Ange ready to fire at A-League’s biggest club
In years gone by most of the pre-season attention would have been focused squarely on the best-supported club in the land, Melbourne Victory.
But from the time Sydney FC announced they were in negotiations with one Alessandro Del Piero, the media spotlight has shifted north to the harbour city.
Tonight all of that changes as Victory kick off the latest campaign against city rivals Melbourne Heart in one of the most highly-anticipated derbies in A-League history.
No doubt plenty of fans among the more than 30,000 expected to descend upon Etihad Stadium will be eager to see what two-time A-League championship-winning coach Ange Postecoglou can bring to their club.
And having had a lengthy telephone chat with Postecoglou during the week, it’s clear he’s well aware that Victory fans expect success.
“In terms of looking at it from a club perspective obviously it’s a big club and you don’t work for this club or you don’t represent this club unless your aspirations are of the highest order,” Postecoglou told me.
“We’re obviously coming off a couple of disappointing years and we want to be successful and we want to be successful doing it the right way.”
That right way includes playing the kind of vibrant attacking football which so thrilled during Postecoglou’s wildly successful reign at Brisbane Roar.
His Victory side won’t be a replica of the Roar – obviously – and there’s always the danger that the pressure of expectation will overwhelm the players, if not necessarily the coach.
But the truth is no matter how much they may rub fans of rival clubs the wrong way, the A-League needs a strong Melbourne Victory.
Last season’s coaching soap opera may have made for good copy but it damaged Victory’s reputation as one of the best-run clubs in the region and it also had an impact at the gate.
Bringing Postecoglou into the fold helps repair some of the damage, even if it does little to avert the media gaze.
“Like most sporting clubs around the world, the more support you have and the more focus there is on the club the bigger the expectation,” Postecoglou said.
“That was part of the attraction of me coming here.”
And for a man who says he is driven more by the journey than any set goals, Postecoglou maintains a steely resolve to have a lasting impact on the A-League.
He’s already done that at one club, but the challenge of starting all over again in Melbourne will be a real test of Postecoglou’s coaching skills.
It’s a test the rest of the league will no doubt follow with interest.
Every competition needs a big club – someone to love and loathe in equal measure.
It’s safe to say in Australia’s that Victory and it’s partly the reason so many neutral television viewers will tune in to Fox Sports’ coverage of the derby tonight.
In that regard kicking the season off with an all-Melbourne showdown was a smart idea by Football Federation Australia, which is no doubt keen to generate momentum to last throughout the weekend.
“There’s definitely a lot of anticipation… I guess a long off-season probably contributes to that. People are hanging out for any sort of game,” Postecoglou told me.
“But having a derby first up, it’s the first game of the A-League so I think everyone who loves football is looking forward to that first game.”
And far from being overwhelmed by the pressure of tonight’s season kick-off, the new man in charge admits to enjoying the build-up.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s that part of the game that I enjoy as much as anything else… the build-up to it and knowing that people are genuinely excited and looking forward to the contest.”
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
Sport, all day long. Does this sound too good to be true? We're searching for a Group Sales Manager to lead our team in Sydney. If you're a sales star who doesn't mind a hit, kick, throw, or cycle, we want to hear from you. Apply now.