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Coaching mentor helped real Arnie stand up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/05/2017 Emma Kemp

He's guided the likes of Michael Maguire, Michael Cheika and Eddie Jones to their full coaching potential.

Now the very same mentor has helped rediscover the real Graham Arnold, someone the Sydney FC manager felt got lost in the stress of last A-League season.

Fresh from being named coach of the year at Monday night's Dolan Warren Awards, Arnold made a point of thanking two people who, until now, have remained a quiet presence around the Sky Blues.

One is Mike Conway, the man who's worked closely with the players and staff developing the mental resilience so envied by rivals this season.

The other is Bradley Charles Stubbs, a man with a history of driving top NRL and rugby coaches to success through the power of a winning mentality.

It was something Arnold felt he sorely needed following an arduous 2015/16 campaign fraught with tension that turned the 53-year-old into "more of an actor than a coach".

"Personally I had a real good hard look at myself," Arnold said.

"I wasn't happy with my performance last year and the leadership I have to give is something that rubs off on the team.

"I went away and came back with different ideas of what I need done.

"I'm much more relaxed this year and it's down to those two guys.

"When you are a coach you don't get a rulebook, you have to learn the hard way.

"He's (Stubbs) helped me with the Expect to Win program."

There were signs last season that Arnold's usually jovial demeanour was starting to fray.

Sydney's uncharacteristically poor domestic results were an alien struggle for a man unaccustomed to finishing outside the top two, let alone in seventh.

"I just feel like last year I showed a lot of signs of not the real Graham Arnold," he said.

"I showed publicly a person who was more of an actor than a coach and when I did go away and resurrect myself, I wanted to show people the real me - what I'm like away from football.

"I wanted to show that in my coaching, (because) away from coaching I've actually got a decent sense of humour, I actually smile."

Arnold's restored smile has him on the cusp of becoming the first coach to win a championship with two clubs following his 2012/13 title with Central Coast.

Only Melbourne Victory stand in the way on Sunday, in what will be his fourth grand final in six years of A-League coaching.

Nearly the entire squad is available for the Allianz Stadium showpiece but Arnold admitted winger Bernie Ibini is "touch and go" due to a hamstring injury suffered late in Saturday's 3-0 semi-final win over Perth.

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