Three years after he emerged from the ruins of North Queensland Fury, and since then playing for a team that has only matched its Melbourne rival in some derbies, David Williams is ecstatic at the transformation under way at Melbourne City.
Williams was among the players who on Monday boarded a flight to England courtesy of a blue-chip new sponsor, Etihad Airways, for a training camp masterminded and bankrolled by Manchester City, the owner of the team formerly known as Melbourne Heart.
''It's totally different,'' said Williams, the club's reigning golden boot and player of the season. ''Coming from a smaller club, and then the way we've gone the past couple of years, it's definitely a breath of fresh air.''
Hopes that City would confirm the signing of Chelsea champion Frank Lampard before its departure did not come to fruition, with the consolation prize being the disclosure of its new uniforms, most notably a white-dominated kit for its home matches, and the five-year deal with Etihad.
While City said Irishman Damian Duff would join the team in England on Tuesday, in preparation for its three-match tour against Bury, Oldham and Bolton, its chief executive Scott Munn and coach John van't Schip did not verify Lampard was poised for a stint in Melbourne.
It has been speculated he would be part of a deal for him to sign for its sister club, the newly formed New York City FC.
"We've been linked with a lot of other players as well,'' van't Schip said. "Of course, everybody knows who Frank Lampard is - a great player - but I can't say anything about it because it's all rumours.
''As long as it's not made official by the CF [City Football] Group, there's nothing to be talked about.''
Van't Schip agreed the takeover of the club and the significant investment, with recruits such as Duff and short-term signing David Villa, would increase performance expectations, but he cautioned that success was far from guaranteed.
"We still have the [A-League] salary cap, we still have all the restrictions ... there's still a lot of hard work to be done. There are no miracles," he said.
Williams said the players, especially those pre-dating the Manchester City takeover, were determined to pay back supporters who had little success in Heart's first four years.
"It is looking up for the fans and the supporters who've come over the past couple of years,'' he said. "Of course, we've probably lost supporters because of results, but the way things are [with the takeover], we've gained supporters.
"You want the coach to have a headache about who he's going to pick ... and everyone is pushing each other. Last year as a team we were quite quiet as a group, but [this year] we're all making sure everyone is communicating properly ... constructive criticism is sometimes the best form of communication we can get as players.
"We will be ready, our mindset's right. We just need to focus and put the history behind us."
After a month of pre-season training, Williams said this campaign was already the favourite of his career.
"Very different ... definitely out of this world for an Australian team flying overseas and be put up for a couple of weeks playing the games we are and doing the things we're doing. It's another level," he said.
"This is by far the best mindset that I've come back to from having holidays to the start of pre-season."
Williams praised the recruitment of assistant coach Luciano Trani from A-League champion Brisbane, and did not attempt to downplay the lofty expectations on City this season.
"It's nice to be a part of ... but until I win something it's not going to be mission accomplished.
"It's definitely looking up, and I'm excited. I'm sure that if people aren't excited yet, I'm telling you to be excited, because there's going to be big things happening at this football club."
The story David Williams relishing the transformation at Melbourne City first appeared on WA Today.