Since taking over Avondale FC, Anthony Barbieri has overseen one of the most meteoric rises in Australian club football history.
Handed the reigns at the club when they were considered likely to be scrapping with relegation in Victoria’s fourth tier in 2011, Barbieri instead lead Avondale up the rungs of Victorian football all the way to its peak in 2015; establishing a tradition of stout defences that has enabled to the club to go on to be recognised as one of Victoria’s strongest.
The club – which adopted the nickname “The Avengers” in their second year in the NPL – has experienced a roaming existence since its arrival in Victoria’s top flight; shifting between playing out of their traditional home of Avondale Heights Reserve, Knight’s Stadium in Sunshine and Paisley Park in Altona before finally moving into a new, permanent base at the Reggio Calabria Club in Parkville this year.
Wednesday’s clash with traditional powerhouses Marconi will mark the Avengers first appearance on the national stages of the FFA Cup and, for Barbieri, the fixture represents the culmination of many years of toil.
“It’s a bit of a dream to be quite honest,” the Avondale boss said.
“Looking back and if you’d told me way back then that we’d have gone all the way and be playing in the FFA Cup I would have thought you were joking.
“I guess I’ve been the architect of the success of the club and it’s been quite a great journey, year on year we’ve always improved and bettered ourselves. It’s a really proud moment for the club.
“Every year we sort of set ourselves a target on what we want to achieve, and this year was the Round of 32, which we managed to do for the first time.”
Despite it being both Barbier’s and Avondale’s first appearance in the FFA Cup’s Round of 32, it won’t be the first appearance on the national stage for a number of players currently on the books with the club.
The likes of Liam Boland, Chris Oldfield and Joey Katebian have all experienced the FFA Cup’s Round of 32 before and Barbieri says that their leadership will play an important part in preparing the squad.
“Most definitely, you look to your core experienced players that have been there before and challenged on those fronts,” he said
“That’s why you’ve got them in the squad. They’re obviously there to guide and use their experience in crucial moments in the game, but, most of the squad is pretty level headed and calm boys so I don’t think they’d be overawed by the occasion at all.”
Coming up against Marconi Stallions, one of only two clubs that played in every season of the National Soccer League and who won the competition a record four times, Wednesday’s game at ABD Stadium represents a clash between the old and the new in NPL football. Barbieri, however, isn’t going to allow himself to be intimidated by Marconi’s history.
“I think Marconi’s won 4 NSL titles back in the day,” Barbieri recalled when asked about his opponents
“I used to follow them as a kid, being of an Italian background myself. I followed them on SBS and watch them when they came down; they always had some great players back in the day.
“A club like ours, we’re up against South Melbourne, your Melbourne Knights, Heidelberg, clubs with also have a lot of rich history, and Marconi is obviously one of those.
“The beautiful world of the internet means you get to see some footage [Of Marconi]. I’ve got some of my sources in Sydney, so you try to piece as much information as you possibly can.
“Obviously it’s a cup game, a one-off game, anything’s possible in a one-off game. Our boys will be pumped for it, I’m sure of it, and we’ll do our homework and prepare ourselves accordingly.
“It’s definitely a stage for us, nothing for us to shy away from, these are the sort of games you want to be involved in as a club and put our club on the map, which is what we’re all about.
“It’s going to be a most memorable moment for the club.”
Avondale FC will host Marconi at ABD Stadium on Wednesday 25 July at ABD Stadium. The fixture will be shown live and exclusive on Fox Sports.