Winless after eight game of the season, Adelaide United were rooted to the bottom of the A-League table and there were calls for the head of coach Guillermo Amor.
The former Barcelona and Spain midfielder was given his first managerial role by a club looking to build on the great foundations laid by Amor’s countryman Josep Gombau over the previous two years.
However, it took a full two months for the Reds to find a win when they overcame Perth Glory by a single Pablo Sanchez goal to nil in December.
Since that narrow victory they have been the most impressive side in the competition, losing just once in an 19 game spell that yielded 46 points from a possible 57 (13 wins and five draws).
The Premier’s Plate, the award handing out to the team that finishes top of the league after the 27-game regular season, was secured earlier this month as the Reds leapfrogged Brisbane Roar who failed to beat Melbourne Victory in the final round.
Now they are just 90 minutes from claiming their first Championship following a resounding 4-1 win over Melbourne City in the semi-finals.
Adelaide’s easy on the eye style of play has been built around Argentine playmaker Marcelo Carrusca for four seasons now and the former under-20 international has a supporting cast of intricate and intelligent team mates with the ability to carve open any defence.
Spaniards Isaias Sanchez, who graduated from Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy before playing in La Liga for Espanyol, and Sergio Cirio were relative unknowns when they moved to South Australia in 2013 but both have added genuine quality to the league.
Veteran Socceroos goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic continues to shine between the posts, while fellow Australians Craig Goodwin, reportedly a target for at least one Dutch club, Dylan McGowan, Michael Marrone, and recent recruit Stefan Mauk have all played their part in the revival.
Striker Bruce Djite, a bustling 29-year-old with nine international caps to his name, has become one of the most important figures since the turn of the year.
Having failed to score in his first 12 games of the campaign, Djite has gone on to find the net in nine in last ten, including a double in the win over City.
Born in the United States, Djite moved to Australia at a young age and began his A-League career with United in 2006 before switching to Turkish side Gençlerbirliği in 2008.
Two years later he was back Down Under and joined the now defunct Gold Coast United where he helped himself to ten goals in 23 games.
A short spell on loan with Jiangsu Sainty in the Chinese Super League followed and he re-joined Adelaide United in 2011.
Injury problems have held Djite back to an extent but with those issues now appearing to be behind him, he is the perfect player to lead the line for Amor’s side.
After last night’s win, Amor remained calm and focused on the task ahead, despite being so close to the delivering the club’s maiden Championship.
It’s important to enjoy this moment but to think that it’s ‘one more game’. It’s a good moment for the group, for the players, for the club, for Adelaide.
The next week we play in the final here. It’s important the people come and push for Adelaide.
While Coopers Stadium, with its 15,000 capacity, is the club’s home during the regular season and for preliminary finals, the Grand Final is the A-League’s major cash cow and this year’s contest will be held at Adelaide Oval.
Recently renovated, the home of the Australian Rules Football sides the Adelaide Crows and the Port Adelaide Power now boasts a capacity of 53,500, and Amor has asked the public to come out in force for the game.
The Reds have played in two previous Grand Finals, losing both to Melbourne Victory in 2007 and 2009, and it’s the first time that they will host the showpiece event.
Their opponents will be decided on Sunday when the Western Sydney Wanderers host the Brisbane Roar, who are three times A-League champions.
Such is the nature of the competition, with its salary cap system, that clubs often enjoy success in cycles and can go from top to bottom, or vice versa, over the course of a couple of seasons.
To do it in the same campaign, however, is much more impressive, and Adelaide United will be hoping to put the proverbial icing on the cake next Sunday.