From conscription to Kosovo, to the Young Matildas and Melbourne City - Vidosic's road to the Grand Final

Rado Vidosic's journey has taken him from conscripted army service in Kosovo, to high school teaching in Brisbane, to working throughout Australian football and now, to the verge of A-League Men glory.

On Saturday, Vidosic will lead Melbourne City against the Central Coast Mariners in the Grand Final, six months after initially taking the reins on an interim basis.

It's been a long and winding journey to the top for the 61-year-old, but he wouldn't change a thing.

Back in 1980, Vidosic was a 19-year-old in Osijek, Croatia, preparing for university and on a wonderful football trajectory with his hometown club. Then came the call that changed everything.

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Vidosic, like many other young men in that era, was conscripted into the Yugoslavian army and had to put his life on hold.

"Everyone had to go," Vidosic told AAP. "It wasn't such a bad experience but nevertheless, for my football career it was probably something I didn't need because I couldn't play for a year.

"It's like having an ACL injury -- you are 12 months out."

That included a stint of active service, when Vidosic's division were sent to Pristina, Kosovo.

"It was quite serious. We didn't shoot at anyone but it was quite scary at 19 years old," he said. "I didn't want to be there -- I just wanted to be with my friends and go to university and play football.

"It wasn't pretty, but probably it made me who I am today."

Vidosic returned to his physical education studies and football after his service ended. A few years later, Vidosic accepted an opportunity to play football in Brisbane and never looked back, moving across the world with his young family.

He believes his military stint has had little impact on his approach to life, beyond making his bed each morning. If anything, he prefers to lean into his 10 years of experience as a high school teacher. Vidosic isn't one to shout at his players, instead encouraging them to problem-solve and make decisions themselves.

"I try to be positive with the players, I try to be positive with everyone," he said. "I don't scream at them, I would rather blame myself than blame any of the players.

"With the army, you get screamed at and you have to do whatever your superiors are telling you.

"But I think this is the right way -- if you trust in someone and respect is a two-way street, so if you want them to respect you, you need to respect them.

"Then probably you're going to get better results from everyone because there is more respect and people are prepared to give more for the coaches that maybe they enjoy working with."

Skipper Scott Jamieson, who will retire at season's end and join Vidosic's coaching staff, has enjoyed getting to know the coaching stalwart's different style.

"He's just a soft-spoken gentleman, really," Jamieson told AAP. "From what I've seen he's obsessed with football and really is a student of the game still."

Vidosic was Ange Postecoglou's assistant during Brisbane Roar's "Roarcelona" days and had periods as the club's caretaker and interim coach, along with assistant coach roles at Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.

After he and son Dario, the former Socceroo and ex-Bundesliga midfielder, departed Wellington Phoenix after an ill-fated stint in 2017, they both landed at City. Vidosic was appointed technical director and A-League Women coach.

In his second season, he took a Matildas-studded team to a premiership-championship double.

Also spending time as a Young Matildas assistant, Vidosic relished working in the women's game, where he found players "hungry" for constructive feedback and willing to learn and improve.

"It was an eye-opener for me," he said.

Some of his lessons from women's football have been implemented since he took over the men's team in November, when City head coach Patrick Kisnorbo departed for Ligue 1 side Troyes.

"Every player has got a different learning ability, so you need to be very careful on what people are accustomed to, what is going to help them most," he said.

"Some people you can scream and some people you need to give a hug, and there are different personalities.

"It's quite a challenging act to figure this all out in such a short period of time. But I think we managed to do that in a good way and they've been enjoying the journey."

While Kisnorbo was a hands-on, heavily involved coach, City players note Vidosic prefers a more hands-off approach, with his team encouraged to play with freedom.

"He's more quiet and he lets the boys do the magic," said Dutch midfielder Richard van der Venne. "PK was more in the group, like screaming and shouting and being there. Rado is more quiet and peaceful."

Attacker Marco Tilio believes Vidosic's determination to let his players express themselves has paid off.

"It's been shown this year with the amount of goals we're scoring and opportunities we're creating, that since Rado's come in we've got that type of freedom," he said.

"As a player when you get told you have a little bit of freedom, inside a very structured team that we have, it can only help and make us perform better."

Vidosic has already claimed a premiers plate and can earn City's second championship with victory on Saturday.

"It's been an amazing experience and I've enjoyed every minute," he said. "The squad has been fantastic. It's a very strong squad and it's a real pleasure to work with that calibre of players.

"It would be a great achievement for me.

"The players have really worked their butts off and they deserve this chance to go and get the job done."