Not yet Jets, says Stewart

Former Socceroo Darren Stewart, who knocked back a chance at the Newcastle Jets head coaching job, says he is content carving out a career in Singapore for the time being.

Stewart, a Hunter region product, has been coaching in the S-League for over a decade.

During that time the 48-year old has enjoyed success in the city-state, taking out the League Cup with Balestier Khalsa in 2013 and picking up the Coach of the Year award.

He currently manages Woodlands Wellington FC but has kept his eye on the A-League, which he believes has yet to reach the standard of the old NSL.

In April Stewart was asked by the Jets to return to Australia to interview for the vacant head coaching role, eventually filled by Phil Stubbins.

Stewart politely declined.

“I mentioned how well the Woodlands Wellington FC management have been to me and the fact that I didn't want to walk away from them and the players,” he said.

“It's just my way of showing (Woodlands) my loyalty to them.”

Stewart, who grew up in Newcastle and played his junior football with Toronto and Newcastle KB United, still has an interest in returning home to the Jets at some point and has kept abreast of the A-League from afar.

“Maybe one fine day in the future it will happen,” he said.

“Who knows? I follow it (the A-League). It has been a great concept but I don't believe the talent is as good as it was in the old NSL.”

Stewart spent his playing days in the NSL with APIA Leichhardt, Blacktown City and the Newcastle Breakers, before finishing his career with Balestier Central in Singapore in 2001.

Since then he has served as an assistant coach at several S-League clubs and as a head coach at Gombak United, Balestier Khalsa and now Woodlands Wellington FC.

He joined The Rams at the start of the year and the club is currently in eighth place in the 12-team competition.

“It’s been very enjoyable,” he said. “I have an outstanding committee that has been really supportive.

“The team itself is hard working. When we get a few of our key players back we then can aim for top half of table with our vision of a top three finish next season.

“The reason I joined was the committee and their kindness and understanding really made me want to take the challenge of pushing (the team) as far as possible.”

Stewart said the standard of the S-League is better than is often acknowledged.

“It's a young league and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is doing everything to promote it,” he said.

“The standard is higher than what a lot of people realise (but) we need big sponsors to come in.

“I am sure the FAS are doing everything possible to do this and once bigger money comes in we can get higher quality foreign players and pay the locals more.”

Stewart, a defender, played four matches for the Socceroos in 1992 against Croatia, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands and Thailand’s Under-19s.

He believes Ange Postecoglou was the right appointment for Socceroos and is keeping the faith for the World Cup.

“Yes he was the right choice for the long term future of the Socceroos,” Stewart said.

“I think we will surprise a few people (in Brazil) and get past the first round.”

* Pics by Football Association of Singapore