'We’ve come alive again': Strikers 20-year rebirth in pursuit of FFA Cup history
An FFA Cup Quarter Final clash against Moreland Zebras on Wednesday night has filled Brisbane Strikers with a rare air of anticipation.
It's been 20 years since the Queensland NPL side won the 1997 NSL Championship, but now the club is ready to perform on the national stage once again.
“I think the club has come alive again in the last few months since we’ve been back on the national stage,” Brisbane Strikers Head Coach Owen Baker told the FFA Cup website.
“The Cup has been the highlight of our season, it became a good time and a distraction from our league results. But we’ve had to beat some good teams to get to where we are.
“Ultimately it’s pure excitement from everybody. We’ve got a fantastic supporter base and the history goes back a long way.
“I think some people can remember the good times of the 1997 Grand Final and have been able to relate the two experiences this year, so we want to keep that run going for those people who have had a long history at the club.”
Brisbane’s clash with Moreland ensures at least one state league side will make the last four of the FFA Cup, and if the Strikers were to progress, Baker would lead his side into battle with no fear, having already sent Wellington Phoenix tumbling out of the cup in the Round of 32.
“The Wellington night was a night which the players will remember for the rest of their careers I believe,” Baker said.
“Then Manly United (in the Round of 16) was a different style and a different kind of game.
“In every game we’ve played we’ve had to adapt, learn and find different ways to win, and we know Moreland is going to offer a different challenge as well.
“We know they are a fantastic team and they’ll want to get through to the Semi Finals as much as us, but we know it’s a wonderful opportunity at our home ground to play in a Quarter Final.”
Baker has coached the Strikers for two years since rising through the ranks as the under 15’s and 18’s gaffer, but he explained there will be no change in Brisbane's approach to the game in the Quarter Final.
“It’s been an amazing journey, a rollercoaster of a ride,” Baker said.
HOW TO WATCH: FFA Cup Quarter Finals
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been at the club now for seven years.
“I’ve had lots of support and good people around me and at the same time we’ve been able to develop some good young players in the first team as well.
“I think the most important thing going into a Cup Quarter Final is you know it’s do-or-die and there’s only one winner at the end, but you stay true to who you are and play the way that’s got you there in the first place.
“That’s what we’ll try to do: play our way, the Brisbane Strikers way.”
And in case you’re unfamiliar with the ‘Brisbane Strikers way’, Baker has a few tips for what to expect when people across the country tune in to watch his side take on the Zebras.
“We like to get the ball on the ground and play an attacking brand of football, so if people are watching in the grand stands or home on the sofa on TV it will be enjoyable to watch,” Baker said.
“We’re lucky we’ve got a decent enough pitch where we believe we can get the ball down and play a good brand of football.
“We want to do the simple things as well, but every game we go out to win and hopefully we’ll score more goals than the opposition.”
It’s a tale of two underdogs on Wednesday night, which will result in the fairy-tale continuing for one while stopping the other agonisingly short of a dream run to the final four of the FFA Cup.
But regardless of the result, Baker sees the FFA Cup as a vehicle for improvement in the game as teams around the country get the chance to show the nation they’ve not gone away.
“I think the FFA Cup has refreshed football in Australia,” Baker said.
“You can see the interest that it brings nationally, not just in your own state.
“It’s an amazing competition and we’re honoured to be where we are in it.
“I think it would be an outstanding achievement if we can get there (to the Semi Finals), not just for our club and these players but our state.
“We want to get there for everybody in Queensland as well.”
The Strikers face Moreland Zebras from 7:30pm AEST on Wednesday night.
You can also follow all the action on twitter using the hashtags #FFACup #MagicOfTheCup