Soccer Coaching Career
Fairfield Pats create their own piece of history.
Fairfield Patrician Brothers Under 21s coach Roy Spagnolo couldn’t bear the tension. He just turned his head and looked away. Such is the theatre of a penalty shoot-out in a state Grand Final. Fairfield Pats had never won a Champion of Champions title at any level. Their Under 15s had just copped a 2-0 beating earlier in the day and so it was up to Spagnolo’s 21s to bring home the spoils.
But consider the monumental task Fairfield Pats were face with.
Not only had they never won a state title, but in the entire history of the Champion of Champions, 21s was just was just one of four age groups in which the Southern Districts association had never succeeded, the other being 17s All Age Men’s and All Age Women’s.
Talk about pressure.
But Spagnolo, with his head turned away from the drama that was unfolding, never gave up on his young charges. He just couldn’t bear to watch after seeing his side blow several opportunities in 120 minutes of action.
“It’s the first time our club has won the Champions title and the it’s the first time the district has won a Champion of Champions Under 12 title, which makes me feel proud of the achievement and proud to be associated with the club and the team” Spagnolo told Football Weekly.
“They’re a good bunch of blokes”. Fairfield Pats, who also won the Premier League knockout, won three games to get to the state final and while they appeared to be cruising in the decider, they just couldn’t put their Marayong rivals away.
“We should have won a lot sooner that we did,” Spagnolo said.
“We were just dominant but were unable to finish. I didn’t watch the penalty shootout, I just turned my back and prayed that the boys would pull through.”
Thankfully for Spagnolo, who started his coaching career 14 years ago, his side managed to hold its nerve and to create its own little piece of history.
When asked to name a few of his start players, Roy Spagnolo hesitated and said that the team’s success was based on a strong squad, one that had talent all over the park from goalkeeper to reserves.
“As a coach, it’s difficult to name one outstanding player” Spagnolo said. But for the purpose of the exercise, he mentioned goalkeeper John Maniscalco, strikers Joseph Tigani and David Mansueto, and captain Omar Valderrama as the foundation stones to his side’s success.
Spagnolo has been coaching at the club for some 14 years and boasts a fine record for producing winning teams. Considering his chosen sport had been Rugby League, his record as a soccer mentor is remarkable. Spagnolo remembers when he was first approached all those years ago to teach a motley group of energetic kids play a game that had never really taken his fancy.
“I knew nothing about soccer and I told them that,” he said.
“I told them I would do the job for just one year and then let someone else have a go. Fourteen years later I’m still here.”
Spagnolo has also coached son Anthony virtually every year since the youngster started kicking a ball. And Anthony, now 20, looks like emulating his dad in the professional ranks as well.
Spagnolo senior has his own accountancy firm, Roy Spagnolo & Associates in south western Sydney, and Anthony who also played his part in Fairfield Pats Champion of Champions victory, is studying the art of number crunching at university.
Fairfield Patrician Brothers, says the coach, “is a strong, well-organised club” that benefits from having close ties to the local high school of the same name.
“Even though we are independent, the name ties up the college and with 1,500 kids there, it’s a great resource for the club,” he said.
Spagnolo added that coaching at Under 21 level was a difficult challenge, with players having outside commitments such as work and studies.
“It’s a difficult age group to coach because they all have other commitments like university, Tafe and of course, work.” Roy Spagnolo said.
Which makes winning that allusive title all the more memorable.
Roy has always been very active in the local Fairfield community and has greatly supported the Patrician Brothers College in Fairfield across many years. He was a big supporter of the Golden Jubilee ball which celebrated 50 years of excellence in the Patrician tradition.