There’s no question Melbourne Heart have progressed in their second season in the Hyundai A-League and John van ‘t Schip’s desire to build on young talent is to be applauded – but with can Heart’s kids withstand the pressure of a three-way scrap for a spot in the finals?
There-s no question Melbourne Heart have progressed in their second season in the Hyundai A-League and John van ‘t Schip-s desire to build on young talent is to be applauded - but with can Heart-s kids withstand the pressure of a three-way scrap for a spot in the finals?
What do you think? Do Melbourne Heart's kids have what it takes? Have your say below...
Yes, Heart can take the heat
The exuberance of youth... It-s a funny thing isn-t it? For many of these players there is nothing to fear in football.
The likes of Mate Dugandzic, Aziz Behich and Eli Babalj are young enough not to care what the world thinks of them, young enough not to worry about the expectations of the fans, because let-s be realistic, the expectations are not that high.
As much as the Heart may try and battle with the Victory, they are Melbourne-s second team and are the most junior clubs in the A-League, and to make the finals in just their second year would be a bonus for them and their supporters.
Their players have everything to gain and zero to lose.
It-s a squad of names we-re only beginning to know; Michael Marrone, Brendan Hamill, Jason Hoffman and Jonatan Germano have all been impressive this season and will only improve.
They also would have attracted the attention of scouts by playing the free-spirited football John van ‘t Schip encourages are doing their own futures no harm.
But are they doing enough to keep the Heart in the playoff race?
At different periods of the season these young guns have shone brightly. Marrone was even rewarded with a Qantas Socceroos call-up from Holger Osieck and presumably the attacking Behich was not all that far behind, especially with the national coach searching for a left back.
As for what they have done on the pitch in the A-league, the Heart youngsters have truly been the stars for their team.
Dugandzic and Behich feature amongst the top assists in the league with six (second in the league) and five respectively, while Babalj (seven) and Dugandzic (six) rate as the Heart-s top scorers, poaching 13 of the Heart-s 32 goals this season.
These stats show these youngsters have what it takes and when that is coupled with the experienced heads of Matt Thompson and Fred in midfield and the ageless Clint Bolton in goals, then you start to realise the Heart can make a real dent in the finals.
After all it wasn-t that long ago they were one of the hottest teams in the league, the youth policy is working and the Heart are set to reap the benefits.
No, the kids aren-t alright
Ahead of Newcastle on the ladder by virtue of a very slim goal difference, and just one point ahead of Sydney FC, Melbourne Heart are under pressure.
Under pressure to prove that they can maintain their impressive mid-season form, under pressure to get the results that matter, and under pressure from a desperate - and greatly more experienced - Sydney FC side, who they host at AAMI park this weekend and it looks as though the confidence of youth is beginning to crack just when it matters most.
One of the keys to coaching young players is creating levels of consistency. Apart from a hot streak in December when Melbourne Heart were the form team, the club have struggled to find their rhythm this season.
Their record this season illustrates the difficulty they-ve had maintaining that level of performance: Heart have won nine, lost eight, drawn eight.
Their recent form has been enough to keep them in the hunt - DLWWDD - but in a league where consistency is the key to success, is that enough to earn a debut finals appearance?
Sydney FC-s recent form isn't much better - WLWLDW - but their certainly have experience on their side; Viteslav Lavicka took many in his squad to the championship just two seasons ago.
Sydney also have one of the better away records on the league and will be eyeing this as their big chance to step into finals contention. Heart-s Simon Colosimo, a former FC player, admits the likes of Pascal Bosschaart, Michael Beauchamp, Karol Kisel and Brett Emerton could be the difference between the two sides.
The Jets, meanwhile, appear to be on an upward trajectory, their underwhelming performance against Gold Coast last week being the exception to their excellent recent form, and they also have a grand final-winning coach on their side.
The exuberance of youth will only take you so far. Van ‘t Schip has put his trust in his players but recognises this is only the start of their careers. It would be great if they make the finals in their second season, but no great surprise if they don-t.
You sense this might just mean more to Sydney FC, and this weekend we-ll find out just what Heart-s kids are made of. My money-s on Sydney desire and knowledge being enough to pull them into the top six - at Heart-s expense.