Melbourne City’s 2019 began most promisingly. On New Year’s Day, the boys put in an impressive display against Western Sydney Wanderers away, winning the game 2-0 with goals from Lachie Wales and Ritchie De Laet. This result kicked off a three-game winning streak, with wins against Newcastle and Brisbane in the ensuing week… aaaaand the season pretty much went to s*** from there…
But before we get to all that, there’s the small matter of our excellent piece of January (or February?) business to discuss first, with Jamie Maclaren reportedly signing for the club hours after the transfer deadline had expired, apparently thanks to some sort of typically shady loophole which we’re absolutely not going to question, because the man’s been on fire ever since; in his 22 competitive appearances for City, Maclaren’s scored 21 goals.
Of course, Maclaren’s arrival only confirmed what City fans had already known but perhaps were afraid to acknowledge the reality of, with prolific club figure Bruno Fornaroli officially departing the club in February having scored 57 goals in all competitions, as quoted in the club statement.
After that incredible 4-3 win over Western Sydney in late January – you know, the game pictured above where Schenkeveld pops up in the dying minutes and sends us all into hysterics – we endured six games without a win, eventually breaking this disappointing run of form with an unlikely 2-0 win over Sydney, our first win over the Sky Blues in eight previous attempts.
Typically, we went on to lose 3-0 the next week against the Wanderers, and this was probably the point at which the penny dropped. It was clear that for all our promising performances against Victory (draw), Perth (draw) and Sydney (win) in the three consecutive weeks beforehand that we’d only be making up the numbers come Finals time. It was one of those typically insipid City performances where fans’ hopes had been built up over the weeks prior and were consequently obliterated in one abhorrent showing.
Our 5-0 demolition of Central Coast in the final round was nice – particularly because we’d fielded so many youngsters, with eight under-21s on the pitch by the end of the game – but there were no more excuses for Warren Joyce. The patience of fans had run out long ago, and after losing in the first week of Finals to Adelaide, the majority were delighted by the club’s decision not to renew his contract for 2019/20. Our fifth-place finish under Joyce was our equal-lowest of the City era.
In the W-League, the first half of 2019 was a largely disappointing and forgettable period for the City girls. The year similarly began with a New Years’ Day win over the Wanderers, but the side went on to suffer heartbreaking defeats against Victory and Brisbane to effectively put a line through our contention for Finals, though a last-round 2-0 win over Sydney gave us late hope.
Typically the crown jewel of CFG’s influence here in Melbourne, the W-League side’s failure to make Finals made sure that an effort to ensure their immediate recovery to the pinnacle of women’s football in Australia became a massive priority over the offseason.
The highlight of our recruitment was without doubt the dual-signing of superstar Matildas Emily van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter, though all of our signings have been impactful thus far. Matildas defender Emma Checker has solidified the back four, Claire Emslie's provided a goal threat up front and Milica Mijatovic has proven to be the dark horse signing of the preseason.
This time around, the girls are flying seven rounds in as they currently occupy second place on the table and are still undefeated, with important wins over Sydney and Victory the highlights of the season so far.
Back to the men's side of things, the team needed to be rebuilt again for the new season. Fans were forced to say goodbye to some of their favourites, with the most notable departures of the off-season being Bart Schenkeveld (and his short-shorts) and Luke Brattan, who left as one of the highest appearance-makers in club history.
Scott Galloway’s signing went well under the radar at the time, and was followed by the higher-profile acquisitions of Craig Noone, Richard Windbichler, Josh Brillante, Javier Cabrera and Adrián Luna (and later, Tom Glover); a mixed bag, to say the least.
There were the preseason friendlies against Bentleigh and Oakleigh, as well as a handful against other A-League clubs, and then came our FFA Cup run…
‘The JMac and Nooney Show’ is what we titled one of our post-match writeups, and it was a pretty fair summary of the cup run as a whole. On a side note, oh how the two have gone different paths since then…
Campbelltown. Marconi. Western Sydney. Brisbane Strikers.
Check. Check. Check. Check.
Just one more box to tick against Adelaide, right?
The A-League season started with that horrible 0-0 advertisement for why Derbies shouldn’t be played in Round 1, before we finally got going with a win against Adelaide in Round 2.
The FFA Cup Final was to be played just days later and the morale was up. The expectations were up. The hopes and ambitions of fans were up.
What followed is what could be argued as possibly the worst performance – contextually – in club history. If not that, then there is absolutely no doubt that our humiliating, insipid performance on that night will genuinely leave a deep scar on fans that won’t be healed until we reach the Final once more and win it as retribution.
Enough said about that though, because to our credit, we bounced right back and showed resilience in our win over Western United that weekend, followed by wins over Wellington and Central Coast.
From there, you’ll remember the rest of our 2019 story, so we’ll save ourselves from rants about those Brisbane, Perth, Victory and Sydney results.
If we’re honest, 2019’s been about as typical as you could expect a City year to go. ‘A rollercoaster ride’ genuinely goes without saying for us.
But, and perhaps this is a ridiculously naïve and stupid thing for a City fan to say, it does feel like things are sort of, maybe, possibly on the way up. We’re sure as hell not ready to claim that one fully just yet, but life under Erick Mombaerts has been fairly good so far, hasn’t it? Better than ol’ mate Joycey anyway.
Jamie Maclaren’s stamped out rumours of him going anywhere anytime soon and we’ve got a host of exciting young talent who’re already taking the next step in their development.
Perhaps 2020 will be the start of a new decade which will unfold most unlike our underperforming first.
Anyway, here's a gallery of the best photos from 2019, courtesy of Talking City's Matt McIndoe and Melbourne City club photographer Aleks Kostadinoski: