WHEN Northcote City lost a coach and several players during the off-season, many had the team pegged for relegation from VPL soccer. That the side is playing finals this year should give president Peter Kotsiris a sense of satisfaction, but he plays it down.

“We’re no different to any other club. We try to be as successful as we possibly can,” he says. “Internally, we scoffed at that [relegation claim]. We found that very amusing. You write us off at your own peril.”

Kotsiris says the club was confident of a good season despite the turnover in personnel.

“As a club we set our sights high. We have belief in our players and coaching staff, so we knew we’d have a good year and the aim was finals,” he says.

“It was a slow process to begin with, but the boys have gelled and it’s all come together.”

The club had an inauspicious start to the season, winning just three of its first seven games. It wasn’t until round eight that the players made the top five, but once they were in they were determined not to be removed. They would only lose three games for the rest of the home-and-away season – against Hume City, ladder-leader Dandenong City and South Melbourne.

Kotsiris says the success, which comes after missing finals on the last day of the 2011 season, has been due to new head coach Goran Lozanovski. “He has been a fresh voice,” he says. “He has come in with new ideas and the players have benefited from hearing a different voice. It was like a fresh coat of paint.”

Kotsiris has ridden the highs and lows of Northcote City. Now 40, he joined the club when he was seven, and says he doesn’t know life without it. “First of all, I love the game of football,” he says. “The local club wasn’t far from home and once I got involved that was it.

“I wasn’t quite good enough as a player, so I gave it away when I was 16 or 17, but I’ve been at the club my whole life.”

Kotsiris says promotion to the Premier League in 2010, which coincided with the club’s 50th anniversary, was a great achievment.

 Northcote City won the State League Division Two South-East title in 2008 and followed it up with victory in State League Division One in 2009.

The club made the finals that year, and while it missed out in 2011 it did win the inaugural FFV State Knockout Cup, beating Melbourne Knights 2-0 to take the title.

“We’re on a good wave at the moment and we want to keep it that way,” Kotsiris says.