To some he’s a hardened manager whose demands are difficult to meet but to Jason Davidson, Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is a winner - and just the man he needs to work with at a critical point in his career.
The sometime Socceroos left-back is approaching his first taste of the A-League after an at times turbulent nine-year European adventure.
And coming under the spell of “perfectionist” Popovic has honed his fitness and desire, in what he hopes will be a “big season” for himself and a Glory team brimming with nine new signings and a simmering ambition with their 2014 AFC Champions League winner at the helm.
“Tony Popovic is without doubt one of the best coaches that I’ve worked under,” said Davidson, whose career stops include Portugal, England, Netherlands and Croatia.
“His attention to detail is unbelievable. He is a hard task master and well known for that in Australia.
“He wants perfection and he looks at the smallest things to get that, both and off the pitch.
“It’s not easy and the pre-season training schedule hasn’t been easy.
“The demand for players to perform is always there - it’s a good thing and keeps everybody on their toes.”
While some who have taken the Popovic path have wilted, Davidson, 27, said linking up with the man who Glory owner Tony Sage believes will finally deliver the club silverware, is just the sort of medicine required to extract every last drop from his talent.
“For me, it’s something that I needed and I wanted,” he said.
“And since I’ve been here it’s been unbelievable and I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“I’ve got myself into the best shape I’ve been in for a very long time.
“I feel good, I feel strong and have lost a couple kilos. It’s due to him (Popovic) and what he wants and demands from his players.”
Davidson believes Popovic also has extra motivation to exorcise some demons of his own after falling short in Turkey Karabukspor - the club he joined on the eve of the last A-League season after leading Western Sydney Wanderers to Champions League glory, a Premiership and three grand finals.
“From being with him just a short period of time, I can see how much of a winner he is and the fact it didn’t work out as planned in Turkey has probably left a bit of a chip on his shoulder,” Davidson said.
“He’ll want to make sure he comes back and wins and that attitude rubs off on the players.”
With the likes of fellow fringe Socceroos Ivan Franjic, Tomislav Mrcela, Matthew Spiranovic and Chris Ikonomidis among the new arrivals, Glory are top-heavy with intent.
“I’ve not played in the competition before and I’m not sure how the other squads are looking but from my perspective, training with the boys and looking at the names at the club, we’ve put a great team together,” he said.
“We’re going to be a team to be reckoned with this year.
“If I perform well, I think the shop window will also be open with the national team.
“Anything can happen, I’ve been in the boat where it’s turned for me in a positive way and also a negative way.
“I need to come out firing and so does the team. If I do that, I’ll give myself an opportunity.
“It’s been proven in the past that if you play well in the A-League things can open up also with the national team.”
As fate would have it, Glory’s A-League opener is at home to the Wanderers on October 21, as Popovic gets to show his former club what they’re missing.