One of City Group’s senior executives has paid tribute to the coaching skills of Ange Postecoglou and Patrick Kisnorbo and the progress made by Melbourne City.
John Duerden

SBS The World Game
16 Apr 2021 - 2:03 PM  UPDATED 16 Apr 2021 - 2:03 PM

Damian Willoughby is senior vice-president of partnerships at City Group which counts clubs in Manchester, Melbourne, Yokohama, New York and Mumbai as part of its stable. 

The recent Indian Super League title win by Mumbai City added to the 2019 J.League triumph of Postecoglou with Yokohama F.Marinos to make for a successful couple of years for the group in Asia, especially with Melbourne City now challenging for titles. 

“Ange is a phenomenal coach and has done an exceptional job at Yokohama,” Willoughby told The World Game.

“When Manchester City played Yokohama in a pre-season game at Nissan Stadium a couple of years ago it was not only a great game for a pre-season friendly but it was hard at times to separate Manchester City from Yokohama in terms of the style of play. He is one of the leading coaches in the world.” 

That comes as no accident.

“[Style of football] is pivotal and one of the key criteria when we are looking to bring coaches into the organisation that there is absolute alignment with the philosophy. Of beautiful football and our belief on the way the game should be played.” 

With City Group with a number of clubs in its stable and also with connections around the world, it could help coaches such as Postecoglou move to Europe if he so desires in the future.

“One of the beauties of the group is that it creates pathways and opportunities for players, coaches and for executives. You start to develop and progress and we see that at every level of the organisation.

"We see that with Aaron Mooy. A raging success in the A-League, comes across to Manchester City, gets loaned out and goes on to have a stellar career in the Premier League.” 

As well as the success of Melbourne City’s women, Willoughby is delighted with the progress made by the men under Kisnorbo.

“Patrick is doing an excellent job. It is clear the impact the group has had in all the clubs we have invested in including Melbourne City with the FFA Cup.

"In the last seven years, the clubs has increasingly been in the upper echelons of the A-League and also playing the style of football people associate with the City Group and obviously we hope they go on and lift more silverware.” 

It has been a long journey since Melbourne Heart became part of the group in 2014. 

“It is challenging to change perceptions straight away and as a group, we will be judged on our actions.

"We always want to involve the fans and get their input on key decisions so they feel part of their community and connected to their club and so it is a fair representation of them as fans and of their city and if you tick those boxes and I think fans are happy.

"Every fan wants to see trophies and entertaining football but more importantly they want to feel a connection to their club whether it is Blackburn Rovers, Mumbai City or Melbourne City. I think we’ve managed to accomplish that in Melbourne.” 

For fans who have wanted more of that famous City Group cash splashed down under, Willoughby is at pains to point out that investment is not just measured in financial terms. 

“Clearly there is an expectation [of investment] but we are driven by market dynamics,” he said.

"There are salary caps in Australia, India and MLS where we are governed as to the amounts we can invest but I think the beauty of the group is that we have accumulated this wealth of knowledge and expertise and we the fact that we can draw on that to help improve the squad, the team and the organisation is a real benefit.” 

Now with Manchester United linked with Central Coast Mariners, other clubs are set to follow in City’s footsteps.

“It is fair to say there is a growing presence of multi-club groups,” said Willoughby.

“We were the first and the biggest and the most evolved and it has taken us a number of years.

"We have the benefit of being the first mover and accumulating knowledge and experience from operating various clubs around the world.

"There may be others who are looking to follow but we have a significant advantage as to what we have built so far. It is not easy.”