Altona East Phoenix might have found a turning point in a bleak Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 1 season.
The relegation-threatened Phoenix had a rare chance to smile on Saturday after a 2-1 win over Keilor Park at Paisley Park.
It was just a continuation of a week of good vibes for the Phoenix, following the signing of former Socceroo Alan Davidson as coach for the remainder of the season.
“It was a big week,” Phoenix president Jim Dimitriou said. “He only trained the boys for the first time on Thursday night, didn’t have much time to prepare, but he put a team together and we won.
“We’re still under the pump, but it hopefully sets us up to start to get ourselves out of the relegation zone.”
Last Thursday, Altona East sat rock bottom on the ladder, three points clear in that dreaded spot. Changes needed to occur, or the Phoenix would have likely faced an inevitable demotion.
Davidson, a long-time friend of Dimitriou’s, answered the call. The 57-year-old has a soccer resume second to none: capped 79 times for the Socceroos, a professional with Nottingham Forest in the UK and Pahang in Malaysia and a former NSL player.
He has the added benefit of understanding the area, having grown up in it, and a knowledge of how the Phoenix operates, though his close association with the club.
Davidson was initially jumping on board as a coaching adviser to Allen Vella, but Vella pulled out and handed the keys to Davidson.
“Initially, it was going to be them working together, but Allen said, ‘I haven’t been able to get the job done, I’ll just walk away and see if Alan can help the club out’, which was good of him,” Dimitriou said.
“It’s still going to be tough, but we’ve just told Alan all we need is survival. To his credit, he jumped in with one night’s training and he’s committed to helping us get out of relegation.”
Davidson commands respect and the Altona East players were all ears this week. The Phoenix responded with their best performance of the season, winning on the back of goals to Anthony Giannopoulos and Julian Cassano.
“On Thursday night, he really got into the guys [about turning the season around],” Dimitriou said.
“There wasn’t one guy that said anything back to him because of who he is.
“You can’t talk back to him when he’s played professionally, he’s played in England, he’s played in Malaysia, he’s played 70-odd games for Australia, so you’ve got to listen to what he’s telling you and trust in him.
“If you do what he tells you, more likely you’re going to win.”
The changes at Altona East will not stop with Davidson’s appointment.
The Phoenix plans to use every second of the transfer window to bolster their line-up and you can bet the playing style will be tinkered with over time.
The honeymoon period has been fun for Davidson and the Phoenix, but can they make it last another week against title favourites and local rivals Altona Magic when they meet at Paisley Park on Saturday afternoon?
“We’re not just going to roll over,” Dimitriou said. “We’re going to go out and fight and you never know.”