With Macarthur FC battling through a period of upheaval as they build toward A-League entry, Western United Head Coach Mark Rudan has given an insight into the challenges associated with getting an A-League side off the ground.
It’s been an eventful, and not altogether positive, period for the A-League’s soon-to-be 12th side, this week replacing Executive Chairman Rabieh Krayem with Gino Marra and saying goodbye to Football Director Ken Stead - who had only been confirmed in the role ilast October.
The moves were predicated earlier this month by billionaire backer Lang Walker selling his 50% stake of the club to southwest Sydney businessmen Rob Mammone and Michael Gerace.
Former Socceroo Tommy Oar remains the only player officially confirmed as a future Bull, although a number of players are believed to have or be on the verge of putting pen to paper to join Ante Miličić’s inaugural side.
The club had been linked with both Ola Toivonen and Miloš Ninković in recent months – albeit with interest in the latter seeming a lot more tangible – but were unable to seal the deal with either; Ninković signing a new deal with Sydney FC and Toivonen likely to head back to Sweden at the conclusion of his contract with Victory at the end of the season.
Rudan, as the Head Coach of an expansion side that has had to face its own challenges, says he has been in contact with figures at Macarthur and empathises with the challenges faced by the those at the club, particularly Miličić.
“So much work goes on in the background,” the Western United gaffer said.
“I spoke to a couple of people at Macarthur as well and I said the best advice I can give you is to protect Ante Miličić from what’s going on behind the scenes.
“Coaches are there to coach, it’s difficult enough when you enter into a new club and you’ve got a huge role to play. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.
“Without giving out too much information, it’s important to be upfront and honest with everybody within your organisation right from the outset.
“That lays a pretty good platform going forward because there are no questions thereafter.”
With what looms as a must-win game awaiting his side on Sunday against Central Coast Mariners, the pressure will be on Rudan and his squad when they take the field at Kardinia Park to salvage their finals hopes.
After an early-season run of form that seemingly put them in the box seat for a playoff berth, just a single win in their last nine games – compared to six losses and two draws – has put the A-League newcomer's backs well and truly against the wall.
They sit in seventh position on the A-League table heading into the weekend’s play, five points adrift of Brisbane Roar and only above Western Sydney Wanderers on goal difference.
Rudan, however, says he welcomes the challenges not only from a precarious run home but also in attempting to establish his new club in Melbourne’s west.
“It’s difficult but it’s a challenge and I’ve always said the bigger the challenge, the greater the responsibility and the greater the reward,” he said.
“This is not the destination, it’s a journey as far as I’m concerned with this football club and I continue to talk about the journey. You can look at what’s right in front of you and take your eye off the bigger picture, but the bigger picture is always there in the back of my mind.
“It’s something that maybe others don’t see as often and I think that’s always the most important thing, taking a step back sometimes and analysing and assessing.
“Everyone looks at the now and it goes from great to bad in a day but that’s just not the case, it never is the case. You don’t go from being a good team to a bad team overnight. You don’t go from being a good player to a bad player overnight.
“Every day is an exciting one for me, every day is a challenge and every day is exciting.
“Is it hard work? Yes, it is. Is it harder than I thought? Yes. But does it make me less excited? No.
“Last year I took the Wellington job and 99% of people told me not to take it on.
“The greater the challenge, the more people say no and the more people throw stones, the more people have negative words to say the greater the reward. The bigger the challenge the more I take that challenge on. I personally love it.
“And I think that’s something that we all as an organisation and as a club [espouse], we’re strong in numbers and if we stay unified through these bad times, we’ll see the light and it will be much more rewarding.”