St George journey back to the top

One of Australia’s most iconic football clubs, St. George, are preparing to make the step back to the NSW Premier League.

After undergoing arguably the most tumultuous period in the club-s history, one of Australia-s most iconic football clubs, St. George, are preparing to make the step back to the NSW Premier League. The club has spent a period of nine seasons saddled in the State-s second tier, during which time the Saints battled their axing in court and came close to extinction.

Having recently won their First Grade minor-premiership and the Saints- senior men-s teams claiming the Club Championship for season 2013, promotion would seemingly be a formality. However the club are not getting too far ahead of themselves even though there look to be some exciting times ahead. A new playing facility is in the works, they have an upcoming trial against Sydney FC and of course there is a grand final to be won.

According to Head Coach Manny Spanoudakis, the transformation of the Club has been a long-term strategic plan underpinned by hard work and aimed at getting St. George back to being the number one Premier League club in the country.

“We created an all-encompassing strategy that included player development, football operations, administration, technical direction, sports science and set about executing this plan,” said Spanoudakis.

“We have some truly wonderful and dedicated people at the club, which has allowed us to maximise the benefit of our resources.

“In order to be successful you need to empower people to make decisions in their area of expertise and I think we-ve done that.”

Club President Ross Gardner, who has led the club since 2001, was also proud of St. George-s achievements so far this year but stressed the Saints would continue to keep moving forward.

“We are currently negotiating the Premier League requirements which need to be submitted by 6 September and we should know the outcome by the end of October.

“Certainly having won the Minor-Premiership and Club Championship we have a sense of entitlement but there are no guarantees.

“Our only concern at this stage would be the location of our home ground but we are currently negotiating that and are confident we-ll have it covered.”

St. George will seemingly not be sure of their home for long with a brand new facility being commissioned to be built close to their existing home ground at Barton Park. The site will function as a mini precinct and have a football complex with three full size synthetic pitches and a 2,500 capacity covered grandstand. It is set to be complete during 2015.

Gardner said this was a very exciting outcome and one that-s been part of a long journey of vision and commitment.

This journey can be traced all the way back to shortly after the end of World War II, when the club was founded by Hungarian migrants. In the 1960-s, led by pioneering football administrator Alex Pongrass, the Saints as they would come to be known, bedded their roots in the St.George district.

Along the way have been many successful seasons, with the Club winning the NSL Championship in 1983 under Frank Arok, who would go on to coach the Socceroos. The 70-s were a time of particular prosperity, with the club often filling the majority of the Socceroos side.

In 1974 St George set a record for the most players from any one club side on a World Cup team when they fielded five players against hosts East Germany. This contingent included Australian football royalty Johnny Warren.

Looking ahead and St. George will meet the winner of the clash between the Macarthur Rams and Mounties Wanderes FC for a place in the NSW Premier League Men-s 2 grand final. Despite the Saints being on the cusp of top-flight football Spanoudakis is adamant his side-s goals for the season have not yet all been achieved.

“We set out at the start of the year with four goals. To win the minor-premiership; to win the grand final; to win the Club Championship and to get promoted - so we still have a way to travel.”

With their recent history being punctuated with turmoil St. George will be hoping a grand final win will cap what has been a dominant season and that promotion puts an exclamation point on what has been a long journey back to the top. Though for the Saints it seems the next journey has already begun.

St. George Saints v Sydney FC Wednesday 11 September, 2013 7.15pm WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah click here for more details