In his post-playing career, Alvin Ceccoli always wanted to be a head coach. He just never knew the opportunity would arise so soon.
The 46-year-old was on Monday unveiled as Albion Park's new Illawarra Premier League mentor, just one day after the White Eagles parted ways with Rob Birkin and Chad Bishop.
It is Ceccoli's first coaching gig after hanging up the boots for Corrimal in 2020 due to a calcarine bursitis on his heel. The injury brought down the curtains on a stellar playing career that spanned more than two decades, highlighted by representing three A-League clubs and playing six games for the Socceroos.
While he got used to life after playing football, Ceccoli had hoped to look for coaching opportunities later this year. However, the sudden departure of Birkin and Bishop on Sunday opened up an unexpected door to take over the reins at Albion Park.
"It came out of left field really," Ceccoli said.
"I didn't even know what had happened really, but obviously I'm not doing much at football and I have a connection with Darryl Waller who is the football manager there. I've had a lot of success, more so as a player, and he needed to rectify the situation quickly. The reality is there's probably not a lot of coaches around because it's the start of the season. But he knows I've got my tickets, so he asked me (to be coach).
"But it's exciting. Did I see myself doing anything this year? Probably towards the later part of the year, if anything. But I didn't expect it so early. So it's been a quick 24 hours really. I'd always envisioned still playing, but my foot's not allowing me to do it, so that was decided a few months ago. Every club was taken up and I wasn't really putting any feelers out there. You sort of expect these calls later in the year when there's relegation or something's happened - I didn't expect it now."
After finishing fifth last season, the White Eagles were among the 2021 pre-season title favourites after signing the likes of former A-League defender Pedj Bojic and US Virgin Islands captain JC Mack. However, the side started their campaign with a dour 1-0 win over Cringila before playing out a 1-1 draw with Bellambi.
Ceccoli will have his first training session on Tuesday night ahead of Albion Park's round three clash with Port Kembla at Wetherall Park on Sunday.
"Initially, it's up to the players to react to the situation. If I get a reaction, we're on a good path. If there's no reaction, you can obviously see there's big problems in the club," he said.
"My first thing is to get a reaction this week. It's about the players and igniting that reaction. I think there will be games between the players (at training). They've got to show themselves up, because there's a game on the weekend.
"I've played with some of the players, and against some of them, but there's a few that I don't know. So this is my opportunity to get to know them as well. I've also got an assistant coming on board, Rob Saverino. He's sort of not known in the football circles, but he's a former player and has a good knowledge on the game. He will be there on Tuesday night as well. So it's exciting times, but it's all about the players this week."
As for the big picture, Ceccoli knows there will be an internal - and external - expectation for Albion Park to perform well in 2021.
"The White Eagles have a big history in the league," he said.
"They probably haven't been as successful in the last few years, but there always thereabouts. I know a lot of the committee people, just from playing against them and socialising with them. I understand the demand that they have, but I'm looking forward to it."