Tom’s weekly outlook on the A-League
A new season, a new team, and a new defending champion. This upcoming A-league season (“Version 6”) is shaping up to be the most exciting and competitive yet. Sydney FC are the defending champions, and will be looking to become the first team to win back-to-back championships. In a pre-season friendly with Greek giants AEK Athens, Sydney scored three goals, but did concede five. If they can play this kind of soccer though, then the Football Federation of Australia might just get the attendances they need to keep the game prospering. Sydney could well challenge for the title again this year, getting a helping hand by signing Nicky Carle, who has won a few caps for the Socceroos. He was poached from English Coca-Cola Championship side Crystal Palace in mid-June and will probably get to choose where in the front half he plays.
But standing in Sydney’s way, will be new team Melbourne Heart, who have an all-star line-up by A-league standards. This side will be serious contenders for the championship in their first ever season, and will inherit the new AAMI Park for their home games. Managing the team, will be capped Dutchman John van’t Schip and alongside him as assistant is former Manchester United star Jesper Olsen. They haven’t mucked around with the players either, mixing both Australian and international, with experienced and youthful. Their defence looks solid if not brilliant, with last year’s grand final penalty shootout hero Clint Bolton between the sticks. In front of him, (all have played for the Socceroos) Dean Heffernan, Simon Colosimo and Michael Beauchamp. Throw in one of their young full backs and there could be a good case put forward that it is the best defence in the nation. In the centre of the park, they have the likes of Josip Skoko, Kristian Sarkies, AIS product Brendan Hamill and Kliment Taseski. Up forward is Uruguayan enemy John Aloisi and starlet Kamal Ibrahim.
But you shouldn’t be handing Heart the championship just yet. Remember how Gold Coast went on their “unbeaten season” last year and didn’t even end up in the top four? I’ve already mentioned Sydney, but the other Melbourne team, Victory are the most successful ever in the A-league. Perth, Newcastle and Gold Coast are on the way up and have strong beliefs that they can go all the way. Brisbane, Adelaide and Central Coast have recently been stumblers late in a season, but have quality squads. North Queensland won’t win a game and will be kicked out at the end of this season. But for me, third place finishers last year Wellington Phoenix will win the A-league. They were a delight to watch last season and have the squad and mentality to take out the championship in Version 6.
You make up your own mind though, and let the football begin.