After three years away from the dugout, Western United manager John Aloisi is “excited to be back” as he prepares the side for its first competitive game under his watch.
Aloisi had been out of work since leaving the Brisbane Roar in 2018, and took over the reins at Western United from Mark Rudan after he came to a mutual agreement with the club to part ways at the end of the 2020/21 A-League season.
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With plenty of time between stints in the managerial hot seat, the 45-year-old embarked on a global tour to observe training sessions of clubs overseas as well as countless matches.
Perhaps most importantly, it allowed Aloisi to reflect on what went well – and what didn’t – throughout his three years as Roar manager and how he can improve on that.
But no matter how much information he absorbed in his time away, the Adelaide native’s philosophy on the beautiful game has barely wavered.
It’s one he hopes the Western United fans will admire and enjoy.
“You’ll see they’re going to play some really exciting football,” Aloisi told NCA NewsWire.
“We’ve got a team that’s going to work really hard for each other, and for me, that’s important.
“Our team, they work together and they work for each other.
“That’s the Western United way and the way we want our team to play – you need to be hard working.”
When it comes to hardworking players, recent Western United recruit Nikolai Topor-Stanley certainly fits the bill.
A 36-year-old veteran, the centre-back has made well over 300 appearances in the A-League and made the move to Victoria after spending four seasons with Saturday’s opponents, the Jets.
Topor-Stanley has played over 180 games for the Novocastrians across two separate spells with the club, but despite the visible emotional attachment to his former club, Aloisi doesn’t feel the defender is terribly fussed about the occasion. Rather, he’s relishing it.
“He doesn’t seem to be nervous,” Aloisi said. “He seems to be excited.
“He’s been great for us, and has great ambition. He helps the boys not only on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.
“Not only the younger players, but the experienced players, too.
“He’s really settled in well, adapted well, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Topor-Stanley’s addition to the club is part of a sweeping range of ins and outs ahead of the new season.
However, critics have pointed to the age of a number of new recruits.
Topor-Stanley, Neil Kilkenny and Jamie Young share a combined age of 107.
But the club has also added young talent in the form of striker Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Noah Botic to name just two.
No matter what critics may say about the squad’s older heads, Aloisi believes the side “have a really good balance”.
“The younger players that we’ve got coming through are really exciting, and we wanted to have players around them that can help them,” Aloisi said.
“I’m very pleased with the side that we’ve gotten.”
No matter the average age of the side that takes to the field on Saturday night, they’re coming up against a relative unknown in Jets coach Arthur Papas.
The 41-year-old finally has his chance as an A-League coach after spending a decade coaching in the NPL, as well as being an assistant coach across the globe, including under Ange Postecoglou’s watch at J-League club Yokohama F. Marinos.
Papas will no doubt want to get his stint as Jets coach off to the best possible start with a victory in Geelong, but Aloisi feels fully prepared for what his opposite number will throw at him on Saturday night.
“I know Arthur well; he likes to play good, fast, attacking football,” Aloisi said.
“We’re expecting a tough game and we know that they’re going to play that sort of style of football.
“They’re a little bit like us, they have 13 new signings, a new coach. We’re in a similar boat.
“It’s going to be a tough game. Both sides are still gelling and will improve as the season goes on.
“He’s going to play a quick, attacking brand of football that we have to be prepared for and make sure we’re good structurally without the ball, and with the ball we have to move it quickly as well.”