After the “longest pre-season in the world” Western United will take to the pitch at Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium this Saturday to kick start their 2021-22 A-League season. Tara Murray spoke with new coach John Aloisi and player Connor Pain ahead of the big match against Melbourne Victory.
After another off-season full of lockdowns and restrictions, Western United’s Connor Pain can’t wait to take to the field this weekend.
Pain and his teammates will kick off their A-League season against Melbourne Victory.
Pain admits that the off-season was just as much a mental battle as one of trying to stay in shape and ready for the season.
“It’s probably been the longest pre-season in the world,” he said.
“The season creeping up now it’s obviously exciting to get everything started.
“Aside from friendlies and stuff, it would have been four to five months, it felt like a long time.
“The training is great and all that, but we play for a reason and we can’t wait to get back into competitive games.”
For Pain, who is one of the club’s original players, this pre-season has been slightly different.
With a new coach in John Aloisi and a number of new players, there has been plenty of excitement on the track.
It’s the first time Pain has worked with Aloisi.
“It has been great, it has been obviously intense, good to have some new ideas around the place and some new faces, not just in the coaching department,” Pain said.
“It has been an interesting change, but it has been good so far and we’re just looking to implement what we are working on.
“It’s been really good and really positive. There are obviously really high standards in the camp and I can’t say a bad word about him so far.”
Pain said the group could see some of the magic that the new international players could produce.
He said they had all integrated seamlessly.
“It has been an odd one with COVID and getting all the foreigners here, [I] only really met a couple of them in the last week or two,” he said.
“All of them in their own way have shown something. It’s a good mixture and range of positions and they’re only going to add to the good group of Aussies we have.”
Pain isn’t the only one itching for the season to begin, with Aloisi keen to get his United coaching career under way.
The former Australian star said he didn’t realise how much he missed coaching until he hit the training track.
“You realise how much you miss it when you get back in,” he said.
“Finally back on the grass again, I have really enjoyed it. It gives you that energy again.
“When you miss it, you reflect on things. The energy is there which is good from my part, excited to be back on the pitch.”
Aloisi said he had been impressed by the whole playing group and how they had attacked the pre-season.
It hadn’t been an easy one, with some players saying it was the hardest pre-season they had been through, he said.
“The boys have really taken on board what we are trying to do as a team and club,” he said.
“They’ve been working really hard, which is the most important thing. The buy-in of the players has been exceptional, as a coach it makes your job so much easier and it actually helps the younger players get back to the level.
“Everyone in general has been working really well from the younger players to the older players. They’ve all worked really hard, and we’ve trained hard and for a lot of them it’s the hardest pre-season.
“They’ve done the most important thing I look at, everyone has different talents but in terms of work ethic you look for all of the players have shown they are willing to work and work for each other, that helps the team bond as well.”
While Aloisi had been impressed with the whole squad, he said players such as Dylan Pierias and Lachlan Wales had really benefited from being in the Australian Olympic team
Three other players have just returned from the Olyroos Asian Cup qualifiers.
He said Josh Risdon would also be like a new recruit after an injury-riddled season last year.
Aloisi said the club was still doing some last minute preparations as it looked to fire come the start of the season.
He said the imports were starting to find their feet after hotel quarantine had an early impact.
“They’re a little bit off fitness-wise especially when you’re stuck in hotel quarantine for two weeks,” he said.
“They’ll take a bit of time, we’ll look after them. They’ve had a lot of hard pre-seasons in the past and have a good base, hopefully they’ll be right for round one.”
Aloisi said while there will be plenty of familiar faces on the pitch this season, fans can expect a different style on the pitch.
United will start their season with six matches in Melbourne, which is a bonus for the club and fans, who will be able to return to the stands.
Aloisi said the first six rounds would be exciting for the side.
“We’ve got confidence with the team we’ve got and the structure we’ve got,” he said.
“It’s exciting for the playing group and the public to see live sport again.”
Pain said he can’t wait to see the fans back in the stands.
“It’s a strange thing to say football without fans…”
“We know we have the quality to get up there, the first thing is to crack finals and see what happens after that.”