One of the last times Ante Milicic faced Perth Glory during a finals series, he emerged as the hero, netting the sole goal in Sydney Olympic’s 2002 NSL Grand Final triumph in front of over 40,000 people at Subiaco.
One of the last times Ante Milicic faced Perth Glory during a finals series, he emerged as the hero, netting the sole goal in Sydney Olympic-s 2002 NSL Grand Final triumph in front of over 40,000 people at Subiaco.
This weekend, Milicic, now widely regarded as one of the rising stars of Australian coaching, will hope to make his mark from the dugout, assisting Head Coach John van ‘t Schip as Heart looks to claim victory in its debut Hyundai A-League finals appearance.
Having conquered the Glory and its vociferous home crowd before, Milicic is well attuned to the challenges which must be overcome should Heart wish to advance beyond the opening week of the Finals Series.
“It-s very important that we block (the finals hype) out and don-t get caught up in the build-up, with the crowd, with the media,” Milicic said.
“I think we-re very focused on the way we-re playing, and you can always use a big home crowd, like Perth will have to your advantage.
“There-s nothing better than to keep the ball, what we want to do, attack, and when you can score a goal and eliminate the crowd with silence, I think that can also give the away team a lot of confidence.”
While Heart has been unbeaten in six matches, its inability to convert winning positions to ultimate results has characterised its final months of the season.
Such disappointment could prove disheartening to some, prompting a change of tack and subsequent abandonment of tactical principles.
Heart however, if nothing, has been a study in patience, and the faith it has demonstrated in its processes and overarching philosophy has seen the coaching staff, and team, remain loyal to its belief in retaining possession, and developing scoring chances through thoughtful, intelligent play.
Though many may simply glance at a final result and make their assumptions, Heart has taken confidence in the manner of its performances in recent weeks, whether it be in simply gleaning a basic insight, or in witnessing training ground effort manifest itself on match day.
Milicic personified such a mentality in assessing Heart-s chances of overcoming Glory, and reproducing the performance which saw it earn a 2-1 win at nib Stadium back in December.
“We-ve been on a good run lately. Playing away from home, I think will suit us, and when you look at the full squad available, we don-t have any major injuries (and) the boys are confident,” he said.
"With the longer preparation, a nine-day turn around, I think with a clean bill of health, and the way we-ve got the week planned out, there-s no reason why we can-t go there and put on a good showing.
“Like I said, we-ve already won there, and with the youth that we-ve got, as well as the experience of Bolton, Colosimo, Fred, Srhoj and Thompson, I think there-s enough there to guide the younger boys around."