Since taking the reins at Bendigo City, Srecko Baresic-Nikic has implemented plans to rejuvenate the club with a plan to focus on young and local talent.
After a poor 2016 season that saw them finish bottom of NPL2 West, Baresic-Nikic said that the test that Bendigo offered as well as the chance to return to top flight coaching were the motivating factors behind his signing on.
“For an experienced coach it’s always a challenge to go somewhere that could be different to the current soccer environment in Melbourne,” he told MFootball.
“And the opportunity for me – after ten years – to go back to NPL level.”
One of the main aspects of focus for the new coach has been a new approach to youth development at the club now treating the Under 18s squad as part of the senior setup.
“My first change, together with the blessing of the committee, was to include the Under 18s to be a part of the senior squad setup and all those coaches have become my assistants including the goalkeeper coach,” he said.
“We’re trying to establish the youth development in the club… I monitor and analyse the under 18s and recognise the talent.”
Baresic-Nikic was critical of the method that other NPL and NPL2 clubs employ towards youth progression referring to the European model as inspiration behind his approach.
“We want to push the young players up where most of the NPL – mostly NPL clubs but also NPL2 clubs – are not.
“They are signing backpackers, they are signing expensive players and usually the young youth players they stay on the bench.
“In Europe when you’re 17 years old, when you’re 18 years old you are a senior player and you should play.”
The second aspect of the new Bendigo coach’s approach has been less reliance on expensive Melbourne based players making the trip out saying that a local focus will offer benefits both on and off the field.
“[We have a] completely new structure based on the development on local players,” Baresic-Nikic explained.
“If we play Bendigo players we will get more people on the board, we will get more supporters and eventually we attract more sponsors.”
“We are definitely trying to sign the players not based on the money but eventually their wish to progress and play NPL or even professionally.”
The experienced coach – who has held positions in several State League clubs since his last stint at the top with St Albans in the VPL – described the plan he presented the club committee which included strategy for match days, the football department, player progression and training.
“I made a detailed plan for the 36 weeks [of the season] including every session.”
“It’s a very professionally done plan based on my plan from former Yugoslavia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Germany where I played internationally and did most of my coaching before I came here.”
With a proven track record of elevating talented young players such as the likes of Thomas Deng, Ivan Franjic, Andrew Nabbout, Eugene Galekovic and Mate Dugandzic, Baresic-Nikic said he is prepared to face the season ahead with a young squad but is staying realistic.
“We have a tight budget because City was overspending last three years, it’s not a secret, and we want now to play young players and try to stay in the division, build up the club and sort out our finances.”
“We have big ambitions but we are not dreamers. We will be happy if we collect 35 points and stay in the division.”
Despite the difficult prospect ahead the new coach is positive and has said that he has been happy with the way the squad have progressed since the disappointment of last season.
“I think we are on a good way to achieve our goals… There is a lot of love, we crack jokes, it’s a totally different environment.”
Bendigo starts its 2017 campaign on February 4 as it hosts Northcote City at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve.