Heart Season Preview 2012/13Maybe I have been distracted, but this A-league pre-season seems to me the first one in which Melbourne has not been the centre of football media attention and social media discussion, even in the minds of Melbourne football supporters. In previous years Melbourne Victory has taken centre-stage; and the upstart Heart has provided additional colour over the past two years.
This pre-season the two Melbourne teams have remained in the background while ADP, the Ballack bollocks, the Ono-Oh-yes! campaign and the capture of Emile Heskey have drawn most of the attention. Even Victory’s Marquee signing of Marcos Flores, one of the A League’s best ever performers, has occurred under the radar.
Deliberately or not, Melbourne Heart has remained in the background of the media flurry surrounding the star imports and the winter football finals series. Two years ago they played a high profile pre-season game against Everton at Etihad, coming away with a creditable 0-2 loss. This year it has been plainer fare, with difficult-to-read matches against local or scratch sides, and Adelaide and Perth at Epping Stadium. The latter game, a 0-5 loss is perhaps best forgotten.
At a guess, the low profile may have something to do with coach John Aloisi’s determination to renew and tweak the reasonably successful club culture established by foundation coach, John van 't Schip which, while producing some good results and tremendous play, also gave us a number of disappointing performances. Last season’s high points of a 3-2 derby win and the inflicting of Sydney’s worst ever home defeat (0-4) were offset by occasional dumb luck and an end-of-season fadeout. Making the finals earlier this year should not be allowed to hide the fact that Heart has not yet finished a season in the top half of the table.
Heart lost or jettisoned 14 players in the off season. Many of those were important contributors who will be missed. Alongside a number of mid- to late-career players, three young guns have also left the club. It has been reported that the sale of Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Eli Babalj (Red Star Belgrade) and Brendan Hamill (Seongnam Ilhwa) “netted the club about $1.6 million.” It is to be hoped that the bank balance has not been put ahead of results on the field or club culture.
Some interesting (in the Yes, Prime Minister sense) replacement signings have been made. Socceroo Richard Garcia looks the best of these and he will be a good foil for Fred, still one of the best players in the league – if fit. The others are European journeymen, A-league players and a couple from the state leagues and it is hard to get a sense of just how well the new players will combine with the old. The assembled squad is a little sparse in its star quality so hopefully Aloisi’s first pre-season in charge of the club has instilled some team cohesion and solidity. The quality of Bolton and Colosimo will offer some stability at the back and A-League veteran Matt Thomspon should be able to provide leadership and penetration further up the park. And I desperately want David Williams to deliver on his massive potential. But for me it’s “wait and see”.
A worrying sign is CEO, Scott Munn’s recent concession reported in 442: “We track other codes as well and we know that second and third years in league, AFL and rugby – the Rebels - all their memberships declined significantly.” I hope that he is not already making excuses for a poor season on or off the field. Football is not AFL or Rugby. He is comparing start-up franchises in ‘greenfield’ states with a new franchise in an embedded and historically deep football culture. Moreover I hope that Heart has not been overawed by the short-term financial rewards available to a ‘provider club’ rather than focusing on the hard work and cost outlay involved in being a club aiming for local development and success.
Given this, it’s hard for me to be optimistic about Heart’s chances this season. There is no doubting the players’ commitment and Aloisi’s desire to produce a good team. I just worry about the overall quality. I can’t see Heart making the finals this season though I would love to be proved wrong.
Richard GARCIA MF Hull City
Dylan MACALLISTER FW Gold Coast United
Josip TADIC FW Lechia Gdansk
David VRANKOVIC DF Bonnyrigg White Eagles
Steven GRAY DF Oakleigh Cannons
Andrew REDMAYNE GK Brisbane Roar
Patrick GERHARDT DF/MF FK Zeljeznicar
Gol Gol MEBRATHU MF Gold Coast United
Ben GARRUCIO MF AIS
Brendan HAMILL DF Seongnam IIhwa Chunma
Rutger WORM MF FC Emmen
Kristian SARKIES MF Heidleberg United
MAYCON FW Pahang FC
Wayne SRHOJ MF Free agent
Alex TERRA FW Daejeon Citizen
Kamal IBRAHIM MF Heidleberg United
Curtis GOOD DF Newcastle United
Eli BABALJ FW Red Star Belgrade
Adrian ZAHRA MF Perth Glory
Kliment TASESKI MF Moreland Zebras
Nikola ROGANOVIC GK Green Gully
Craig GOODWIN MF Newcastle Jets
Sebastian MATTEI GK
1 Clint Bolton
2 Michael Marrone
4 Simon Colosimo
6 Patrick Gerhardt
8 Matt Thompson
9 Dylan Macallister
10 Josip Tadic
11 Richard Garcia
13 Jonatan Germano
14 Golgol Mebrahtu
15 David Williams
16 Aziz Behich
17 Jason Hoffman
18 David Vrankovic
19 Ben Garuccio
20 Andrew Redmayne
21 Steven Gray
22 Nick Kalmar
23 Mate Dugandzic
This preview was first published in the magnificent Goal! Weekly.
*The title of this preview is a glib allusion to Australian Crawl's 'Downhearted'.