Geelong Advertiser, 18 July 2007, p. 46.
They say that defending a premiership is harder than winning it and Melbourne Victory may find the truth of that old saw this season.
Having lost its three Brazilians, particularly the charismatic Fred, young star midfielder Kristian Sarkies and no-nonsense defender Simon Storey, coach Ernie Merrick has replaced them with some quality players.
Ljubo Milicevic has returned to Victoria after a significant career in the Swiss League with FC Thun.
Joseph Keenan, a former Chelsea player, Costa Rican internationalist Carlos Hernandez and Adelaide United full back Matthew Kemp have been joined the Victory.
Young Socceroo Kaz Patafta who has been starring with the Benfica youth team in Portugal has been obtained on a one-year loan.
“We’ve recruited two very good attacking full-backs, Joseph on the left and Matt Kemp on the right,” Merrick said.
“Defensively in midfield, at centre-back Ljubo’s a great addition, it will allow Grant Brebner and Kevin Muscat to get forward more.”
Skipper Kevin Muscat said despite having won the premiership and championship double last season, the hunger to improve remained strong.
“The facts are if you don’t want to go out and improve you probably shouldn’t be here,” Muscat said. “Obviously the players that have come in want to equal, if not better, what we achieved last season.”
Young defender Daniel Piorkowski has recovered from a leg injury which kept him out for more than half of last season and will challenge Geelong’s Adrian Leijer and Rodrigo Vargas for a place in the backline.
Others to look out for include tiny midfielder Leigh Broxham and the unsung midfield utility Steve Pantelidis, who does everything a coach could ask for no matter where he is played.
On Sunday in the 2007 Preseason Cup in a replay of last season’s Grand Final, Victory drew one-all with Adelaide United in Launceston, despite being without star striker Archie Thompson, who is on Socceroo duty in Malaysia.
Travis Dodd put Adelaide ahead after only 9 minutes, but Daniel Allsopp brought Victory level in 74 minutes.
This Sunday Victory will come to Geelong to take on Newcastle Jets at Skilled Stadium on a pitch which is only just being relaid.
Given the wet weather recently it is asking a lot of the ground staff to produce a quality surface for the match and the risk of injury must be higher if the turf has not stabilised by then.
The Jets lost narrowly in their opening match against Perth Glory, thanks to a Jamie Harnwell goal early in the second half.
The match next Sunday kicks-off at 2 pm and a big crowd is expected to attend.
Many Geelong fans are among the 10,000 Victory members already signed up for the new season and they can be expected to join the Blue and White Brigade in enthusiastic support for the defending champion.