With West Adelaide racing away with SA state league, head coach Ross Aloisi's learning curve looks to be a good thing for the former NSL greats.
It-s been a long, slow ride for West Adelaide. After 10 years without a senior side, the club are slowly but surely rebuilding the famous name that once carried so much weight in the NSL.
It-s looking good so far. Halfway through the South Australian State League season - the SA second tier - West Adelaide are racing away at the top of the table, eight points clear of their nearest rival.
The short-term aim of head coach Ross Aloisi is back-to-back promotions, to get the club into the SA National Premier League.
From there… Well, it-s a learning curve. Aloisi, who played for the club in the NSL, admits there is a lot of room for improvement, for both the club and him. In his first senior coaching position, for former Adelaide United midfielder is discovering the unique pleasures of working with big ambitions but limited resources.
“I-ve got experience in playing but not a lot in coaching,” Aloisi admits.
“I-m going through my coaching badges, so it-s a learning experience for me. As a player you can pass on different things but trying to get a team to play a certain way is a lot of work.
“We-ve got a 30-game season this year and the most we-ve played before is 18 rounds. We only train three nights a week, it-s difficult to get players to come out and train after they-ve been working or at uni or high school all day.
“You-ve think you-ve got it covered but last night it bucketed down for two days and I thought I could at least use one side of the pitch but couldn-t so your session doesn-t go to waste you just have to modify it just before training. You-re learning with every session.”
As for many smaller clubs, access to decent facilities remains a big problem. There has been talk that West Adelaide are hoping to build a new stadium but acquiring the land remains a stumbling block.
But Aloisi-s plans are focused only on what resources he has: the players. As well as being able to attract some experience to the club, in the shape of former Melbourne Victory midfielder Matthew Kemp and Adelaide stalwart Paul Pezos, Aloisi wants to build a structure that will allow West Adelaide to evolve and cope with the demands of that growth.
“We want to play and win with a certain brand of football. I took the liberty of bringing a philosophy to life for the club, all three teams. The reserve team train with the first team squad, so we-ve got up to 26 players training.
“The objective is to get into the NPL but doing it with a certain type of football.
“We tried to get a director of football (as required by all National Premier League clubs); we want to pass it down to the juniors as well. That-s basically a five-year plan; we want all the coaches to have at least their B licence.
“They all play 4-3-3, and it-s the way you play it - these are up to the individual coach to implement. There-s no long balls because if you keep possession, nine times out of 10 you-re going to win the game.
"If we-re going to revert back to long balls just because we-re playing against a physical side I don-t think the kids are going to learn. When they come through the ranks they will have a good understanding so you don-t have to teach them the basics again.”
Inevitably, for a player with his experience, there are ambitions to coach at a higher level. But Aloisi says it won-t be anytime soon. He-s got a job to do with West Adelaide.
“I-d like to coach in the A-League, whether as an assistant or a head coach,” he says.
“I don-t think I-m anywhere near ready to be a head coach. I-m not in a hurry; with time and completing my licence, I-ve got ambitions with west Adelaide still, to get into the NPL and then the next two years are crucial for staying there, and then starting to bring juniors through.”
When somebody starts taking about the kids, you know he-s in it for the long haul. And on current form, that can only be a good thing for West Adelaide.
Image: Chris Kelly