JUST before 5pm on Saturday 8 September Gus Macleod will walk off the pitch for the last time as head coach of Langwarrin.
That moment will mark the end of a journey that started in pre-season training for the 1999 season and took 20 years to complete.
In all Macleod will have been at the helm for 447 league games, a feat that seems destined to stand the test of time.
He’s won multiple promotions and league championships with Langwarrin, Dockerty Cups with Fawkner and Green Gully and a State League Cup and Division One title with Springvale City.
And every step along the way at Lawton Park Macleod has had his assistant and friend Neil Collyer at his side and for most of the way Robert Mathieson junior, Robert Mathieson senior, Peter Tuckett, Dave Robson, Jim Morrison and Billy Bentley who have been integral parts of Langwarrin’s coaching staff.
Robson, Morrison and Bentley are no longer actively involved and it’s unlikely that current members of the senior coaching staff will stay.
The official announcement of Macleod’s pending departure was made last week and included recognition of the contributions of Ronnie Whitton, Victor Shive, Ritchie May, Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor, club technical director Steve Fisher, goalkeeping coach Chris Jones, major sponsor Greg Kilner and club president John Heskins.
“I left training last week with mixed emotions – a bit of pride, a bit of sadness – but the time was right because I don’t have the energy to build what we’ll need for next season,” Macleod said.
“You’ve got to finish in the top six next year to stay in the NPL for 2020 with the bottom six going into a new VPL1 league.”
Macleod won’t recommend a successor nor will he take on another role at the club as he wants the new coach to have a fresh start and a free reign.
“It’s a big job and I would think it probably needs someone younger, someone with the appropriate accreditation (at least a B licence) who has NPL experience and can attract NPL players to the club.”
No current local senior coach ticks all these boxes and the name most often linked with the position in the past few days is that of Oakleigh Cannons gaffer and Frankston South resident Chris Taylor.
His refusal to comment has fuelled speculation that the two-time Victorian Premier League Coach of the Year is weighing up his options.
Stuart Munro and Aaron Healey have also been mooted as candidates and a five-member working committee will conduct interviews.
Another candidate to emerge over the weekend is “Squizzy” Taylor, coach of Langy’s under-20s who has won a championship at that level with Bentleigh Greens.
Taylor holds a B licence, is well connected in NPL circles and would not baulk at the playing budget likely to be part of the deal given that Langy has operated throughout 2018 on the lowest budget in NPL2 East.
In State 4 South news Baxter inched clear of the relegation zone on goal difference after Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Dandenong Warriors.
Dandenong had the better of the first half but Baxter bossed the second period.
Critics claim Dandenong is an academy masquerading as a community club and the close skills and ball movement of the visitors were highlighted in the opening 45 minutes but once Baxter turned the game into a physical contest it was rewarded.
Josh Bowen took advantage of hesitation in the Baxter defence to slide in and opening the scoring in the 10th minute.
A near post header from Tom Cikoratic drew a superb response from Baxter keeper James Foster in the 29th minute and three minutes later Baxter striker Mark Pagliarulo held off a defender but sent his low shot wide.
Bowen made it 2-0 in the 34th minute after Baxter gave the ball away and the attacking midfielder was sent clear striking the ball low past advancing Foster from 10 metres.
A high ball into the Dandenong area in the 38th minute was controlled by Pagliarulo who turned his marker and threw himself onto the ground and referee Ian Stead pointed to the spot.
Pagliarulo had no trouble converting and Baxter had a lifeline but it took a well-timed sliding tackle from Stuart McKenzie in the 44th minute to stop Ahmed Habeeb from effecting a tap-in and restoring the visitors’ two-goal cushion.
Four minutes into the second half scores were level.
Tim Lee drove the ball in low from the right and Adrian Pace controlled it then curled a left-foot strike from just outside the area in off the far post.
In the 66th minute a solo run by Ben Meiklem ended with a low left-foot shot that Dandenong keeper Chaiwat Koythong did will to parry and a stunning 30-metre Bowen effort crashed off the crossbar in the 70th minute.
Shortly after Koythong made his best save of the contest diving low to his left to get a hand to Pagliarulo’s quickly taken free-kick that was destined for the far corner.
The contest ended for Dandenong central midfielder Mohsen Hassani a few minutes later when he was yellow carded for dissent for the second time in 10 minutes.
In the end Baxter was left ruing its inability to claim all three points in its ongoing battle to avoid the drop.
In State 5 South news a last gasp equaliser broke Somerville Eagles’ hearts as the local side was forced to settle for a 4-4 draw with lowly Knox United at Somerville Secondary College on Saturday.
An error-prone defence proved Somerville’s undoing as it missed a glorious opportunity to ramp up its promotion push.
Somerville started brightly and scored two quick-fire goals with player-coach David Greening finishing well from a Louis Griffiths cross in the 2nd minute then converting from the spot after being felled in the area seven minutes later.
The first of four goals for Knox from calamitous defending came in the 26th minute with two free headers in the box allowing Gerard Vincent to make it 2-1.
Greening then grabbed his third following a superb through ball from Harry Chapman in the 38th minute but right on half-time the lively Robert Taylor found space in the area and the former Richmond and Doncaster Rovers midfielder finished well to make it 3-2.
Just 30 seconds into the second half Matt Swanson was dispossessed and Max Khalaf made it 3-3.
The rest of the game was a scrappy affair but in the 69th minute a piece of magic from Joel Wade after beating two defenders looked to have won the game for the Eagles.
But in the final minute a long ball downfield from Knox keeper Daniel Stapelfeldt bounced through the entire Somerville midfield and defence and Taylor was on hand to finish calmly and send the Knox faithful into raptures.
“It’s a disappointing result and the performance today was probably our worst of the season but that’s football,” Greening said.
“Fair play to Knox because they came here and were the better team but to concede at the death like that was a huge kick in the teeth after we thought we had scraped an undeserved win.”
In NPLW news Southern United was at home to Bayside United on Sunday as we went to print but there was doubt as to whether the fixture would go ahead.
Earlier in the day the under 12s, under-14s, under-16s and under-19s games were called off due to adverse weather and the condition of Monterey Reserve.
Next weekend’s games:
FRIDAY, 8.30pm: Doncaster Rovers v Peninsula Strikers (Anderson Park).
SATURDAY 3pm: Eastern Lions v Langwarrin (Gardiners Creek Reserve), Mornington v Caulfield Utd Cobras (Dallas Brooks Park), Skye Utd v Whitehorse Utd (Skye Recreation Reserve), South Yarra v Seaford Utd (Fawkner Park), Baxter v Keysborough (Baxter Park), Somerville v Bunyip District (Tyabb Central Recreation Reserve), Aspendale v Lyndale Utd (Jack Grut Reserve).
SUNDAY, 3pm: North Caulfield v Frankston Pines (Knox Regional Football Centre).
SUNDAY 3.15pm: Southern Utd v Geelong Galaxy Utd (Monterey Reserve, U12s 9am, U14s 10.15am, U16s 11.40am, U19s 1.15pm).