With Brisbane Roar’s controversial win in the A-League Grand Final last weekend, Michael Theoklitos may have put some of his demons to rest. Matt Tilby explains.

In the A-League, it’s becoming more and more common to see the young stars of tomorrow chase their dreams and sign for clubs in Europe. The one notable exception to this is the career of Michael Theoklitos, whose dreams of European football ended before they really began.

Yes, that’s right. Norwich City fans are probably cringing at the very sight of the man.

Theoklitos, affectionately known as “Theo”, started his A-League career at the Melbourne Victory, where he established himself as the top keeper in the competition. The 2 championships and 2 minor premierships he won made him one of the most successful players in A-League history. The 2006/07 season in particular, which saw the club demolish Adelaide United 6-0 in the final, was the Melbournian’s best season. He formed an almost impenetrable defense with centre backs Rodrigo Vargas and Adrian Leijer, who was on the books at Fulham, and also won Goalkeeper of the Year in 2006/07 and again in 2007/08.

Theoklitos even managed a number of call-ups for the Australian national team, but has no caps so far, so it’s fair to say that he headed to Norwich at the top of his game. But as many already know, he had the right definition of a stinker.

Having only managed one game overseas, it ended up 7-1. Theoklitos would later tell BBC Radio Norfolk it was “the worst performance I’ve had in my career”. He fell out of favour with the incoming boss Paul Lambert – and we all know what he’s done for the club. But, instead of taking a gamble and trying to continue overseas, the 31-year old ended his Canaries contract by mutual consent and headed home. He signed for the Brisbane Roar, who had struggled the previous season and underwent a massive personnel change under new coach, former Young Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou.

This proved a masterstroke, as Brisbane’s uncompromising attacking style of play, combined with a number of strong signings in the backline such as former Socceroo Shane Stefanutto, worked wonders. He broke the record for most minutes without conceding a goal in Australian football – 876 minutes – and was yet again awarded Goalkeeper of the Year in the 2010/11 season, which was only his first season at the club. The Norwich disaster was now long forgotten, as he retook his position as the country’s best keeper.

But his finest hour was yet to come, as Theoklitos would save 2 penalties in the 2011 A-League Grand Final against the Central Coast Mariners, helping Brisbane to their first A-League Minor Premiership and Championship. The Roar had earlier come back from 2 goals down in Extra Time to force Penalties, in what could only be described a miracle.

This brings us to last weekend. The Roar had made a second consecutive home Grand Final, this time against Perth Glory. It was the true underdog story – the all-conquering Brisbane, who had ambitions of becoming the first A-League side to win consecutive championships, faced the surprise packet Perth, who had hit form at a great time.

Despite not having a single save to make, Brisbane fell behind just after half-time, following some brilliant build-up play from Billy Mehmet, a name some of you may be familiar with. But, as is their nature, Brisbane stormed back. A double from former Hamburg and Burnley striker Besart Berisha, including a questionable penalty in the 95th minute (which still has players and fans fuming – think Italy v Australia in 2006) snatched a dramatic win for the home team and secured a second consecutive championship.

And the stat that now ties this together?

Of the 7 A-League championships contested, Theoklitos has won 4 of them, thus making him the most successful player in A-League history. And by some distance.

This shows that players don’t always HAVE to pack their bags and go looking for the lucrative offers, when success is closer than you think. A great example is fellow Aussie keeper Clint Bolton. Now at the twilight of his career, Bolton was once offered a trial at Manchester City. Having turned down the eventual contract because he didn’t like the country, Bolton returned home and made over 300 appearances in the old National Soccer League, before winning 2 A-League titles of his own.

Whether Michael Theoklitos considers his career a massive domestic success or an international failure is unknown. But even considering that, the Melbourne local has put his name in the Australian football record books.