Season in Review: Melbourne Victory
The only good from season 2011/12 for Melbourne Victory is the realisation that nightmares have an ending, and that chicken salt was available at AAMI Park.
The Good The only good that came out of season 2011/12 for Melbourne Victory is the realisation that even nightmares have an ending.
Having put the question to Victory fans on Twitter, the overwhelming response was that the only good thing to come from this train wreck of a campaign was the fact that chicken salt was made available for hot chips at AAMI Park.
You can-t blame the Victory army for resorting to comfort food as solace. After all, the club hierarchy had promised a feast of football only to find its paddocks were bare.
Maybe the hubris that characterised the sacking of Ernie Merrick and the vanity signing of Harry Kewell has finally been knocked out of those that sit around the Victory boardroom. And that can only be a good thing for an administration that started to believe its own hype.
On the pitch, the highlights were few.
The arrival of keeper Ante Covic proved a bonus. The former Qantas Socceroos keeper was brought in to cover for the loss of rising star Tando Velaphi, who succumbed to injury before the season started, and provided stability and leadership to a defence that seemed rudderless with the retirement of Kevin Muscat.
The emergence of midfielder Jimmy Jeggo was testament to the young man-s incredible mental strength and his passion for the game.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin-s lymphoma at the age of 16, the 20-year-old midfielder has seen off the disease (though he-s subject to regular checkups) and hasn-t looked back.
His enterprise and dynamism in midfield earned him a call up to the Australia U23s squad in early 2012.
The Bad The Kewell saga was an exhausting distraction, particularly for first-time coach Mehmet Durakovic, who inherited a squad already laden with mercurial attacking talent (Cernak, Solarzano and Rojas were already on the books).
Added to this, Victory legend Kevin Muscat was gone, leaving a gaping hole in a defence that relied on his bulldog spirit and range of passing to keep the wheels turning.
Yet with everyone focused on the pretty window display up front, nobody seemed to care that shelves were empty out the back.
It was a criminal neglect of squad balance that the boardroom must take responsibility for.
To be fair to Harry, after a slow start, he began to display the characteristics of the footballer who many hoped he-d be for Victory. And no one could ever accuse him of phoning it in. However, by then, the ship was already on the rocks.
Meanwhile, other careers have gone backwards or stalled all together.
Captain Adrian Leijer-s season was ruined by injury, but prior to that he seemed to be a shadow of the young player that saw him head to Fulham in England with dreams of cracking the big time in the English Premier League.
Similarly, young full back Matthew Foschini seems to think that wearing Muscat-s old No. 2 shirt gives him license to be angry.
Foschini spent most of the season waving his arms around at officials and teammates in a fit of pique. If he-s football career ends he-ll be great value as a wind turbine if he keeps that up.
Apart of Jeggo, midfield was a desert of creativity for Victory. Grant Brebner is a warrior, not an ideas man. Leigh Broxham works hard but his most creative moments are at the hairdressers where he spends his time cultivating an array of Mohawks.
Carlos Hernandez is a wizard on the ball but has the work ethic of a pet rock.
Allsopp, Pondeljak, Celeski and Kemp are all players who-ve made a contribution over the years but who, for one reason or another, were MIA whilst the season sank.
And then there-s the coach.
Having sacked a perfectly good one, Victory have now to make a call on Jim Magilton, a man who presents well to the media, promises a brighter day and is still to prove his mettle.
As they ponder their next move the Victory board are surely heeding the overwhelming message from their year from hell: Be careful what you wish for.