Mulvey defying the doubters
Imagine walking in the door for your first day in a new job and there’s a big sign there asking for you to be sacked.
Imagine walking in the door for your first day in a new job and there-s a big sign there asking for you to be sacked. Hardly an ideal way to start a new career, but that's exactly what Mike Mulvey was confronted with when he took the reins at Brisbane Roar.
Was it because he had coached the local rival Gold Coast United, or because of remaining affection for favourite son Rado Vidosic, who had just vacated the role? Brisbane had very quickly fallen from the lofty heights of being the A-League benchmark to a mid-table side. Urgent action was needed.
More importantly, the club had developed an unmistakeable identity under Ange Postecoglou, and they desperately wanted to not only retain that, but build on it. I think most people were surprised when Mulvey was the man chosen to get the ailing champions back on track. Many thought it was a decision made in haste, much as the Vidosic appointment had been.
Mulvey is Manchester-born and came to Australia to ply his footballing trade with Brisbane Lions in the old NSL. He was a technically gifted player who would have been far more suited to the style of football now played in the A-League, rather than the rough and tumble of the NSL in the mid-80s. His career in the NSL never really took off, and he ventured into coaching as perhaps a player who never reached his full potential.
The coaching path for Mulvey hasn-t been easy, and to his enormous credit he's never shied away from taking roles that others may have deemed beneath them. Women-s football was his initial grounding before he was given the role of nurturing the pick of young players in Queensland as head coach of the QAS.
That affinity with coaching young players led to a successful spell as the youth team coach at Gold Coast United. When the club imploded, Mulvey was given the unenviable task of managing the first grade side for the final 10 games of their final season. Success was limited, but it-s fair to say he earned a great deal of respect for keeping the team competitive, and together, in the prevailing circumstances.
Following Gold Coast United's inevitable demise, Mulvey headed back to the familiar world of women-s football. How many A-League coaches would have been prepared to make that move to ensure they kept coaching at the highest level possible? I-d say not too many.
His thoughts on going back to the women's football? “I-m a football coach, and it was coaching football. I knew the quality of the players, and enjoyed my time immensely.”
In December 2012, when the Roar came calling, he had just been interviewed for the Matildas head coaching position and had a decision to make. Before you say “that-s a no brainer", consider this: The Roar appointment wasn-t permanent, while the Matildas job was well paid and secure.
What Mulvey did do was identify with the club's philosophy and after the initial meeting he never had any doubt it was the challenge he wanted. The Brisbane public weren't so sure, and many derided the decision.
Ask anyone who has been coached by Mulvey, and they'll tell you he's always been good at getting a group of players on the same page, and pulling in the same direction. That-s exactly what he did when he took over the Roar. The finals campaign was in the balance, and results were vital. History shows Brisbane would only lose one of their last seven games, and eventually fall one game short of the ultimate goal. An impressive effort in the circumstances.
This season he's added quality to his squad, and also bought in hungry players, looking for an opportunity to prove themselves. I-ve watched them train on many occasions, and they are a group that no doubt believe in themselves, and also the man in charge.
Mike will never be everyone-s cup of tea - he speaks his mind, and calls it how he sees it. Recently when he was questioned about the merits of Postecoglou - who was coaching Melbourne Victory for the last time against the Roar - he got a reaction that I think in some ways he was looking for. To me it's crucial that Brisbane don-t once again become a club which is happy to compete and take a turn at the top whenever it may come along. For too long near enough has been good enough.
The Postecoglou era hopefully changed that mindset for good, and I firmly believe in the culture Mulvey has created. Brisbane have a man in charge who will not accept second best, but will work hard and treasure every day in the job, because he knows just how hard the road can be.