Bentleigh Greens technical director of six years Frank McGrellis was overseas with an U 17’s youth team in Bangkok last week, when he received an unexpected SOS from the club to take over the reins as senior Greens coach for the remainder of the year, following the sudden departure of coach John Gabrielson.

McGrellis has answered the call to help the club despite a busy work schedule. Speaking to Neos Kosmos this week, the popular Scot whose last senior coaching job was at Malvern City (followed by an assistant coach’s role for a season at Bulleen Lions), said: “Bentleigh has proved themselves to be up there with the best NPL clubs in the country. So to get the opportunity, even in the short term, to try and motivate and get enthusiasm into the guys, and try to turnaround an inconsistent period. Yeah, that’s a bit of an honour.”

The inconsistent period McGrellis mentions is exemplified by the drop in percentage games won in the second half of the season. In the first half of the season, the Greens won 70 percent of their matches but in the second half, that figure has dropped to around 40 per cent, as well as being eliminated from the FFA Cup/Dockerty Cup competitions.
Despite knowing early in the pre-season that long term coach John Anastasiadis would depart to take up an A-League appointment, the club opted to retain the coach for the first half of the season before handing operations over to his assistant. Despite this seemingly smooth transition, there was speculation as to how the team would fare following Anastasiadis’ departure as well as that of key forward Valentino Yuel.

McGrellis said that it’s probably an expectation that you are “going to have some ramifications” when you lose a quality senior coach and a quality senior striker to the A-League.

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“Was that the factor (in the inconsistent results) or was it the transition from Johnny A to Johnny G with the players?” he asked.

“Was that a factor or not? It’s hard to pick. But the inconsistency has obviously affected the feeling of the club. Valentino was a big loss. In the window when they departed, we basically had five new players come in. Of the five we’ve only had two consistent starters, Futa Nakamura and Mario Illich. Was that a factor? ..With a club like Bentleigh, the expectation and ambition of the club is to get results. And if you’re talking around 70 percent, you want to keep and maintain that sort of percentage. Forty per cent over 10 games won going into finals. Is that an expectation Bentleigh can accept?”

Bentleigh has always been a creative team, but in past seasons has also been very solid defensively. This season it has conceded more goals already than in nearly all its previous NPL seasons. McGrellis says this is an area that needs to be addressed.

“Absolutely, and we’ve tried to address it already. It’s easy to blame the goalkeeper and the back four, but the expectation in modern football is you defend from the front. We’ve conceded by far the most goals of any of the teams in the top eight of the division. And it’s not Bentleigh like. Obviously there’s a pattern there that we’re trying to turn around. And that’s a factor of where we’re at.”

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What looked like a three-horse race between Avondale, Bentleigh and Heidelberg United for the Premier’s Plate, now looks increasingly like a two horse race between the Bergers and Avondale following Bentleigh’s inconsistent run of late. McGrellis says the aim for the remainder of the season is “to win every game and see how that develops.”

Asked if the players and the club still retain a belief that they can contend for silverware at the end of the season, McGrellis said, “Look, we’re inconsistent in results over a period of time, and that can even go back to when JA was at the club. We’re inconsistent over 90 minutes because we’re totally dominating matches for patches of the 90 minutes, but for some reason we go in our shell and we don’t look like what Bentleigh’s been like. So, we’re still confident in the squad, that we can A. create, and if we can B. close up at the back and not concede as many goals, that we can still be a part of the finals right until the grand final.”