Find out the top 10 takeaways from the United series below...
1. THE EVOLUTION OF JOHN ALOISI, THE MANAGER
Throughout the series you get to see the real John Aloisi and his management style, which as he admits evolved from his experience throughout his first two clubs and his playing career.
John’s ability to form a close understanding of his playing group, whilst driving home the importance of, as he describes ‘respect for the game’ sets a baseline for the culture he wanted to create.
With the support of his assistant Hayden Foxe, they master the game tactically, yet instil confidence when the mountain peaks grow higher. The series showcases many intimate moments with John and his group, laying down a playbook for establishing a strong bond between manager and players.
2. CHEMISTRY CAN TAKE YEARS TO BUILD, BUT BE LOST IN A SECOND
Professional sport is not easy. Western United in the 2021/22 season brought in eleven new players and in John Aloisi’s early training sessions, it was clear that it would be a tough task trying to get them to unite and buy into the culture that he and his support staff were trying to create.
Given Western United’s difficult situation not having a home ground, and sub-par training facilities at the beginning of the season it was clear that the players resolve would be tested.
At times you can feel ‘the wheels falling off’ from inside the team and questions arose, would their season be another disaster? Again, how this was managed by Aloisi, his coaching staff and the clubs board members was a fascinating insight.
3. WESTERN UNITED WERE OUTSIDERS
Given Western United were a new franchise and won their bid based on building their own stadium in the west of Melbourne, it was fair to say they had their share of haters. From not being able to establish a home ground since inception, the stadium not being completed leading to online abuse from rival fans. United always felt like they were the underdogs and not welcome in the A League. The series showcases the pushbacks the club was fighting against on and off the pitch.
4. FOOTBALL CLUBS ARE NOT A COLLECTION OF ROBOTS, THEY ARE REAL HUMANS
At the heart of the ‘United’ series is the look at the club as not a collection of robotic football machines, but as people. On the back of the global pandemic it explores the mental health issues around isolation. Defender Neil Kilkenny opens up about the struggles not being able to see his family during lockdown.
Slovenian midfielder Renee Krhin talks about relationship issues he faced when relocating from Europe to Australia. And throughout the season when you deal with injuries and health scares, you gather a window into how tough the professional sports environment can be at times on both players and staff.
5. EMBRACE DIFFERENCES
Football is an international game, and Western United was no different in their makeup of staff and players. The series looked at how players like Japanese defender Tomoki Imai assimilated into the Australian culture. Veteran Italian midfielder and club captain Alesandro Diamanti bringing his Italian culture within the changerooms.
Softly spoken Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic who mainly does his talking with his right foot. All these different characters and cultures coming together both on and off the pitch, representing the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
6. EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE
When John Aloisi was signed to Western United for the 2021/22 season it was his third attempt as a manger of an A-League team after stints at Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar. He openly admits in episode five that “he was considering leaving Australia” if he didn’t land the role at United.
It makes you realise that the club was validated in giving John another chance at coaching. The same can be said for John’s belief in the playing group. Midfielder Ben Garuccio followed John across to United after limited playing time at rival club Melbourne City. The belief in players when they get an opportunity pays dividends, with Ben playing a crucial role in the squad throughout the season.
WATCH: John Aloisi Interview
7. THE IMPORTANCE OF BELIEF
At the beginning of the season, no one realistically gave Western United a chance of challenging for the title. Board members openly admit that playing finals would be a massive achievement given the disaster of the previous season.
Throughout the series you can feel something special brewing and confidence growing throughout the group. This was a consistent theme with Aloisi’s management style. Belief that you can achieve no matter what the odds by trusting your teammates and the process.
8. RUNNING A TEAM AIN'T EASY
It would be a surmountable challenge to start a new franchise without a global pandemic. However Western United entered the A-League without a home, a fan base, and the ability to draw revenues through ticket sales when COVID-19 hit.
We see the financial struggles the club are facing after their first two seasons, and how hard it is to manage a club when you’re hemorrhaging money on a weekly basis. You add in poor performances on the pitch and the blood pressure of management and the playing group are truly tested.
9. EMBRACE THE FANS, (EVEN IF THERE AINT MANY)
Football globally is known for having some of the most passionate supporters in the world. Western United were no different. What they lacked in size, they made up for in pure commitment to the club.
Coming from the West of Melbourne, many of the supporters were not blessed with a surplus of financial luxuries. The club make a consolidated effort to embrace their growing fan base throughout the series, and in episode five we get to see CEO Chris Pehlivanis sitting with the fans throughout the entire game, opting not to watch from the corporate suites. The connection between the fans and the club is prevalent throughout the series.
10. YOU SEE TRUE CHARACTER IN PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE TESTED
There is an old saying, you don’t know the true character of a person until they are truly tested. This is evident throughout the United series. We get an insight into how the first and second goalkeeper roles work throughout a season with Jamie Young and Ryan Scott giving insight into their relationship. Reserve keeper Ryan Scott takes on the role as the cultural leader of the team, when in most cases, could be disgruntled at not getting game time.
We see how the club supports players who are struggling mentally, and how they respond to devastating loses when Aloisi describes players as ‘simply giving up.’ United showcases many examples at how you overcome adversity, giving another fascinating window into the rollercoaster ride of a professional football season.