Focus on the future

by John Iannantuono on Feb 14, 2012

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The relief emanating from AAMI Park on Friday night was immense. Not since their 2-1 win against Newcastle Jets back in Round 14 have the valves attached to Melbourne Victory released such pressure — and boy, was that release needed.

While the 2-1 win against the Central Coast Mariners was hard-fought and well-deserved, the club would do well to curtail temptation to label the win as a launchpad for the remainder of the season — as many have done so previously soon after a positive result. Anyone remember the comments made after the Roar game?

So for a club that’s had more false starts this season than a jumpy sprinter, keep the powder dry.

I would even venture one step further and part ways with the short-term goal of making finals and redirect the focus towards building a culture that will hold the club in good stead for seasons to come. And here’s why.

There’s little doubt that Melbourne Victory has lost its way since the new-look Board took over in 2011. Ever since the club gave Ernie Merrick directions to the unemployment office, short-term solutions have been the order of the day. Lack of foresight and direction has ravaged the club to the point where its days as the A-League’s benchmark seem like a lifetime ago.

Mehmet Durakovic was always going to struggle to survive the entire the season, while asking Jim Magilton to audition for the leading role as head coach was yet another example of the short-sighted view employed by those calling the shots.

Despite all of that, there remains a small glimmer of hope; a chance, if you like, to right a few wrongs and repair a bruised ego.

Victory officials could do worse than to look at Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets for inspiration. When Ange Postecoglou took over the reins from Frank Farina in October 2009, he did things his way.

A position on the table was never going to take precedence over his longer-term vision, even though the Roar took up residency in the lower regions of the A-League ladder and Postecoglou’s methods were called into question. It was a classic case of short-term pain for long-term gain. And the results are there for all to see.

Ditto with the Jets, who appear to be following the same blueprint.

Early observations suggest Magilton is a good find (it has to be asked: how did he miss out on the gig in the first case?). He has solid credentials (albeit a relatively short coaching career), he favours a passing game and he’s enthusiastic about his profession and developing his own craft. It’s also evident that the Northern Irishman is beginning to understand the squad, and as such, his tactical nous is beginning to surface.

Victory needs to make the finals as much as the finals need the Victory, however it would be counterproductive for the club to make the top six at the expense of the squad’s development. Magilton needs to be given the freedom to weed out the “coach killers” and mould a squad he believes can carry out his vision — and based on the evidence tabled on Friday night against the league leaders, he’s capable of doing exactly that.

If the Victory misses out on finals football by embracing such a philosophy, it’s not such a bad thing in the scheme of things — at least it has a platform to work from and won’t be kicking off the pre-season from scratch. But if the club does make the finals by playing without the shackles or outside influences, the Victory will be far from making up the numbers.

Melbourne Victory is at its dangerous best when it is fearless. So bid adieu with the burdens of finals expectation, hand Magilton a new contract and let the real rebuilding begin.