St Albans Saints will head into a new National Premier League 2 west season on Saturday with the pain of last year’s horrible ending fresh in their minds.
For 28 weeks last campaign, the Saints rode a wave of positive emotion, exceeding the expectations dictated by the club’s budget and playing roster.
Saints coach Kruni Razov was proud to see his side “over achieve” by running second to a star-studded Altona Magic after the home-and-away rounds, but it did nothing to relieve him of the bitter taste that was left in his mouth after their disastrous ending in the promotion playoffs.
Razov made no bones of the fact that he was embarrassed by the 4-1 defeat to Moreland City that denied his side a trip to AAMI Park for the spot in the promotion final.
If the Saints players thought they could simply forget about the pain and unfulfilment of that day, they were mistaken.
Razov played back the game for his players at their Australia Day weekend pre-season camp in the hope that it would motivate them for the season ahead and used it as a teaching tool so it is not replicated this season.
“They weren’t happy when they were shown it,” he said.
“It’s the first time a lot of them had seen the game since then.
“I wanted to remind them that you’re only remembered by the last game of your season and everyone remembers us getting whitewashed that day against Moreland City.
“Hopefully 12 months down the track, if we get that opportunity again, we can be better for that experience and that’s the reason why I showed it.
“They got so far and they did really well, but they let themselves down on that day.”
Despite having to relive the Moreland City game, the St Albans players got back to work at the pre-season camp and continued the momentum they have built over a strong pre-season.
Razov is adamant the side will hit the ground running when they visit Whittlesea Ranges for the season opener on Saturday afternoon.
In an intra club game at the weekend, Razov could sense a real competitiveness within the squad, but also a strong camaraderie for a team that has had a lot of moving parts over summer.
“The players are hungry,” Razov said.
St Albans added seven new players to the first team with eight filing out of the exit door.
The Saints targeted recruits with mental toughness, so if they are in a situation like that Moreland City game again, they should be better equipped. “We’ve tried to look for more mentally stronger players,” Razov said.
“Get some winners in, those who will stand up when we’re 2-1 down or 3-1 down and have the right mentality – that never say die attitude.”
At the top of the list of recruits in that respect is new defender Jordan Wilkes.
Brought in from Altona Magic, Wilkes embodies what Razov wanted in a recruit.
“A centre half, he’s a leader by example, he’s very vocal,” he said.
“He’s very calm at the back there, yet he’s very tough in his challenges.
“We needed a little bit of experience back there, so he’s come in very handy.”
Two recruits to watch will be attackers Adam Hodor and Ayodeji ‘DJ’ Omoboye.
Hodor, a speedy winger, has joined from Caroline Springs George Cross and is sure to excite the Saints fans, while Omoboye, who has stepped up from state league club Altona City, will add both strength and speed to the front line. Michael Grgic will captain St Albans again in 2019.