Somehow we got here. I’m not sure how but we did.
The 2020-21 A-League season kicked off in style at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong last night, with fans in the stadium and a global pandemic well and truly removed from the minds of most watching the action.
In spite of the nervous reality still existing in New South Wales, Australian domestic football was finally given the green light, and the opening fixture did not disappoint. As each A-League club makes its first appearance over the coming days, all will be hoping to sing their victory song to launch the season the right way.
In that spirit and considering the current voting occurring for Triple J’s Hottest 100 poll, I thought I’d encapsulate the upcoming season for each club in song.
My Cup Runneth Over by Ed Ames (1967)
After a record-setting third FFA Cup triumph in 2020 the Reds would no doubt love another to add to their impressive collection of silverware. However, new manager Carl Veart may well ask the players to mute Ed Ames in the sheds and focus on somewhat disappointing A-League results since the championship year of 2015-16.
Ladder positions of ninth, fifth, fourth and seventh have seen Adelaide on the fringes of contention yet unable to match the big guns when it counts.
One Goal by Eiffel 65 (2001)
Putting on my Captain Obvious hat, I’d suggest that Brisbane Roar did not score enough goals during the 2019-20 season. Sydney FC, Melbourne City and Western United managed 49, 49 and 46 respectively.
The men in orange found just 29 in 26 matches. They defended well and even finished the season with a +1 goal difference, yet for Warren Moon to push this team into serious contention enhanced firepower up front will be needed.
Better by Screaming Jets (1991)
Whatever happens during the 2020-21 season Central Coast Mariners simply have to be better. After letting in 55 goals in 2019-20 and taking ownership of a third consecutive wooden spoon, the fans are trudging towards apathy and despair.
Alen Stajcic does have some exciting new tools with which to play in the form of recent signings, and there were signs of improvement last season, yet to call a spade a spade is to suggest that the Mariners simply must be better this time around.
Magical Mystery Tour by Beatles (1967)
It is a squad containing many seasoned professionals and undoubted quality, yet knowing exactly what to expect from the Bulls in their inaugural season is nothing but an informed guess. Will fans show up, the team gel or Ante Milicic prove his value as an A-League manager?
Your guess is as good as mine. If you’re a Macarthur convert, strap yourself in for what could be a wild ride.
It’s My Time by Jade Ewen (Eurovision Song Contest 2009)
Andrew Lloyd-Webber penned the track that the United Kingdom sent to Eurovision in 2009 after years of embarrassment and defeat. The empire was sick of losing, It was time to win. Hence it’s the perfect connection to Melbourne City.
The 2019-20 eason saw City go as close as they have ever come to an A-League championship, beaten by Sydney on grand final day. Once again they will be strong, and if the old adage of having to lose one to win one has merit, City may finally claim the title in 2021.
Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds (1985)
The idea of Melbourne Victory winning just six games in an A-League season and finishing second last on the ladder is absurd. Yet it happened.
I can assure you it will not happen again in 2021. Astute signings and a strong squad riding the wave of fans looking to lift their team back into contention will see the four-time champions back this season and in a big way.
Other clubs had best not forget them. If they have already, a rude shock could well be on their way.
Help by The Beatles (1965)
I’m sorry to be so blunt, but without the passion and energy of Lawrie McKinna in the Hunter, the Jets could well be sitting out the 2020-21 season.
A blase owner appears to continue his rather strange ambition of hanging onto the club despite not investing appropriately, players are restless, the talent in the squad is thin and the Bernie Ibini incident has left a nasty taste in everyone’s mouth.
We all like the Jets and want them around, yet without a helping hand it is hard to envisage their long term survival.
Hangover by Max Webster (1979)
After pushing Sydney to the brink of defeat, racking up 60 points during home-and-away play and compiling an astonishing +33 goal difference in 2018-19, Perth Glory suffered from a stifling hangover for much of 2019-20.
An AWOL Diego Castro didn’t help and an elimination final win gave hope, yet there was something missing in Perth’s attitude and conviction – it was as though the party just hours before had removed a little sting from its tail. New manager Richard Garcia will be hoping to reignite the club after an at times listless season.
Don’t Change by INXS (1982)
The most boring A-League page to read right now is the list of Sydney FC’s new arrivals. There are none bar a rumoured repatriation of Brazilian striker Bobo.
The Sky Blues and manager Steve Corica are sticking with what they know works, and why not after three championships in four seasons. However, Adam le Fondre scored 43 A-League goals across the last two of those and some hold fears that Trent Buhagiar may not be the man capable of providing that same clean and consistent finishing, with Bobo definitely required to help him out.
Time will tell, yet for now Sydney FC look mighty similar to the 2019-20 version.
We Belong by Pat Benatar (1984)
I hope everyone noticed that the Phoenix achieved their highest ever position on the ladder last season. Hot on the heels of Sydney and Melbourne City for much of the campaign, Ufuk Talay continued the work of Mark Rudan across the ditch, led the team to third and moulded the men in yellow into a consistent and dangerous proposition.
Once again quality has departed in the form of Liberato Cacace, Gary Hooper and Steven Taylor, yet the club has also recruited well, with Israeli striker Tomer Hemed the headline act.
It is a positive for the A-League to have a strong and competitive Wellington Phoenix, and there is little to suggest they will not be exactly that in 2021.
Money, Money, Money by ABBA (1976)
Talk about a spending spree. Western Sydney has been aggressive and extensive in its rebuild for the coming season. James Troisi, Ziggy Gordon, Graham Dorrans, Daniel Margush, Phillip Cancar, Anthony Lesiotis and Bernie Ibini are added to an already talented squad containing Bruce Kamau, Simon Cox, Kwame Yeboah, Nicolai Muller and Patrick Ziegler.
On the back of that list and a solid supporting cast most pundits are convinced the red and black are destined for a return to finals play and that their investment will be money well spent.
Spanish Eyes by Engelbert Humperdinck (1968)
The arrival of Victor Sanchez at Western United will have fans thinking flamenco and salsa all the way to the stadium to see the Spaniard play live for the first time.
It is rare that a hardened La Liga professional with over a decade of experience in Spain ventures Australia’s way, yet United will enjoy his presence along with newly signed Lachlan Wales. Should Sanchez and a certain Italian develop a friendship and combination, the entire A-League had best be on watch, with Mark Rudan set to unleash his charges on another quest for the A-League title.