Fire embraces underdog status and thrives on it
FOOTBALL: Sunshine Coast Fire coach Kevin A'herne-Evans says his players are relishing their new-found underdog status.
The Fire was once considered the glamour club of the now-defunct Queensland State League, winning two premierships and three championships from 2007-12. It also finished third in the inaugural season of the National Premier League (Queensland) last year.
But after a major player exodus it finds itself in the unfamiliar position of underdog this year.
A'herne-Evans said it was a foreign feeling to the club but something he was familiar with during his time playing for English sides Leeds United, Swansea City and Cardiff City.
"It is something the club has not had in its existence and every game has that FA Cup feel where we want to go out there and prove a point," he said.
"Where I am from we were often the underdogs so it is something that is deep in my roots, to be honest.
"I love that mentality and that mindset when you are under siege and that togetherness and the bond that you get as a group is second to none."
It seems his new players are also thriving on it, with A'herne-Evans admitting the 'little guy' tag was getting the best out of his young and inexperienced side.
"Last year we were going out there expected to win every game by playing a certain brand of football," he said.
"This year we're just going out there with a lot of freedom and working hard for each other - and they are keen to prove a lot of people wrong and that they can compete at this level.
"The difference in pressure is night and day."
The side's status will not change this weekend in its round five clash against the Brisbane Roar youth side.
The Fire has greatly improved since losing its opening two matches of the season against Palm Beach (5-0) and Brisbane Strikers (4-2) to win its past two matches against the Western Pride (3-1) and Harimau Muda A (2-1), the Malaysia national under 22 team.
Some of that form reversal can be attributed to the return of captain Paul Arnison and goal keeper Antony Hall, as well the side's in-form Japanese imports Chiharu Kosuge, Futa Nakamura and Shiochi Koshimizu.
"We were always going to be a different side when we had those guys in the team," he said. "It's not such a surprise to me and I have been talking about how hard they work for a long time.
"It is another step and while it is great to get a win against a well-recognised team as we did last week, we are not under any misunderstandings of where we are as a group and how hard we need to continue to keep working.
"The Brisbane Roar (youth side) are the masters at ball retention in the build up and their rotation in the middle of the field is superb."
Fire: A Hall, W Zammit, B Messenger, R Delahunty, J Cushiere, C Kosuge, R Kelly, P Arnison, S Knight, M Koshimizu, S Nickolls, J Courte, J Cross, J Lanos, J Moore.
SUNSHINE COAST v BRISBANE
Tomorrow, Stockland Stadium, 2.15pm