The prospect of Melbourne Victory unveiling a homegrown head coach is gathering momentum, with Wellington Phoenix success story Ufuk Talay emerging as a leading contender alongside the likes of Tony Popovic and John Aloisi.
Phoenix fans will be dismayed - though not surprised - to see Talay’s name linked to Australia’s best supported club after a maiden season in which he has guided the Nix to third on the A-League ladder playing a breathtaking brand of football.
Many have still not forgiven predecessor Mark Rudan for severing ties after a single season - and with 12 months left on his contract - to join Western United.
First-time head coach Talay, 44, also has another year to run on his deal and insisted back in January he would see out the agreement.
He inherited a team stripped of the likes of Sarpreet Singh, Roy Krishna and David Williams.
But his rebuilding job has been near faultless with Wellington - despite losing their opening four games - excelling off the back of dizzying performances from Liberato Cacace and Ulises Davila and the dependability of veterans Gary Hooper, David Ball and Luke DeVere.
None of this has gone unnoticed at 10th-placed Victory, who are on to their third coach of a forgettable season, with Marco Kurz’s stop-gap successor Carlos Salvachua departing prematurely and club great Grant Brebner in charge for the remainder of the campaign.
Former Sydney FC assistant Talay, who also headed up the Young Socceroos for two years, is increasingly seen within the Victory ranks as the man to rebuild the club in the same vein he’s managed at Wellington.
Ironically, Talay was recommended for the post by Rudan, who cited missing his family as one reason for his exit.
Talay, in contrast, brought his family across the Tasman and vowed to show the club loyalty, declaring on arrival: “I'm here for the long haul. I'm not here to use Wellington Phoenix as a stepping stone."
Whether he will be able to resist an offer from Victory remains to be seen, with interest from the club in early front-runner Popovic cooling somewhat.
In addition to being a more costly option, Perth Glory incumbent Popovic would be keen to integrate his sons, Gabriel and Kristian, into the Victory squad as part of a package deal.
That stipulation presents a stumbling block for Victory, who would also need to stump up in excess of $750,000 to tempt Popovic east.
Former Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar coach Aloisi, who remains a strong contender for the Adelaide United job, is also in the mix.