ADELAIDE United must invest heavily in morale says Diego Walsh.
He claims self-esteem is worth much more than the millions of dollars needed to put a good team on the park.
Diego formed part of the most exciting Reds squad never to win a trophy.
“The club ran very much like a family from upper management all the way down to every employee,’’ said Diego, 37, from Phoenix, Arizona, where he is coaching after a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in 2013 forced him into early retirement during his time with Thai club TOT FC.
“I have a great deal of appreciation for (former chairman) Dario Fontanarosa and owner Nick Bianco, everything they did for the club.
“Players felt appreciated and bought into the process.
“We all liked each other and we spent a lot of time together.
“It was a big melting pot – we had the Australian guys like Travis Dodd and Ange Costanzo and the foreigners like Cassio, (Gyawe) Jonas Salley, we liked our time but if that gets disrupted it’s hard to build.
“But it was extremely satisfying seeing the team win the grand final (2016). I was watching the game from here (the US).”
After making his Reds debut under former boss John Kosmina in 2007, Diego featured in the 6-0 grand final loss to Melbourne Victory.
He copped a knee jarring tackle from current Victory coach Kevin Muscat early in the game which he claimed made him “wobble.”
A year after that sickening loss, Adelaide had its worst A-League season before new coach Aurelio Vidmar led the Reds to the 2008 AFC Champions League final, the FIFA Club World Cup and the 2009 A-League grand final.
Adelaide United’s AFC Champions League campaign in 2008
Diego said Adelaide’s brilliant 2008/09 run, which earned the club respect on the international stage, saw the Reds become pioneer A-League exporters of players to other markets.
His time at Wellington Phoenix turned into a disaster before he found it hard to cope during the transition of being a professional player to entering the 9am to 5pm workforce when he retired.
“For players like Milan Susak and Jonas opted to go to Asia it worked well,’’ he said.
“Wellington wasn’t a good fit for me, I was very technical, I liked the ball at my feet but for Phoenix the way they played, it was very direct and no system of play.
“A lot of it was athleticism, it was basically two years wasted.”
Diego is dreaming of a more permanent return to Adelaide not only to keep his burning ambition of coaching alive but to be by the side of his son Atlas, 5.
Diego in May visited Atlas, who lives with his mum Heston Stutz, for three weeks after marrying Phoenix-based Melissa this year.
“When my wife has finished her PHD I’m looking at an opportunity to move down there,’’ Walsh said.
“But I’m at a point now, I’m happily married and coaching professionally, I’m going for my A-licence and making a living out of it.
“I have just started this new futsal project as well.”
Originally published as Reds morale is priceless says Diego
Source: sports dailytelegraph