FEW English coaches have lifted a trophy in front of their own fans this season – but that is not the only reason Des Buckingham’s latest achievement was extra special.

The 36-year-old, who spent a decade at Oxford United at the start of his career, helped Melbourne City clinch their maiden A-League title having become first-team coach last September.

Australia has generally minimised the disruption caused by coronavirus in recent months, meaning 8,124 fans watched their side beat Central Coast Mariners 1-0 to clinch the trophy.

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Melbourne were only formed in 2009 but several near-misses meant it was an emotional night.

Buckingham, from Cowley, said: “I’ve won trophies before, but this club have been trying to win this their whole existence.

“To share that moment with the fans, the players and some of the staff that have been there this whole time made it a really special night.

“You could really sense that from when we kicked off to the moment the referee blew the full-time whistle.”

Melbourne are part of the City Football Group, whose flagship team are Premier League champions Manchester City.

They won the league with three games to spare, but struggled at the start of a season that was postponed due to Covid.

A rise in cases in Victoria means the state is in the middle of a seven-day lockdown and Saturday’s penultimate match of the season against Newcastle Jets was postponed.

But most of the campaign has been unaffected, with fans having attended all-but one Melbourne game, and Buckingham feels this helped the team settle down.

He said: “We had a lot of uncertainty at the start of the year around little clusters (of cases), so there was disruption around travel and games.

“That affects your preparation and adds some stresses, so we didn’t get off to a great start.

“Once we were able to settle and get our players fully fit and back on the field we’ve had a consistent way of working.

“It has really shone through towards the end of the season.”

On a personal level, the pandemic means the coach has not returned to Oxford for 18 months.

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“I’ve got family members who have been born and I haven’t met yet,” he said.

“You just have to make full use of Zoom and FaceTime.

“That’s probably been the biggest thing, the regular catch-ups with family who are a huge part of my life.”

The coach was recruited following huge success with New Zealand’s age-group sides, but his contract was controversially not renewed last year.

His only taste of the hot-seat since then was when he stepped in for manager Patrick Kisnorbo for three games, winning each one, however Buckingham is happy as an assistant for now.

He said: “It’s something I want to do again in the future, but at the moment I’m in no rush.

“I’m still a relatively young coach, even though I’ve been in the game for nearly 19 years.

“The biggest thing for me is I’m in an environment where I’m learning and can keep progressing.”