Heart’s old habits hard to kick, fan forum and derby day

Another big week for Melbourne Heart: losing to ten man Western Sydney, losing Grella and then Aziz Behich, the fan forum on Wednesday and the upcoming derby on Saturday.

20130130-231045.jpgWSW have hit the ground running and you would think that of the two Sydney teams, that they have been in the league for years and Sydney FC were the new kids on the block. The WSW match was always going to be a tough one, not least because they have one of the most passionate crowds in the A-League. It all started off well with Williams’ attack on goal resulting in WSW’s Polenz being shown the red card in the first 13 minutes, giving Heart the chance to score from a penalty. You would have put money on Tadic converting, but he hit it poorly by his standards. After the penalty miss, it looked like Heart had the man down and WSW were playing for the win. They were feeding off their crowd, while Heart seemed to take a back foot and wait for the chances to come to them. In the end Heart were lucky to come out of it 1 goal down. It was great to see both Babalj and Grella come onto the field and in injury time Babalj was involved in one of our best chances to equalise. Who would have guessed it was to be Grella’s one and only appearance in the Red and White? All the best Vince after an amazing career including his time as a linchpin of the Socceroos.

Melbourne Heart had their first Fan Forum for 2013, at AAMI park last Wednesday night. Ashley went along to see what it was all about. Here are his views…

20130130-230942.jpgHaving never been to anything like this before I was not sure what to expect. Once again Melbourne Heart walked the talk. Chairman Peter Sidwell started the forum off with going over the fundamentals of what the club is all about and the point of differences with the other Melbourne team, Victory. Melbourne Heart has long term plans of becoming a great club by working in and with the community as one of their main objectives; another is giving the youth of Victoria something to look up to.

Then they opened up to the fans for a long QandA. Of course most questions went to John Aloisi and the players – how do they think the team could perform better or why Aloisi makes certain decisions. John Aloisi is a professional and a champion, answering all questions and listening to them all too. It is easy being on the sidelines as a supporter and saying what they should do, but when John explained a situation, a certain match, where he might not have had enough players to field, you can then understand the pressure and what he has to work with.

The Fan Forum was a great night, and what a better week to have it than just before the Derby match. Melbourne Victory are sitting in second spot, and under Ange are back on the winning track. With Heart losing Aziz on Tuesday, the unfortunate retirement of Grella and Fred still injured Saturday’s game is going to be tough. Some light at the end of the tunnel is having Babalj back and also Golgol might be ready to be named back in the squad from his injury.

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John Aloisi has got some tough decisions to make, but one thing for sure is that the players and coaching staff want this win just as much as the supporters want it. The one thing about the Melbourne Derby is that no matter who is playing in both teams, they both come out and give us a match that is compelling to watch. C’mon Red and White supporters, we need you all there at Docklands tonight to give our boys a boost.

Concluding on a hopefully exciting note, Scott Munn was unable to be at the Fan Forum due to business in Europe. Let’s hope this means he will return with a much-needed experienced player to add to our line up, to help ease the burden of the losses of Behich, Grella and Marrone.

Heart answers the tough questions and @OneMelburnian unites!

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January has been an exciting month for Melbourne Heart, featuring the fan initiative #OneMelburnian, the team’s good form (on the scoreboard at least) and last week’s #OwnTheExperience round. Last week Heart put a lot on the line, following questions about the team’s ability to play a full 90 minutes, added to by the Indigenous and Members round – all coming back in positive results.

It’s worth comparing last week’s result with Round 16, which for me was a hard pill to swallow. Once again Heart found themselves in front in the first 25 minutes, only to have a win or even a draw taken away in the dying moments, with Sydney’s first win against us adding more salt to the wound. This put Heart in a very hard position in the next round, coming up against the side sitting second on the ladder. The game against Adelaide started to look very similar with Heart getting the first goal, and so another match where Heart had to defend a lead. But this time they showed us all that they can play a full 90 minutes and increased their lead at the start of the second. It was great to see Thompson come to life and surge forward to set up Garcia. All the players played in sync, including the younger players like Walker who also showed their committment to playing great football for the full match. Maybe the #OwnTheExperience round helped motivate the team to win. With the extra Active bays being trialled for the game, the YARRASIDE was pumping. This surely gave the team an edge over Adelaide.

The fan led @OneMelburnian campaign seems to have helped the crowd attendance in last week’s game. I truly believe if it wasn’t for all of the members driving #OneMelburnian we would not have seen the crowd get to over 7,000 against Adelaide. Let’s hope that this campaign continues not only driving the crowd numbers up in our next home game in round 20, but also pushing members numbers closer to the 9,000 target.
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Speaking of strong crowd support, today Heart will be going up against the growing vibrant home support of the Western Sydney Wanderers. It is going to be tough, in their short history they look to have one of the most loyal membership bases. This is fourth vs fifth. A win to Heart will not push us up the ladder but it will help keep us in the top 6. In the lead up to the Adelaide game, it was nice having Victory friends wanting to see Heart win and vice versa. This round seems no different; if both Melbourne teams win, they will once again help each other on the ladder.

Hopefully our players can holster the energy that was provided to them last round and continue with another win against WSW. Aloisi believes that if we play a full 90 minutes we can beat any team, and WSW is probably at this point one of the hardest teams to beat. Not only that, it doesn’t make it any easier playing them on their own soil, in front of a huge screaming WSW crowd. Great news for us is the word on the street is that Grella might be called into the squad for the first time. With losing Fred for around four weeks this could not have come at a better time. Even if he comes on for the last 20 minutes, his experience and skill will surely help the team. A win here will put us into good stead going into the derby match next week.

