Melbourne Heart are the ideal ‘second’ side

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

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    Melbourne City take on Melbourne Victory for the re-branded club's first-ever Melbourne derby. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

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    One of the great traditions of following any sporting competition is supporting a so-called second team, one often diametrically opposed to the bitter rivals of the team you actually support.

    Queens Park Rangers can hardly be called minnows – what with billionaire owners and an expensively assembled squad – but there was an immense sense of satisfaction in watching them beat London rivals Chelsea in the Premier League on Thursday morning.

    Maybe it’s just because Chelsea is such a dislikeable club (in my opinion), but I bet there were plenty of neutrals willing QPR on to victory despite their support for another Premier League team.

    And though it’s one thing to pick a side and cheer for it during any given encounter, there are plenty of fans who go one step further and actively support a second outfit.

    I’ve done it myself when I lived in Germany and began to find the four-hour round trip to Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion more draining than enjoyable.

    When I moved to Cologne, I increasingly began to watch one of German football’s most historic teams go around – not 1.FC Köln but their largely unloved city rivals Fortuna.

    I watched enough games in the 2.Bundesliga to consider myself more than aggrieved when Fortuna were relegated but found myself somewhat surprised when I continued showing up at their dilapidated Südstadion the following season.

    Trudging the frozen streets of Zollstock to witness another insipid performance became something of a ritual and even today – years after I saw my last ever Fortuna game in the derby against their namesakes from Düsseldorf – I still check their results online with monotonous regularity.

    The other day I even pulled their old jersey out of the cupboard and its red and white design reminded me of the A-League club I would be most willing to call my second side.

    If Melbourne Victory are the club I love to hate, then Melbourne Heart are the club I find least threatening to the team I actually support.

    I’ve even flown down from Brisbane to AAMI Park to watch them play and it’s predominantly because the Heart tick several boxes in terms of what I think a second side should be.

    For one thing, they’ve got an interesting stadium and though it’s rarely anywhere near full, it’s still worth checking out.

    In their brief history they’ve also featured an eclectic cast of players, moulded first by the charismatic John van’ t Schip and more recently by one of Australian football’s genuine heroes, John Aloisi.

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, their presence annoys Melbourne Victory fans and they’ve got a good record in the derby – notwithstanding the last result.

    On a more serious note, I like watching the Heart play because I think the A-League needs a point of difference from its original founding clubs.

    Not every team can be a financially well-to-do outfit backed by city-wide support, a la FC Köln – there has to be room for the Fortunas and the Hearts of the world.

    And the prevalence of big two-team towns around the world – think Liverpool, think Barcelona, even Munich – shows there’s plenty of room for cities which boast one major football powerhouse and a more modest local side.

    I suspect plenty of A-League fans have made the Central Coast Mariners their second side and while I can understand why that might be the case, the Gosford outfit could never be the second team for me.

    The team I find myself most frequently tuning into, aside from my own, is Melbourne Heart and for the sake of the A-League’s competitiveness, I’d like to see a few more fans pledge their support.

    If not the Heart, then which second team do you support and why?

    I’m sure Scott Munn and his staff are awaiting your answers with bated breath.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • January 4th 2013 @ 6:36am
      Stevo said | January 4th 2013 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      Thanks Mike, a nice angle and a good read but you’ve got me hoping mad about my club. The fans want trophies but so far the club is seen as focusing on youth development and selling players, and balancing the financial books alone. That appears to be our image.

      Scott Munn and the Heart board appear to show no ambition to win trophies.

      In my opinion we need to promote the club as one that is striving for the highest honours in the HAL – we aim to win the premiers plate and grand final. Second best isn’t good enough. That should be our key focus in our public statements and in our membership drive. All others things will flow from this – ability to recruit quality payers, a winning on field mentality, increasing membership, higher media profile, increase in sponsors.

      Scott Munn are you reading this! phew — Hang on to your Red and White strip Mike and enjoy the ride 🙂

      • January 4th 2013 @ 7:57am
        Kasey said | January 4th 2013 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        I saw a great sig on a football forum and I’ll paraphrase inserting my team:
        I support Adelaide United and the Socceroos – No time to ‘second teams’ I AM football. WE are football.

