BONDS forged in the tumult of Azzurri’s state league axing in 2008 are driving the Charlestown City Blues to success in their return to the top flight.
And it’s a drive that imposing striker Kane Goodchild says will not stop until the Blues have claimed the title.
Charlestown, a merger of Charlestown United and Azzurri, are sitting third on the Northern NSW State League ladder after six rounds.
The impressive start has included gutsy 3-2 wins over Lake Macquarie and Edgeworth with only 10 men.
But motivation and resolve are something the Blues have in spades.
The nucleus of the side are survivors from the Azzurri line-up that lost the 2008 decider on penalties to Broadmeadow Magic and were then booted out of a revamped league which went from 10 to eight teams.
Goodchild, fellow striker Scott Smith, midfielders Matthew Tull and Aaron Pritchard and defender Kyle Hodges were part of the 2008 campaign and have returned over the past two seasons to help bring the Blues back to the top division.
Goodchild said the Azzurri brotherhood was as strong as ever and a key to their strong start in 2012.
‘‘That first win of the season against Lakes where I got sent off after 20 minutes, we were 1-0 up and I was sitting in the dressing rooms pretty deflated,’’ Goodchild said.
‘‘Then I heard the crowd roar and I looked out and we were up 3-0.
‘‘They came in at half-time patting me on the back, saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll do it for you.’
‘‘That’s just the team spirit we’ve got.
‘‘We’re Charlestown City Blues now, but all the boys, we still call ourselves Azzurri.
‘‘If we go one guy down, we don’t look to the coach for inspiration, we look to each other.
‘‘Someone always puts their hand up and we fight hard for each other. That’s where we kick into another gear.’’
The 25-year-old said the pain of 2008 had made the group determined to make up for lost time.
‘‘We’re not going to be satisfied until we win the comp,’’ he said. ‘‘And there’s no reason we can’t do that.
‘‘On any given day, when we play quality football, when we play to our best, we can beat any team.
‘‘The 2008 grand final, a lot of us were involved in that, and that year was the first state league experience for a lot of the boys.
‘‘We overachieved that year, and to get kicked out that same day was pretty gut-wrenching for everyone.’’
He said many of the 2008 team had come through juniors together and remained best of friends.
‘‘It’s my 10th year at the club and we’ve all been there roughly the same time,’’ he said.
‘‘We all just love the club.
‘‘We don’t do it for the board, we don’t do it for the coaches. We just do it for each other and because we love doing it.’’
One negative in their season so far has been straight red cards handed out to Goodchild, Mitch Wallace and Aaron Pritchard for illegal tackles.
Goodchild, though, said the trend was a by-product of their determination to lift for each other.
‘‘We’re a very competitive bunch of blokes and intense. If things aren’t going well for you, I think you look for someone to make a big tackle, a good header, a deft pass or a good shot,’’ he said. ‘‘I think a few of the boys, including myself, just went overzealous to try and put a good tackle on and mistimed it slightly.’’
Azzurri had many of the region’s best young talent in 2008.
On Saturday they face the Hunter’s best under-20 players – the Jets Youth side, who are coached by former Azzurri mentor James Pascoe.
Goodchild said the Blues would lift together again for the challenge.