Downes talks up new role at Green Gully

Stephen Downes. Photoby Damjan Janevski.

By Lance Jenkinson

Newly appointed Green Gully coach Stephen Downes wants to take his club back to a time when it was a powerhouse of Victorian soccer’s top flight.

Downes was appointed for a second stint as coach of the Cavaliers last week after the club parted company with Arthur Papas.

Downes took charge of his first training session on Wednesday and was calling the shots on Friday night in the Cavs 3-2 defeat to South Melbourne at Green Gully Reserve.

Downes inherited a Green Gully team in freefall, which had slumped to 10th on the ladder after seven losses and just one win and two draws from their previous 10 matches.

His recollection of his time as a Cavaliers player was of a team that was one of the most feared in the top division.

The Englishman wants to see a return of those glory days and get the Cavs back to the top.

“It was a great place to be playing in those days,” Downes said.

“There were some fantastic players there at the time and going into training every week was enjoyable and the atmosphere around the club was great.

“We did have that air of invincibility about us for a couple of seasons at least.

“There were no teams that we feared and they all feared us.

“They were good times and hopefully we can bring them back.”

Downes, 36, only fleetingly recalls his hey days as a player, preferring to focus on the task in front of him as a coach at the current Green Gully.

While he is a “glass half full” kind of person, he knows the little things will count as he tries to turn around the Cavaliers in the short and long term.

Last time he coached the club in a caretaker role for 14 games with Rodrigo Vargas, but he wants to be in charge of the Cavs a lot longer this time around, so he will also have an eye on the future.

In his short time back at Green Gully, Downes can already see plenty of promise.

“The potential in the dressing room is undoubted,” the Yarraville resident said.

“When you actually see the individual talent, it’s there.

“With a young squad, it’s the belief, when things aren’t going well, that’s the difficult thing, getting the confidence back.

“If we apply ourselves and work well, which is paramount, then you can get out of tough situations.”

Downes, who grew up in Leeds, has played at high levels as a defender and midfielder.

He earned a professional contract with Grimsby Town and York City in the UK before moving to Australia and linking up with Green Gully, where he won a league title and a Dockerty Cup.

He was Jimmy Rooney Medal winner for best-on-ground in the 2011 grand final and player of the year in 2013.

One thing that has been a non-negotiable in Downes’ successful teams is sheer hard work.

“I have a fair few beliefs and I have standards, high standards,” he said.

“If we all come to the table and work well, I’m sure we’ll go in the right direction together.”

Downes has not been involved in football in an official capacity since leaving Green Gully.

He is keen for a career in coaching, but did not want to jump at just any available position.

“It had to be the right opportunity,” Downes said.

“This job is definitely up there with the best jobs outside of the A-League.

“It’s one of the strongest clubs outside of the A-League.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge and hopefully being part of the club and bringing success back to the club over the next few years.”