Mission complete: Aloisi’s Western United rebuild ends in A-League Men’s glory

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When John Aloisi joined Western United in July 2021 they were a team in disarray.

After making the finals in their first campaign they regressed enormously during the 2020/21 season. Western finished in 10th place, ending the campaign on an eight-match losing streak.

At the conclusion of that disastrous season, change needed to occur. A-League legend Besart Berisha left the club, alongside foundation coach Mark Rudan.

In the lowest point in their very short history, Western United needed a rebuild, they needed someone to take charge of a team not playing to their potential.

Aloisi, the man responsible for one of the greatest moments in Australian football history, was given that restoration job.

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Ironically Aloisi began his coaching career at Melbourne Heart, and it did not go well for the former Socceroo. His tenure would finish after 17 consecutive matches without a victory, soon moving to Brisbane where he enjoyed success before leaving the club sitting in second-last place.

In a coaching career of stepping stones and improvements, the 2021/22 season, or more specifically the 28th of May 2022, would be his crowning moment.

Lining his team up against a star-studded Melbourne City side, many people did not give the new expansion club a chance. Their stumbling form heading into the finals was a concern to many, only partially eased by their remarkable win against Melbourne Victory to book a grand final ticket.

The night ended up being a tactical masterclass from Aloisi, who set up his team to hold out the likes of Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout and Mathew Leckie.

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After scoring an early goal, Western looked unfazed in the first half, keeping Melbourne City to a single deflected shot as they headed into the sheds 2-0 up.

Despite not scoring in the second half, his team’s performance in that period was arguably even more special, the definition and product of an Aloisi-built system and culture.

Despite having numerous chances, with Jamie Young pulling out a multitude of important saves, City could not break Western’s defence. This was not a one off, rather the culmination of a side who had kept a league high 11 clean sheets in the 2021/22 season.

Much of their early campaign was built on 1-0 leads, holding out teams late to get important victories. They did this when they defeated Melbourne City in round three, and produced a similar performance and result on Saturday night to win their maiden championship.

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Speaking to Channel 10 after the match, Aloisi was quick to put the positive spotlight on the players, describing the hard work that they had put in all season under his watch to achieve success.

“It is such a good feeling. We worked hard all year, not only the players but the whole club. The whole time it was about what we can improve on, which players we can bring in and a lot of phone calls,” he said.

“We have built it from day one of preseason. We had to work to a level each day in training that when we did have to find something from within, we could.

“I knew that the players would find that little bit of extra energy tonight, the resilience they have shown all year has been there and it has paid off.”

Despite heaping the praise on his players, that hard work from day one starts from the top. Turning the team from a side who lost their final eight matches last season to a resilient squad who knew how to get tight wins demonstrates Aloisi’s influence.

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Speaking after his flawless grand final performance, Young was full of praise for the man who brought him to Melbourne.

“He said to me in his second text that we were going to go and win this thing. He is a winner, he has done it as a player. I’m so glad for him because he didn’t quite get the rub of the green previously,” he said.

“He has good people around him who enable him to do what he does, and that is what he can produce. I’m so happy for him.”

Just 318 days after signing on as Western United head coach, John Aloisi shifted them from a team without an identity into a team that was United.

Despite a rocky end to the regular season they were a squad built for the biggest games, with Young dominating in goals, Joe Marston medalist Aleksandar Prijović scoring up front and the rest of the team doing almost everything right in between.

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Players often get the credit in football, as they deserve too. They are the ones out on the field, scoring the goals and winning the games. However when fortunes change like they have for Western United, a manager needs to be given an equal amount of plaudits.

After a tough start to his managerial career, the 2021/22 A-League Men grand final was Aloisi’s crowning moment.

He turned the club around in an instant, and made the players buy into his project. You only need to look at the post match press conference to see that, as Lachlan Wales and Ryan Scott stormed the room to chant their coach’s name.

With a 2-0 win and the champions trophy secured, he and the team certainly seized the moment and made it their own, with Aloisi writing his name into Western United history.

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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