Postecoglou out to make Victory winners
There was remarkable symmetry in Ange Postecoglou sitting at AAMI Park, talking of resurrecting Melbourne Victory from decline.
Eighteen months earlier, the Melbourne venue was where his Brisbane Roar were given the harsh reality check they needed to become an Australian sporting juggernaut.
On September 12, 2010, at AAMI Park, Postecoglou’s Roar drew their footballing line in the sand after a 3-0 defeat by Melbourne Victory.
Beyond it, they were to break records, make and win finals, dominate the A-League like no other team, and re-establish two-time NSL championship-winner Postecoglou as Australia’s most sought-after coach.
That day Postecoglou’s Brisbane dominated the first half, failed to capitalise, and were torn apart by Ernie Merrick’s Victory in the second.
For both clubs, it was a turning point.
The Victory – the self-proclaimed biggest club in Australia – never really hit those heights again in an up-and-down season.
They did reach the finals, then unravelled completely on and off the park.
The Roar, coquettish and pretty in patches under Postecoglou’s command, were about to become the A-League’s glamazons.
After that defeat, the Roar would not lose another game for their next 36.
They would set a record unbeaten streak for any top-flight Australian football code, win back-to-back grand finals, and earn superlatives no other club team in Australian soccer has received.
Yet as a second Roar grand final win loomed, Postecoglou was edging towards the exit door, and towards the Melbourne Victory job he took over on Thursday.
The Postecoglou to Victory moves started in mid-March.
The Victory flirted with signing Postecoglou the previous season once they’d sacked Merrick, but had given up hope of luring the ex-South Melbourne star back to his hometown.
Their man was Northern Irishman Jim Magilton.
Brought in on a short-term deal until the end of the season, former Southampton and Ipswich player Magilton managed only two wins in 12 matches, yet had the Victory’s command in his thrall.
Magilton thought he was on a promise.
He was making plans. He spoke as if he was going to be in charge next season.
When questioned if he had the fulltime Victory job, Magilton seemed almost surprised it was being discussed. To him, there was clearly no doubt about it.
In early March, club chairman Anthony Di Pietro, key Victory officials and Magilton appeared at a fans’ forum together, spoke of their plans for the future and were on the same page.
Two weeks later things had changed.
“We’d become aware that Ange was looking for a new challenge, and the possibility of that challenge being in Melbourne was an attraction to both parties,” Di Pietro said.
“It was quite sensitive and difficult at the time. From our perspective it was leaving Ange alone to do what he needed to do at Brisbane.
“We dealt with Ange’s management.
“Once both parties agreed and when Ange was interested in the challenge, we took that up with Ange’s management.”
First indications Magilton was on the outer at the Victory came in late March.
Magilton met with a lawyer at the Brighton Hotel, in Melbourne’s bayside.
A few days later, on April 1, a statement was released by the Victory saying Magilton was heading back to Britain after refusing to be part of a shortlist to interview for the job.
By that night, wild media speculation had former Chelsea great Gianfranco Zola linked to the job.
But all along, Postecoglou was being pursued. Effectively, it was a shortlist of one. The job was his if he wanted it.
Two things were pivotal in making it all happen.
One, the Victory had not committed to Magilton in writing. His short-term deal ran until the end of the season.
A board which had got so many things wrong in its tenure had got this one spot-on. The goalposts had moved heavily in their favour.
Secondly, Postecoglou had not signed a contract with the Roar the previous season.
The three-year deal agreed was in principle only, and had been made with Football Federation Australia as they attempted to offload the club – eventually to Indonesia’s Bakrie Group.
“At the end of last year the club changed ownership and the FFA took over and I came to an agreement in principle to extend my time at the Brisbane Roar for another three years,” Postecoglou said.
“But I didn’t sign a contract at the time, mainly because the club didn’t have owners at the time and I wanted to be sure that the new owners fitted in with my philosophy.
“When the Bakrie Group came in we had discussions with them about formalising the arrangement and that was progressing quite well. But ultimately I decided towards the end of the year, the time for a new challenge had come.”
With Magilton there was always a question mark whether he could rebuild the Victory.
With Postecoglou, he’s proved he has the answers. To the questions, to the critics, to how to fix the Victory.
He says he doesn’t want a carbon copy of the Roar. He wants the Victory to be the next big thing.
“I want to create something new, exciting, something hopefully better.
“You don’t want to be doing what’s trendy now, you want to pick the next one. You want to be playing the kind of football that’s successful next year and beyond.
“That’s my challenge as a coach.”© AAP 2014