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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Angelo Paul's Adelaide City Women on a "ruthless pursuit of excellence"

The 2021 season saw Adelaide City, one of the standard-bearing sides of South Australian women's football, fall short of the WNPL and WNPL & WSL Cup finals. The club then made a change in the technical area. First-year Adelaide City Women head coach Angelo Paul spoke to Front Page Football about accepting the job, his first season in charge, his relationship with Adelaide City Men manager Paul Pezos, and the upcoming WNPL and WSL Cup Final against rivals West Adelaide.

Adelaide City Women head coach Angelo Paul (left) and young striker Yasmina Kasumovic (right) celebrate the latter's maiden senior goal. (Image: Brenton Bessell and Adelaide City FC)

The receiver usually easily decides when Adelaide City calls with an offer. Few had a better platform to confirm that than Angelo Paul. The young coach was offered the Adelaide City Women's top job for the 2022 season.

Paul had no substantial experience in the women's game. Instead, he spent time as an assistant coach in Adelaide United's NPL setup and then at Adelaide City under Michael Matricciani and Paul Pezos. But he jumped at the chance to coach the Adelaide City Women's side.

"For me, it was an absolute no-brainer. Firstly because of the stature of the club; for me, it was quite a privilege to coach [the] first team at Adelaide City, so that was a proud moment," Paul told Front Page Football.

If Paul needed any more convincing that the City Women job was the right move, he only had to look to the senior coach he was assisting on the Men's side. Paul Pezos earned his stripes in South Australian football management in the Women's game. He won the WNPL and the Cup in 2017 with Adelaide City before transitioning to the Adelaide United NPL setup. When discussing it with Paul, the 43-year-old was full of praise for the City Women's job.

"As soon as I got offered the role, the first person I spoke to was Pez (Paul Pezos). He said, ‘mate, it is an excellent job to take,' he recommended that I take it and said that I would learn so much and that it was a great step for me. He was right because, in the women’s game, you are managing a senior team and everything that comes with that," Paul said.

Angelo Paul and Pezos have a history together, with the latter mentoring the young coach in his formative years in management.

"I was just a sponge for the four to five years that I was working with him. It’s been massively beneficial for me to learn and take away his principles and [how] he goes about things," Paul added.

"I was very lucky in a sense to work with him at quite a young age and observe how he set the guideline of how his team wants to play football, the culture that is needed, what is needed from every single player, and what’s needed from him to deliver whatever the task was. Whether it was developing players at Adelaide United or winning championships at Adelaide City."

With Pezos always open to discussing the art of coaching with Paul, either formally or personally, remaining close to his mentor was a perk of taking the job.

"The good thing is that with him coaching the Adelaide City Men, he is accessible still. So any issues, any problems I have, I can go through him and get his advice on everything," Paul said.

Angelo Paul (left) and Paul Pezos (right) celebrate winning the 2021 NPL SA Championship. (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms)

The standout for Paul in his early days as head coach of the Adelaide City Women? The culture of the team he inherited was spearheaded by the club's successful senior players, that boast impressive resumes.

"They are a professional group and hard workers, which sets the tone for the younger girls. Most of my recruits in the off-season were younger players, so right from the onset, it was a very good start. It made the environment better for the young players to develop because that culture is already set," Paul said.

"The senior girls have won quite a bit in the past, but you can see they are still hungry and driven for success. It made life a lot easier, and I [could] implement what I wanted to do quite quickly, which was good."

Paul has masterminded City's return to a final after it fell short in two crushing four-goal margin defeats in the previous year. But he acknowledged the work former coach Jamie Dunning put in to develop the squad during a time of transition in 2021, something that is beginning to bear fruits today.

"I am ecstatic that we could make a final, but it’s off some good work in the past couple of years. Jamie had to work with [many] young players and did a good job developing them. But he was only able to get a handful of games from those senior girls, so there was a lot of chopping and changing of the squad each week. He set a good foundation for them to move on and try and build off that," Paul said.

West Adelaide players celebrate the opener in their 4-0 WNPL Semi Final victory over Adelaide City in 2021. (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms)

City may have reached the final, but the task is anything but simple. Angelo Paul's side is coming up against a West Adelaide juggernaut that eliminated City in the 2021 WNPL semi-finals. West Adelaide has dominated the 2022 season, sitting on top of the WNPL ladder with a goal difference in the 50s.

Despite its dominance, Tracey Jenkins' West Adelaide is mortal after all. Its only loss intriguingly came at the hands of Paul's Adelaide City in the first game of the season in an eight-goal thriller. It's an omen that may help City's morale heading into the final.

Their second encounter this season saw Adelaide City take the lead once again. But after grabbing an equaliser, West Adelaide evened the wins ledger via a stunning Nicole Blackett free kick at the death.

"I think we take a lot of confidence because we know we can beat them. In the second game we played, we lost the game 2-1, but we played quite well, and if you watch the game back, we were missing a lot of players," Paul said.

"Even in that game, we scored early, [and] had a few very good chances to make [it] 2-0, but we didn’t capitalise on that. Then they scored a goal, but we managed them quite well. They got the win in the end; they deserved the win. But I think they know that when they play us, it is not going to be an easy game, and we will take a lot of confidence knowing that we have beaten them going into the final."

Like last year, Adelaide City has been missing its star power throughout the season. But it has managed to compete strongly in the league. While Paul hopes most of his players will be available for the final, he will be without some considerable star power.

"Matilda (McNamara) has moved overseas; that’s super exciting for her; I hope she does well. Isabel Hodgson won’t be available for the final. But we will have the majority of our players back by then," he said.

Regardless of who takes the field on the day, Paul's expectations and philosophy remain the same, the young coach adamant that is the path to success.

"There is a culture of winning already; the girls that come into the club have to buy into that. They know we have to be quite ruthless in our pursuit of excellence," Paul stated.

"I think that (mentality) is quite beneficial. It may add some pressure, but I am trusting the process I have implemented from preseason, trusting myself, and believing in my plans. I believe success will come [if] you stick to your principles; that’s how I’ve approached it."

Experienced players like Daniela Di Bartolo, Dylan Holmes, Alyce Macauley, Valeria Guajardo, and Ali Atkins will hopefully be available for City's big day. Its young core, spearheaded by Katie Bowler, will be well supported in its bid to bring the club back to the heights it is accustomed to reaching. A trophy can help the winning culture instilled by the coach and his senior players be effectively sold onto another generation of young players in black and white.

If you would like to read our interview with Kur Kur, a former Adelaide City star who recently moved to the Serbian first division, click here.


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