Western United staged a memorable comeback in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men Semi-Final last season, eventually defeating Melbourne Victory before winning it all in the Grand Final against Melbourne City.
Head Coach John Aloisi was, as he was all season, a key part of the turnaround as he inspired his players to believe that they could get the job done.
With United and Victory set to renew hostilities in the 2022/23 season on Boxing Day, we look back at how Aloisi and the team created history on that night in May.
Western United’s docuseries, United, goes inside the four walls to get an insight into team meetings and the pivotal moments in the changeroom where Aloisi sent his players out to achieve greatness.
Ahead of the first leg, Aloisi’s message to his players was to bring the fight right up to Victory, who had just beaten United to second place on the regular season table.
“We start aggressive today, let them feel the pressure. If they’ve got the kick off and we win the ball, the next ball goes over the top of (Roderick) Miranda, over the top of Davo (Jason Davidson),” he called to his players.
“Run. Let them feel they’re in the Finals, let them feel they’re in for a fight. We can be the underdog I don’t give a sh*t, but we’re not going to lay down to anyone, especially not these guys. The pressure’s not on us anyway, the pressure’s on them.”
That rallying cry set the tone for the two-legged tie as United, despite going down 1-0 in the first leg, rose to the occasion and took the contest right up to its local rivals.
Even after the defeat, Aloisi preached belief to the squad and had full confidence that the deficit would be overturned.
“We’re well and truly in it, believe that we can turn this around. Saturday night we’ll give them one hell of a game, and we’ll turn it around boys,” he said.
That then brought the team into a must-win second leg and the biggest match in the Club’s young history up to that point.
Aloisi echoed his post-first leg sentiments, and five simple words gave his side the platform from which to go out and create something special
“Boys, believe me, we’re ready,” he implored.
After taking the lead in the match, United went into half-time level at 1-1 on the night and needed at least two more goals to win the tie before the 90 minutes was up. Aloisi, again, was defiant.
“We’re well and truly in it, don’t worry about that. We know we’re going to get chances,” he said.
“We f*cking go all the way boys.”
As soon as Aleksandar Prijovic found the net immediately after half-time, the belief could be felt right around the stadium. Something special was happening.
Lachie Wales scored the third goal of the night to put United ahead in the tie and Dylan Wenzel-Halls sealed it as the United bench was calling for the final whistle.
Aloisi had one more message for his players inside the changerooms after the celebrations concluded on the pitch.
“No one other than the people in here expected us to be there. We did. We knew we were going to be there,” he said.
“Enjoy tonight, but it’s not over. We want to win the Grand Final.”
The rest, as they say, is history.