Graham Arnold has revealed two rugby league coaches and one rugby mentor were behind the Sydney FC coach's about-face this A-League season.
When things went from bad to worse last A-League season, Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold turned to his triumvirate of cross-code mentors Wayne Bennett, Trent Robinson and Michael Cheika to help solve his personal crisis.
Down on form and luck and copping criticism from all angles, even Arnold's famous irreverent front was visibly cracking.
Accustomed to success, the alien situation had him up at the break of dawn and dead of night trying to right the wrongs of the Sky Blues' finals-destroying 11-game winless streak.
And when the 53-year-old couldn't find his own answers, he sought them from elsewhere.
"I go and meet rugby league coaches," Arnold said.
"I've got a great relationship with Wayne Bennett, Trent Robinson; Michael Cheika I've met up with.
"The ball might be a different shape, and the rules and tactics are different.
"But the biggest thing now - probably the biggest thing in football - is how you manage people and get the best out of people, so we use that."
Arnold's closeness with Bennett is well-known - the coaching legend helped him select Alex Brosque as Sydney's captain in 2014 by telling him to "pick Alfie Langer".
A massive league fan himself, he's also struck up a friendship with Roosters coach Robinson and one of Robinson's good mates in Wallabies coach Cheika.
What was actually said remains behind closed doors, but after a difficult off-season full of soul-searching - and some excellent recruitment - Arnold's confident manner has returned with force.
"I probably didn't have a good 10 weeks, everyone's entitled to that," he said.
"In five or six years I've had a top-two place four times out of five, so it's a pretty good record.
"But I'm a harsh critic of myself and my performance wasn't good enough last year."
His players have bought into this season's winning mentality, with just 10 games now standing between the league leaders and an undefeated campaign.
"Every time we go on the field we plan to win, we expect to win," Arnold said.
"But also you've got to go out there with the right attitude, fight and determination, because 60-70 per cent of A-League games are won on the fight and the passion."
By Emma Kemp, AAP