SHOCK EXIT: Top footy coach lured to Hong Kong league
HAVING helped so many footballers progress their careers, Western Pride head coach Graham Harvey is doing the same.
One of the National Premier League's most successful mentors completes his Pride commitments this week after securing a full-time coaching position overseas.
Harvey, 34, has been appointed first-team coach of Eastern FC in the next Hong Kong Premier League season.
"It's a good little step up for myself in professional football, working in a first-team environment,'' the English-born former player and highly regarded coach said.
"We've always said to the players if you get an opportunity to progress into professional football then we'll help you and we'll push you.
"I'm just fortunate that has popped up over the last couple of days or so.
"For myself personally, it's an opportunity I can't turn down.
"This has been an ambition of mine since I stopped playing. You want to get back into professional football and it's quite difficult in Australia unless you do this.''
Harvey has to be in Kowloon this month to begin pre-season training with his new club.
He'll finish up with Western Pride at the end of the week.
Harvey's assistant coaches Reggie Davani and Dan Burnell will continue coaching Western Pride's top team for the remainder of the 2018 NPL Queensland season.
Harvey wished them well along with his loyal manager Darryl Christensen and everyone at the club that supported him.
After three memorable seasons working with Pride's senior, under 20 and under 18 teams, Harvey broke the news to his players at training on Tuesday night.
"When I spoke to the players last night, I started to think back to when I first arrived at the club,'' he said.
"To where they are now, I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin that I've left the club in a better place.
"When I found it, I continued to progress the good stuff that was going on. I'm pretty happy with that.
"We've come a long way.
"We've managed to win a (state league) grand final, win the under 18's league.
"When I came to the club, the under 18s and under 20s had never won a game.
"I'm pretty proud of what we've managed to do there.''
Other highlights under Harvey's guidance include bringing the New Zealand national team to Ipswich to play Western Pride.
Harvey was also a key figure in the team's off-season trip to Japan, where the players gained more international experience.
The team has continued to learn and improve from that, being second in this year's state league competition.
Harvey has enjoyed two stints in Australia - firstly from 2008, then returning in 2014 after 18 months back in his country of birth.
He's played for Lions and coached at the Strikers, Mackay and Pride teams.
Having an A-Licence and working on his UEFA Licence, the Brisbane Grammar School supply teacher said another reason for accepting such a big opportunity was being able to concentrate on one role.
"I'm going into Hong Kong as a full-time professional football coach, so judging by the schedules, I'm not going to have much time to myself,'' he said.
"Here in Australia, I've probably spent three years at Western Pride and then some other years while I've been coaching in the NPL kind of juggling teaching and coaching.
"This opportunity allows me just to focus on coaching, which I probably don't think I would get at this stage of my coaching career in Australia.
"It's an opportunity I need to take now.
"I've always wanted to work in other countries. I've been to Singapore and been in the UK and Australia.''
Time spent in Ipswich 'sensational'
GRAHAM Harvey leaves Western Pride proud of his achievement and especially the players he's nurtured.
"There's some boys there that have been at the club for three years, all my time there, so we've gone through a lot,'' Harvey said.
"The ups and downs when I first came to the club and trying to just steady the ship and keep progressing.
"What we've done over the last 12-18 months has been nothing short of sensational.''
Since starting at the Ipswich club in July 2015, he's overseen a number of successes including a historic state league grand final and helping players like Harry Sawyer, Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Dan Hall progress to A-League clubs.
Harvey has to be at his new venue by June 20 to start his first-team coaching role with Eastern FC, a team that came fourth in last year's Hong Kong Premier League.
But he'll carry fond memories of his stint in Ipswich.
"I'm really proud of my time and proud to have worked with so many good young players and amazing coaching staff,'' he said.
"I will certainly miss them but I'll make sure I keep in touch as well.''