Altona City was in shock when this season’s title-winning coach Andy O’Dell handed in his resignation, but the transition in the post-O’Dell era has run smoother than expected.
City has found an experienced new coach in Paul Donnelly to steer the club’s promotion to the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 1 next season.
Donnelly’s appointment was met with positivity among the existing City players, with the club extending the contracts of key players, including goalkeeper Jack Dovey and strikers Ayodeji Omoboye and Marcus Sherif.
City has also announced the signing of midfielder James Playford, a former England C under-21 player who has played with English lower league clubs Grimsby Town and Doncaster Rovers, and brought across proven state league 1 striker Adamson Ajayi from Altona Magic.
It is his belief in Donnelly that allows City president Joe Tanti to sleep easy at night, knowing the team is in good hands.
“With Andy leaving, it was a bit of a shock, the club had no idea he was going to leave,” Tanti said.
“Andy was huge for us, a massive influence and he’s directed us in the way we wanted to go.
“We knew something was up towards the end of the season and he told the club he couldn’t handle doing it next year, he’s got a few personal issues going on, so he thought he’d pass it on to someone else and Paul’s lucky enough to take the keys to the Ferrari.
“We’re rapt to get Paul.”
Donnelly has playing and coaching experience at most levels of Victoria soccer.
He has coached at City’s neighbours Altona East Phoenix, Western Suburbs and Melbourne Knights, and won the league with North Sunshine Eagles.
His experience in an NPL set-up at Richmond is seen as invaluable because that is where City envisage themselves down the track and that is where the B licence coach wants to take his new club.
“He’s got the ambitions to coach in the NPL and that’s what we want,” Tanti said. “We want someone with the drive … to reach higher and hopefully they can influence the club and push us forward.
“He’s a similar mould to Andy as far as what we wanted and we feel as though he’ll get along with the boys well and connect with the group.
“Once we appointed Paul, the response from the boys was great. Most of the players have re-committed, he’s well known and the boys are very happy with the appointment.”