Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Friday 5 October 2012

You took a Heart, took a Heart too young.*

Heart Season Preview 2012/13

Maybe 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.

Heart Ins:
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 

Heart Outs:
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

Heart Squad
1          Clint Bolton              
2          Michael Marrone
4          Simon Colosimo
5          Fred
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'.

1 comment:

  1. Already I have been given reasons to think my preview was off the mark. And OzzyCrawl do not suck!