The moment of greatest darkness comes right before the dawn, or so they say, and things were looking pretty dim for the Brisbane Roar back in February of 2013.
Talismanic manager Ange Postecoglou, the man who had orchestrated back-to-back title wins for the club, had left for A-League rivals the Melbourne Victory at the start of the season, to be replaced by his former assistant, Rado Vidosic.
The decision to appoint the affable Vidosic seemed reasonable enough at the time, but it was the start of a rapid downward spiral for Brisbane.
After overseeing just three wins from 11 games, Vidosic was shunted in December 2012 and Mike Mulvey was given the reigns of the struggling champions.
It was a somewhat surprising appointment, and it looked to be an erroneous one by February, as the Roar still languished in eighth place on the ladder.
‘Mulvey Out’ signs appeared at Suncorp Stadium. Rock bottom was encountered on February 15 when the side was eliminated from the Asian Champions League in a qualification play-off by Thailand’s Buriram on the same day that captain Matt Smith was ruled out for the season after hip surgery.
There was speculation that Mulvey would be jettisoned after the Buriram result. Rather, the club decided to extend his contract beyond the end of the season, to the surprise of many.
And that marked the turning point. Brisbane rallied to come within 90 minutes of a third-straight Grand Final, losing out in their semi-final to Premier’s Plate winners, the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Given a full pre-season to develop his squad and implement his training methods, Mulvey has the Roar playing the best and most effective football in the league.
Brisbane have dominated the A-League table from the start of the season, and last weekend secured the Premier’s Plate with three rounds remaining.
They will be hot favourites to take out the Grand Final as well.
Given an opportunity by reporters to fire back at the critics who had wondered about his appointment in the first place, and contract renewal in February, Mulvey chose to shift the focus away from himself.
“I’m not into individual plaudits,” he said after the Roar’s win over the Victory ensured they would finish top of the table.
“I’m into the team ethos.
“And I don’t say that in a flippant way, I really do believe it.
“If that was just me achieving something on my own tonight, it’s pretty shallow.
“But I’ve got blokes like Luke (Brattan) in the dressing room, I’ve got staff who have given their all for this club, and for the cause, and they’ve all bought into the vision.
“And everybody from … what’s the old analogy? … from the tea lady to the chairman, everybody deserves credit.”
Mulvey was happy to speak about the team’s highly successful season thus far, however.
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, you know I’ve heard comments this year that it’s not as strong a league and it’s not this and it’s not that.
“You don’t judge different seasons, and you don’t judge us against the team that won it a few years ago, Brisbane Roar.
“Champions need to be not compared, they need to be recognised.
“And I think that this group of players, I can’t give them enough praise.
“It’s absolutely a brilliant achievement to win, top of the league with three games to go, and it’s one of the things that we set our stall out for at the beginning of the season. One was to finish top, qualify for Asia, and the other was the Grand Final.
“And now we’ve got that in our sights.”
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