“For him to be saying that is disgraceful,” said Brisbane Roar coach Robbie Fowler after Western United had just beaten his side 2-0 at Suncorp Stadium. “I think he needs to look at himself.”
Fowler was talking about visiting coach Mark Rudan, who had accused the Englishman of failing to shake his hand on the back of one of the most fractious games of the season.
It was a Round 10 fixture that started with plenty of buzz around the appearance of United’s star midfielder Alessandro Diamanti and ended with the Roar’s normally mild-mannered chief executive David Pourre getting involved in a post-match altercation with Rudan on the pitch.
So does the cliché, for once, ring true? Do Brisbane Roar and Western United actually dislike each other?
Roar midfielder Jay O’Shea has already denied Sunday’s game will be a fiery affair, telling AAP journalist Ed Jackson “things in football are quickly forgotten about”.
However Roar officials were incensed with United on that hot and humid December evening, accusing the visitors of employing time-wasting tactics from as early as the 20th minute.
Rudan was having none of it.
“I thought we were smoking cigars in the second half to be honest with you,” he said of his team’s 2-0 victory on the night.
All of which makes Sunday’s clash between Western United and Brisbane Roar at Mars Stadium in Ballarat more than just a routine fixture.
Add in the presence – or lack thereof – of new Roar signing Scott McDonald and suddenly the A-League has a genuine grudge match on its hands.
McDonald has been left out of the Roar’s squad to travel to Ballarat owing to a clause in the contract that saw him recently depart United for a stint in the Queensland sunshine.
Despite being in the twilight of his career, the 36-year-old has been a breath of fresh air for the Roar in the four games he’s played since signing for the club in January.
Yet it remains somewhat of a mystery why he was deemed surplus to requirements by Rudan. Is it because he was brought to the club by someone no longer involved with Western United?
McDonald’s absence on Sunday should hand youngster Mirza Muratovic a return to the starting 11, after the 20-year-old rattled home the equaliser in the Roar’s come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Adelaide United last weekend.
That victory made it 14 points from a possible 21 in the Roar’s last seven games, with Fowler voted the coach of the month for January on the A-League website.
His win led to accusations from some A-League fans that the poll had been hijacked by overseas-based Liverpool supporters, which is possibly true given the overwhelming margin of victory.
But it also exposed the undercurrent of anti-British sentiment that often ripples through the A-League, with plenty of online critics derisively labelling the Roar’s campaign “Brexit football”.
So is Fowler getting the credit he deserves? He seems to be more warmly regarded in his native Britain than he is down here in Australia.
But having leapfrogged Western United into sixth in the standings, there’s no denying Sunday’s showdown is a huge fixture for both clubs.
And after more than 5000 fans packed the entire stand on the eastern side of the ground for Western United’s first game at the venue in Round 12, it’s also one that should attract a decent crowd in Ballarat.
A chorus of boos rang out at full-time the last time these two sides met, with the Suncorp Stadium faithful stunned by Western United’s keep-away tactics.
“I thought we played a very, very intelligent game of football,” said Rudan in the wake of that victory, although Fowler wasn’t sticking around for a cordial chat about it.
Will they shake hands on Sunday afternoon? Probably.
But this fixture has an edge to it.
And that’s something to celebrate in a league that makes most of its headlines – like Tony Sage’s stunning announcement he plans to sell Perth Glory to a cryptocurrency company – away from the pitch.