Marth leading Knights back to former glory

The Melbourne Knights are a resurgent side under the direction of one of their favourite sons and this year's journey may yet have a fairytale finish.

The Melbourne Knights are a resurgent side under the direction of one of their favourite sons and this year's journey may yet have a fairytale finish.

Anchored second bottom of the Victorian Premier League table when he took over last year, Andrew Marth was able to turn their season around to the point where they just missed out on the finals. This year with two rounds to play the club sits second and harbours ambitions of taking out the championship.

As if he has his lance drawn, Marth is quick to deflect any accolades levelled at him to the Knights squad. Such is the measure of the man, who use to boss the midfield for the Socceroos, he is adamant that their run in the past two seasons has very much been a team oriented affair.

“We are a small and tight-knit group,” said Marth. “Everyone works together which is why we are sitting where we are.”

The Knights are three points adrift of Northcote City in the race for the title - a club that dismantled them 5-1 in the third week of the competition. While Marth concedes it will be difficult to overhaul their rivals, he is focused on the championship.

“We went into the season hoping to make the finals and we now want to finish strongly,” said Marth. “It-s unlikely we-ll come first but if we can finish second or third that will ensure we get a second chance in the finals.”

“It-s the grand final (trophy) we really want.”

Marth knows all too well the experience of lifting silverware on the last day of the season, having won two NSL titles with the Knights. He was also judged the Joe Marston medallist (for being the man of the match) in the club-s 1996 grand final triumph over Marconi Stallions.

Before that can happen, the Melbourne Knights are looking forward to hosting the Croatian Soccer Tournament. The event, which is the largest and oldest football tournament still running in Australia, will pit together 32 teams from around the country and New Zealand.

The Knights have a proud association with the tournament and are one of only two clubs, along with Sydney United, to hold life membership to the Australian Croatian Soccer Federation. This was due not only for their pioneering work in helping establish the event, but also for their success on the national footballing stage.

The Knights have won the title for the past three years but it-s unlikely they will be able to repeat the honour this year. This is due to the fact their Premier League side has not been entered as they anticipate to still be playing finals.

Instead Marth has organised a “veteran” side to represent the Knights that will feature former stars of the club. These include Danny Tiatto, Joe Spiteri, Josip Biskic, Frank Juric and of course former club captain Marth will also be lacing his boots.

“The club is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, so it-s an honour to be able to host the tournament,” said Marth. “Unfortunately our first team won-t be involved but we-ve organised a side consisting of former players and ex-Socceroos to compete, which should provide a wonderful spectacle.”

In terms of his coaching career, Marth-s return to his former club seems to have reinvigorated his passion for the job. Having coached for 15 years, he had taken a four year hiatus but felt an obligation to return when he saw the trouble the Knights were in.

"The club was struggling and seeing them dwindle wasn't exciting so I decided to give them some support," he said.

Marth is currently managing his coaching duties alongside a successful business as well as finding the time to do his coaching badges. He has already overseen the rise of one of his players to the A-League in Ljubo Milicevic and would love to one day make the transition there also.

“Of course everyone harbours aspirations for coaching at the highest level in the country,” said Marth.

But for now Marth, one of the true hardmen of the game, seems content with where his side is headed and to remain understated in their achievements.

“We like to play an attractive and exciting brand of football by winning the ball and scoring goals," he said.

“We didn't expect to get where we are. Full credit goes to the boys.”