Trailblazing coach Joe Montemurro is on the cusp of becoming the first Australian to clinch a significant title overseas, with Arsenal just two wins away from securing the Women’s Premier League crown in his first full season.
The man known simply as ‘Pep’ already has UEFA Champions League qualification in the bag, and with three games left the Gunners have a one point lead over fierce rivals Manchester City, with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference.
They’ve already finished runners up in FA Women’s Cup and won the Continental (league) Cup under Montemurro’s watch.
But it’s the championship which remains the top target for the 49-year-old former Melbourne City W-League coach, and one time A-League assistant to Michael Valkanis.
Twice voted the competition’s manager of the month this season, and heavily linked with the Matildas post until it was filled by Ante Milicic, Montemurro is living the dream at the club he followed as a kid.
“Since arriving here (16 months ago) we’ve been able to get the team back to where they need to be ... competing at the top echelon of women’s football,” Montemurro told The World Game.
“We have chipped away at doing that and have created a good base to go forward. That’s been the biggest achievement for me (so far) in coming here.”
The Gunners face Everton next weekend, then Brighton, with a possible title decider against Manchester City on the final day, though Montemurro hopes the job will have been done by then.
“It’s in our control ... we’ve put ourselves in a nice position,” he said.
“We’ll approach Everton next week with caution and if we can finish things off at Brighton it would be great and the Manchester City game would be a joyous occasion.
“Obviously if things didn’t go as well as we hope the Man City game could be the decider and what a showpiece that would be.”
Montemurro never intended to be a torchbearer other Australians in his profession would seek to emulate, but he’s happy to carry that mantle.
“In all honestly, I’ve never set out to create history in that sense but if I pave the way for a lot of other coaches from Australia to be as successful, and more so than me, it would be a great honour,” he added.
“I’d be more than happy to take that little trophy if it comes my way.
“What I’ve done is to simply make all the sacrifices you need to make as a coach and all the education you need to assimilate.
“It’s just about trying to do all the right things and work honestly and work hard.
“The Australian culture is about being up front and having a strong work ethic and those are the tools I’ve brought with me on this journey.”
Montemurro, who also coached Melbourne Victory’s W-League team, signed a long-term deal with Arsenal in October and is aiming to leave a deep imprint at the club.
“For me it’s a long-term project and there’s still a lot of work to do,” he explained.
“I want whoever comes in after me to have a good stable base to build on.
“When I look at what the future might hold it’s important for me to leave a legacy of stability and solidity at this club.”