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Bigger than football: Melbourne Derby preview

In what should be one of the most exciting weeks on the calendar for any City fan, the decision announced by the APL early on Monday morning has caused a league-wide implosion as we head into the annual Christmas derby.


This pre-game review will look a little different, as I will try to cater to the supporters who admirably, and rightfully so, will still be looking forward to the league's showpiece event, but I will also be addressing the elephant in the room and speaking openly as not just a fan of Melbourne City, but of Australian football.


With that in mind, here are three things to look ahead to in the build-up to what is looking to be (albeit for the wrong reasons) one of the most historic Melbourne Derbies to ever take place.


Photo: Andrew Wiseman (@wisemansports)

A better understanding of life under Rado

The loss against Sydney FC seemed to stir up a little concern amongst City fans across our social media platforms, which isn’t all too surprising considering we really haven’t been used to losing in recent memory. Couple that with the fact we’ve just lost a manager from out of nowhere that we trusted so deeply and there is a sense that City has been left a little shell-shocked by the recent happenings around the club.


Sydney away is never an easy fixture, but add in that we were missing arguably our most critical role player in Aiden O’Neill through suspension and that Leckie, Maclaren and Tilio only returned to the squad mid-week after Socceroos duties, and it's no real surprise that we weren’t really clicking like we normally do. Mind you, I think our attack was okay; we created more than enough chances to score, but defensively we looked a bit shaken.


PK this season was building our defensive game heavily on a hard press and on Saturday there were instances where we tried to do that but didn’t really look like we knew when to press or when to sit back. That ultimately resulted in Sydney having regular opportunities to attack our back line. City conceded 16 shots on goal, which is way more than what we’re used to. As I said though, no Aiden, not much time for Vidosic with the group, etc.; it all has to be factored in, so whilst there were some areas of concern, I think the factors at play have earned Rado the right to just scratch that result off.


The upcoming derby will be a far better reflection of what life under him will be like. He has a full squad to choose from and a whole extra week with the players to know the approach of what we’re looking to do.


It doesn’t guarantee us a win because we’ll be in the teething phases still, but I do expect to see an improvement in our shape and overall defensive structure.


There aren’t really any excuses off the pitch that could hinder our preparation for this game, he’s got the best tools in the country to work with, it’s now up to him to show what he can do with them.


Bruno (Judas) Fornaroli:

I really contemplated whether I wanted to mention this bloke or not, but I decided he doesn’t deserve a free pass, so I’ll make it short and sweet.


What exactly happened between him and Warren Joyce is still unknown unless you were in the dressing rooms. There were issues at the club, we know that. Whether you supported his decision to leave or not is now irrelevant though.


The whole 'love for the club' façade he claimed to have, that victim mentality, it's gone now.


He knew exactly what he was doing when he signed for Victory and what it would mean to what little was left of his legacy, so he’s made his bed, make him lay in it.


Bruno will have no friends either on the pitch or in the stands from those in light blue on Saturday night, so let him know about it.


Bigger than football

Now to what is, for me, the crux of this article.


Unless you live under a rock, you would’ve heard that the APL board has made the decision to host the A-Leagues Grand Finals exclusively in Sydney for the next three years. Most of the reasons why this doesn’t work for our game have been discussed at length, so I’m not going to echo those statements anymore, we know what they are. But what I am going to do is discuss from my personal standpoint and many fellow City fans who I’ve spoken with our justification and reasoning for the actions that are set to take place at the Derby.


Both terraces of Melbourne City and Victory have agreed that at the 20th minute of Saturday’s match, there will be a staged walkout in protest of the APL’s decision, and we will not be returning.


So why is this happening?


The complete lack of respect, consideration, transparency, and equity held toward the fans of our game by those in charge.


I’ve seen a few voices highlighting that the investment offered by the NSW government is only a positive for our game, so this decision isn’t a bad one.


We as fans aren’t deluded, we know the game is struggling as it is, and the financial aspect of this agreement is a substantial boost. But it's how it happened that has left fans so bitter.


If Head of the APL Danny Townsend had come out and explained that the game is struggling and this offer was going to give him the tools to invest back into the game, maybe it would be different.


If he recognised how much fans would be against it but presented a clear vision of how he plans to use those funds long-term, whilst also making the Grand Finals as accessible and fair for each set of fans who are not from Sydney, as well as a plan to revert back to the home Grand Final system in 3 years, we may not have liked it, but we probably would’ve understood and been able to accept it.


But he hasn’t, and what this reeks of is a cash-grab, an emphasis on a Sydney-centric league, a move away from using the natural power of football as the driving force to grow our game and instead opting for an AFL/NRL-type system that has been packaged into a move that is meant to somehow benefit us fans of the game.


Not only has the decision made been the wrong one, but he has lied in his responses as well as twisted the words of pivotal figures in our game.


City star Jamie Maclaren responded to a fan directly stating none of the players are happy with the decision, nor was any communication received and this was all done behind their backs.


Socceroos star Craig Goodwin was exploited, being used in the announcement video to seemingly heap praise on the decision, but later stated that this was filmed during the preseason and in response to talking about Finals in general and was completely unaware and against any plans to go ahead with the new proposal.


Townsend himself stated that this has been ‘in the works for 12 months and we have been dealing with different states, looked at all the pros and cons to make the best decision’ yet a representative from the Victorian Government stated that they were not aware of the process or decision to move the Grand Finals.


So tell me how a decision that has been in the works for over 12 months, that players and fans alike are so against, has been made by the APL with zero communication with the people who put the APL in a job?


Those who watched Townsend's poor excuse of 'fronting up to fans' that consisted of him hand-picking questions to further pump the tires on his decision without addressing any real concerns raised will have seen just what attitude Townsend is running with.


He continues to attempt to make it out to be that this is in order to benefit us, and even went on record to say we are just being ‘emotional’ and one day will see and be thankful for the decision he has made.


So, in summary, the decision made by the APL has been one that has involved lies, deceit, secrecy, disrespect, arrogance and negligence to the stakeholder that should be his biggest priority: the fans.

What makes this hurt so much is that, as an Australian football fan, we bear a sense of responsibility for the survival of the game we love. We are the ones who have tried so hard despite so many obstacles to keep what we have going. We are the reason football in this country has somehow survived.


We understood that fight and responsibility and we took it on with pride, and after the beautiful scenes from the World Cup, it seemed that there was light at the end of that tunnel, and we were getting somewhere.


And if you were able to resonate with any of that, you will share in the feeling of utter heartbreak and anger to know that the person who is meant to steer the ship for the game you cherish, who you should trust to represent you, doesn’t at all.


In fact, they see you as a number and will patronise you and gaslight you.


This is OUR game, and we refuse to let someone like Townsend treat us with utter contempt after all the blood, sweat, and tears we have put in to get where we are.


So that is why we are protesting, and that is why we will continue to call for the decision to hold the Grand Final exclusively in Sydney to be retracted as well as the resignation of Daniel Townsend as CEO of the Australian Professional Leagues, because we as the beating heart of football in Australia deserve better.


We encourage anyone who shares in the sentiment of what was written to take a stand and join in the walkout on Saturday.


Our support of the City players remains unwavering, and they know that. We will be there in spirit, and believe us, we wish more than anyone that it didn’t have to come to this, but the right decision isn’t always easy.


The message we are trying to send is bigger than any football match.


Fans can live without football, but football cannot live without fans.

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