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A-League hope springs eternal: Part 1

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Expert
29th July, 2019
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Supporting your football team as they battle through a dry run can sometimes be an experience similar to visiting the dentist and getting some major and obtrusive work done.

Not fun in the slightest.

Yet as the chill of winter fades and the hope of spring approaches, a new A-League season draws ever nearer and all fans dream of success.

The FFA Cup has already whet appetites and over the next six weeks will present its usual blend of both the astonishing and the quirky.

After gentle trials against local competition, most A-League clubs will look to hit the ground running as they move into official cup play. For many, a Round of 32 match-up with NPL competition is a potentially comfortable start to their campaign.

For others it will be more a case of all guns blazing. 2018-19 Premier’s Plate winners Perth Glory face the Wanderers in the west, the Victory host the Jets at AAMI Park and the new look, Robbie Fowler led Brisbane Roar travel to Sydney to take on the A-League champions.

Those matches take place in a bumper night of action on August 7th, with the Mariners and Melbourne City the first of the A-League clubs to make their appearance in the cup on July 31st.

As is always the case, every team will be frothing and champing, eager to show the opposition their wares. Each new season brings such hope.

For fans of those clubs out of finals’ action last April, that hope is vital.

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For last season’s 10th placed cellar dwellers, things appear to be well on track. Whilst Alen Stajcic’s removal from his position as coach of the Matildas continues to reverberate through the walls of the FFA, the man himself appears to have well and truly moved on.

Tasked with rebuilding the Mariners, another clean out of playing stocks has been followed by some positive signings, with Scotsman Ziggy Gordon the most notable. Stajcic will also have Daniel De Silva back in the fold and should enjoy blending the new men into what did appear an improving side late last season.

Alen Stajcic

Alen Stajcic. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The most interesting and headline grabbing club through the off-season thus far has been the Brisbane Roar. After raiding the British Isles, Fowler has already added no less than 11 men to his squad.

Supporters of the orange needed to see change; a continuation of the downhill slide that became John Aloisi’s tenure up north could not continue.

Whether the manager is able to gel his squad quickly and show immediate improvement is unknown, however the club certainly cannot be accused of sitting on its hands during the off-season.

Last season’s eighth placed Wanderers haven’t been idle either. Farewelling 13 players and luring just five to this point in their preparations, suggests that there are still significant announcements to come.

The great hope for the red and black will be that Markus Babbel now has the team he wants and needs to return the Wanderers to the top six and beyond.

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With Western Sydney Stadium playing the role of a twelfth man, supporters have every reason to feel positive about the new look Wanderers.

I sense a bit of anger in the Hunter; both after a disappointing season in 2018-19 that never really got out of first gear and the news that Andrew Nabbout has joined Melbourne Victory.

Football fans often dream of the romantic notion of a favourite son returning and doing so based on loyalty and passion for the local community that once cheered them on.

Sadly, as we all know, that is something of a fraud and Jets fans should be focusing more on their new and exciting 25-year-old Panamanian Abdiel Arroyo, as well as domestic signings Nick Fitzgerald and Matthew Millar.

All three stand to be valuable for Ernie Merrick as he looks to return the Jets to finals play after going so close to A-League glory in 2017-18.

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Ernie Merrick of the Jets

Ernie Merrick of the Jets. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Hope is personified in expansion club Western United; the most unknown of unknown quantities.

With a dynamic and progressive Mark Rudan at the helm, the club has recruited well.

Greek Panagiotis Kone and Italian Alessandro Diamanti will no doubt make an A-League splash, Josh Risdon is a clever buy and along with Brendan Hamill, Aaron Calver and Andrew Durante, could form a formidable defensive combination.

The exciting Max Burgess could well flourish and luring Filip Kurto to western Melbourne could prove to be one of the buys of the season after his stellar 2018-19 in Wellington.

For the Mariners, Roar, Wanderers and Jets, a potential year of revival awaits and supporters of all four clubs have reason for hopeful optimism. So too our newest A-League fans, those engaging with Western United.

The cycle of football seasons brings hope and all five have it in spades right now.

On Thursday I will run the rule over last season’s top six and just how positive they should be feeling as we move closer and closer to the start of a new A-League season.

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