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Behind the 90 Minutes
Head of Football at an A-League club, co-director of a new indoor football complex, part time coach and semi pro player. Throw in husband and father to twin daughters and it begs the question of when Nick Montgomery has time to sleep.
With so much on his plate, we felt somewhat fortunate to have managed to get Montgomery for a chat about life since he announced his retirement as a professional footballer.
After an outstanding 20 year playing career in England and Australia, Montgomery could be excused for wanting to spend some down time with his feet up reflecting on his career and contemplating what is next.
But for a man who grew up on the streets of football mad Leeds in England, football runs through Montgomery’s veins and less than a year since announcing his retirement from being a full time player, the bullish midfielder is busier than he’s ever been and wouldn’t want it any other way.
The majority of Montgomery’s time nowadays is taken up by his role as Head of Football at the Central Coast Mariners, a full time position he accepted after informing the club that he would be stepping down from playing, a decision he made having trained every day for over 20 years and battling from a few old ankle injuries.
Montgomery received a host of job offers since announcing his retirement, including coaching and head of football roles but felt that the Head of Football position at the Mariners, despite being a tough one, was a project he wanted to get his teeth into.
“I too-d and fro-d on whether I should play on in the A-League for another season but coming up to 36 my ankle was sore training every day so it was tough realizing it’s over after such a long time playing,” said Montgomery.
“The Head of Football role came up (at the Mariners) and I thought it would be a really good transition for me. It has given me some time to really decide what I want to do but it involves a variety of tasks in terms of managing contracts, re-signing players and working closely with Paul Okon (Head Coach) and CEO Shaun Mielekamp on a range of football matters.”
For most people a role of that expanse would be more than enough to keep them occupied. But for Montgomery, it’s one of many responsibilities he juggles. The 36 year old is also a co director of The Football Grounds, which is a new indoor football centre and state of the art facility on the Central Coast, while he is also a part time coach for the Mariners Academy and is still playing having joined NPL NSW club Wollongong Wolves in the middle of last season.
“Sometimes I think that would be the easy life just having a normal 9-5 job,” said Montgomery.
“When you’re involved in football you never really switch off from it. Even as a player I never really enjoyed off season because I was always thinking about the next season, trying to make sure I didn’t lose my fitness and focussing on ways to improve.
“I’m still playing semi professionally down at Wollongong Wolves so I’m somewhat still in that mind frame.”
Like most, if not all, professional footballers once they have made the decision to hang up the boots full time, Montgomery says the transition to now watching the Mariners from the stands as opposed to leading them on the field has been difficult.
“The match days are horrible for me. Knowing that you could still be out there playing at that level is always in your mind,” said Montgomery.
“It was a really tough decision to stop playing in the A-League, it’s not easy to step back from something you’ve loved doing for 18-19 years of your life.
“I knew it had to come at some point and I just thought can I play on for another year, but this role came up at the Mariners, I thought it was a really good role to take and the right transition for me because I know a lot of players who have played on and played on to the point when people say that they should have retired.
“They’ve really struggled with life after football and finding what they want to do, so to be the Head of Football at one of the A-League’s ten clubs with my A Coaching Licence already and doing a bit of coaching in the academy, I’m pretty fortunate that I’m in a good space with it all.”
Notably, in landing the Head of Football gig at the Central Coast Mariners, it is relevant to mention it was not a case of Montgomery falling into the job or being offered the role as some charitable gesture from the club for his service.
While Montgomery wore his heart on his sleeve in his five seasons with the Mariners, throughout his professional career he has been a classic example of the adage ‘you get out what you put in’. This is largely reflected in the relationships Montgomery has built through football in all parts of the world and the high regard he is held in, particularly at the clubs he played at.
“I spent 14 years playing at Sheffield United in England and five years at the Mariners and when people see what I gave in terms of my effort to the cause, it has at times been overwhelming for me with the support I’ve been given back,” said Montgomery.
Despite no longer playing for the Mariners, Montgomery admits he still gets asked for an autograph from fans on the odd occasion.
“Yeah I do sometimes. I’ve spent five years on the Central Coast and I still get people coming up and asking if I’m playing on the weekend,” says Montgomery with a laugh.
Despite all of the responsibilities Montgomery has taken on, there are no regrets about how full his schedule is.
“I think being busy is the best way to be because I’ve seen a lot of ex teammates who have really struggled when they’ve called it a day playing full time, they haven’t had any idea or known what they want to do so I’m glad I did my coaching badges while I was still playing,” said Montgomery.
In being able to complete his coaching badges, Montgomery credits the assistance the PFA provided, saying without the PFA’s support it is unlikely he would be in the position he finds himself in now.
“I’ve spoken to Beau (Busch) and Emily Figueroa (Central Coast Mariners Player Development Manager) a lot. In the last two years when I decided that I was coming near the end and wanted to get my coaching badges, the PFA was brilliant and the support I got financially as well from them in terms of recouping some of what it cost to get my coaching licences, it made it a lot easier.”
Down the track Montgomery hopes to transition predominantly into coaching, believing that is where his strengths and talents are most suited.
“I definitely want to coach down the line, I’ve already got my UEFA A Licence so I’ll hopefully get my Pro Licence in 2019,” said Montgomery.
“I have always loved mentoring young players and that’s where I feel my future lies.”
Montgomery had approaches from numerous clubs, including NPL clubs in Melbourne and even clubs in India, once he announced he would no longer be playing at the Mariners. Still believing he could make a contribution on the field, in the end he decided on the Wollongong Wolves after speaking with the club’s hierarchy at the end of the last A-League season.
Montgomery’s experience and influence could not be underestimated both on the field and in nurturing the younger players as the Wolves won 10 of 11 games after Montgomery’s arrival, narrowly missing out on the finals.
“I don’t get down there (to Wollongong) all of the time but they’re flexible and I’m looking forward to when the NPL season starts up again,” said Montgomery.
“I still enjoy playing and in my role at the Mariners, to still be able to play in the NPL and get to see players from other teams, you can identify some that may be able to play in the A-League.”
“The Mariners A-League players who don’t travel or play on the weekends, I’ll take them for training as well as some of the young boys from the Youth League so I join in the sessions there and try and get to the gym every now and then and do some running.
“I think it’s just about ticking along and staying active, but I’m definitely looking forward to playing in the NPL again this year.”
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