The A-League kicks off tonight as Brisbane Roar face Western Sydney. Mark Houston previews the season ahead for Brisbane and how they’ll fare under John Aloisi.
Manager: John Aloisi
Captain: Matt McKay
Ins: Jamie Maclaren (Perth), George Lambadaridis (injury replacement), Corona (Almeria), Javier Hervas (Sevilla).
Outs: Kofi Danning (Oakleigh Cannons), Adam Sarota (FC Utrecht, end of loan), Andrija Kaluderovic (released), Ben Litfin (Palm Beach), Lachlan Jackson (Newcastle Jets), Luke Brattan (released).
2014-15 was… Poor by their own standards. Roarcelona have been usurped as the number one club in the country, both in terms of results (Melbourne Victory) and the standard of football (Adelaide United).
A slow start to the season meant that the Roar were playing catch-up, and they fell short of the finals for the first time the 2009-10 season when they finished 9th. However, thanks to a salary cap breach by Perth Glory, Brisbane were gifted a finals berth after being promoted to 6th place. They failed to make it count though, exiting the finals series in the first round after going down 2-1 to Adelaide.
2015-16 will be… Just as important off the pitch as it is on it.
The Roar still face uncertainty around the ownership of the club, with payments to players and staff still unresolved and behind schedule. John Aloisi was kicked out of the club’s Ballymore training facility on his first day as coach due to an ongoing dispute between the club and the Queensland Rugby Union over unpaid rent.
The Bakrie Group – who own the club – have sent representatives over from Indonesia and are guaranteeing all debts will be paid by January – though the club is still very much up for sale – however this did not stop the venting of anger and frustration by Brisbane supporters at a fan forum at the end of last month. Over 100 fans gathered at the forum and expressed their displeasure towards the situation of the club’s finances, as well as the departure of the club’s standout player from last season, Luke “Ludacris” Brattan, on a free transfer.
While Aloisi has stated “no matter what, there will always be a Brisbane Roar,” to quell fears of the club going into administration, you get the feeling that the off-field issues need to be resolved sooner rather than later to ensure that the club does indeed have a long-term future.
On the pitch, the experience of Thomas Broich and Matt McKay will steady the rocking Brisbane ship and keep the playing group focused, but the hole in midfield following Brattan’s departure is something that jumps out. Practically all other clubs expected to be contending for the top spots have strengthened – or at least adequately replaced – throughout the off-season, and the focus will be on Spanish midfielder Corona to hit the ground running and fill the void left by Brattan.
Fortunately though, in contrast to the turbulence off the field, the majority of the squad has stayed loyal and they will line up with a very similar playing group last season – which also contains a number of players from the premiership years.
Aloisi has already sought to unite the playing group and ensure their focus is on football, while his passion for the game and immersion in the Roar culture has been met with a positive response by the club’s fans.
Despite the poor performance last season, a complete overhaul would put the Roar into a full-on rebuilding phase, and the likelihood of them bouncing back after last season’s disappointment would be even slimmer. The stability that the playing group provides will be crucial considering everything else going on, and hopefully it can translate to stability on all fronts.
Key Player: Dimitri Petratos. The former Sydney FC man was always on the fringes of the harbour side, but it seems he has found a home in Brisbane after signing a contract extension with the club last year.
While his form has been inconsistent, with only the one goal to his name last campaign, a hat-trick against former club Sydney at the end of 2013 showed that on his day the 22-year-old can be a lethal finisher and genuine game-changer – he was even listed in Goal.com’s top 10 recruits of the 2013-14 season.
A goal against English giants Liverpool and the go-ahead goal in their come-from-behind win over Central Coast in their final pre-season hit out will do wonders for his confidence, and with a fanbase still searching for a striking hero more than a year after the departure of Besart Berisha, the stage is set for Petratos to have a breakthrough season.
What, or whom, do Brisbane need? A good start. You can see this being the last chance John Aloisi gets at a managerial gig in the A-League after his failed stint at Melbourne Heart, and a poor start to the season will see pressure mount on the former Socceroo.
With fans already frustrated and volatile, a slow start to the season could be disastrous for players, coaching staff and a potential sale.
The Blog FC predicted finish: 8th