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Sydney prefers coach to be an Australian

Date

Angela Habashy

Sydney FC has again stepped up its search for a new coach and, while it remains coy about who it has in mind this time, the A-League club is adamant he must be Australian.

With the negotiations to sign Central Coast boss Graham Arnold falling through, former Socceroo and Crystal Palace assistant coach Tony Popovic, who also spent three years as an assistant at Sydney FC, is widely regarded as the frontrunner.

But while Popovic, who arrived in Sydney on Monday, is reportedly due to meet Sydney FC officials today, the club's football director Gary Cole denied any knowledge of his presence.

''I didn't actually realise Tony's in town but that could be good news, couldn't it?,'' Cole said yesterday.

''Tony's been a Sydney player, an assistant coach here and Tony would certainly be someone that Sydney FC would consider. He would be a strong candidate.

''But while we were negotiating with Graham, we were working on a plan B and so have been speaking with three or four other candidates for a little while now.

''I won't discuss who they were but suffice it to say we've been in discussions with a number of people.''

The one thing Cole would reveal is that Sydney wants an Australian back at the helm after three seasons under Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka.

And Cole has dismissed the notion that the Sky Blues' new majority owner, Russian billionaire David Traktovenko, might re-ignite the search for a European coach instead.

''We've got a board meeting tomorrow and I'm sure that [a European coach] may be discussed again,'' Cole said.

''But when we started this process some months ago, we decided as a football club it was time that Sydney had an Australian coach, for a number of reasons.

''One: obviously they speak the language; two: they know the A-League - they'll understand the salary cap, which is a significant part of making it work here and they'll also understand the importance of developing young players.

''That's the reason that we pursued Graham and will continue to pursue an Australian coach.''

Popovic is also being courted by the Sky Blues' imminent cross-town rivals the new west Sydney team.

But Cole says the club will not get involved in a tug-of-war for his services.

''No I don't think it will come down to a battle.

''We can only do what we can do,'' Cole said.

''To think that you're going to burst the club's bank balance because you're desperate for someone - that doesn't make any sense.

''And there's a new sheriff in town, we've got a new owner and there's a strategic plan here at Sydney and being fiscally responsible is part of that plan.'' AAP

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