Coaching the Mariners in 2018-19 may very well be as close as it gets to a thankless task in football but Central Coast interim boss Alen Stajcic is nonetheless still relishing the task at hand.
Stajcic, who was stood down from his position as head coach of the Matildas in much-debated circumstances in January, was named as the interim boss of the Gosford based side in March and promptly steered the A-League cellar dwellers to a miraculous upset victory over local foes Newcastle Jets in his first game in charge.
Since that famous win, however, normal service as resumed at Central Coast Stadium: the Mariners losing their next three games against Adelaide United, Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory.
Compounding the pain of their most recent defeat was that it also mathematically sealed the Mariners second wooden spoon in as many seasons.
Yet, despite these challenges, Stajcic insisted his time in Gosford has thus far been enjoyable when he fronted the media post-match on Sunday night.
“I’ve loved it to be honest,” he said.
“It’s been a great challenge. (I) don’t enjoy losing but it’s been a great challenge and it took me out of my comfort zone, which was something that I’ve been relishing.
“To be able to get up and go to work every day and have a new challenge and have a game week in and week out is definitely something that I look forward to.
“It’s been tough, no doubt, coming into an environment that didn’t really have any preconceived ideas. It’s been a massive learning curve for me as well, so I have to say I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Locked at 1-1 with just 15 minutes remaining after a controversial second-half Matt Simon penalty negated Ola Toivonen’s opener the Mariners at one point looked to be on course to steal an unlikely point against Victory.
Alas for the side in yellow and blue, towering Victory defender Georg Niedermeier’s 79th minute goal – his first for the club and second in over three seasons – served to dash those hopes.
“Like everyone, we’re all disappointed when we lose,” Stajcic said as he reflected upon the contest.
“I thought there was a lot more endeavour there in the second half and (we) probably followed instructions a little bit more.
“I thought our first half was pretty poor and didn’t really follow the game plan, so I was pretty disappointed with that aspect of the game.
“But I thought in the second half we applied ourselves a lot better and had a lot more discipline without the ball and made it hard for them.
“They had a few counter-attacks where they were dangerous but I thought we came back into the game well.
“Unfortunately, (we) had a couple of injuries in the game as well which hampered us a little bit.
“The fact that there was probably a 30 minute period where we didn’t execute some of the game plan and allowed Victory get on top… we were probably a bit fortunate to be only one nil down at half time due to some of those aspects.
“That was disappointing, we need a lot better tactical discipline if we’re going to compete with a side like Victory.”
Having spent his entire coaching career prior to his appointment at the Mariners in the women’s game, Stajcic was somewhat of a left-field choice to replace the sacked Mike Mulvey.
Stajcic, though, explained that he feels as though the task of making the switch from women’s to men’s football has been a straightforward one and that he was hoping to have answers on if he would be handed a chance to steer the Mariners for a full season soon.
“I don’t think that’s a transition at all,” the 45-year-old said.
“I’ve said it lots of times but the more I do the job the more I think it’s just a transition from team to team
“The higher up you go in both genders the similarities are even greater and I don’t see any difference other than individual differences from team to team that you get when you change regardless of gender.
“There are some unique circumstances at the Mariners compared to the Victory for example.
“I think there’s more individual variance rather than gender.
“I think the process and the principles for me are almost identical. In that respect, I’ve had a great grounding and everything I’ve done over the last 20 years I think has prepared me for this moment.
“I’ve still got to talk to a few people over the next period of time (about removing his interim label) but hopefully we’ll have an answer to that by the end of this week.
“At the moment I’m loving the job and relishing the opportunity.
“That’s all I can say at the moment but hopefully I’ll have a bit more clarity by the end of this week.”