It seems hard to fathom Mark Jackson only began as Central Coast Mariners boss in September, just his second senior role after a short spell with MK Dons that ended in relegation from England’s League One last May, having spent the previous fifteen years in various assistant and underage roles.

A year on from his subsequent dismissal he stands as the most decorated manager of the current A-League Men’s crop, save for Tony Popovic, after an unprecedented Australian domestic treble of the Premiership, AFC Cup, and now Championship.

Trailing Popovic’s Melbourne Victory by a goal into added time of Saturday’s Grand Final, it looked like their season may want for the crowning triumph the bulk of the 20,000 spectators at Gosford desired. Three goals in twenty-five minutes arrested that, sealing Jackson’s Mariners’ place in Australian football history.

‘The honest feeling I had was we were going to create a chance, I knew we had the capability to do it, and was fairly calm about it. I’m delighted for the supporters, and for the players because I know what kind of work they put in all season. To win the Grand Final the way we did, and be part of a game and event like that was fantastic’, Jackson told Box2Box.

‘To see people’s faces and speak to them after, you can see you’ve affected their lives to give so much joy. Likewise the players are so appreciative of how the fans support us and that connection is really strong. I want to be someone that helps build that in the future and sustain it because it is really important.’

Jackson is as aware as anybody that the success he’s enjoyed in 43 games doesn’t come without significant structure already in place in all facets of the club. Predecessor Nick Montgomery is a personal friend and led the Mariners to the Championship last season, while Shaun Mielekamp and Richard Piel have turned the club from basket case to the envy of most other clubs.

Still, the new man had to replace six starters from last year’s Grand Final squad, and lost his two best attackers in Marco Tulio (transfer) and Angel Torres (Football Australia suspension) as the campaign wore on. They did not enter the Top Six until Round 10 after losing their first four games, but finished seven of the final eight matchdays in top spot.

‘The club had some dark times, I’m fully aware of that, but they were on the mend and there were some fantastic foundations already laid. My job was to come in and try and take it to the next level again; my challenge coming in at a late-stage of pre-season was to assess the players that were there.

‘They’d already played two games, in the Australia Cup and AFC Cup, so a lot of the pre-season work was done. Danny Schofield came over with me who I’d worked with at Leeds, we had a clear understanding that if we had an opportunity to work together going into a club, we knew what we wanted to do.

‘I’m a big believer in processes, sticking to them day-in, day-out even when results weren’t there in the first four games. We had to stay strong and it took a lot of courage from the staff around us, and from the players to believe in what we wanted to do.’

As time passes and Australian football moves on the AFC Cup will endure as the jewel in the treble, an unprecedented achievement for an Aussie side through 100,000 kilometres of travel across thirteen games. After negotiating the group stage easily enough, trips through Cambodia, India, Kyrgyzstan and finally Oman stretched the group as they juggled domestic commitments, but culminated in the most satisfying of triumphs.

‘There were moments we’ll look at and think that was a challenge, but we made the most of it. Getting delayed by torrential flooding at Dubai airport, which never happens, happened to us and we got stranded [in Kyrgyzstan].

‘Straight away as a group we took it as an opportunity so booked a coach, got a guide, and he took us into the mountains for a three hour hike. Some of the boys saw snow for the first time, not one moaned, all embraced it.

‘We’ve got a picture of us on the mountain, kind of an iconic photo for us, the chance to climb it and achieve something no one else has ever done in A-League history in the treble; as a moment in time, that was a really prominent one for me personally, and for the group.’