It is easy to dislike Melbourne Victory. For everyone but their supporters, Victory can come across as the smug know-it-all you just wish would leave the party early.
Call it envy, call it pettiness, call it what you will – as a Sydneysider now living in Brisbane, there’s little I enjoy more than watching Victory crash to defeat.
In fact, there’s no team I love to see lose more than the boys in navy blue and even among the most casual of A-League supporters, I doubt I’m in a minority of one.
But increasingly Victory defeats are looking a thing of the past and after succumbing 4-2 to a rampant Adelaide United back in Round 10, the Victorian giants have since picked up seven points out of a possible nine.
It would have been maximum points were it not for an heroic performance from former Victory goalkeeper Michael Theo at AAMI Park and suddenly Ange Postecoglou’s side are looking the team to fear most.
Crucially the Victory have added some mettle to their undoubted attacking flair, snatching pulsating late victories against city rivals Heart and a thrilling 3-2 win over the Newcastle Jets.
And for those who doubted Postecoglou’s ability to get the best out of players, how else to explain the scintillating form of Kiwi youngster Marco Rojas?
The former Wellington Phoenix wizard has scored nine goals and added five assists in a career-best burst of form, despite only featuring on the periphery of the Victory squad last season.
Perhaps the exit of Harry Kewell has helped, but Rojas’ transformation from bit-part player to key figure is nothing short of remarkable and goes a long way to showing how vital a role confidence plays in driving match-winning performances.
His first goal against Newcastle was stunning but it was his Messi-esque second, in which Rojas sensationally jinked the ball up on the turn before pirouetting and smashing an unstoppable volley past Mark Birighitti, which cemented Rojas’ reputation as the A-League’s best and brightest young star.
How the Socceroos could do with such an outstanding young talent – but if All Whites fans are having the last laugh in that department, spare a thought for Wellington Phoenix supporters.
Having chipped in to fund Rojas’ trial with the Phoenix, they’re now forced to suffer the ignominy of watching New Zealand football’s brightest talent turn out for Melbourne Victory.
It’s all part and parcel of what makes Victory the club rival fans love to hate – the Collingwood or Manly of the A-League, if you will – but it’s an absorbing narrative and one which gives the competition a wonderful sense of drama.
And with Rojas stealing the limelight, he’s helped the likes of Nathan Coe, Mark Milligan and Billy Celeski transform the Victory from a side which capitulated 5-0 to Brisbane Roar in Round 2 into an outfit which suddenly looks capable of beating anyone.
They’ll face a stern test against Western Sydney Wanderers on New Year’s Day in what is arguably the match of the round and with further away trips to Perth, Adelaide, Gosford, Brisbane and Wellington still to come, there’s no guarantee Victory will finish in the top four.
What can be assured is that Postecoglou won’t rest until he’s made his mark on his home town.
You get the sense the once-maligned Young Socceroos coach would love nothing more than to make Victory the biggest club in Asia.
They’re certainly on the way to becoming one of the most attractive, at least in terms of their football, even if most A-League fans approach Victory’s results with a mixture of schadenfreude and envy.
But if Postecoglou’s reign in Brisbane taught us anything, it’s to take heed of the machine he’s clearly capable of assembling.
He could even spell out his New Year’s resolution in six simple words.
Beware the rise of Melbourne Victory.