ASB Premiership: You’re now in your second spell with Waikato FC – how did that come about?
Declan Edge: By default, I got the job by default – but we’re happy with that. The first four games were very difficult. We played two of the top teams in Auckland City and Waitakere united and had difficult away trips to Christchurch and Wellington. In the White Ribbon Cup we’ve beaten Hawke’s Bay, who beat us before in pre-season, and I thought we delivered a very effective performance at Manawatu. I think this young Waikato FC side is now just learning how to beat sides in the ASB Premiership.
ASB Premiership: What are your main targets this season and your coaching philosophy?
Declan Edge: Three projects we’re working on – one, to play entertaining football; two, play fair and within the rules and thirdly, win football matches. We don’t want to win football matches if we don’t play in an entertaining way, or if we don’t play fair.
We’re all about playing entertaining football. We want to develop young players. I’ve been here 25 years and I think that’s been neglected in the past and it’s still being neglected. I think it’s been put in the ‘too hard’ basket. What I’ve tried to do over the last five or six years is try to bury that approach. We can develop players – they are here – and they want to work and they are quite capable of achieving things very quickly.
ASB Premiership: What sort of approach to training do you take at Waikato FC?
Declan Edge: The boys average about 20 hours per week. We’ve bought into the “10,000 hours” concept. I’m taking a lot of stick about that, with people saying, “It’s about a lot more than 10,000 hours.” Of course, it is! You need some concrete and that’s the 10,000 hours. Even the oldest player at 20 years of age is sitting at about 4,000 hours. You’re talking about 20 hours of work per week which gets you to that stage of overloading, which gives you about 980 hours a year.
It’s a ten year journey, so the sooner you start the quicker you are to get to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. You might not become Cesc Fabregas or Lionel Messi, but you’ll be a very good football player. It’s not just going out with your mates for a kick around. It has to be quality time.
ASB Premiership: In a transfer coup you lured Adam Thomas from Auckland City – how did that come about?
Declan Edge: Adam has been with me for three or four years in his development. My next favourite club is Auckland City and we were always happy when Adam was there. It gave him the opportunity to play in the best club environment in New Zealand. When I got the job at Waikato FC – and no disrespect to Auckland – I felt I could replicate what they were doing in certain aspects. Obviously, off the pitch some of the processes Auckland City execute are world class. But I felt Adam could take more responsibility – we’ve made him captain and we want to see if he can grow with that.
ASB Premiership: Why do Waikato FC struggle to keep good players in their region?
Declan Edge: Win the O-League. Why do Waikato-based players come to Auckland? It’s the opportunity to play in the O-league. Waikato FC is not in the O-League, so we have to think of another way around that issue. What we can offer at Waikato is fulltime training. No other franchise I am aware of training fulltime – twice a day, 48 weeks of the year. With that type of training a player will improve.
ASB Premiership: How does fulltime training work in with winter league clubs in your area?
Declan Edge: I’m fortunate because I’ve done my time at Melville United and that will click in during the winter season. I think the young player at 16, 17 or 18, playing in the ASB Premiership is a good thing, in many ways they’re better off playing here than they would be overseas.
I have high hopes for all of them. I played a number of times for New Zealand but many of them are better than I was at the same age. The expectation is very high for their long term futures. The only obstacle to them making it in the game is themselves, ultimately.
ASB Premiership: If the opportunity arose to work higher up the football ladder, would you be interested?
Declan Edge: It would be nice to work with a national team at U-20 level. If there was an opportunity to get involved that would be great. I have applied for the New Zealand U-20 job but we’ll see. I’m one of the easiest people in the world to work with – there seems to be an ongoing myth or perception about myself that I’m difficult to work with that I don’t understand. I’m very open-minded to things because I believe I’ve got a lot to offer the game.