Ante’s Heart set

Melbourne Heart assistant coach Ante Milicic feels he is on the ride of a lifetime just two months out from the Hyundai A-League’s newest franchise’s opening match.

Melbourne Heart assistant coach Ante Milicic feels he is on the ride of a lifetime just two months out from the Hyundai A-League’s newest franchise’s opening match.

Thursday August 5 can’t come quick enough for Milicic, the NSL journeyman, who played top league football in Australia, Netherlands, Croatia and Malaysia. While he learned a lot in his time as a player, the six or so months he has spent as assistant to John van ‘t Schip has been the biggest learning curve of his life.

“You are learning so much in this game. To be involved with these kinds of people at a brand new club, to see how it develops and how it grows and what’s required in all different aspects and levels, it’s a great learning curve for me and I’m excited,” Milicic said.

Heart have impressed most people with their approach to recruiting both on and off the field. Milicic and fellow assistant Jesper Olsen along with van ‘t Schip and football manager John Didiluca have played a major role in that process and feel they have got the playing list they want.

“Now it’s the exciting part because our squad it starting to shape together, it’s been a long process, a lot of scouting, a lot of viewing DVDS, a lot of emails. Now, it’s the exciting part, because the players are all starting to come together,” he said.

“Pre-season training starts on the 7th of June, so it’s exciting times. When you start seeing sponsorship deals being announced, the away jersey and coming to the stadium, you realise that the start of the season is getting even closer. “

But it is more than about player preparation for the coaching group, with Milicic saying it had been frantic time pulling things together over the past year.

“This is a brand new club, if it was an already existing club and you had 14 or 15 players on the books, different story, but I mean nowadays with coaching staff, its not just looking after the players, we have to look after the training venues, what’s required for the players, what kind of equipment,” he said.

“It was a long process. Luckily the three of us worked very hard along with John Didiluca and Scott Munn and the owners who were supporting us. There was a lot of work that had to be done, it’s starting to look like its coming together.”

The challenge now for Milicic and the other members of the football department is to get the players ready for that first match against Central Coast.

“It’s a brand new team. We’ve got to put into place the way we want to play. That’s why we’ve recruited the players we have, the ones we think will be very adaptable, that will understand the way we want to play,” he said.

“We’ve met with them and discussed this before they’ve agreed to come on board. That’s the biggest issue. Getting this team to gel quickly. We’ve organised friendly games and training sessions have been based around that to make sure we get it right and hopefully when August 5 comes we are ready to go.”

Leadership within the playing group will be crucial to Heart’s ability to gel quickly and get the most out of the talent they have at their disposal. Milicic believes the club has the right type of players to do that job.

“We’ve got a lot of experience and players who have captained clubs previously in their careers,” he said.

“Players like Bolton, Colosimo, Beauchamp, Skoko, Aloisi, Matty Thompson, a lot of these guys are leaders on and off the park, but I think we’ve got a great backbone there and we’ve got good characters as well that will make the transition of what we want as coaches to the players on the field a lot easier,” he said.