With Sydney FC's injury list growing, Frank Farina is hoping an improved fitness regime can save the Sky Blues' season.
Not much has gone to plan in Frank Farina-s short stint in charge of Sydney FC.
With the Sky Blues languishing near the bottom of the ladder, the interim coach has also had to cope with a horrendous injury list that has robbed him of his most experienced campaigners just when he needs them most.
Adam Griffiths, Nathan Sherlock and Pascal Bosschaart - out for the season - have all left Sydney severely weakened in defence, with Alessandro Del Piero in and out of the side and Jason Culina only just returning from a two-year lay-off.
The Sky Blues have confirmed the signing of Brazilian defender Tiago from Newcastle Jets until the end of the season in an attempt to provide some coverage for their tattered backline.
Both Tiago and striker Joel Griffiths look set to make their debuts against Wellington this weekend but it can-t hide the fact that Sydney are running on empty.
Not that Farina-s looking for excuses. The former Socceroos boss identified a lack of fitness as a major issue for Sydney early on in the season, and set about trying to remedy that as soon as he took over, hammering his new players with double training sessions.
The players might have hated them but the straight-talking coach says the aim was show his squad the least that he now expected of them.
“Watching the first six or seven games of the season, Sydney weren-t running out games,” Farina says.
“The classic was against Melbourne Victory when they were two-nil up but copped three goals and it didn-t seem they were competing for 90 minutes.
“The double sessions were more just to get an impression of what I was expecting playing-wise. Obviously it-s a double-edged sword; it helped us with our fitness but...
“That-s my philosophy - if people can-t handle the workload in training, how are they going to handle it in the game? That was me mentally coming into Sydney. I said to the players, ‘we work hard in training and we train the way we play - and if you can-t do that, I-ll find someone who can-.”
And with Sydney-s growing injury list the topic of much debate, Farina backed up his intention of improving his players- physical capacity by hiring former national team strength and condition coach Anthony Crea to oversee training sessions and help build the squad back up.
“Anthony-s been working with a lot of the players outside of training as well. The ones that need a bit of extra work or coming back from injuries and need some help - it-s made a little bit of a difference but it-s not ideally where you-d want to be at this stage.
“I started working with Tony at Marconi and during my time with the national team as well. We have similar views on football and he-s very good at what he does in strength and conditioning.
“His work ethic is very good and he-s not the happiest of campers always - I think the players realised, ‘This guy-s serious, we better do what we-re asked-.”
The frustration for the coach is that Sydney should never have been in this position to begin with, had the right planning and processes been in place before the season kicked off.
And while Farina-s future remains unresolved, Sydney looked destined to repeat their mistakes. Without a clear vision or direction in place for next season, short-term wins remain the target.
“Your planning has to be very good and it should have started two months ago, if not earlier,” Farina admits, “otherwise you-ll find yourself in a similar situation. Preparation has to be spot-on otherwise you can-t have the expectations.
“My long-term planning is a week. We-ve got 11 games and I go week by week. And that-s not a cliché, that-s just reality. That-s all I can do; get a team on the park and try to grind out a result. I love it - but that-s my brief at the moment and until I know otherwise, I-ll plan week-to-week to try and get results.”