Not so long ago, Melbourne Victory were the byword for consistency in the Hyundai A-League. Now they can look to Wellington for lessons on how it's done.
Not so long ago, Melbourne Victory were the byword for consistency in the Hyundai A-League.
The surest defence, the deadliest attack, and two Premier-s Plate and Championship doubles, all backed up by an ultra-professional internal structure and a fan base the envy of the competition.
Just a few months down the line and all anyone wants to talk about is how many problems the club-s got.
From the sacking of the successful if not always popular Ernie Merrick to the embarrassment over the handling of Mehmet Durakovic and Francis Awaritefe, it-s clear that Melbourne Victory have some serious work to do to recover their previous status.
Some detractors point to the confusion in the backroom, with interim - and reportedly soon to be full-time - coach Jim Magilton and club hero Kevin Muscat apparently having too much influence, with the board lacking the football nous to create a proper structure.
Magilton, the man the Victory board initially considered before promotong Durakovic has had precious little effect on the season. Granted, there is only so much a coach can do for a new club in a new country halfway through the season - but Victory's results under his reign has only fed his detractors who argue his appointment represents a regressive strategy for Victory, when the club should be leading the pack.
Now it looks as though he will be given the keys to the club, and it's up to him to match the success of the past. Only last week, Magilton looked to stamp his authority on the club, stating the “personnel and culture” required “freshening up”.
There is an argument that the club left it too long to upgrade its squad. Those clubs that boast consistent success know how to manage the turnover of players, turning the squad over gradually, rather than waiting until a drastic overhaul was required.
Ironically, Victory could do worse than look at this weekend-s opponents, Wellington Phoenix, to see how it-s done.
Ricki Herbert-s experience with the New Zealand national side has allowed him to create a club built on consistency and trust; trust between the players and coach that know each other inside out, and individuals who willing to give it all for the sake of the team - something that Victory has lacked this season.
And Herbert'sdone his best to replace quality with quality, gradually maintaining or improving the standard of his squad and backroom staff.
Herbert has had his ups and downs in Wellington, and but even a change in ownership didn-t cost him his job; the Kiwis know a good thing when they-ve got it.
Now he-s leading a club that many thought destined to fail like the long-dead NZ Knights into its third successive finals campaign.
Phoenix have shown they have the footballing ability and team spirit to match any team in the league. Having seemingly conquered their dreadful away form - this is their best season on the road to date - results like the comeback against Melbourne heart are the norm, rather than an exception.
Not so long ago, Wellington Phoenix would have dreaded an away trip to Melbourne as a high watermark of what a New Zealand-based club could never achieve in an Australian league. Now Melbourne Victory can only look on in envy as the boys in yellow and black show them how it-s done.