How did Ange Postecoglou pull together all the pieces that set Brisbane on their unprecedented undefeated run?
While Brisbane Roar-s remarkable run of 35 Hyundai A-League games undefeated equalled an Australian sporting record that has stood for three-quarters of a century, it is appropriate to go back to where it all started, more than two years ago, to appreciate all the work that has gone into achieving the feat.
The devil, after all, is in the detail.
When Ange Postecoglou-s men came from a goal down to beat Newcastle 2-1 on Saturday, there was little doubt it was the result of at least two of years of dotting i-s and crossing t-s.
To understand where the success was hatched, one has to dig back beyond 16 October, 2009, the day Postecoglou was announced as the new coach.
While his unveiling came on the back of a Frank Farina drink-driving incident, it also had its roots in a desire by the club to address some internal issues, such as public censures of senior players, including Danny Tiatto and Charlie Miller.
Roar, then headed by Peter McLennan and Chris Bombolas, needed a fresh start, and appeared eager to hand Postecoglou responsibility of addressing these issues, many of which centred around an aging squad.
“We want the focus and the attention turned back to what-s happening on the pitch, rather than matters that have happened off the pitch,” said McLennan at the time.
For his part, the message from Postecoglou was about taking total control; it his way or the highway, and he would be judged after 12 months.
They were big words, and needed to be backed by big deeds.
But critically, he had the public support of his bosses, even when the early results didn-t flow and there was murmurs of disquiet within the squad.
In the 17 games between his arrival and the end of the season, Roar only won five. But Postecoglou-s agenda went beyond season five. He was there to regenerate the roster and build for the future.
Within two months he made his first significant statement, releasing fan favourite Miller.
“We-re in the process of evaluating our squad for next season," he said, "and at this point Charlie wasn-t guaranteed a place… It is now time for us to focus on the long-term future of the club.”
There were other indications of the way the squad would shape up, with young defenders Ivan Franjic and Luke DeVere both signed to long-term deals, described as “the first step in building a better Roar”.
Meanwhile, before 2009 was out, Liam Reddy, and, infamously, Craig Moore, were on their way.
Grabbing most of the headlines was the decision to release the Qantas Socceroos veteran, with the club announcing that Moore had issued an ultimatum that it was either he or Postecoglou.
McLennan's response? “No individual is bigger than the club."
A weeks later, Tiatto was again sanctioned for comments he made in the press. Again McLennan was stinging;
“Danny-s comments show a lack of respect for the club... Using the media to air his grievances is completely unacceptable. We will be sitting down with Danny at the first opportunity to discuss with him his position at the club.”
Postecoglou and McLennan were on a mission, but not everything they touched turned to gold.
One flop was the signing of former Belgium defender Pieter Collen, and while diminutive Costa Rican attacking midfielder Steven Bryce showed a few good signs, he was at least an insight into the type of player Postecoglou was after.
Postecoglou-s “style" became apparent before the season ended, with Kosta Barbarouses signed for the following campaign.
“He fits in with the style of football we want to play. He-s quick, exciting, at an age where he really wants make a name for himself,” Postecoglou said.
By season's end, players who were featuring regularly at the time of his arrival were no longer in the mix; Josh McCloughan, Bob Malcolm, Tiatto, David Dodd, Reddy, Miller and Moore.
Andrew Packer would retire a short time later, while Sergio van Dijk decided to make his six month Asian Champions League loan stint with Adelaide United permanent.
And still there was more to do. Even when three of the club-s promising youngsters, Tommy Oar, Michael Zullo and Adam Sarota, were sold to FC Utrecht, it became part of the plan, helping finance other work.
Only a few incumbents remained, including Matt McKay, Mass Murdocca, Mitch Nichols, Reinaldo, Franjic and DeVere.
Having parted with so much experience, Postecoglou addressed the balance, signing of two experienced defenders in Shane Steffanuto and Matt Smith, for three and two years respectively, and keeper Michael Theoklitos.
But there were still a couple of crucial spots Postecoglou needed to fill.
Erik Paartalu arrived with little fanfare in May 2010, but Postecoglou, who guided him at national youth level and understood what he could bring to the side, had big plans to build a game around him.
The next day, three months out from the season, came his key signing, Thomas Broich, who Postecoglou spent weeks courting.
“I went to Europe looking for a player who can play an attacking midfielder but can also contend with the physical demands of the league. I went with the intention of signing Thomas... But it was a bit of a challenge as he-s still only 29 and can probably get another Bundesliga club quite easily,” he said.
“It took four or five weeks of negotiations but in the end we were able to get him and I was delighted because he is exactly the player we need. I-m sure he will make a major impact in the Hyundai A-league... Everywhere I looked and people I asked, it was a pretty consistent message that he-s a very good player and will do very well in the Hyundai A-league."
There was one more visa spot left, and Postecoglou got his striker a month out from the season with the signing of Jean Carlos Solorzano.
Having rounded things out with Milan Susak and James Meyer signing in June, Postecoglou had transformed his squad.
Around this revolutio came a lengthy and detailed pre-season, where Postecoglou and his conditioning man Ken Stead indoctrinated the advanced Roar template, built around patience, use of space, penetrating possession and movement off the ball.
Much as Sydney FC-s Vitezslav Lavicka had done in the successful season prior, the Roar built mileage and understanding by playing game after game against state league sides.
By the time the season started, they were ready, but by no means flowing; in the opening four rounds they had two scoreless draws on the road and won both home games 1-0.
Then came their only loss of last season, in round five, when they were battered away to the Melbourne Victory.
But the lessons were learnt, and 35 games and 80 goals later, across two seasons and 14 months, they find themselves only one game away from setting an incredible Australian record, one that could only have been achieved through the most detailed planning and preparation.