If anyone was best placed to judge the difference in mood under new coach Mark Rudan at the Wellington Phoenix, it would be Andrew Durante.
The 36-year-old defender will bring up his 250th Hyundai A-League appearance for the Phoenix on Saturday as the Western Sydney Wanderers visit Westpac Stadium.
Durante has been a near ever-present since joining the Phoenix before the 2008/09 Season after 40 matches with the Newcastle Jets.
And ahead of his milestone appearance, Durante said the club’s feel-good vibe was motivating him to play on.
“I’ve been here a long time,” Durante said.
“I can sense the buzz is back. People are really optimistic about what we can achieve this year.
“People are starting to come up to you again on the street and say ‘good luck, you guys are doing great, we’re proud of you’. It hasn’t happened for a little while.
“It’s nice, it makes a big difference for us as well. Hopefully we can keep making people proud and stay up the top of the ladder.
“It’s still early but the signs are there that we’re making a big change, we’re making a big difference.”
Durante will become just the second player in Hyundai A-League history to play 250 games for a single club, behind Melbourne Victory’s Leigh Broxham.
No player has featured more in the competition, either, with Durante set to play game 290 against the Wanderers.
And while he has scored just four goals in his career, he has been involved in 65 clean sheets.
He acknowledged it was a “huge milestone” to play 250 games for the one club and is hopeful the Nix will make it an occasion to remember.
“[It is a] huge milestone, to get that many games for one club - I don’t think too many players have done that in the A-League,” Durante added.
“Proud, proud, hopefully it’s a win to celebrate it.
“You look back at milestones at the end of your career and you can be proud of them, but at the moment, it’s just about three points for the team and making sure we win the game.”
A win against the 2017/18 Grand Finalists, Newcastle Jets, and a draw in Brisbane has the Phoenix sitting fourth on the table.
And while Rudan acknowledged Durante’s achievement, he said Wellington’s focus was on all getting the three points against the Wanderers.
“I made mention of it [this week] … ‘Dura’ is a fantastic servant of the football club and has been one of the best players in the A-League as well,” he said.
"It’s really, really good and pleasing to see ‘Dura’ play 250 [at the Phoenix] but at the end of the day, he’ll be the first to tell you, it’s about the collective.
"He's not fussed about it."
Durante may not be overly fussed, but his longevity, durability and reliability have, as Rudan said, made him one of the Hyundai A-League’s finest.
And another commanding display at the heart of Wellington’s defence on his big day would not surprise anyone.