Now the dust has settled on the 2021/22 A-League season, it is time to take a look back at the men at the top and three coaches in particular stand out.
Western United came from nowhere to win the grand final, and to be fair no-one could argue they did not deserve it after a solid, consistent season which concluded with a 2-0 win over Melbourne City in the big dance.
But they were not the only success story of the season as Melbourne Victory climbed their way back to the top, while the Central Coast Mariners upset the odds once again.
So who where the top three coaches of the 2021/22 A-League season
Western United – John Aloisi
Western had only been in the A-League for a couple of seasons when Aloisi was handed the reins 12 months ago following the departure of Mark Rudan.
They had missed out on finals altogether last season and many believed getting back in the top six would be the best they could hope for in 2021/22. But the power of Aloisi was clearly underestimated by everyone outside of the Western camp.
Since the grand final success it has come to light that Aloisi was targeting it from day one and he got the players to buy into it as well.
They hit the ground running and it soon became clear that Western were set for a good season. The success was built on a solid defence that kept a record amount of clean sheets, while they were nicking goals at the other end.
They won the first five games of the season 1-0 and built from there. The team spirit in the Western camp was crucial with a good blend of youth and experience.
The signing of Aleksandar Prijovic was also a masterstroke with the striker bagging 13 goals in 27 matches.
Western’s biggest signing of the off-season will be keeping Aloisi. He has spoken of his ambitions to coach at the highest level but there is a good chance he will hang around for a couple more seasons if offered an improved deal.
Melbourne Victory – Tony Popovic
Popovic is another coach that deserves a huge amount of credit for turning around the fortunes of Melbourne Victory.
Victory had a disastrous 2020/21 campaign under then coach Grant Brebner. They finished bottom of the A-League ladder and Popovic was handed the task of turning around their fortunes.
But again no-one quite expected Victory to rise quite as high as they did in such a short space of time.
Popovic had enjoyed success with Western Sydney Wanderers and Perth Glory in recent years so it should have been no real surprise.
He completely overhauled the Victory squad in the off-season. Off-loading some high-profile signings that did not cut the mustard in the previous season. And replacing them with players that have served him well in the past.
Victory just missed out on the premiers plate as Melbourne City hung on to claim it, while they lost to Western United in the semi-final over two legs.
But he did win some silverware as Victory beat Central Coast Mariners 2-1 in the FFA Cup final.
So the season has to be deemed a success and Victory will be up there again next season if Popovic is in charge.
Central Coast Mariners – Nick Montgomery
Montgomery worked miracles with the Mariners when guiding them into finals for the second year running.
Not only that, Montgomery took the Mariners all the way to the FFA Cup final before losing to Melbourne Victory 2-1.
It was a remarkable season and Montgomery deserves plenty of credit. He was handed the job after the experienced Alen Stajcic opted to walk away at the end of last season having taken Central Coast into the top six.
Not many gave Montgomery hope of repeating that success when he was appointed. But he managed to go one better. The Englishman put plenty of trust in some of the young players that he worked with previously in the Academy set up. They did not let him down.
The signing of Jason Cummings also turned out to be a masterstroke. Arriving from Scotland in January he went on to bag 10 goals in 21 games.
The good news for the Mariners fans is the striker has just penned a new deal. So has Montgomery so don’t rule out the Mariners having another great season in 2022/23.