After a couple of months out of the game following his departure from the Australia Under-23 team earlier this year, the first few days back on the job with his new club side, Bangkok Glass, were tough going for Aurelio Vidmar.
“I almost lost my voice at first with all the barking after having not done that for a while,” he tells Fox Sports Asia.
That though was the least of his challenges after having been thrust into the hot seat two-thirds of the way through the season, with his first match in charge being none other than the biggest on the calendar; the derby with high-flying Bangkok United.
With hardly any time to prepare they lost that 4-2 before performances started to gradually improve where they drew on the road in tricky conditions at Sisaket and then at home to Chonburi before a breakthrough 3-1 win over Suphanburi last weekend stabilised things with the season winding to a close.
As runaway pair Muangthong and Bangkok United battle things out for the title the tussle between Bangkok Glass and fallen champions Buriram for third place – and hence a probable playoff spot for next year’s AFC Champions League – is just as intense.
Vidmar the Socceroo
Just a single point separates the pair with four matches to play and the goal for Vidmar is clear.
“We want to finish third and aim for a playoff spot in the ACL and that’s definitely within our grasp, but looking longer term we want this to be a club that can have sustained success, not like in recent years where they’ve fluctuated from fifth to tenth and sixth, we want and expect to be a top four club every season.”
As a former captain and star of the Australian national team the 49-year-old’s transition to the coaching ranks was a successful one early on when he led unfancied Adelaide United all the way to the final of the 2008 Champions League, becoming the first A-League club to achieve that feat.
Vidmar during his days as coach of Adelaide United
He then progressed to a lengthy stint as both national assistant and head coach of the Olympic team and it’s that wealth of experience he’ll look to impart at his new club.
Along with a highly regarded backroom staff he’s assembled, Vidmar and his team have already identified key areas where they feel the team can improve and have seen some positive changes even in his brief time at the helm of the club known as the ‘Rabbits.’
“We’ve not really changed the squad too much but what we’ve been trying to do is change the way that we train and the way that we play,” he tells Fox Sports Asia.
“One of the major things that we’ve noticed is that in most games the players start to tire noticeably around the 60-minute mark and with that fatigue there’s a lot of space then available in midfield so that’s one area we want to try and exploit.
“We want to stay compact and keep the spaces small throughout midfield and a lot of that comes back to avoiding fatigue by the way that we train.
“I think previously they’ve been used to a different approach where they trained longer and at a lower intensity but what we want to do is shorter but really intense sessions and that then allows us to change the way that we play – we want to become the first Thai club to try and consistently play this kind of up-tempo match.”
The other challenge for the club is that because they can’t compete financially with the bigger teams in the division they know they have to ‘smarter’ about how they do things and that’s a philosophy that Vidmar applauds.
Celebrations during an AFC Champions League tie
“Some of the clubs here, Buriram, Muangthong and Bangkok United pay ridiculous wages but we’re trying to be financially responsible with our money and I think that’s a good approach.
“We have our own youth teams here with good coaches with our own facilities and accommodation and that’s the best way to sustained, long-term, success which is what the club is all about.
Even with his focus solely on improving the long-term outlook at Bangkok, Vidmar still keeps a keen eye on the performances of the various Australian youth teams and noted with a touch of surprise the thrashing his current home gave to his former one when Thailand beat Australia 5-1 earlier this week at the AFF Under-19 championships in Vietnam.
“Yeah, a lot of people here have been giving me stick about that result,” he laughs.
“Australia shouldn’t underestimate Thailand at all and this is more evidence of that – all across Asia the gap between nations is getting closer and the players here are technically very, very strong.
“Sometimes they play and train a little bit off the cuff but even so that kind of a result is still a little surprising for sure and I’m not sure the reasons behind it but it just shows the improvement in Thai football over the last decade or so.”
Improvement that the capital club hope to keep going by the appointment of one of Australia’s most highly regarded young coaches and if the early, positive, signs continue then the plan of sustained, long-term success for the Rabbits looks to be on the right path.