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How do Melbourne Victory save themselves from ruin?

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Expert
7th March, 2021
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2446 Reads

There is no better indicator of the disconnect between Melbourne Victory’s board and the club’s sizeable fan-base than the fact they lost the derby at a stadium no fans want to go to.

The 2016 renewal of a ten-year deal to continue playing five regular-season fixtures at Marvel Stadium has no doubt helped turn Victory into the A-League’s financial powerhouse.

And pretty soon club chairman Anthony Di Pietro and his board will have the entire stadium to themselves.

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It’s an interesting dichotomy for a club that finds itself at the crossroads following Melbourne City’s 6-0 derby win at the unloved Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

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Since his appointment as club chairman in January 2011, Di Pietro can perhaps rightfully claim that Victory have performed better than any other club off the pitch.

But how are they going on it? And how much will it cost them in the long run?

Victory’s malaise arguably started with a championship, when they Steven Bradbury-ed their way from fourth to win the 2018 grand final over the Newcastle Jets.

They finished 23 points behind runaway table-toppers Sydney FC that season before seeing off the Sky Blues in that classic semi-final at the old Allianz Stadium.

That it took a championship-winning goal from an offside position from Kosta Barbarouses – now a Sydney FC player himself – is an irony probably not lost on Victory fans.

But what has happened in the meantime to turn Victory from perennial title-chasers into a club now at rock bottom in every sense of the word?

For one thing, Kevin Muscat left.

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Signed as Victory’s inaugural captain, Muscat subsequently went on to coach the club for five and a half years.

His final game in charge was a 6-1 semi-final annihilation at the hands of Sydney FC in 2019, and while Muscat perhaps stayed on for a season too long, there’s no denying he was the anchor around which the club was built.

Announcing former Adelaide United coach Marco Kurz as his replacement arguably made sense on paper, but the fiery German’s tempestuous 15-game spell in charge – and the struggles to replace him – have left Victory staring up from the foot of the table.

And if they sack current coach Grant Brebner, which seems all but inevitable, they’ll end up throwing another club legend under the bus.

Brebner played more than 120 games for Victory across all competitions during a six-season spell as a combative defensive midfielder at the tail end of his playing career.

He’s always shown his willingness to do whatever it takes to benefit the club, but it’s hard to escape the feeling Brebner has bitten off more than he can chew as their latest head coach.

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If the axe falls on the Scot, then scrutiny should be equally applied to the rest of Victory’s coaching staff and management.

Having waved goodbye to the likes of Ola Toivonen, Terry Antonis and James Troisi, Victory fans had to then turn around and watch former striker Andrew Nabbout rip them to shreds in City colours on Saturday night.

And it was the manner of the defeat that will have left Brebner and his coaching staff stunned.

Substitute Stefan Colakovski’s maiden A-League goal just about summed it up, as Nathaniel Atkinson simply waltzed through the Victory midfield from his own half before sliding it to the 20-year-old, who still had time to twist and turn before firing into the far corner.

It wasn’t even the only goal where City appeared to have all the time in the world, with Victory players often jogging in defence while their rivals charged at them at pace.

The solution now, you’d have to think, will be to sack Brebner. But so much more needs to be done to win back disgruntled supporters.

Melbourne Victory may well be financially successful off the pitch, but it will all mean very little if their entire fan-base deserts them.

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