Neil Kilkenny has made an instant impact since joining Western United, and the midfielder said the group is starting to believe in itself heading into the remainder of the season.
Kilkenny has played every minute across the first five matches in the A-League Men, with Western United winning each of the last four in a row, setting a club record in the process.
And the recently turned 36-year-old cited a renewed optimistic attitude around the club that is contributing to the early success.
“There’s definitely a good spirit in the camp. We’ve got good players here but they needed to believe, and I think after a couple of results and a good pre-season I think the players are hopefully now starting to believe that they’re good enough to push on and do really well this season,” he told RSN Breakfast Club.
“That’s credit to John Aloisi and Hayden Foxe to give the belief to the boys and give that structure to build from.”
Kilkenny said the spirit and mentality has been driven by the coaching staff, with Aloisi and Foxe coming alongside existing coaches to build a solid foundation at the club.
Through the opening five fixtures, United has conceded just one goal all season and none from open play, a great turnaround after having the second-worst defensive record in the league last season.
“We’re pleased, obviously. We worked hard in pre-season to try and get the defence sorted and be a strong team structurally, and that’s what we’ve done so far,” Kilkenny said.
“Everyone’s willing to work, and then you’ve got a coaching staff that have put some very good organisation to us, a bit of structure.
“They’re very, very professional in the way they do things. I like to work in a professional environment and that was one of the reasons why I came here, because I knew Aloisi and Foxe would bring that to the club, and I knew what I was coming into.”
Neil Kilkenny driving the team forward with will to win
While Kilkenny admitted “you always have a bit more fun when you’re winning games”, the former Leeds United and Birmingham City midfielder insists the group is focused on each new game as it comes.
Kilkenny is leading by example in the group, by looking after his body and still showing the same drive to win in the same way now at 36 as he was in his earlier years in England.
“I love the game so much, and I just want to win every game. Every game in training I want to win and I like to instil that in the people around me, in my teammates, and I’ve got that with the manager and the coaching staff as well – they appreciate those qualities,” he said.
Despite not having seen his wife and four young children for some four months, and likely not for another couple of months yet, Kilkenny is keeping his eyes firmly on a successful road ahead at Western United.
He and the rest of the team will prepare to take on Melbourne Victory on Boxing Day, hoping to reverse the defeat that the Green and Black suffered to Tony Popovic’s side in Round 1.