Joe ‘Pepe’ Montemurro is expecting over 40,000 fans to flock into Wembley Stadium on Saturday night as he becomes the first Australian to coach at the iconic London arena.
Montemurro’s Arsenal take on Chelsea in the Women’s FA Cup Final on Sunday morning (2.30am AEST).
The jovial manager has enjoyed his first season with the Gunners, already taking out the 2017-18 FA WSL Cup in March after a 1-0 win over Manchester City and his side currently sits fourth in the league.
Arsenal booked their place in the FA Cup Final, beating Everton 2-1 away, courtesy of a Louise Quinn 91st minute winner.
Montemurro, who grew up in Clifton Hill, still has to pinch himself looking back on his journey coaching in suburban grounds in Melbourne.
“It’s Wembley, I think just the word alone conjures up all different visions to different people,” Montemurro told The Women’s Game.
“FA Cup Final, they’re three words alone that mean a lot to people who’re involved in football. It’s one of those scenarios where I’m honoured to be there and to be representing Australian coaches on the highest level in the world in club football.
“It’s pretty special in my coaching career, you don’t think these things will ever happen, especially being from Australia. You dream of these things when you’re in the coaching game and I’m honoured and privileged.
“You still have a job to do, the day-to-day training and work, so it’s important you remain level-headed, but to be honest, it’s difficult to describe.
“I don’t know if there’s any word that I can use to describe the feeling and the emotion and the opportunity. It’s probably still surreal and fantastic to have this chance.
“I tend to think semi-finals are harder than the Final at times, it’s because you’re close, yet you’re so far sort of feeling. To be honest we were in control in the Everton game, we did create the better chances.
“The goal was always going to come, it just happened in the way it did. We were silly to give away a penalty, I was quite comfortable we’d get through.”
The last three FA Cup Finals have attracted over 30,000 people to Wembley Stadium, however, it could be overshadowed considering it’s a London derby.
Arsenal will be gunning for their record 15th FA Cup title on Sunday as Montemurro has transformed the team and are now looking for a place in the UEFA Champions League next season.
Before Montemurro arrived in December, Arsenal conceded eight goals in three league games, but since then the transformation saw the club go on a nine-game undefeated streak which included eight clean sheets.
Arsenal have won eight games in the Women’s Super League (FA WSL 1) this season as their 3-0 loss to Birmingham City last week saw the club’s first defeat in all competitions since a 3-2 loss to Chelsea in early January.
However, Pepe was honest stating it would be difficult to win the league this season.
“The questions we really need to ask is are we ready for it? Sometimes these things happen, you’re not ready for it and you suffer later on,” he said.
“The improvements… before I took over in November, we weren’t in a good position and the team wasn’t finding where it should be. It was no blight on anyone, it was just the situation and what had happened.
“We need to always be thinking about being in the top one or two in England, more importantly qualifying for Europe and that’s where we’re heading. We’ve improved, but there’s a lot of work to do.”
Despite Montemurro’s impressive track record with Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in the W-League, he said he was still learning in England.
And with the problems surrounding Australian football in recent times, the 48-year-old said it was difficult to compare the leagues.
“Australia has its limitations, it has geographical issues, there’s a younger club scenario and so on,” Montemurro said.
“Australia’s growing and learning, over here you have clubs that centuries old. It is the home of football, but they’ve had good and bad times and have learnt from experiences.
“Economically it’s at a different level. The reality is I’ve learnt a lot and I’m learning how the mechanisms one of the world’s biggest clubs works, what their restrictions are and what they need to do and what they need to achieve.
“Learning about development, learning what is player development. For me it’s an everyday learning and growth in seeing what the best in the world are doing.
“Knowing I’m a guy from the northern suburbs of Melbourne has the opportunity to learn and is competing at this level, I think it’s a great indication of what we can do to be better.
“I watched the W-League grand final which I thought City were good for it. It’s always hard to gauge the W-League in terms of where it’s going and heading due to the fact it’s a short league and you have a massive turnover of players year-in and year-out.
“It needs to find its level of stability somewhere. I don’t know where or how.”