of the local area we can achieve great things on the Coast. I understand the challenges ahead. But they are similar challenges everywhere.
Q: What are your first priorities?
A: First of all is getting the right people within the club. Getting the right coaches across all areas. My strengths are coach education and coaching. So I hope in time I can build an elite program for the best players that is first class then filter these programs and coaching behaviours down to the local clubs on the Gold Coast. It is easy to preach things, but you have to back it up with actions. I know that I can do that. That is the challenge, but one that I think is very achievable. Once you are out there and doing it, I hope the support will come.
Q: How do you unite Gold Coast football?
A: You have to be open and transparent with what you are trying to do. Gold Coast United will provide the best environment for the best players to be the best they can be. Community clubs underpin our programs and we want to support these clubs. We will engage with the community – because we need them. You cannot run a successful club without the support from underneath. Will everyone support us? Probably not. But that is life. It is great that there is another NPL club on the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast needs an A-League team long term so we need two NPL clubs on the Gold Coast.
Q: How important is it for Gold Coast United’s top men’s and women’s teams to be successful early?
A: We have a five-year licence. Do we have to win everything next year? No. We have a long term vision to be the best club in Australia. But it will take time. We want to create a culture of excellence on and off the field. We will make sure that we have a great working culture within the club that brings out the best in everyone – players, coaches and staff. Short term goals are to make sure we get our teams up and running, getting the best players to join our teams and getting the right people in place and the right structures in place.
Q: How important is a strong women’s program?
A: Women’s football is massive right now. The Matildas are flying. There has never been a better time to be introducing more girls to football. It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. We want equal opportunities for boys, girls, men and women and that is why we applied for and have been given SAP through to men’s and women’s licences.
Q: Is it ridiculous to start talking A-League aspirations?
A: That is a question for the board of Gold Coast United. My priority is to come in now, get the coaches on board, get the squads up and running and start delivering a program that provides a great environment for the best players on the coast. As a club and knowing how pro-active the board are, we will be aiming for the top, which at present is the A-League and a top tier academy.
Q: What do you do outside football and what was attractive about coming to the Gold Coast?
A: The Gold Coast has so much appeal to it. We lived on the northern beaches of Sydney for nine years. We love the beach and the outdoors. My partner Johanna is from the northern beaches of Sydney and she could not live too far form the beach. I have three young children – Milla, 5, Jack, 3, and Marni, 4 months – and I want to bring them up in a place that’s vibrant and has opportunities. That appeals to us. We have taken a lot of time to decide on the move to the Gold Coast as we want this move to be long-term. I am very fortunate to have the most beautiful, precious family and the work/life balance needs to be right. I need a good football environment to be happy and I am really excited to be part of something that I believe will be great for football on the Gold Coast.