Failing Heart in need of assistance
Melbourne Heart haven't had an easy ride into the A-League - but off-field obstacles can't disguise the on-field problems and lack of support that threaten the viability of the club.
Melbourne Heart. Oh the irony of the name. Because in recent weeks, this is a club that has failed to show any.
As the regular season draws to a close this weekend, Heart are stumbling to the line as a club in need of major surgery.
In short, Melbourne Heart are failing. And at the moment it's hard to see the future looking anything but bleak.
Up until last weekend the Heart were notionally still in a race for a spot in the Hyundai A-League finals, as run of good home form masked the club-s abysmal away record.
Having not won away from AAMI Park since late 2011, Melbourne Heart have been running the sort of false economy that would make a Cypriot banker blush. When the bottom crashed out of their home form against Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers in the space of a week, Heart's season was left bankrupt.
The Melbourne Heart mission has always been the toughest in the A-League.
Having entered the Melbourne market long after Victory had established their brand as the standard bearer for football in the southern capital, Heart had to give people a reason to believe. So far they have failed.
Having tried to balance the books by selling the best of their considerable young talent to overseas clubs, Heart have been juggling ambition with the reality of their unenviable predicament as a poor cousin in an increasingly brutal football economy.
Melbourne Heart will be the only club to actually term a profit this season. That is quite an achievement given the challenges the club faces but I'd argue it's a false economy that doesn't lead to a sustainable future.
Crowds have been as disappointing as recent on-field performances and one has compounded the other. It's a spiral that is hard to break and threatens the viability of the club.
There's no doubt the club is entitled to feel hard done by. The sort of strategic and financial support the FFA has provided to the Western Sydney Wanderers was never offered to Melbourne Heart. The extra visa spot available to the Wanderers has long been a sore point at AAMI Park, as has been the source of Western Sydney's major sponsorship arrangement.
Both are legitimate gripes. The danger is that this has also become something of a crutch for Heart to explain away the inability to flourish. At a certain point Heart must accept the poor hand they have been dealt and rise above it.
On field, the club has some hard calls to make as well.
John Aloisi's brief apprenticeship as a coach under John van't Schip now seems an inadequate preparation for the top job. Aloisi's on the job training has been bruising. Despite his genial nature, Aloisi is one of the toughest characters in the game.
As he did during his playing career, I expect him to use this season-s harsh lessons as a driving force for improvement next term. That means making tough calls on players and demanding plenty more form those who seem to be sleepwalking through their careers.
Aloisi has been let down by his senior players this term.
Simon Colosimo's red card against Adelaide a few weeks ago with the game and the club-s season on the line was unforgivable. Matt Thompson has been a wonderful servant but he is simply marking time rather than opponents these days. Fred, who once lit up the competition, is a fading star.
Having had to watch Aziz Behich, Michael Marrone, Brendan Hammill and Curtis Good depart to keep the debt collectors from the door, Aloisi has had to hope others would rise to the occasion.
David Williams was one such player. This columnist believes in David Williams-s talent. It's a pity the player himself doesn't. Nick Kalmar should be starting every week and causing headaches for opposition midfields. He's doing neither.
Eli Bablj has returned from his ill-fated stint at Red Star Belgrade and looks like he's had the stuffing knocked out of him or is in a super sulk. My guess is probably both.
This weekend Melbourne Heart put the lid on their miserable season with a visit to Gosford to take on Central Coast.
The Mariners are a club living on meagre rations, but making huge strides. The contrast couldn't be more stark.
Some have Heart in name only. And that is never going to be enough.