Andy O’Dell knows how to work a bit of magic at an underperforming soccer club.
Two years ago, he took over state league 1 side Preston after seven rounds, with the Lions floundering at the bottom end of the ladder.
In a staggering turnaround, Preston didn’t lose a game for the rest of the season, finishing as league runner-up.
Now O’Dell is ready for his next challenge and has taken on the top job at Cairnlea. The Reds, too, come from a base of disappointment, finishing in 10th place on the ladder with only six wins from 22 games.
“I think, defensively, they struggled last season,” O’Dell says of his new club.
“I have already spoken to a number of possible recruits, and we got the ball moving about six or seven weeks ago. Hopefully, we can get the players I want and we might have one or two players coming from the UK as well.”
O’Dell’s passion to bring success to Cairnlea is also fuelled by unfinished business in state league 1.
Despite his incredibly successful debut season, Preston sacked him early in his second season … the Lions had lost two of their first six games.
“When they terminated me at Preston, I was very disillusioned with people’s involvement in football,” he says. “It was frustrating. I love the game and I love being around players.
“What happened makes me even more determined to prove those people wrong. My first season working at the club was fantastic. My next season was very disappointing.”
Throughout his coaching career, O’Dell has won 10 league titles across stints at Whittlesea Stallions, Richmond, Sunshine George Cross and the Fawkner Blues. He has already started to put together his coaching panel, with Jose Mansilla also joining the Reds. Mansilla crosses over to the club from Hume City and will lead Cairnlea’s under-21 side.
The Reds will begin pre-season training next month.
“If we get the mix right, then Cairnlea can be a force,” O’Dell says.
“There does need to be patience because it won’t happen overnight.
“I know the league inside out, so with the experienced players we’re planning to bring in, I think we can give it a nudge. I’m not saying we are going to win it, but I think we can go very close.”