Northcote City would have done amazingly well to emulate the incredible success of 2013, winning the final iteration of the Victorian Premier League, a title built on a string of consecutive wins in the early part of the season.
2014, brought along many changes, from the National Premier League inauguration to a heavy squad turn over, leaving Goran Lozanovski’s men focused on consolidation, rather than the lofty heights of the previous season.
Departures of the calibre of Milos Lujic, Michael Eager, Dean Piemonte, Bonel Obradovic, Alex Rojas, Hayden D’Agostino and Melbourne Victory bound Rashid Mahazi would have tested the mettle of any club.
The saying ‘opportunity knocks’ was never more relevant as Lozanovski went about rebuilding his team, drawing on the prodigious talent in the Under 20 team in a drive to challenge the upper echelon of the league table in years to come.
Reflecting on the start to the year, Lozanovski said, “It was always going to a massive challenge given the departures we had from last season, it is no coincidence that Milos, Eagar, Bones and Deano all went to other clubs and their new clubs finished in the top 2 in the league this year.”
In dealing with those challenges, the former Socceroo has found a silver lining.
“It has been a blessing in disguise, it has given me the chance to promote players like Jonathan Bounas, Wade Dekker, Aaron Ward, Anthony Rizk, Jacob Eliopoulos, and others into our senior system, this will only hold us in good stead for the future as we have been able to expose these youngsters to senior football earlier than expected and the experience they would have gained from it is second to none.”
Asked if he expected to see more changes to the current playing group Lozanovski was philosophical.
“We have already lost our captain Adrian Chiappetta to Oakleigh for next season, which is gut wrenching and it looks like Liam Wooding won’t be returning from Adelaide which is also a massive blow. However, I have enough confidence in our youngsters coming through as well as some shrewd recruiting which will do us well going forward. At the end of the day our club doesn’t have the luxuries of paying exorbitant amounts of money but we are comfortable with that, we will continue with our philosophy or developing and promoting youngsters through our system. This way has proved successful since I’ve been here so we’ll stay on that path.”
When questioned into what players in particular he will be looking to recruit to the club, Lozanovski was coy, saying he has “certain players in mind, some from the lower leagues, there is some quality talent if you look hard enough, while on the other hand there are enough talented players just itching to have a go at senior NPL level that we have targeted also.”
So it’s all eyes on 2015.