With the dust having now settled on Glory's Westfield W-League 2020/21 campaign, we caught up with Head Coach Alex Epakis for an in-depth debrief and to get an early insight into his plans for the future.
Perth Glory Online: Taking into account the unprecedented challenges you and the group faced before and throughout the season, how do assess the campaign overall?
Alex Epakis: The 2020/21 W-League season presented undeniable challenges, but also a unique opportunity to begin the project of rebuilding a squad and a team identity.
We had the opportunity to hand nine players their debut, with five of those being local WA players.
The group showed unbreakable resilience and character and stayed firm during the most testing of times.
While we acknowledge our results were not what we had hoped, the level of commitment and individual progress cannot be overshadowed.
Moreover, despite being the youngest group in the competition, I believe that at times, our positive style of play and competitiveness could be seen.
Ultimately, we just couldn’t maintain the appropriate level of performance for long enough periods throughout matches.
With the season now complete, I have a strong belief that the experiences and growth from this season will be the catalyst for future improvement and success.
PGO: In terms of the squad itself, where were the key areas of development?
AE: Many young players gained invaluable development experiences this season.
Firstly, a clear team culture and a set of professional standards were formed and during the most testing times, our resilience and team environment stood firm.
Secondly, the players have been exposed to a new playing style and way of training.
We have a certain process that we work towards and every session was aimed at improving this process.
Without a doubt, positive signs could be seen in certain matches, but we couldn’t maintain the level for long enough periods.
However, the lack of experience and quality was never a quick-fix and ultimately the best was done to compete against more experienced teams.
PGO: What areas will you be particularly targeting for improvement going forward?
AE: We need to critically assess and review the entire setup.
I have a tenacious approach towards ongoing improvement regardless of whether we are winning or losing.
It's clear that we need to further strengthen the squad in certain areas and add experience and quality in key positions.
We also want to continue to grow and utilise the young players we have invested in this season.
Moreover, we also need to improve the overall positional profile and balance within the team.
PGO: At a personal level, it’s certainly been a baptism of fire for you in your first W-League Head Coach role. How would you describe the journey you’ve been professionally and personally over the last four or five months?
AE: It has been the biggest test in my professional coaching career to date.
However, the difficulties of this season have given me further oxygen and energy to work even harder in ensuring that this project is a positive and special one.
In a season where no wins are achieved, it is impossible not to self-reflect and introspectively be self-critical of my own leadership and coaching.
The results certainly don’t reflect how I wanted the season to play out and it also didn’t align with the ongoing sustained success I had achieved in the women’s game prior to my appointment.
But I am proud of the way I was able to build a set of standards and values and maintain these values and standards during difficult moments.
PGO: During the off-season, what will your priorities be and is the planning for next season already very much underway?
AE: To be completely honest, planning for next season began the moment the final whistle blew in our final match.
Due to the timing of my arrival, I didn’t have the opportunity to have enough input on squad and planning decisions.
Now I have five to six months to work tirelessly with the club to recruit and formulate an on and off-field strategy to help drive improved success for next season and beyond.
We have a fantastic core group mixed with experienced characters and young future talents.
I have no doubt that everything will be done to get the best out of the team going forward and I am excited by the project.