As the Glory players and staff settle in for the mandatory two weeks’ isolation following their return from AFC Champions League duty in Qatar, they will have plenty of time to reflect upon what Head Coach Richard Garcia believes was a “great exercise all round.”
Off the field, the travelling party was hugely appreciative of the excellent service provided by both Qatar Airways and the Ezdan Palace Hotel in Doha and Garcia felt that in the face of a set of unique challenges, the group united and formed strong bonds.
“It was a good exercise in us growing as a group, in us being away together and gelling,” he said.
“I think a lot of the younger guys learned a lot about senior football and themselves and the senior guys, along with some of the younger guys as well, have really stepped up and taken leadership roles.
“It was very good to see many of them evolve into more than just footballers, into good leaders and good athletes.”
The number of new faces in the group makes that level of bonding all the more impressive, with no fewer than ten players making their senior debuts in purple.
Josh Rawlins, Darryl Lachman, Mason Tatafu, Nicholas Walsh, Luke Bodnar, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Declan Hughes, Nick Sullivan, Giordano Colli and Bryce Bafford were the men in question, while Carlo Armiento was also handed his first start for the club and Daniel Stynes made his first non-FFA Cup appearance.
Stynes and Aspropotamitis also bagged their first senior goals for Glory and history was of course made when the club picked up its maiden AFC Champions League point courtesy of the dramatic 3-3 draw with Shanghai Shenhua.
And according to Garcia, it wasn’t just the players who were brought closer together by their experiences in Doha.
“As a staff, we have had a lot to deal with since taking over; it’s been one thing after another,” he said.
“Between us going away so early and not having the preparation time we needed and the mental state of the players at the moment, it’s all been very challenging.
“But it’s been a good experience to try and face those challenges head on and help the guys be the best they can be.
“The staff have done an excellent job.
“I think about us being one team, not just the playing group, but the staff as well.
“We work together tirelessly to help the guys to be as successful as they can be and I think it was a great opportunity for the staff to bond as well.”