Loyalty in spades

Player movement in the Hyundai A-League off-season is always high, so which players are special enough to have the longest tenures?

With a new batch of A-League recruits joining the fray in 2012/13, a total of 637 players have now made at least one appearance in the Hyundai A-League after Round One.

Of the 136 players from Round One, 29 made their A-League debut, 23 played with a different A-League club last season, while 3 others (Adam D'Apuzzo, Adam Griffiths and Marcos Flores) made their return to the league after at least one season away.

Which leaves just 80 Round One players that played with their current club last season.

Furthermore, over 100 players who took part in last season's A-League are not with an A-League club this year.

The numbers of off-season movements are typical for an A-League off-season. In fact, of the 105 players who have played in more than four A-League seasons, two-thirds played for more than one club.

The stats indicate a lot of player turnover around the clubs since the A-League kicked-off in 2005.

The high turnover means it takes a special player to have stayed with the one A-League club throughout all eight seasons.

So, how many players do you think there are that have played in every A-League season so far for their current club?

We'll give you a second to think about that.

Your time is up.

There are six players who make the cut: Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory), John Hutchinson (Central Coast Mariners), Terry McFlynn (Sydney FC), Massimo Murdocca (Brisbane Roar) and Jobe Wheelhouse (Newcastle Jets) are the only guys who have taken part in all A-League seasons to date, and only with their current club.

Two players fell off the list during the 2012 off-season - Tarek Elrich, who moved from Newcastle to his home-town Western Sydney Wanderers; and former Mariners skipper Alex Wilkinson, who took up a lucrative offer to join Jeonbuk Hyundai in Korea.

The remaining six one-club foundation men are an impressive array of players, who have a combined 16 A-League Championship or Premiers Plate medals between them.

Although it should be noted that while each of these players have played in each A-League season so far, not all have remained completely faithful to their current clubs over this time: Thompson had a few months abroad at PSV Eindhoven in early 2006, Allsopp spent some of 2009/10 in Qatar and DC United in the US, and Hutchinson missed the start of 2011/12 due to a Chinese Super League sojourn.

Which leaves McFlynn, Murdocca and Wheelhouse as the league's most loyal players.

A special mention should go to Newcastle captain Wheelhouse, who first played with the Jets in its NSL incarnation, Newcastle United in 2002/03.

This means that season 2012/13 marks Wheelhouse's tenth straight national league season with the Hunter club.

So how long can these guys stick it out with their current clubs at national league level?

With age on their side, either Wheelhouse (27 years old) and Murdocca (28) are the more likely to ultimately become the A-League's longest continually serving one-club foundation players, although McFlynn (30) isn't too far behind.

It will take a sustained and amazingly loyal effort however to beat the corresponding record of longest-serving foundation player in the old NSL.

That honour falls to Sergio Melta, who is still active on the coaching front in South Australia.

After commencing his national league playing career in the NSL's first season 1977, it wasn't until 1994/95 that Melta finally drew curtains on his playing career - after a mammoth 19 continuous NSL seasons of service for Adelaide City.

Melta's name will remain prominent in South Australia for a long time, as the annual award for best player in the state league is rightfully named after him.

Other 1977 foundation NSL players with longevity honours include 406-gamer Mike O'Shea (St George, Canberra, Wollongong Wolves), who actually played until the NSL's 20th season 1995/96, although unlike Melta it wasn't a continuous run as he missed out on the 1979 season.

Melbourne stalwart Theo Selemidis (NSL player 1977 to 1993/94) and flamboyant goalkeeper Tony Pezzano (1977 to 1993/94) are also foundation NSL players who played for more than 15 continuous seasons - albeit with more than one club; while Sydney Olympic legend Gary Meier (1977 to 1992/93) made it to 15 seasons - with the one club.

Out of Danny Allsopp, John Hutchinson, Terry McFlynn, Massimo Murdocca, Archie Thompson and Jobe Wheelhouse, I wonder who you think will be the last man standing with his Hyundai A-League foundation club? Only time will tell.