        Of course I doubt I’m the only AU fan who supports 2 teams every weekend..the Reds and who ever is playing Melb Victory;)
        Purely because MBH seem to get right up the nose of MBV fans just by existing I find that I enjoy watching the Melbourne Derby when the Red n Whites are winning:)

        I got a surprising amount of pleasure last season from MBV’s inability to hold onto leads;)

        • January 4th 2013 @ 6:36pm
          Stevo said | January 4th 2013 @ 6:36pm | ! Report

          There’s nothing like going to the Melbourne derby and seeing a group of MV supporters with scarfs emblazoned with the words “F.CK OFF HEART” and I don’t jest either. They are soooo comfortable in their own grand view of themselves that they feel threatened by us – go figure? So yeah, MV doing poorly does resonate with me too:)

    • January 4th 2013 @ 6:47am
      nordster said | January 4th 2013 @ 6:47am | ! Report

      Some love for the battler club…too many ‘close competition’ fetishists in australia mike, we could learn a thing or two from bundesliga 2 and 1. The dynamic between the powerhouse and Fortuna type club is interesting in itself. Our franchise equalised system almost makes u crave it even more in our league.

    • January 4th 2013 @ 7:56am
      Roger said | January 4th 2013 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Green is an ugly colour to wear Mike, let alone tout in an article 😛

      • January 4th 2013 @ 8:04am
        Kasey said | January 4th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Don’t knock the famous GSE Roger…the Green Seat Elite;)
        Green can look good on a football evidence I present
        Portland Timbers(MLS)
        German National team 3rd kit
        Not the NQ Fury.

        • January 4th 2013 @ 8:10am
          Kasey said | January 4th 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

          From another code, I thought the old NSWRL Canberra Raiders lime green kit was not too bad at all.

        • Roar Guru

          January 4th 2013 @ 10:14am
          Ben of Phnom Penh said | January 4th 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          Werder Bremen has one of the best kits football a couple of seasons ago. Even Wolfsburg come up looking rather snappy.

        • Roar Guru

          January 4th 2013 @ 10:19am
          HardcorePrawn said | January 4th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          Celtic, Hibernian, Mexico, Republic of Ireland…

          • January 4th 2013 @ 6:13pm
            c said | January 4th 2013 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

            Panathinaikos Athlitikos Omilos
            (Panathinaikos Athletic Club)
            To Trifylli (The Shamrock)
            Oi Prasinoi (The Greens)

        • January 4th 2013 @ 5:33pm
          Roger said | January 4th 2013 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

          Now look what you’ve done Kasey. You derailed my whitty remark and got people to talk about kits.

    • January 4th 2013 @ 8:10am
      MV Dave said | January 4th 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      This will no doubt end up as a thread full of knockers and those wanting Heart out of HAL…
      Hearts problem has been their terrible home performances and results…if they could change their home fortunes then the people will come. Having been to quite a few of their home games l get the feeling there are plenty just waiting to to be excited by the team before they jump on board.
      I don’t really have a second HAL team but its hard not to like what WSW have done so far. Having been born in Manchester and a Red Devils supporter as long as l can remember I used to have a soft spot ( hope they’d do ok) for City but, and here’s the rub for Heart l guess, it was because I always saw them as inferior and no threat to my team.

      • January 4th 2013 @ 8:49am
        Kasey said | January 4th 2013 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        Dave that thread on 442 by a delusional South Fan calling foe a one-for one replacement Heart out and South in gave me AIDS. All on the back of one poor crowd number:(
        Ive said it before and I’ll say it again. Heart just need time and even on the back of their terrible home record, their crowd numbers show signs of growth over the 3 seasons they have existed(yes even when the crowds from derbies hosted is removed).

        I think the FFA will take a leaf out of the AFL playbook and publicly guarantee all current clubs based on the TV deal signed. I seem to recall HAL head honcho Damien de Bohun signalling a change of direction from FFAHQ that FFA would seek to work further with clubs to improve marketing and community engagement skills, which makes a nice change from the old FFA policy of “you bought the licence – its up to you how you manage it” Time and a little bit of on-field success are all the Heart need.

