Victory set to host the biggest party
The Liverpool match next week will be fantastic but there's just one problem. A number of the Victory stars won't be able to attend their own bash
You've decided to host the party to end all parties.
The biggest joint in town is yours for the night. People are travelling from all over the country and beyond. Your guests of honour are A-List superstars who expect, and are used, to nothing but the best.
The vibe about it is incredible. Everyone wants to be there. It's everything you could have imagined and more.
There's just one problem. You won't be there.
That's the dilemma facing Melbourne Victory as they prepare to host Liverpool at the MCG next Wednesday.
Victory's squad has been robbed of its best and finest for the arrival of the Reds. When Holger Osieck named his squad for the EEast Asian Cup he included Victory stars Mark Milligan, Nathan Coe, Archie Thompson, Connor Pain and new boy Mitch Nichols.
Coe and Pain are expected to rack up the frequent flyer points and return to Melbourne to be available for the game.
Nevertheless, it's left Ange Postecoglou with a virtual youth squad for the big night out against one of football's European giants.
Once again the age old dilemma of club versus country raises its head at a time when the game is trying to be all things to all people and ends up being stretched beyond its capacity.
There's little doubt that Osieck sees the East Asian Cup (which includes matches against regional heavyweights Japan and South Korea) as a vital opportunity in his quest to replenish a Socceroos squad that has been brave and resilient but desperately needs revitalization. With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil just a year away, any opportunity to unearth and nurture Generation Next needs to be prioritised.
At the same time, football's domestic agenda needs a similar strategy to capitalise on the interest the game has generated by qualifying for Brazil 2014, and the buzz created by last year's extraordinary Hyundai A-League season dominated by the emergence of Western Sydney Wanderers. Sometimes these competing interests will clash - as they have on this occasion.
Most fans will understand the prioritisation of the East Asian Cup over the MCG show-piece. However the game has been sold to an audience well beyond our current constituency.
Many casual and curious sports fans would have paid good money in advance of the announcement of the Socceroos squad to watch a genuine contest between a Melbourne Victory team at its best and one England's iconic clubs. They may have every right to feel short changed, particularly if Ange's baby faced locals cop a pounding from Luis Suarez and friends.
It harks back to the ignominious occasion in 1999 when a Brazilian team arrived in Australia to play the Socceroos only for everyone to discover that another Brazilian side - containing it's A List stars - was playing in Spain 48 hours earlier. We got the understudy squad.
It felt like a swindle, and it was. So much so, the gates of the MCG were thrown open so people could attend for free and the-then Soccer Australia could avoid embarrassment.
Usually it's touring teams who over promise and fail to deliver. This time it looks like it might be Melbourne Victory. And while you suspect that the real reason ten of thousands will be there is to stand on the terraces and share in a spine-tingling mass chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone", those running the game need to be mindful.
Once you short change a customer, they're unlikely to be back.