Western United will be the best thing to happen to the A-League this season in a competition that’s been crying out for new storylines for years.
I love a good bandwagon.
Every season I’m on the lookout for a new and novel idea to throw my full support behind – irrationally, in some cases – just because I’m so excited for the new campaign to start.
Last season it was Usain Bolt – and didn’t that turn out well for all concerned?
But this season my latest bandwagon will stick around for longer than just a handful of games. And unlike Bolt, their marquee signings can actually play.
I’m talking, of course, about Western United.
The A-League’s eleventh club? I’m all for them!
It’s not just because one of their founders Lou Sticca once said he “reads my pieces religiously” (thanks Lou, cheque’s in the mail) but because I genuinely think they’ll be a useful addition to the league.
I might be in the minority judging by some of the social media responses to their expansion bid, but here’s why I reckon they’ll prove the doubters wrong.
Firstly, their squad’s not half bad.
Yes, there are some questions marks over the age of a couple of their players. And it’s true they’ve picked up a few cast-offs from other clubs.
But in Filip Kurto, they’ve signed one of the A-League’s finest goalkeepers.
And in Jonathan Aspro and Aaron Calver they’ve got two of the best young Aussie defenders learning from the experience of Andrew Durante and Ersan Gulum.
Scott McDonald is a better striker than his frustrating Socceroos career suggests, and in returning wunderkind Sebastian Pasquali, they boast a genuine X-factor.
There’s also their two big-name foreign stars.
Panagiotis Kone is not only a quality midfielder who spent several years in Serie A, he was also made captain of Bologna in his mid-20s.
So he’s a leader, and he’s someone the Greek community of Melbourne can get behind.
Then there’s Alessandro Diamanti.
He should have been playing in the A-League three years ago but for Football Federation Australia rejecting Melbourne Victory’s request to sign him to a guest contract, however Western United were never going to miss their mark.
Forget his goal-scoring record. Don’t worry about his age.
The moment Diamanti jinks past two defenders, ignores an unmarked McDonald at the far post and skies a rising shot into Row F at GMHBA Stadium is what I’m here for!
And I can’t wait to see the mercurial Italian explode with rage the second any of his teammates return the favour.
In all seriousness though, we read all the time about metrics and the need to reconnect with some of the communities who breathed life into the game here.
Might signing a popular Greek international and Italian star not help?
Much of the online criticism of the new club comes down to their current choice of stadium, and while it’s understandable on one hand, it also ignores a couple of home truths.
It’s true that temporarily playing at an oval in Geelong is perhaps not the most ideal start to life in the A-League.
But the pay-off – when Western United open their own boutique 15,000-capacity stadium in the western Melbourne suburb of Tarneit – will be well worth it.
And it’s not like plenty of clubs don’t play in huge stadiums that are too large for them. Just ask Kone about his Bologna career.
At the end of the day, there are many more pros than cons around this club.
The squad. Those jerseys. The thought of Mark Rudan spending all season winding up their other two Melbourne rivals.
Yes, not every single aspect of Western United is perfect. But nothing ever is.
Fans who want perfection from the A-League will never be happy, so maybe we should be happy with what we’ve got instead.