        • January 4th 2013 @ 9:44am
          MV Dave said | January 4th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          Yes Kasey l saw that thread on 442… Quite amusing. Interesting that SMFC do not have access to their Lakeside Ground from October to April as it is used by Athletics as part of the deal to upgrade the stadium…geez they can’t even have practice matches during that time and have to play the first 4 VPL games away. Would make their attempts to play HAL games there problematic for a start.
          No chance for SMFC to come back in…the HAL needs to keep moving forward, not go backwards. Heart will be fine…

        • January 5th 2013 @ 3:45am
          NUFCMVFC said | January 5th 2013 @ 3:45am | ! Report

          There was a much stronger case for the Southern Cross team or SMFC hybrid team or whatever it was then heart when the bids were up, because this related to an actual part of the Melburnian community, but obviously for political reasons we are never gong to see it while Franks in charge etc

          Despite all the pin talk, there aren’t much segments that MVC didn’t tap into making Hearts job being a “first” side for many Melburnians and even a team you’d want to actually turn up to watch. Les Murray was right about identity, it is simply hard for them to engage, it isn’t a matter of “one bad crowd figure”, even when they have had good publicity and derby wins in front of big crowds, they have simply struggled to follow that up in the stands, they went form 26k vs MVFC a few weeks ago to 5.6k against the jets. They had 11k earlier in the season but that is a bit complicated by the fact it was a lead-in to the VPL Grand Final

          We can talk abotu the new TV money being used to subsidise teams, but in the AFL the tens of millions spent on GWS and GC Suns is arguably not worth the return in terms of public interest, perhaps it is worth it in terms of the extra games and their impact on TV revenue though, all depends on how that contract was negotiated, but in Heart’s case you have to wonder if there comes a point where it is a case of flogging a dead horse or throwing good money after bad? The derbies have been a good spectacle, but there needs to be more differentiation, perhaps they should move Heart to Geelong or something – can’t get much lower than 5k there surely?

          Have to say I’m not surprised a Sydney fan etc would find Heart a good second side to go for and would intensely dislike the Victory given Victory is more strongly identifiable as a Victorian entity (colours, the V and a lot fo Victorian players etc) while the Heart had a lot of prominent ex SFC players like Bolton and Aloisi etc

      • January 6th 2013 @ 7:19am
        Kasey said | January 6th 2013 @ 7:19am | ! Report

        There is no doubting the effect a powerful incumbent has on introducing new teams to the market. In my Own city of Adelaide, the Adelaide Crows kicked off in the very first AFL season (1991) up until 1990 it was the VFL and Port Power didn’t get into the AFL until 2005, that was 15 seasons of the Crows owning every AFL footy conversation in the city.
        Port have struggled, the Crows have made a profit every year since their debut bar one(2011) Melbourne Victory are like the Crows, Heart are like Port. Incumbency is powerful, it allows you to build stress free hoovering up the fans who are almost left with no choice, unless you count the choice not to support the game at HAL level at all. Heart just need a bit more time including some support from FFAHQ and winning games wouldn’t hurt.

        • January 6th 2013 @ 9:53pm
          Sean said | January 6th 2013 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

          It’s worse than that for Heart, though, because at least Port has the rusted on support of their SANFL followers.

    • January 4th 2013 @ 9:23am
      Dave said | January 4th 2013 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      As a Sydney fan my second team has changed a bit over the last few years. When Heart first came in they probably had a claim to it. Then Brisbane became my second team, I think simply because they played the way I wanted all HAL teams to play, beautiful to watch. Berisha’s antics perhaps slightly tainted this for me, but not much. I never much liked CCM, as early on I always found any game they were involved in to be very boring, but over the last two seasons, and in particular this one, they have emerged as a clear second team for me.

      For a brief month or more at the start of this season WSW seemed to take second place in my affections, but when I examine my feelings now I’m surprised to find that I’m already developing a very strong dislike for them! haha. It’s still Victory first and daylight second in the hate stakes though. However WSW fans already seem to be developing a streak of arrogance that is becoming infuriating. I see numerous comments on this site and others where they are already claiming to be the biggest club in the HAL?!?! PUH-LEASE!!! I will freely admit WSW has the *potential* to become the biggest club in the league, but there’s a long way to go yet.

      Anyway, all part of the fun hey?

      • January 7th 2013 @ 9:31pm
        David Heidelberg said | January 7th 2013 @ 9:31pm | ! Report

        GCU did better than WSW in their first season, and look how that ended.

    • January 4th 2013 @ 9:54am
      Cameron said | January 4th 2013 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      I’m an Adelaide United fan, and before Heart came in, Wellington Phoenix were my second team, now the Reds are my first team, Heart my second and the Phoenix my third.

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