When Kruni Razov took the reins as coach of St Albans Saints 13 weeks ago, the thought of history repeating itself never entered his mind.
Razov was the last coach to lead the Saints to promotion to Victorian soccer’s top-flight, but that was many moons ago and both the club and the man have changed in the years since.
What Razov did know when he accepted the coach’s role is that his own experience away from St Albans has given him a new perspective on the role. The club he returned to – initially as a coaching director and women’s coach – was in a better place than it was when he left.
Razov and St Albans have proven a perfect match time and again, so should we be all that surprised that the Saints wrapped up an unlikely title with a 1-0 win over Whittlesea Ranges in the final round of NPL2 on Saturday?
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Razov told
Star Weekly. “To get automatic promotion back into the NPL is a huge achievement for this club.
“It’s something that we didn’t sit down and talk about halfway through the year, but it’s happened.
“We weren’t even looking at promotion; we were taking it a week at a time.”
It was a nerve-racking 90 minutes before St Albans could be crowned champions. All the Saints needed was a point.
But they were met by a determined Whittlesea Ranges and a combination of bad luck and execution made it an even harder task.
After two one-on-one misses, the Saints eventually broke through for the game’s first and only goal through Viktor Rodriguez in the 35th minute, when his strike from outside the box took a deflection and nestled into the back of the net.
It was a much deserved goal, considering the Saints’ dominant start.
St Albans never went into their shells.
The Saints kept attacking for the most part, much like they had done over the previous 13 games since Razov took over, which netted 10 wins, two draws and a loss. It’s not in this team’s DNA to sit back and defend a lead.
“We’re not a defensive side; we like to play attacking football and we went for it,” Razov said.
Ryan McGuffie put in a good shift for St Albans.
The captain has been rock solid for the Saints all year.
“His experience – he’s played overseas and at a professional level – means the world to the team,” Razov said.
Michael Grgic and Josh Knight were also outstanding, while goalkeeper Alex Baird was safe when called on.
The big question is how did St Albans go from a competitive mid-table team to the best in the division?
“We just said to them, there’s no pressure, just play your game – and we gave them the freedom to play,” Razov said.
“The players have worked really hard to get where they are.”