Heart show signs of life


After a stuttering start, Melbourne Heart and John van ‘t Schip both look to have their season back on track.

At half time during Saturday-s clash with The Newcastle Jets, it seemed that the Heart-s sophomore campaign had all but flatlined.

After another frustrating and unproductive half of football, John van -t Schip must have known his team-s season was on the critical list.

Up until this point of the campaign, watching Melbourne Heart at times felt like being force fed a Nickelback album.

What a difference 45 minutes of football can make.

Three second half goals to the men in red and white produced three precious points for the Heart.

It lifted them off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League table, and rewarded the patience of their fans who must have begun to wonder if the Heart-s claims to being the league-s entertainers was simply wishful thinking.
Van -t Schip-s team have the most challenging assignment of any football club in the country.

Established in the shadows of the League-s behemoth, Melbourne Victory, Heart-s mission is to provide a point of difference to the two times Hyundai A-League champion. Even more challenging, they are charged with the responsibility of pioneering a new audience for the game in a market where the incumbent franchise seems to have a lock on available support for football.

Melbourne Heart-s game plan was that it would provide an exciting, exuberant and dynamic brand of football, an antidote to what was perceived to be Victory-s pragmatic efficiency under Ernie Merrick-s tenure.

Season one provided signs that the Heart where delivering on their promise. A couple of pulsating derbies against the Victory provided FFA with a window on the future of the competition. Suddenly the Hyundai A-League felt like a big time football league.

Yet there were speed humps ahead. Having invested in some quality veterans to give the club a headline act and on field stability during the first campaign, suddenly they were gone. John Aloisi, Josip Skoko and Gerald Sibon all had their moments last year, but having stayed so briefly their legacy minimal.

Aloisi-s greatest contribution might yet come with the talent he nurtures in his role as National Youth League coach.

Meanwhile, the Heart have spluttered through the early part of this campaign. Their desire to play pass-and-move, high-tempo football seemed to be drowning in self doubt. Their game had the cutting edge of a butter knife.

And it can-t afford to be this way. As they try to stake out an outpost behind enemy lines, Melbourne Heart need to be more than just not Melbourne Victory.

Saturday night gave us signs that there is still something to work with here. Ironically, it came from three former Victory players.

Mate Dugandzic and Aziz Behich both displayed a tireless work ethic and the touch of class required to show they-ve improved with their switch across town. Both got on the score sheet, Behich-s goal sure to figure amongst the season-s best.

Former Victory hero Fred ran the game for the Heart in midfield and also scored. You get the sense that if the Heart are to really start pumping this season, much will rely on him.

And after Saturday night-s sparkling performance, John van -t Schip-s team has at least found a pulse. And Melbourne-s Heart-s season is still alive.