From the humble surroundings of Chaplin Reserve in Sunshine, to the state-of-the-art facilities at world powerhouse Arsenal — Joe Montemurro's journey is one of perseverance.
It was March 2006. Sunshine George Cross had just sacked Chris Taylor, who orchestrated the club's re-emergence from the depths of Victoria's third-tier to the top division in consecutive seasons. George Cross turned to unproven 37-year-old Montemurro amid the serious threat of relegation. The former Australian midfielder, who ended his playing career at 28, had never held a senior coaching role previously.
Eyebrows were raised but the gamble paid off. Around 1,000 spectators were in attendance to witness debutant Montemurro mastermind a shock victory over Australian giant and 2000 Club World Cup participant South Melbourne as George Cross went on to narrowly avoid the drop.
"You always have aspirations to be the best and do what you can, perform and challenge," Montemurro told Perform . "I probably wasn't thinking any further than winning the next game at George Cross at that time.
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"But I take a lot of those experiences as major milestones because you learn a lot through difficult circumstances and situations to be the best. They were all important milestones and stepping stones to be where I am now."
'Honour and privilege'
Montemurro's stay in Sunshine was brief, moving to Hume City and South Melbourne in various capacities before switching to women's football and joining Melbourne Victory and then Melbourne City, where he delivered back-to-back W-League championships and also worked as an assistant to the men's A-League team.
He created history in 2015-16 after City went through the entire season without dropping a point. His work did not go unnoticed and he was eventually lured to the bright lights of London and Arsenal's women's team the following year. "The opportunity to work at one of the biggest clubs and leagues in the world was an amazing honour and privilege," the 49-year-old said. "A lot more history, a lot more clubs and focus. It's great to be at the best and performing with the best. Being challenged everyday with the best at this amazing club."
The 'project coach'
Montemurro — who describes himself as a "project coach," his philosophy stemming on building and developing a DNA with his teams — has made an immediate impact at Meadow Park, where Australia's export is leading a revival of one of football's most prestigious names.
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Arsenal's women were sixth and on the decline when Montemurro arrived but the Gunners are now top of the Women's Super League with nine wins from 10 matches and a competition-high 42 goals in his first full season at the helm.
Montemurro, who signed a new long-term contract in October, has also delivered the WSL Continental Cup and Toulouse International Ladies Cup to go with a FA Women's Cup runners-up medal. "Obviously the results are saying what they're saying," Montemurro continued. "The important thing is we're starting to play our football and show our style which is very important at this iconic club that wants to play a good brand of football.
"The biggest thing is to make the Champions League. That's the most important thing. But not just make Champions League, we want to get there and sustain a spot every year. Be competing in the top two every year, obviously producing players and continue to play the football we're playing."
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