Tony Popovic has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
The man charged with kicking off Western Sydney’s A-League Men journey and taking Perth Glory to another level has now turned his focus to another test.
Popovic is in charge of resurrecting Melbourne Victory, the league’s fallen giant.
Melbourne Victory, firmly in the doldrums after back-to-back horror seasons, broke the emergency glass and called upon Popovic to turn things around on a three-year deal.
“They’re all different in their own right, from Wanderers, a start-up club, to Perth a club that never won anything. So there are different challenges,” Popovic told AAP.
“Now (I’m) at Victory who’s accustomed to success, and hasn’t had that for a few years now and have been disappointed. It’s a big challenge, but an exciting one.
“The people here – I can see that this is a big club, I can see why they’ve had a lot of success, and for me, it’s great to see how determined everyone is to try and play their part to get back to what they know at this club – and what they know at this club is winning.
“That’s what they know. We have to accept what’s happened the last few years, and we know we have a long way to go and, yeah, there’s a lot of ground to make up.
“But it’s an exciting challenge knowing that everyone’s on board to try and get it in a positive manner and in the right direction.”
For Popovic, that included a personnel upheaval, clearing the decks of all but a few key players, while recruiting others he knows he can trust, including Chris Ikonomidis, Matthew Spiranovic, Josh Brillante, Jason Davidson, Brendan Hamill, and Nick D’Agostino.
The jewel in the crown was the coveted signature of Ikonomidis, who Popovic said had matured after the adversity of an ACL tear, to complete their talented attack.
“It is an exciting front third of the field with so many players that are so dynamic in their play, very good individuals in their own right,” Popovic said
“We’re trying to piece that all together, that we can really play some exciting, dynamic football in that front third where we have players that we feel on their own can change the game and Chris certainly is one of those.
“I’m very, very happy to see him here with me again. I brought him to Perth, he trusted me to come to Perth and after a long lay-off with an injury I feel that he’s an even better player.”
So can Victory go from cellar dwellers to contenders again in next to no time?
“It’s happened before and I’m sure it’ll happen again,” Popovic said.
“We certainly are hopeful and optimistic that it can happen with us.
“We know where we finished, we know where we’ve been for a couple of years and we know there’s a lot of ground to make up but we’re also not putting a ceiling on anything that we can achieve in the short term.”