First-year coach Alan Muscat has delivered a long-awaited title to Altona North in the Football Victoria men’s state league 4 west competition.
Muscat meant business from the moment he set foot at Duane Reserve in December.
The announcement of a string of important recruits followed his arrival and he worked at instilling a professionalism rarely seen at that level.
Muscat knew North was serious from the moment he met with the committee to discuss the role.
“The club just had that burning desire to succeed,” Muscat said. “I wasn’t coming to the club to count sheep and just pass my time.
“The boys from day one, we said look, our ultimate goal is to win the league and nothing less.
“Anything else would be a failure.”
Talent will only get you so far.
It all came down to the Altona North players accepting the need to work harder than ever before to be on the same page as Muscat.
If they were not on board, Muscat would not have been able to succeed in his quest to send North to state league 3 for the first time in its history.
“We set the standard from day one,” Muscat said. “Not many state 4 clubs would be training three times a week, but the boys were always up for it when called on.
“They were hungry and they wanted this.
“We were a pretty well-oiled machine, run professionally and no stone was left unturned.
“That’s a credit to the club for giving me the resources to get the job done.”
Altona North was the dominant side in the league all season, until about the middle of August.
North hit a hurdle, losing games to Gisborne and Surf Coast.
A rough patch usually is par for the course and rarely does a side go through a gruelling winter without experiencing a form dip.
It was perhaps where Muscat did his best work.
“Every team hits a purple patch and every team has a slump during the year,” he said.
“Unfortunately ours came towards the end of the season.
“We had a bad result against Gisborne, albeit credit to them, got past Spring Hills just, and Surf Coast was the game that could’ve sealed the title and that didn’t eventuate.
“We had a good chat a couple of weeks back and I said to the boys I’m still comfortable with where we’re at and our destiny is in our own hands.
“We just had to go back to our ways, the way we play and keep on believing in what we’ve done.”
Altona North secured the title in dramatic fashion. Staring a two goal deficit in the face against Truganina Hornets and with a man sent off, North pulled off a miraculous comeback to win 3-2. Stephane Leblond had a spectacular second half, scoring two cracking goals to have North on parity. The match-winning goal came from substitute Turgut Fanoscu in second half stoppage time. “It was all a bit surreal in how it all happened against Truganina Hornets,” Muscat said.
“It was like one of those fairytale movies I suppose.” Altona North rounded out the season with a 1-1 draw with Westside Strikers at Duane Reserve on Saturday. North will now represent the west division in the state league 4 playoffs beginning this weekend.