The Leading Man

AFW caught up with Melbourne's prolific striker Danny Allsopp

It-s been all change up front for Melbourne Victory this season, but in DANNY ALLSOPP the team has a spearhead for their title assault

Despite suspensions to key attacking players, Melbourne Victory have managed to end the first half of the season at the top of the table, and striker Danny Allsopp has been a key component to maintaining a sense of continuity up front in the absence of others. How-s that for getting straight to the point?

We can pontificate about the changing team dynamics and the unity and bond teammates feel when the chips are down, so to speak, but with Archie Thompson and Ney Fabiano spending time on the sidelines this season, Melbourne Victory-s three-pronged attack that started the season so effectively became one, and with that, an added weight of expectation and burden fell to Danny Allsopp to carry the threat to the opposition.

While spectators can talk as much as they like about such contributions from a particular player, Allsopp is more reserved and a lot simpler in his outlook. The softly spoken striker, who, much like his playing style, is direct and to the point, saw himself more as a link in a chain than carrier of the team-s goals expectations when faced with the task on his own.

“You just sort of get on with it,” Allsopp says of the changes up front for Victory this season. “I don-t really think about it too much when I-m playing, I just get on with it.”

Despite his humble responses, Allsopp is well aware of how his contribution to the game changes when in unison with an attacking partner.

“It-s obviously better for players like us if Ney Fabiano is back in the side, he can take a bit of the workload - such as challenging for high balls - but you have to adapt to the players around you during the game,” he explains.

“I know that when they (Fabiano and Thompson) are playing, and playing well, it takes a lot of pressure off me and I can concentrate more on waiting for the right time to get in the box and try and score more.

“I probably get pulled about a little bit more when I have been on my own.

“Hopefully we-ll have a good spell without too many changes from now on.”

While Victory entered the recent international break in a favourable position (top of the table isn-t bad really), it hasn-t come easy and although Allsopp-s carrying of the strikers- torch has been admirable, the team have endured a sticky spell that threatened to derail the good start to their season. The “crisis” has since been averted with two wins in the previous two rounds - away to Adelaide United and Queensland Roar - the latter also marking the return of Fabiano and Thompson to the Victory starting line-up.

“We were all disappointed,” Allsopp admits of the difficult period where the team lost three in four matches. “Particularly against Sydney at home, where we were disappointed with how things went for us. We knew we had a difficult trip to Adelaide coming up so everyone was determined to get a good result there, which we did.

“Everyone knuckled down and did all the things that you need to do and set the standards that we needed to keep going for the rest of the season.

“I don-t think we can start saying it-s turned around, because we can-t be complacent, but hopefully we-ve got through that spell.”

With the league remaining so close this season, the temporary glitch in Victory-s form nearly cost them a place in the top four, but their turnaround has seen them return to the summit - where they-ve been for most of the season. One could argue Victory were victims of their own success, as they fell short of the high standards they-d set so early and Allsopp believes the team has “a lot more to show” coming into the second half of the season - an ominous message to those who stand between the team and the Hyundai A-League trophy.

“We have played some really good games this year where we-ve showed the best side of us, but we-ve also let ourselves down a couple of times, but we know if we get the basics right we-ll get good results,” Allsopp says.

“Fabiano has missed a lot of the season so we-re yet to see the best of him and the team will begin to gel more now.”

And what about his own form this season? “I-ve been happy with how many goals I-ve scored,” he confides. But, as you discover with Allsopp, he remains focused on the greater good of the team than gaining personal accolades, it-s an ethos you encounter often with Melbourne Victory players - there-s no “I” in team, as the saying goes.

“I-m just concentrating on one game at a time and trying to be consistent in my approach to the game,” Allsopp says. “Sometimes you can-t really control how many goals you score, I-m just trying to concentrate on my performance and doing a job for the team.”

Even when probed further, Allsopp deflects attention to the team and away from himself, almost in parallel to his position as the focal point of Victory-s attack; it-s as much about bringing others in to the play as about hitting the back of the net himself. “We-ve got other players in the team (who can score), so I don-t think like ‘I have to score today- or anything, you-ve just got to do your best,” he says. “Sometimes you score, sometimes you don-t.”

Allsopp will admit that, naturally, his chances of scoring are greatly improved with other strikers around him, but it-s his personal performances, not statistics, that he judges himself on.

“I think I played really well against Adelaide without scoring and without Archie and Fabiano up front. And I didn-t get a goal where perhaps if they were there I could have. I think my performance and application was still good,” Allsopp says.

So, with lessons learned in the first half of the season (“if we-re not at our best we can get beaten”) it-s time to look forward.

Allsopp, who says the team is “trying to concentrate on the simple things”, might be reserved and guarded off the pitch but his performances on it are setting the platform for a successful season for Melbourne Victory.