As a season-ending 1-0 loss to cross-town rival Melbourne City on Sunday afternoon loomed ever closer, Melbourne Victory appeared almost certain to claim its first ever A-League wooden spoon.
A late goal prevented such a plight, yet had the Newcastle Jets been given the chance to tackle City in the season’s only outstanding match, it could potentially still have happened.
Despite much banter and comment in A-League circles suggesting there was potentially something quite humorous about seeing one of the traditional powerhouses of the league flailing away helplessly and doomed to the bottom of the table, it was actually not funny at all.
Who am I kidding? Yes it was.
Fans of the other 11 A-League clubs were well within their rights to have a good old chuckle and snort with laughter at the prospect of the four-time A-League champions’ pending relegation from the top tier.
Oh, sorry. We haven’t quite come that far in Australian football just yet have we?
The justification of such mirth lies two-fold. Firstly, because each and every A-League club bar the two newcomers have been towelled up, chewed on and spat out consistently by Melbourne Victory over the last 15 years.
Secondly, the game of football excels at banter and the mocking of traditional foes when they are down. Should such tribal culture ever be lost to the game, the worse it will be for it.
This time around it is the Victory’s turn to be the butt of jokes and meekly skulk into the distance as the serious A-League contenders head into the finals this weekend. The Mariners have had their time in such a role, Wellington Phoenix as well and the Jets reside in a very similar place right now.
Yet seeing Victory plummet to another disastrous finish after topping only the Mariners in 2019-20 appears to have many in the A-League universe giggling.
There were just five wins and four draws for the men in navy blue this season, alongside an appalling 17 losses. A rather comical -29 goal difference is perhaps the best reflection of the train wreck that was Victory’s season 16 of A-League play.
As is par for the course, Newcastle was widely tipped to claim the spoon in the pre-season, off the back of continued low levels of investment in the playing stocks and a squad that always looked unlikely to challenge for a spot in the finals.
Central Coast were also in that conversation, yet despite grave concerns around the depth of the Victory squad that Grant Brebner took into the season opener, a 3-1 loss to the Brisbane Roar on January 2, I’m not sure too many felt it would ever get as bad as it did.
As history would have it, the Mariners excelled under Alen Stajcic, Newcastle lived up to the lowest of expectations through no real fault of their own and Victory slumped even further in the credibility stakes, in its most regrettable of seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, I take no particular pleasure in seeing Victory slump to the pit of competitiveness this season.
However, I am also mindful of the value of good natured banter and the interaction that occurs between fans of combative teams around the globe.
Considering the quality of social media humour directed towards the consistently disappointing plights of Arsenal and Tottenham in the EPL, the life or death barbs used when it comes to Old Firm encounters in Scotland and some of the passionate and pointed sarcasm adopted by Spanish fans when traditional derbies roll around, it seems only fair that Australian fans pile on when given the chance.
Something tells me we might be all getting a little soft when it comes to sinking the slipper into teams when their star takes a rather sudden downward turn. No one ever took it easy on the Mariners or Phoenix, so why should a softly, softly approach be taken now?
As traditional rivals, Sydney FC, Adelaide United and Melbourne City fans have the right to be rolling in the aisles, hoping that a short-term pattern has been set and their arch enemy is off battling to recover for the next few seasons.
Even though finals proved a bridge too far for Mark Rudan’s men in their second season, Western United also have the right to be giggling away at the plight of the big brother that they have now out-performed for two successive seasons.
In fact, all of Australian football well and truly has the right to be laughing at Melbourne Victory. Frankly, they stink.
However, everyone happy to jump on the bandwagon had best be ready when the ship is righted and Victory return to competitiveness.
For now, chuckle away. But be prepared to cop a whack of your own when the club you support hits hard times.