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Rebuilding the Victory

by Teo Pellizzeri on Feb 07, 2012

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My AFL-supporting mates often deride me for using fan opinions on web forums as a gauge of what the overall fanbase from that club thinks.

But when it comes to the A-League, perception is a lot closer to reality.

And after reading the forums and taking almost two hours of Victory-related talkback on SEN 1116 radio on Saturday night...the battle is lost.

The fans have conceded that Melbourne Victory - seemingly set to take the title and sweep away the Roar and Mariners in pre-season — will miss the finals.

Saturday night’s talkback was if anything, a cathartic experience.

Some Victory fan callers were eloquent and strategic in their critique of what has gone wrong and demands for the future.

Others were just plain mad.

But the overall sentiment is the same - finals are gone, and whether or not Jim Magilton is the manager of Melbourne Victory beyond this season, the board must pay for the three ‘‘bad hires ’’it has made in the last 12 months.

Awaritiefe, Durakovic, and if we are to pull the trigger a smidgeon early on saying it, Magilton.

Assuming there is no miracle revival, and the ‘‘success’’ Magilton was hired to bring to Victory in the short term does not pan out, three things can happen at the end of this year. Magilton could chose to go. Saddled with player contracts in a salary-capped league with squad restrictions isn’t for everyone. Looking in from the outside, it seems JM wants to turn over far more of the list than what the average A-League club will allow.

The second option is the board could thank Magilton for his services but say they will go in another direction. Getting the trust of the fans to make a fourth hiring in 12 months is going to be difficult and could risk a financial backlash, such as memberships going un-renewed.

The third option is Magilton wants to stay and the board wants to keep him, and has to sell a rebuild to the fans. It may sound like an open invitation for the more emotive fans to pass on renewing their memberships but if the board genuinely believes Magilton is their guy, it might be time to come-in-spinner to sell a long-term message.

Notice how none of those three scenarios paint a particularly rosy picture about Melbourne Victory’s playing stocks.

At risk of waxing lyrical about one Craig Goodwin performance, Saturday night was endemic of the strategic differences between Heart and Victory.

Goodwin is if anything a perfect example of what Heart set out to do connecting to grass roots.

Make sure if there’s a Mathew Leckie running around out there in Victoria that he actually reaches the A-League via a Victorian club.

Don’t let the Victory’s 2-1 win against Heart in the NYL at the weekend fool you though, if there is to be a localised rebuild undertaken by Victory it will require a lot of scouting and effort.

Victory’s NYL team fielded Tando Velaphi, Tom Pondeljak and Billy Celeski at the weekend, while Heart’s first-team weaknesses were clear enough never mind the flow-on effect to the youth.

Victory’s youth strategy this season has been to align with the state’s National Training Centre, resulting in a team of youth players considerably younger than the rest of the NYL taking the field each week.

While Heart has been able to draw on a Goodwin from its second team, Victory hasn’t had a 15-year-old wunderkind in its NYL team it could even dare to promote to the seniors and throw in the deep end.

Regardless of who is in charge next season, what board is at the top or what message the club is selling about the first team, it’s critical that Victory follows little brother’s lead when it comes to getting first-team products out of the NYL.