A decorated and much-admired figure in the women’s game, Westfield Matildas' coach Alen Stajcic has helped solidify Australia’s place as one of the strongest countries in world football.
The 44-year-old was appointed head coach in 2014 on the back of six stellar years in the Westfield W-League with Sydney FC.
Since then, he's played a key role in developing some of our nation’s best talents, led the country to a World Cup quarter-final, an Asian Cup final and our first ever win over a world superpowers USA.
Stajcic was a handy player in his day, spending time with NSW NPL outfits Mount Druitt Town Rangers, Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Bankstown City Lions and Sutherland Sharks.
At the age of 29 Stajcic was appointed head coach of the NSW Institute of Sport women’s football program and would later guide the NSW Sapphires to a Women's National Soccer League Premiership in 2003/04.
After five years with NSWIS, Stajcic took charge of the Westfield Young Matildas in 2007 and was subsequently appointed head coach of Sydney FC for the inaugural Westfield W-League season in 2008.
Under his command, the Sky Blues made the semi-finals in all six seasons while also claiming two Premierships and two Championships. His impact at the harbour city would eventually see him inducted into the Sydney FC Hall of Fame in 2015.
In April 2014, Stajcic was appointed head coach of the Westfield Matildas on an interim basis following the departure of Hesterine de Reus. He did well enough during that interim period to be awarded the role full-time in September that same year.
HISTORY WITH AUSTRALIA
Appointed on the eve of the 2014 Asian Cup after the departure of then-coach de Reus, Stajcic guided the team to the final of the tournament but wasn’t able to secure the trophy.
He was in charge for the 2015 Women’s World Cup and became the first ever Australian-born head coach to win a World Cup match. Although the Westfield Matildas crashed out in the quarter-finals against Japan it was still a great achievement from the side, and remains Australia's equal-best ever finish at the tournament.
Under Stajcic, the Westfield Matildas qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games and put on a good showing, equalling Australia's best-ever run at the Olympics before going out in the quarter-finals to Brazil on penalties.
The Westfield Matildas finished fourth at the Algarve Cup in both 2017 and 2018, and won the inaugural Tournament of Nations last year, headlined by the side's landmark first win over the USA.
Since his appointment four years ago, the Australian stalwart has helped produce the best from a steadily-growing pool of talent, and has led the national side to deep tournament runs.The Westfield Matildas have lost just 11 matches of 56 played under Stajcic, and he boasts a win percentage just over 57%.
Under Stajcic, the Westfield Matildas have become renowned for exploiting the physical qualities of our nation’s best players and trotting out an attacking, high-intensity game.
It’s a style that has endeared Australian fans to the team with great success. Patient middle-third build up, off the ball movement and integration of wide attackers have all been qualities integral to this approach.
Stajcic's system has allowed individual players to truly flourish, and none more so than superstar forward Sam Kerr. 19 of Kerr's 24 international goals have come during Stajcic’s high-intensity attacking style of play.
When Stajcic took the reins in 2014, the Westfield Matildas squad was stocked with young teenage talents like Alanna Kennedy, Chloe Logarzo and Hayley Raso.
Since then, these three and members of the Australian old guard have taken their games to a whole new level under Stajcic's tutelage.
In more recent times, Stajcic has integrated the likes of 18-year-old Ellie Carpenter, 19-year-old Alex Chidiac and 22-year-old Larissa Crummer into the national team set-up.
With talented youngsters like teenagers Kyra Cooney-Cross, Melina Ayres, and Princess Ibini on their way up there’s no doubt Stajcic can bring the next generation into the fold.