2. Ernie Merrick
For a coach who won so much, Ernie Merrick had a hell of a time convincing some Melbourne Victory fans he was the right man for the job.
After serving his time in the Victorian Premier League, Merrick was the inaugural Victory coach whose first season left Melbourne fans wondering what they’d signed up for, as the club finished seventh on a then eight-team ladder, even with the likes of Archie Thompson and Kevin Muscat in the side.
But Merrick’s second season in charge should have erased all doubt. Victory steamrolled their way to the 2006/07 Hyundai A-League premiership, finished 12 points ahead of Adelaide United.
Victory completed the humiliation with a famous 6-0 rout of the Reds in the Grand Final.
Season 07/08 saw Victory fall to the champions’ bounce, when it seemed no A-League team would be able to achieve the consistency required to secure back-to-back titles.
But after one season outside the finals, Merrick and his side came back in style, winning the Pre-Season Cup, the Premiership and the Grand Final – again at Adelaide’s expense.
They went close again the following season, only to suffer a hard-to-swallow home grand final defeat on penalties to great rivals Sydney FC. In the aftermath, Merrick was relieved of his post as the club restructured on and off the field – perhaps a little too hastily in hindsight.
What was it about Merrick that failed to convince? His counter-attacking style of play rarely saw Victory dominate games but their rapid turnover of possession and the interplay of their strike force was so devastating, they were easily the most feared team in the league under his tenure.
Neither did Merrick have to contend with rumours that club captain was secretly the power behind the throne; this side was obviously Merrick’s, with so many of his previous players selected and their talent maximised.
Perhaps it was his constant calm on the touchline, portrayed by some as emotionless or dour.
Ultimately, it was his inability to carry Victory to consecutive titles that keeps him from our No.1 spot. Merrick helped build Victory into the biggest club in the competition but it’s the impact of one of his successors that secures top spot in this list.
1. Ange Postecoglou
The man charged with re-building Melbourne Victory has done it all before with Brisbane Roar and in such style, it’s hard to argue that Ange Postecoglou is not the best coach in the history of the Hyundai A-League.
It took him half a season (and a full pre-season) to imprint his philosophy and impressive style on Brisbane. It started slowly, with Roar dominating possession but struggling to find the net in the first 10 games of the season.
But when the banks burst, the surge was unstoppable, and Postecoglou’s side swept all before them.
The ball was moved at a rapid rate, perpetual motion the key as players kept creating space, moving forward as the ball did, close control and rapid passing the other keys to breaking down opposition teams.
Postecoglou uncovered a certain amount of class in the likes of Matt McKay and Thomas Broich, but he also proved that a team of mostly Australian players could play with the ability and technique many thought beyond our domestic league.
Under Postecoglou, Brisbane became the entertainers of the A-League, playing beautiful football and dominating the code during an Australian professional sporting record of 36 unbeaten games.
Ultimately they fell short of winning the double twice – if only by two points - but they did claim back-to-back grand final victories and Postecoglou stamped his legacy on the side by getting them out of a mid-season slump to another famous (some say infamous) victory against Perth Glory.
Postecoglou also revealed a keen eye for young talent, playing a large role in the development of players like Mitch Nichols, Ivan Franjic and Erik Paartalu.
Amazingly Postecoglou has never lost a decider as a player or coach, collecting Championships with South Melbourne as both a player and manager, but his biggest challenge lies ahead.
Melbourne Victory have done little since Ernie Merrick was shown the door. As such, Postecoglou’s next challenge, lifting the Victory up, might be his greatest yet and could truly define his legacy on the competition.
The potential is there to achieve even more than he managed with Brisbane - a terrifying prospect for the rest of the A-League.
The Hyundai A-League Best Coaches
1. Ange Postecoglou
2. Ernie Merrick
3. Graham Arnold
4. Ricki Herbert
5. Pierre Littbarski
6. Viteslav Lavicka
7. Gary van Egmond
8. Lawrie McKinna
9. John Kosmina
10. Miron Bleiberg