2019-20 A-League Preview
Background Image: Joey Jeremiah KKF
It's a new dawn in Australian Football. The Football Federation Australia (FFA) relinquished control of the A-League to its member clubs for the 2019/20 campaign, the division's 15th, finally bringing it in line with major European leagues which are governed in the same manner. Hope is newfound independence attracts investment in a competition that has stagnated in recent years.
In another move to promote growth, the A-League welcomes Western United, expanding the division to 11 clubs. The Melbourne-based side snared boss Mark Rudan from Wellington Phoenix. They'll be an unknown in their first season but instantly create two new derbies in Australia's second-largest city. Here's a look at how the league shakes out, beginning with the newbies.
Striker Scott McDonald should be familiar to Celtic, Motherwell and Middlesbrough supporters. He enjoyed distinguished spells with all three clubs. He'll partner former West Ham forward Alessandro Diamanti. It's fair to say both have a few miles on the clock. Their job is to show the young lads how it's done.
Three-time champions Brisbane Roar put their famous striker in the dugout. Former Liverpool and England sniper Robbie Fowler takes the reins at SunCorp Stadium amid a massive roster overhaul. Among a dozen new arrivals, the pick is former Blackpool and Motherwell centre half Tom Aldred. Fowler gave him the captain's armband. Jay O'Shea [Bury] and Aaron Amadi-Holloway [Shrewsbury] also made the trek Down Under.
Whether Fowler can bed his new recruits quickly remains to be seen although pre-season signs encourage optimism. Roar fans hope the glass is half-full. They're unaccustomed to finishing on the ladder's second-bottom rung.
Fowler has the opportunity to match wits with former Anfield teammate Markus Babbel. The German begins his second year in charge at Western Sydney Wanderers. The lads in red and black take up residence in their new 30,000-seat BankWest Stadium. In keeping with their posh new digs, striker Alexander Meier is arguably the biggest signing made by an Australian club in pre-season. Can the 2014/15 Bundesliga golden boot winner fire Wanderers to their maiden title?
Melbourne City think not. Taken over by Sheikh Mansour's City Football Group, Manchester City's satellite so far flatters to deceive. Erik Mombaerts is the man entrusted to revive their fortunes. Already the Frenchman guided City to the FFA Cup final. Scouser Craig Noone has arrived as a free agent from Bolton Wanderers.
The winger wants to emulate Stockport lad Adam Le Fondre's debut campaign with Sydney FC. The much-travelled striker arrived in New South Wales last year. His 16 league goals carried the Sky Blues to the Grand Final where they defeated Perth Glory on penalties.
Perth were dealt a second body blow when frontman Andy Keogh departed. The former Scunthorpe and Wolves man joined Saudi outfit Al-Qadsiah. Glory coach Tony Popovic may have his work cut out to repeat last season's heroics although Bruno Fornaroli's arrival spawns hope. El Tuna cancelled his contract with Melbourne City last month after a dispute with the board. The 32-year-old Uruguayan captained City 27 times and scored 51 goals in 73 appearances.
The famous bird that rises from the ashes must first burn. That could be Wellington Phoenix's fate this term. Not only have they lost manager Rudan to Western United, A-League top scorer Roy Krishna also caught a flight out of New Zealand. Unable to agree a new contract, the Fijian is off to ATK in the Indian Super League. The Nix will be captained by former Newcastle and Peterborough defender Steven Taylor. At least the Geordie is used to putting in hectic shifts.
Newcastle Jets had showed intent by signing former Norwich City star Wes Hoolahan but, to their dismay, the so-called Irish Messi is ruled out till the new year with ankle ligament damage, seriously scuppering their top-six aspirations.
Central Coast Mariners were bottom of the pile last year but now have former Maltidas coach Alen Stajcic at the helm. Happily, he won't have to contend with the Usain Bolt circus. The Olympian departed after an unsuccessful trial period with the Gosford outfit in 2018.
Round One gets underway with Sydney FC travelling to Adelaide United on Friday night. The Reds had a quiet off-season but did bring in Norwegian forward Kristian Opseth. The towering target hopes to get off the mark against the champions.
The Melbourne Derby highlights the opening weekend, however. Victory again look to Swedish lynchpin Ola Toivonen, after he plundered 15 goals last season. City bossed the previous three derbies, though. Can Victory live up to their name?