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  • Writer's pictureMatt Olsen

Danny Hay: The former All Whites boss discusses his surprising move out west

In a move surprising to many in the Australasian footballing sphere, prominent Western Australian side Perth Soccer Club announced former New Zealand boss Danny Hay as their new manager two weeks ago.


Front Page Football sat down with Hay to discuss his managerial career, why he moved out west, and what lies ahead.


Hay had a simple reason as to how this appointment came to the fore.


"It is important to understand [that] we're here in WA because my wife is a Perth girl," Hay told FPF.


"I met her when I was playing for Perth Glory in the mid-90s, and she has been away from her home state for a heck of a long time, and it has been good for her to reconnect with her family and friends, so this was part of the reason to come back to her home state."


Hay stressed that football was the furthest thing on his mind when the call first game from Perth SC Head of Football Christian Marocchi, as he intended to take a break from coaching.


"I wasn't going out of my way to look for anything football orientated, it was really when Christian Marocchi reached out to me that I went and had the discussion, and if I'm honest, this was mainly out of courtesy to start with. But I was incredibly impressed with the vision they (the Perth SC board) have for the club," Hay said.


As for Hay's current situation, the Azzurri sit seventh in the NPL WA after 12 games. Hay was asked how he would take responsibility and carry the team forward, knowing the heightened expectation his arrival has brought along.


"That is a journey we have to pick up in the next ten games, and we're going to have to be pragmatic about it. It can always be difficult when you're coming in and taking over a team midway through the season, in terms of implementing a style of play, getting the squad to a certain level in terms of fitness," Hay answered.

Continuing to focus on the pitch, Hay says he can manifest the keys to success as he attempts to unlock the full potential of his new side.


"I've been impressed with the players and their ability to take on all the information. It won't be smooth sailing, being not the easiest thing to come in mid-season," he said.


"But there's enough in this group to win football games, and that's my job, to bring enough structure and confidence to bring this football club to life."


Hay is coming from coaching internationally to a semi-professional level with his new side, as he had been in charge of a National League side from Auckland, Eastern Suburbs. He addressed whether there are any unique challenges to overcome coaching at this level compared to the higher stakes he had in charge of New Zealand.


"It's difficult because these guys are not full-time paid professionals. We're talking about serious footballers, but the reality is they are coming off sometimes physically tough jobs, things like landscaping, coming off your feet all day at a factory; I think it is important for people to remember that," Hay said.


"Yeah, they're paid a little bit of money (as footballers), but this is not their bread and butter.


"Simply recognising that and understanding this is important, [and] being a little bit empathetic with it, I think this is something I have gained working with some top-level professionals, where the only thing they need to worry about is football.


"This doesn't mean that the three days of the week we train, we can't bring a top level of football ourselves as a group."


Let's shift gears to Hay's most notable role, as he led the All Whites on the international stage. Despite a largely successful period, his legacy was defined by the poor luck New Zealand experienced against Costa Rica in their inter-confederation playoff to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha. So what exactly did Hay have to say about his time in charge?


"We played outstanding against Costa Rica. Football can be different from other sports in this way," he said.


"We ended up with 68% of the possession against a strong Central American side. Nobody thought this was possible, and the quality of football we played in this game was outstanding.


"Things could have been very different, but I guess the reality is that we're doing things off the smell of an oily rag there in New Zealand football; the lack of resources and the lack of support was difficult at times.


"We had to be flying our players on economy seats around the world and expected them to perform against world-class players and very good opposition. I think that's where you try and raise the bar and standards across the board, and you feel very alone in that regard."

Hay on the sidelines during the incredibly tense playoff in Qatar. (Photosport)


Hay's then discussed his playing career, notably his stint at Perth Glory. He explained how his relationship with the club is quite dear to him.


"Even since I've been back in WA, I have taken my family back to multiple Glory games. I'm a Glory fan, and I look back on my time there incredibly fondly in the early days of the club, years two and three of their existence," Hay said.


"We had wonderful people involved; the way the Tana family brought [the] community into the club [by] connecting with a deep understanding of the identity in WA was something I really brought into, and something I tried to replicate with the national team, connecting the players back to New Zealand and all elements of the culture.


"It's something that I took from my time at Glory. It is a special club, and I want to see it go back to those days, having that connection to the local area. It can't be underestimated how much it drives the fan base."


Hay is aware of Glory's managerial situation and confirmed his interest in being the club's manager. But he will not apply for the current vacancy.


"I'm focused 100% on Perth Soccer Club and getting stuck into the joys of working with players on a regular basis, which I didn't do with the national team. I am enjoying getting back on the grass and reconnecting with those sorts of skill sets," Hay said.


"In time, is Glory something I am interested in? Of course! It is a club I'm deeply passionate about, and I think they can get back to where they once were. But this is not a discussion I foresee in the near future, and I'm focused on Perth (SC)."

 

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Hay said he is interested in managing Perth Glory but not at this point in time. (Photo/Photosport)


Discussing a fascinating era of his playing days, Hay opened up about his time in England at Leeds United and Walsall and how a friendship came about with Sydney FC boss Steve Corica.


"We were in the English Championship, it was awesome, and I had three seasons with Leeds United. But they were three seasons where I went from surgery to surgery and had eight or nine groin surgeries in the end, and this was symptomatic of the time. Then I was given the opportunity to play with Walsall," Hay said.


Hay, who played 45 times for Walsall, was full of praise for the Midlands club and the relationships he made along the way.


"When I had fully recovered in the Championship, it was such a tough and rugged style of football, good players and good teams. Trying to get out and even stay there is just so tough, and we had a couple of Aussie boys there at the time," he added.


"Stevie Corica and David Zdrillic...I have a great connection with those guys. I would class them as some of my best mates."


Hay expanded on his friendship with Corica, revealing an integral piece of history that could be considered a significant 'what if' moment for football in Australia and New Zealand.


"I have fairly regular texts with Steve and follow him closely. A couple of years ago, just as I was about to take over the national team, I spent a few days at Sydney FC and looked at going in to support him on the coaching staff. But I was successful in my application for the national team role (with New Zealand)," he said.


Overall, Hay is looking towards the near future and taking his semi-professional contingent to the top of Western Australian football.


But he and those close to him may also ponder what lies next as he establishes his character in the WA scene. Down the track, Perth Glory fans or fans of Steve Corica's Sydney FC may keep a keen eye on him.


Click here to read more of FPF's NPL coverage Australia-wide!

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