Hooray for the return of the A-League
A-League 2012/13 Wellington Phoenix preview (Image: Supplied)
Season eight of the Hyundai A-League has finally arrived. The closed season has come, seemingly dwelled on, and to the delight of the football public, elapsed.
Following a great deal of anticipation, Australia’s premier football competition is back in full swing this weekend, and what a build-up it has been!
Coaching messiah Ange Postecoglou has returned to his homeland, keen to replicate the success he found in the Sunshine state at his new residence Melbourne Victory.
The four-time coaching champion – two apiece with former NSL powerhouse South Melbourne and reining A-League winner’s Brisbane Roar – has set his sights on reinvigorating Victory’s fortunes this campaign, after an eminently calamitous year which saw the club miss the finals, a raft of innuendo surround the premise and two coaches depart.
The addition of key imports, including new fan favourite Marcos Flores, will prove to be important factors in Victory’s new structure.
There appears to be a buzz adjoining to the navy blues this season, even with the departure of Australian star Harry Kewell. With Postecoglou on board, fans are optimistic that his unique possession-based football ethos will take the club to the next level.
The 47-year-old’s first assignment is a big one, and it’s against cross-town rival Melbourne Heart.
In their third A-League season, the red and whites commence the new campaign with an ostensibly weaker side on paper, having lost key youngsters abroad – Eli Babalj, Curtis Good and Brendan Hamill now plying their trade in Serbia, England and South Korea respectively – as well as exciting full-back Craig Goodwin to Newcastle Jets.
Heart will be looking to experienced journeyman Dylan Macallister to provide leadership in the attacking final third, with Croatian Josip Tadić and ex-Gold Coast United forward Gol-Gol Mebrahtu providing some much needed firepower.
David Williams, who had an underwhelming period in his first year at the club, has the aptitude and trickery to lift his side.
If the former North Queensland Fury forward can lift a gear or two, it may just be the catalyst for Heart to secure a play-off berth. Rookie coach John Aloisi, who was the club’s youth-team boss last year – takes over the reins of predecessor John van’t Schip.
Meanwhile, to the harbour city, Italian football luminary Alessandro Del Piero is gracing our shores, truly conveying the Bling back at Sydney FC. The former Juventus legend and Italy World Cup winner has made soundwaves around Italy, deciding to choose Australia as his next destination, after playing in Turin for a staggering 19 years.
Not only is the signing a major coup for Sydney and the A-League, the worldwide exposure has been extraordinary.
In a breakthrough deal, Football Federation Australia has agreed to terms to broadcast every Sydney FC game live throughout Italy on the Mediaset Company, established by the outspoken erstwhile Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Undoubtedly, this unique agreement illustrates the power of the world game, and the potential publicity the A-League can amass.
Speaking of the Sky Blues, they have a new neighbour, expansion outfit Western Sydney Wanderers.
The league’s newest edition will make its highly anticipated debut against the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night – accompanied by its inaugural marquee signing, Japanese star Shinji Ono. For years, people have yearned for a team out in the west, and now they finally have their prised possession.
The demolition of Gold Coast United paved the way for the Wanderers to enter the competition, and while there was criticism targeted at how the events unfolded, credit must be given to the FFA for getting this franchise up and running successfully, in only a matter of months.
Moving over to the Hunter Valley, the Newcastle Jets could claim bragging rights for the most valued import, after securing the services of ex-England international and former Liverpool stalwart Emile Heskey.
The 34-year-old striker certainly has plenty to offer the A-League, having played in the English Premier League only last season for Aston Villa. Let’s hope we see a barrage of goals and memorable highlights, from a talent that should unquestionably light up the competition.
The Jets’ first test will be against a battle wearied Adelaide United outfit.
The Reds, who once again showed why they’re Australia’s premier club on the continental stage, fell narrowly short of a semi-final berth in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night – conceding a late goal in the second period of extra time, ultimately going down 3-2 to Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor. John Kosmina’s men may return home empty handed, although they can hold their heads up high after a commendable run in the 2012 ACL.
A return to the top-six in the A-League is on the agenda for Kosmina’s troops, following a catastrophic campaign in 2011-12, culminating the year in ninth place.
Finally, who could forget that unforgettable finale to the 2012 Grand Final? The enmity between Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory will be on show this weekend – a spectacle well worth the wait.
The controversy, which affectively handed Brisbane the grand prize, has not been overlooked by Perth coach Ian Ferguson, his players and particularly, the Glory faithful. Expect Albanian goal-machine Besart Berisha to get a hostile – and most probably unpleasant – reception when he enters Patersons Stadium come Sunday afternoon.
Revenge is on the cards for the West Australian outfit.
Strap yourselves in football fans; season eight is set to be the most thrilling campaign yet.
Courtesy of Goal Weekly. Follow Robbie on Twitter @RobertDiFabio