Grant Brebner is under no illusions about what his role as Melbourne Victory interim boss entails, but the 42-year-old is keen to use his brief stint in charge of the club to return it to what he feels is their foundation.
Brebner was named as Victory’s third Head Coach of the 2019/20 season last week, replacing interim boss Carlos Salvachúa when the Spaniard resigned his position with the four-time A-League champions to return to Europe.
Salvachúa himself had only stepped into the breach in January when Victory decided to part ways with Marco Kurz, whose term as the replacement for club legend Kevin Muscat only lasted 13 games.
Victory formally commenced their search for a Head Coach in early May, with CEO Trent Jacobs saying that both international and domestic candidates would be considered for the role. Tony Popovic and John Aloisi are two domestic figures that have been linked to the position.
Brebner, though, will definitely not be Victory’s main figure in the dugout come the 2020/21 season, with the Scotsman confirming after taking his first training session in charge today that at this stage of his career he wasn’t interested in the role full-time and, instead, saw the coming weeks as a learning opportunity.
“It’s something that’s not lost on me, to be given the opportunity to take over even if it is only for five games,” he said.
“It’s an honour, it’s a huge privilege and it’s something that I hope would come, but I didn’t think it would come this quickly. I’ll be giving it my best shot, but I think, more importantly, it’s not about me.
“There’s certainly a process at this club where this year, maybe, we’ve got away from things that maybe were inherent at this football club and that’s what I want to try and bring back; a little bit of stability about what this club’s been for a number of years.
“The club’s stated that hopefully, they’re looking to bring someone else in and I’m fully supportive of that. This will be a good learning opportunity for me but there’s still a lot of education I want to go through before I step into a position like this.
“We’ve got a huge job in front of us at the moment in terms of getting this club back on track from a foundation level back through and just putting on performances and a package together that gets our fans engaged again. If we do that then we’re slowly getting back on track.”
The FFA announced earlier on Tuesday that Victory would be first out of the gates when the A-League returned from its COVID-19 enforced hibernation in mid-July; the club set to clash with Western United – potentially with fans in the stands – at AAMI Park on July 16.
Dependent upon restrictions surrounding state borders and other health advice, Victory could then play out the rest of their games in a New South Wales-based hub or play home and away for the remainder of the season.
Regardless of what format their season takes, though, Brebner says that he’s hoping to return the club to what he sees as their roots.
“I’m talking about years of this club being built on certain things,” he said.
“We talk about Ernie Merrick in the early days, Ange Postecgolou and Kevin Muscat. The foundation.
“Win, lose or draw; the foundations for our performances are attacking and entertaining football and I think, it’s just a personal view, I don’t think that was our mantra this year.
“I don’t think we set out as much to get that entertainment factor, so in the short period of time that I have in talking to the players that’s going to be our goal, to bring a little bit of entertainment back to the crowd and win some games along the way.”
As part of this return to basics, the Victory coach also said that every player that returned to Victory training on Tuesday – minus Ola Toivonen who signed for Malmo in his native Sweden – had been handed a blank slate.
And while Victory’s interim boss did admit that the contract status of players such as James Donachie – who has already been confirmed to be moving to Newcastle next season – would play on his mind, it wouldn’t mean that they would be discounted for selection.
“As I stand here now and as the weeks go over, we’ll be starting to look at a starting XI,” Brebner said.
“But there’s going to be a real opportunity for all players to showcase their talent for a new coach.
"There will be nobody, as of today, guaranteed a place in the starting XI. It will be how they work, not just on the park but off the park – because there’s a cultural aspect that we want to bring back.
“Everybody has a shot at that starting XI, be they 18 or 33. It doesn’t matter.
“They’ll all be on short leashes, there will be consistent messages around train hard, off the pitch your focus and drive and discipline; all the factors I’m talking about getting to the standards we had.
“If they’re all at a high standard you’re at a better chance of playing than not."