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Under-fire Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold furious at being cited

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold. Photo: Getty Images Having been cited again by Football Federation for his post-match comments, Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has declared enough is enough and told the governing body to let him speak honestly – or risk having him keep his opinions to himself.
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However, the former Socceroos coach has revealed that his use of the word “criminal” – the term the FFA objected to – was not in reference to the injury-time penalty awarded to Adelaide by referee Strebre Delovski but seeing his own team concede so late in the match.

“In my opinion, I think it’s wrong to be cited when people assume what I said. My whole sincerity, 100 percent, when I went into that press conference, and saying it was “criminal” how the game ended, I had one thing on my mind,” he said.

“When people assume different things [they make mistakes]. I have text messages of apologies from journalists who wrote it the other way.”

“We played for 65 minutes with 10 men. My players worked extremely hard and to concede the way we conceded, it’s not about the penalty.”

“To concede not in general play but to concede by a penalty which, in my opinion, was 50-50 whether it was a penalty or not. Referees either give them or they don’t and he gave the penalty.”

Arnold said the repeated warnings, fines and attacks from head office were taking their toll.

“Do you guys [the media] like me coming in here and giving one word answers? I’ve always been a person who fights for what I believe in.

“I will fight for my players, I will fight for my club and I’ve always been a person that’s had an opinion,” he said.

“I’m disappointed that you can be publicly bashed and cited publicly because someone assumed you said certain words in a certain way. I think that’s wrong.”

The club has already promised to fight the citation on behalf of Arnold with the FFA and the manager believes there needs to be clarification over what can and can’t be said.

“The B-side of the citing is me saying (in the press conference after the Adelaide match) that I’m not allowed to have an opinion. So now I’m being cited for not having an opinion,” he said.

“I had an opinion three weeks ago about Sutherland Shire [potential expansion team] and I got smashed by the [ex-FFA] chairman [Frank Lowy], so I don’t know. They need to clarify to me what I can and can’t say or what my opinion can and can’t be.”

Arnold said he had no problems with Delovski – “who I think is probably the best referee in the league” – and that he agreed with the decision to send off Sydney defender Alex Gersbach.

“I agree 100 per cent it was a red card. In my view, Strebre’s performance in Adelaide last week was very good,” he said.

“With young Alex, it’s a learning experience. He’s 18 years old, it’s his first red card ever. He had a rush of blood. He lost control of that ball in midfield and tried to get it back. You learn from those experiences. Did I come down on him? No I didn’t. He’s a kid and kids learn.”

The Sky Blues head to Wellington for a clash with the Phoenix on Saturday night but will do so without captain Alex Brosque, who is battling a hamstring injury.

“It’s high-risk if you take him now to New Zealand, with the travel side of it, as well as the game,” Arnold said. “And normally it’s much colder over there. We’ll look at having him ready for Boxing Day.”

Sydney are presently averaging just one goal per game and their coach admits it’s simply “not enough” to win matches.

“Publicly, I’ll always stand up for my players, but behind closed doors they get the truth. And the truth is we need to improve in the goal scoring department,” he said. “We’re creating plenty of chances but we’re not putting them away. One day we will and someone will cop a spanking.”

Despite having their lengthy regular season unbeaten streak snapped by the Reds last week, Arnold sees no reason they can’t get back on the winners’ list in New Zealand.

“My experiences of going to Wellington have always been good. I think I’ve lost only one game over there in all my time as a coach,” he said. “It’s an easy trip. The conditions are always good and it’s a beautiful stadium with a great surface to play on. It’s always a friendly atmosphere. You go across there with no real pressure and enjoy the occasion.”

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