Home-grown: Selecting an all-Aussie squad of past and present players
Picture Saturday night football and a packed AAMI Park – yes, we’re aware that’s a fair old task even for the wildest imagination.
It very well might be packed in this hypothetical situation though, because this isn’t any old A-League clash with the Mariners; it’s Melbourne City’s best-ever Aussies taking on its crown-jewel foreigners in a 90-minute clash to decide… well, nothing really. We just want to see some class footballers.
That’s the premise anyway; one team of Aussie icons to have turned out for Heart/City and a corresponding lineup of foreign legends to challenge them.
That’s Mooy, JMac and PK vs. Bruno, Bart and Engelaar.
It’s the most prestigious of hypothetical heavyweight fights to take place on the AAMI Park surface and our mouths are watering just waiting to get into it already, so here you are – Talking City’s Australian XI, to kick things off.
Note: Where there was competition for a spot, emphasis was placed on the performances of the players in question whilst at Melbourne Heart/City as opposed to their reputation or what they later went on to accomplish. Stats from Transfermarkt.
Goalkeeper: Clint Bolton (70 appearances, 16 clean sheets)
With an unbreakable hold on the first-choice goalkeeper position throughout 2010/11 and 2011/12, Bolton became an enduring figure from the Heart era.
The 6’2” shotstopper was capable of pulling off impressive saves which would influence the tide of matches, with Bolton going on to win consecutive Player of the Year awards in the first two seasons of Heart.
Right-Back: Nathaniel Atkinson (60 appearances, 1 goal)
There wasn’t a whole lot to pick from when it came to the right-sided fullback spot, with Atkinson and Ivan Franjic the two standout contenders.
Whilst Franjic quite obviously played a significant role in that 2016 FFA Cup triumph, his better days were spent with the Roar earlier in his career.
Besides, why not recognise a young man who recovered from a season-ending injury in 2017/18 that derailed his initial upward trajectory and who has since come back an even more exciting prospect heading into 2020/21?
Centre-Back: Patrick Kisnorbo (76 appearances, 5 goals)
The man who lead us through the Heart-City transition and who will lead us again into 2020/21, though from touchline rather than on the pitch, PK is universally adored by fans and was obviously one of the first names on this particular teamsheet.
Capable of a timely headed-goal from a corner, Kisnorbo also deserves recognition for his defensive astuteness as a player, truly a rock at the back whose physical presence, decision-making under pressure and spatial awareness made him quite the task to get past.
Mostly we just love him for ripping the necks of his Kappa shirts though.
Centre-Back: Simon Colosimo (63 appearances, 1 goal)
Our inaugural captain, Colosimo arrived in Melbourne on the back of a double-winning season with Sydney, where he was awarded the Joe Marston Medal in the 2009/10 Grand Final.
A leader by experience on the pitch, his legacy was that of growing the stature of the youthful defenders playing alongside him, namely the likes of Brendan Hamill.
"Shime" may be best remembered for his late goal against Adelaide to jump-start a thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind win back in that very first season of our club's history.
Left-Back: Aziz Behich (89 appearances, 2 goals)
It was always Aziz vs Jamo for this spot and, like with our Fans’ Team of the Decade, it’ll be the former who triumphs over the latter, though we’ll happily concede it could go either way.
Quite the athletic fullback, Behich often demonstrated his capacity to roam up the field to contribute to attacking interplay, eventually leading to some experimentation with him at left-midfield, racking up two goals and seven assists over the course of his stint with the Heart.
Defensive Midfield: Neil Kilkenny (28 appearances, 3 goals)
You receive the ball in acres of space and with a deft turn, begin heading towards goal, only to have your eventual clumsy pass intercepted in a dangerous area, with a counterattack beckoning.
‘Killa’ won’t stand for this though, as he bustles in from the side and brutally rips the ball back into possession with a bruising tackle before passing it to a more reliable teammate than yourself.
Killa glares at you. You avoid his gaze. His opponent remains sprawled on the ground between the two of you, screaming for a physio.
You’d rather be the one on the ground right now.
Defensive Midfield: Luke Brattan (82 appearances, 6 goals)
Ah Bratts; our favourite corner-flag swinging, hair-bleaching, volley-ripping, sometimes-attacking- mostly-defensive midfielder. You’ll do the job quite nicely as the conduit between Killa and Mooy.
It’ll be a blast.
Attacking Midfield: Aaron Mooy (53 appearances, 18 goals)
And speaking of Mooy, we’ve come to the determination that Azza’s going to be in just about every hypothetical XI that we devise as long as he’s eligible for it. Our second-greatest player of the decade, the midfield magician finds himself here once again.
We’d give him a similar pump up to everyone else here but a) Words just don’t do him justice and b) You know full-well just how good he was.
Right-Wing: David Williams (101 appearances, 21 goals)
With the striker position taken up by a far more prolific marksman, we’ve had to slot Willo in a bit earlier on the right-wing, as we did with our Team of the Decade from earlier in the season.
It’s pretty difficult to flat out ignore his contributions though – the man could turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye when he was at his best.
If anything, it’s really just a shame that the season where he was at that brilliant best most consistently was that unfortunate final Heart campaign. That 12-goal haul remains the highest single-season tally of his career.
Striker: Jamie Maclaren (36 appearances, 29 goals)
In a word; lethal.
In a few other words; marksman, deadeye, efficient.
In the opening dozen or so rounds to the 2019/20 season, JMac just didn’t miss – and if he did, it almost seemed like it was just a deliberate show of mercy, he was THAT dangerous in front of goal.
Maclaren inevitably tailed off a little bit but still remains one of the league’s elite strikers even when off his game.
Left-Wing: Daniel Arzani (24 appearances, 2 goals)
Daniel Arzani set the pitch on fire like arguably no other player ever has.
Watching the 5’7” winger’s highlights from that breakout season under Joyce is quite simply exhilarating. They’re just as exciting to watch now as they were then and it all really sums up quite well the type of player that he was… and the type that we hope he’s still able to properly grow into despite his injury.
Eugene Galekovic – 38 appearances, 13 clean sheets
Scott Jamieson – 78 appearances, 0 goals
Matt Thompson – 82 appearances, 7 goals
Mate Dugandzic – 75 appearances, 13 goals
Tim Cahill – 27 appearances, 11 goals
The squad of foreign challengers to take on our proposed Aussie XI will be released in a separate article later this week...