The saying “there’s always next year” is one Steve Iosifidis picked up and ran with as coach of Hoppers Crossing in state league 3 north-west this season.
A year ago, Iosifidis and his players at former club Caulfield Cobras were inconsolable after letting a massive 10-point lead slip in the last month of the season.
Iosifidis parted ways with the Cobras and found a new home at Hoppers Crossing, where the Reds had just won the state league 4 title and promotion.
So expectations were high, despite moving up a division.
Iosifidis not only lived up to the expectations but seized an opportunity for redemption, guiding the Reds to the title and a second successive promotion.
“I missed out on promotion with my previous club so to go a step further was a massive relief this year,” he said.
Iosifidis, 41, had a glittering playing career at national league level, winning two titles at South Melbourne and playing on a stage as big as the FIFA Club World Cup.
He arrived to coach Hoppers Crossing with no preconceptions about the side. The players all started on a level pegging and had to prove their worth before winning Iosifidis over.
Competition for spots was fierce, which is one of the main reasons the Reds took the competition by storm.
“In my opinion, the hardest opponent is the person sitting to your left and right in the changeroom,” Iosifidis said.
“The moment someone was given a role there was pressure on that person to perform and the moment they didn’t, there were plenty of people waiting to take their position.”
The Reds ran away with the title by seven points, riding all the bumps from injuries to overseas departures.
The only blemish came in the bonus state league 3 final, which they lost 1-0 to St Kilda.
Iosifidis is most proud of his team’s defensive record; they conceded a mere 0.77 goals a game over 22 games.
“Defences win you championships, it’s a simple as that,” Iosifidis said. “In the championships I’ve been involved with as a player, we had the best defensive records.”
He praised the solid defensive partnership of captain Brian Chesson and Julian Zach and lauded the work of Bol Mathiang.
Goalkeeper Kieron Sharratt was a key addition who fitted in seamlessly, while Liam McDermott was top scorer with 12 goals.
Iosifidis is yet to sit down with the club to discuss his coaching future.
He will weigh up family considerations and the wishes of the club before deciding if he will go on next season.
“I’ve got two young kids and my little man is probably going to start playing next year, so it might be a little tough,” he said. “Having said that, I’m already getting itchy feet and it’s week one [of the post-season].
“I’ll sit down with the president and the club and we’ll have a bit of a chat and see where we need to go.”