With four clubs fighting for the Hyundai A-League Premiership, we’re set for a final round like no other. Here we profile the two Aussie and two foreign coaches scheming to win silverware this weekend.
- John Aloisi: Brisbane Roar
- Age: 40
- Years at club: First season
- Previous coaching trophies: None
The man with the least managerial experience, Brisbane’s John Aloisi, is in the box seat for the Plate heading into Round 27.
All Roar need to do is defeat an under-strength Victory – who are already confirmed as finalists – and they win the trophy.
There were plenty of question marks over Aloisi’s coaching credentials when he was handed the job at Roar at the start of the season.
Having failed in his first Hyundai A-League coaching stint at Melbourne Heart (winning just eight of 39 games), there were doubts over whether he would be able to replicate the success of his playing career.
How wrong the doubters were.
Aloisi, in cahoots with his brother, the highly regarded Ross as assistant coach, has barely put a foot wrong since heading north, reinvigorating a Brisbane side many thought was ageing and past their best.
He has got the side back playing some excellent, attacking football and now they are just 90 minutes away from securing the Premiership.
For one of football’s good guys and a national treasure after his famous penalty in 2005 for the Socceroos, it would be a massive achievement and a wonderful story of redemption.
To win the Premiership at the home of his former club would be poetic justice for John Aloisi.
Guillermo Amor (Adelaide United)
Years at club: Two (first season as head coach)
Previous trophies: None
What a story it would be if Adelaide emerged from this weekend’s final round with the Premiers’ Plate in their trophy cabinet.
The Reds were without a win and in outright last spot after eight rounds, with the top six – let alone the Premiership – seeming just a pipe dream.
But in a truly remarkable turnaround, United is right in the fight for the silverware heading into Round 27. And Amor deserves much of the credit.
He has managed to bring a balance to Adelaide’s play. While they still like to play their possession-based passing game, the Reds also possess a well-structured, defensive discipline which has been crucial to their success.
It was never going to be easy for Amor taking over from fan-favourite Josep Gombau but the ex-Barcelona legend has done it with class, grace and a minimum of fuss.
While much of Amor’s previous coaching has been at youth level (helping develop the likes of Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets at Barcelona), a title in his first head coaching role would be some effort and thoroughly deserved.
Tony Popovic (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Years at club: Fourth season
Previous trophies: Premiers Plate’ (2012/13 season), AFC Champions League (2014)
“Popa” is the only one of this coaching quartet who knows what it takes to get his side to the Premiership in the Hyundai A-League.
The Wanderers famously won the title in their debut season, on the back of a devastating second half of the campaign which included 10 straight wins.
But you get the feeling this would be a sweeter triumph for Popovic should his side jump from third to top spot this weekend.
After a poor season last campaign – where they finished ninth – Popovic not only decided to overhaul his squad but also the club’s playing style.
Much of the Wanderers success in the first couple of seasons was based on a stingy defence and making the most of their chances on the counter attack.
But the 2015/16 edition is much more than that. The football is smooth, easy on the eye and attack-minded.
It’s shown admirable adaptability for Popovic as a coach, now he just wants the silverware as a reward for the stunning re-birth of his side.
John van ‘t Schip (Melbourne City)
Years at club: Five seasons in two separate stints
Previous trophies: None
Fourth-placed City may be the outsiders for the title but they are the only one of the four contenders playing at home.
The suave Dutchman has been in management for 15 years, with clubs like Ajax, FC Twente as well as the Dutch national team.
But silverware has eluded him during that time meaning this would be a huge result for van ‘t Schip personally should City pull it off.
And you couldn’t argue if they do stun their rivals to take out the Premiership. City has broken a stack of goal-scoring records this season, both as a team and individually.
Much of that is down to the attack-at-all-costs philosophy of van ‘t Schip, which has benefited the likes of 23-goal star Bruno Fornaroli, Socceroo Aaron Mooy and French winger Harry Novillo.
Sunday’s defeat to Perth Glory aside, JVS has seen his side get stronger as the season has gone on.
He showed a great ability and vision to improve the squad in January as well, bringing in the likes of Alex Wilkinson, Osama Malik, Anthony Caceres and the eye-catching Nick Fitzgerald to bolster their title credentials.
It’ll be some Friday night when he goes up against Amor and his marauding South Australians.