In late December I was somewhat stressed by a pressing and personal matter around which I required some advice.
As it happens and for a variety of reasons, the person best suited to dishing out that advice and possessing a potential solution was Central Coast Mariners manager Alen Stajcic.
It was game day, New Year’s Eve and the Mariners’ season opener against the Jets was slated for 7:05pm that evening.
Selfishly, I called his mobile late morning and left a message. My original concern was that Stajcic would anticipate I was hunting some information or a quick comment about the upcoming derby.
Even worse, I feared he might think the call was to confirm player rumours or club based issues that would be the last things on his mind in the lead up to what many thought would be a challenging season for his squad.
Despite those realities for head coaches, as the press poke and prod around the issues in the game, Stajcic texted almost immediately; indicating that he was spending the morning with his family and that he would call in around an hour.
He did so.
We have spoken a few times before, with those conversations forming the basis of a feature piece I wrote on him some months back.
However, this time it was personal and I assured Stajcic of that fact as our conversation began.
He listened, comprehended the position in which I found myself and responded with sage-like advice. Pleasingly, my problem was solved and the former Matildas mentor could not have been more giving of his time or spot on with his view on the situation.
It said much about the man whose good name was slandered, smeared and trawled through a mud heap when FFA terminated his role with the Australian women’s national team.
Stajcic is calm, measured and precise with both words and action and still to this day has resisted any temptation to convey the injustice he felt when FFA director Heather Reid and others dared to besmirch his reputation.
One can only imagine the strength required to remain silent when phrases like “toxic culture” are pinned to a football manager’s public reputation and work, particularly when apparently based on little more than opinion and agenda.
To this day, there has yet to be clarification around the actual reasons behind the decision; just months out from what appeared likely to be the Matildas best chance yet to challenge for a World Cup.
Stajcic’s class during that period and his returning of my call, both say a whole lot more than the bitter words of a group of hateful people intent on discrediting him.
History will tell us that some seven hours after our conversation, his boys played like warriors on that opening night, securing a 1-0 win.
It will also inform us that they continued to do so in subsequent weeks, toppling the Bulls, unluckily dropping three points against the Wanderers and slaying the giant in a 2-0 win against A-League champions Sydney FC last Friday.
I’d suggest Stajcic’s head hit the pillow in a contented manner once all his media and club commitments were completed that night; his squad flying high on the ladder with nine points from a possible 12.
Anyone not grinning from ear to ear and pleased with his success in Gosford must surely lack any appreciation of justice and redemption.
For the man told that the Matildas’ culture he had shaped was unacceptable to then about-face the fortunes of a club that had comfortably won four of the last five A-League wooden spoons is somewhat embarrassing for his accusers and testament to his professional talents.
Sure, there is no guarantee that the Mariners’ current run of form and results will continue. They may well miss out on finals football for the seventh season in succession.
However, something tells me that the foundations built by Stajcic at Central Coast are cement-like and if persisted with, sure to turn around the fortunes of a foundation and proud club.
Many of us will be keeping our eyes on the Mariners in coming weeks hoping the magic remains and that the A-League’s most recent unsuccessful club continues to shake up the competition.
Such success is positive for the domestic game, brilliant for the league and just rewards for Alen Stajcic as both a mentor and a man.