In-form Melbourne Victory have made a statement of intent to the rest of the A-League, according to resurgent midfielder Billy Celeski.
Victory defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 away from home last week, keeping a clean sheet and bagging all three points despite losing Sam Gallagher to a red card after 16 minutes.
Their next test is a home game against Perth Glory on Friday, and Celeski feels the visitors have every reason to be wary when they take on a Victory side playing with renewed solidity under Ange Postecoglou.
“I’m full of confidence, I think the team is as well, there’s a lot of belief amongst the boys,” Celeski said.
“I think we sent a real message out to the league on the weekend that even with 10 men we’ve held a clean sheet, we’re willing to work hard for each other and we’re really going to be hard to break down.”
For Victory, the downside to their improved form is the creeping return of sky-high expectations, something never far away for one of the best-supported and most successful clubs in the competition.
Having won three of their past four matches, talk of a competitive finals showing – perhaps even a premiership challenge – is already mounting in some circles, a concept promptly dismissed by the level-headed Celeski.
“We don’t really pay too much attention to that sort of stuff,” he said.
“I think it was important for us to get our game right to begin with and now that the results are there we’ll … look forward to that (a potential finals appearance) but not just yet. It’s game by game for us still for us. We need to get a run of games together.”
While it remains to be seen how far Victory can go this season, Celeski was in no doubt where the praise for the club’s revival should be directed, citing Postecoglou as the driving force behind their transformation.
“Yeah, the culture’s definitely changed,” he said.
“It’s night and day (compared) to last season. We were all on notice when Ange got here. We’re repaying his belief in us, because he’s got a lot of confidence in us as a team.”
When asked what the secret was behind the change in attitude, Celeski said: “It’s just a combination of everything – new system of playing, the boys have really bought into it.
“This last month it’s really starting to click now. The willingness to stick together out there and to play well, it starts out here in training, today everyone is putting in and working really hard.”