Ken Morton is possibly one of the most highly regarded and experienced football coaches in Australia. He first impressed as a junior player with Manchester United, winning the FA Youth Cup and representing England at schoolboy level, although he found the incomperable Georgie Best just a little too hard to shift from the starting line up at Old Trafford.
His playing career also took in Blackpool and York City, before he moved into coaching, where few other could have clocked up so much success in so many corners of the globe. Learning his trade in the UK, he has also brought success to clubs in Vietnam, Malaysia, Ethiopia and the Maldives, although many in Australia may remember him best for his time in charge of Wollongong Wolves in the NSL.
Currently in charge of the all-conquering South Hobart, he also finds time to run the prestigious Morton's Soccer School as well as fulfil a vital role on the Tasmanian Football Taskforce. The TUFC website caught up with Ken this week for our second taskforce Q&A.
What exactly does a Director of Football do, especially in a club that doesn’t effectively exist yet?
Liaise with the taskforce. Keep in touch with professional contacts, coaches and players to promote Tasmania United and to keep contacts aware of our progress.
Has the club made any decisions regarding player recruitment strategies?
Not at this stage but I am continually in touch with agents round the world.
Have you set up any scouting networks anywhere yet?
Yes, through existing scouts in Brazil, the UK and Asia.
Where do you see the club recruiting from internationally?
Asia, Africa and Europe.
Do you have any players in mind already?
Yes I have 2 Dutch Under 21 stars who I think would do very well and they would be great acquisitions for the A-League. Both played in Under 21 European Championships for Holland.
Do you think the club needs to pursue a marquee player?
No, I think it’s very tough to sign such a player to excite the Tasmanian public. He would need to be massive at an age where his playing experience would benefit those around him, his legs able to get him through the games and for his name to excite the Tasmanian public. For these reasons I believe it would be difficult.
Are there any players in Tasmania that you think could step up to A-League standard?
Yes. We have some players who with full time training may be able to make the transition.
If and when the youth team starts, will there be a Tasmanian-only recruitment policy?
I would think not. While the majority would be Tasmanians we would also look to recruit nationwide and internationally as they do for Premier League clubs round the world.
What can we read into the tremendous results the Tasmanian youth side managed against NYL opposition late last year?
That given a chance our youngsters can compete at this level. The commitment, the passion shown by these boys was tremendous.
Why do you think very few Tasmanians have made it professionally?
Because the infrastructure in Tasmanian is not professional so hence the standards are relatively low. I believe this is the main reason with the lack of professionalism holding them back.
Who’s the best player in Tasmania?
I believe Billy Gasparinatos before he went to Oakleigh Cannons was developing into the state’s most exciting player.
Who’s the best player in the A-League?
Jason Culina (when he arrives) and I have been quite impressed with Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp as a partnership for Melbourne Victory.
How does the standard of youngsters that walk through the door of Morton’s Soccer School compare to those you have seen on the mainland and overseas?
Following our recent trip to Wollongong our standard was proven to be high. We also had 2 players in the top 18 at the Manchester United Soccer School in August. So while we are very young I believe we are progressing very nicely.
You spent the early part of your playing career under Matt Busby at a star-studded Manchester United. What are your most cherished memories of your time at Old Trafford?
Winning the FA youth cup, playing, training on a daily basis with the likes of the great George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law and obviously playing at Old Trafford.
How much further do you think you can take South Hobart after taking all before you last season?
Well, we will give it another go to try and achieve the same results but with an emphasis on improving the quality of our football. I believe this team is very capable of doing that.
Do you believe the Tasmania is right to consider multiple home venues (i.e. north and south)?
No the team should have a base and of course, establish a home ground to gain home ground advantage.
If you could put it into percentage terms, how confident are you that Tasmania will be successful in gaining entry into the A-League next time around?
100%. I believe the A-League want us, the Tasmanian community want us and for this reason I believe it will become reality.
What, if anything, is holding Tasmania back in terms of the FFA criteria?
At the moment we meet the criteria but we require an owner.
There are quite a number of rival bids being mooted about in the press. Which other consortiums concern you most and where do you believe Tasmania’s bid rates among them?
I believe the Tasmanian bid is number 1. The main danger may come from Canberra if they too can gain an owner.
What is your proudest achievement as either player or coach?
Playing for England school boys as a player was a great honour and obviously signing as a professional for Manchester United. Winning the Blue Star Tournament in Switzerland by beating teams Juventus, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich was a marvellous moment for me. As a coach there have been many wonderful moments, one that stands out was winning the National Youth Championships in Vietnam with Da Nang and in only my second season taking Wollongong to 2nd position in the National League. The Victory against Newcastle KB in Newcastle was the best performance by a super team.
And your biggest disappointment?
When I left to become Manager/coach of Wollongong the night before I missed a penalty for Rapid Wrest Point against Launceston Juventus. If I had scored we would have won all competitions and would have been unbeaten for over 2 seasons.
After such a long and successful playing and coaching career, will you be throwing your hat into the ring for the Head Coach’s job at TUFC?
Yes, without a doubt. I have had the pleasure and success of building Wollongong as a new club, Police FA in Malaysia to second position in the league. When I joined we had no players and I had to recruit from trials, scouting and my international contacts. EEPCO Sports Club in Ethiopia were third bottom [when I arrived] and by the end of the season we had made FA cup semi finals and were third in the league. In the second season we consolidated and progressed to establishing the club as a genuine top 3 club.