Australia midfielder Mark Milligan has credited Ange Postecoglou with taking his game “to a new level” as Melbourne Victory closes in on a fourth A-League grand final in eight seasons.
The one-time defender sealed a permanent deal in July after his loan spell under Jim Magilton at the back end of last season with aspirations of nailing down a position in the Victory engine room.
And with nine goals this season, including the penalty which brought Victory back from the dead in its elimination final against Perth Glory last weekend, Socceroos member Milligan has emerged as one of the club’s success stories of 2012-2013 as it prepares for Sunday evening’s grand final qualifier against Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium.
“Ange has helped me see the game in a different way and develop my game to a new level and I’m grateful for that,” said Milligan, who was cast in the role of utility in his former incarnations at Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets, Shanghai Shenhua and JEF United.
“I’m happy now to be playing in the one position on a regular basis and that’s down to Ange.
“It’s helped me develop my game for Victory and the Socceroos.
“He’s got me looking at the game in a different way and appreciating things and understanding things that might have escaped me in the past.
”I look at things in a deeper way now, maybe more like a coach might as I grow a bit older.
“I think the way he relates to players and gets his messages across is one of his great strengths. That’s what sets him apart in my view, along with his tactical expertise.
“He’s definitely brought out the best in me and man-management wise he’s been excellent with the whole squad. I feel that I’ve certainly grown as a player under his influence.”
Milligan insisted that Victory – despite being humbled 6-2 by Central Coast at Bluetongue in round 22 – will carry no baggage into the match and will play its normal swashbuckling style against a Mariners side controlled by coach Graham Arnold’s rigid scriptures.
“We’ve been building for these big matches over the past few months.” added Milligan.
“We won’t worry too much about the blow-out scoreline there last time and we will play the way that suits us best, which is to attack.
“That’s the mentality we go out with in any game under Ange. He had a big ambition to finish as the season’s top scorers in the A-League (at the end of the home and season) and we ended up tied with Central Coast with 48 goals each.
“We have conceded too many and that’s been an issue. But the philosophy is always to have a go at teams no matter where we play.
”Ange’s belief is that the best form of defence tends to be attack.”
With just four wins in 16 finals matches, the pressure is on the Mariners – also chasing a fourth grand final appearance - but right back Pedj Bojic believes they will not disappoint.
Rested from Tuesday night’s 2-1 AFC Champions League loss against Guizhou Renhe, the club’s dead-ball specialist said: “We have lost once at home all season and we are at out strongest at Bluetongue.
“I think that gives us a real advantage against Victory. After the disappointment of falling short last year, I think we’ve got that added motivation to make sure we reach the grand final this time.”