Heart proves actions speak louder than words

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For 3 years now Melbourne Heart has walked the talk, which is not an easy thing to do. Right from the start Melbourne Heart stated it wanted to be a club centred in the community. Heart’s “own the experience” round on Friday night showed it is delivering on this community involvement. And I got to be part of the unforgettable atmosphere that helped launch the team toward a rare win over Adelaide United.

Friday night’s events were significant for Foundation Members like myself, as well as the broader community with it also being the Melbourne Heart’s Indigenous Round. Melbourne Heart started this annual recognition of the Indigenous community in their inaugural year. I too would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and thank them for their stewardship of our city.
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Heart Foundation Members got to “own the experience” by entering for selection to blog about the night from behind-the-scenes (lucky me!) and a 5-a-side game at half-time. Everyone else at the game was included by getting to sing along to a possible new club anthem ‘So Happy Together’. And another community initiative I learnt about was the club’s regular donation of tickets to different community groups, giving a ‘match day experience’ for people who otherwise might not get to enjoy it.

When I found out who else had been selected to blog about the night, I thought how did someone like me end up amongst this amazing group? I’ve only been blogging for a short time (TheBigHeart), yet here I was amongst some big names in Heart social media circles. I learnt a lot from hanging out with Luke and Aaron (@SchipHappens), Steven (@forbze), David (@hardsy05, @_ftsal) and Hamish (@hamishjones) – thanks guys.

I made sure I was at AAMI Park well before 5.30pm to meet the other bloggers and David Lyon (General Manager – Fan Engagement). We were given a guided tour of the ground, which I found out was designed to increase its capacity to 50,000 if required in future. We were then shown our seats, right on the pitch behind the Adelaide coaching staff. Sue Crow (GM – Community) gave us some interesting insights into Heart’s community engagement progress, before the game kicked off – and what a game!

20130120-174640.jpgSitting so close to the team areas, you certainly discovered a different atmosphere to match day. Not only could we hear what the coaches were shouting out, but what the players were saying to each other which was fantastic. The main thing I enjoyed immensely was the commitment of the Heart players and coaching staff for the full 90 minutes. It wasn’t just the experienced players who stood up, it was the young players too. Aloisi said in the press conference afterwards that the players were really organized and helped each other out. He said that Walker did well with his inexperience in the A-League.

Then of course you had the Yarraside, and that was a show in itself. They of course put on a fantastic display of singing and dancing, and I’m glad that I sit amongst them each home game.
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To sum up my experience of Melbourne Heart from Friday’s game, it would be “Actions speak louder than words”. Heart showed that for a full 90 minutes and beyond that they are committed to: winning on the field; giving back to members and letting them “Own the Experience”; and, the community through the work they do off the field.
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I really believe that the ‘Own The Experience’ night was a huge success for Melbourne Heart. I received larger than normal activity from our followers on Instagram and Twitter and the buzz is continuing. I just want to say a big thank you to Melbourne Heart for letting us, the members, be able to be part of the team and game. Thank you to David Lyon, Sue Crow and all the Heart crew for being professional and giving us 100% of their time.

I believe that Heart needs to keep finding ways to embrace its members and the community, as this is how we can differentiate the club from Victory and other A-league clubs. It will be fantastic in the years to come when Melbourne Heart becomes successful and brings their community spirit with them all the way.
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Must win and a day we can ‘own the experience’

20130117-220103.jpgNot much can be said about last week’s match away to Sydney FC. It was a game which once again we had in our hands, only to see our beloved team making the usual mistakes which gave Sydney their first win over us. In our last blog ‘A quick look at Melbourne Heart’s run home’ both Max and myself believed that we would capitalise against Sydney. But it wasn’t to be, and now we face Adelaide at AAMI Park. Adelaide are a top side and we have struggled against them at home.

Not only is it Melbourne Heart’s indigenous round, Heart have also made it an ‘own the experience’ game for members. Heart are giving members a chance to be a part of the day, which includes a five-a-side match during half time, the trialling of a club song and the blog outreach. The blogger outreach is where Melbourne Heart have given the chance for six founding members, which includes myself, to be immersed in the club activities from start to finish.

For me it is going to be a big day, and probably a highlight for the 2013 year thanks to Melbourne Heart. I am looking forward to being able to experience what goes into the club before, during and after the match. So not only is it a big day for me to be able to be a part of the club, it is an important match for Heart, one where they must not give way.20130117-221721.jpg

On top of all this there is the fan lead #OneMelburnian campaign that has been gaining large momentum over the last week via twitter. This is about members pushing the membership drive. It only takes each member to bring a friend or family member along, to experience the exciting atmosphere and hopefully turn them into members. So, don’t forget to bring a friend along to the match tonight. Let’s show our support to the club in a sea of red and white, and help push them on to victory.

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A quick look at Melbourne Heart’s run home

We thought it might be a good time to review Heart’s run home, so here’s our predictions for the remaining 12 games. Can Heart make the finals? Of course we want them to, however there are no easy games in what’s proving to be the most competitive A-league season yet:

Round 16: Sydney FC VS Melbourne Heart: Head to Head: W 2, D 4, L 0.
Ash’s prediction: I hope this one is a win, and going by past experience this shouldn’t be out of the question. This is a must win.
Max’s prediction: Heart will be confident after two wins and should be able to capitalise on Sydney’s poor form for a win.

Round 17: Heart VS Adelaide United: Head to Head: W 1, D 2, L 3.
Ash’s prediction: Heart have not beaten Adelaide at AAMI Park. Going by history this will be a loss.
Max’s prediction: Adelaide have stumbled lately, including that huge loss to WSW, so Heart should be able to get a point from a draw.

Round 18: Western Sydney Wanderers VS Heart: Head to Head: W 0, D 0, L 1.
Ash’s prediction: The two newest teams battle once again, but the form the WSW have been in over the last five games, I’m predicting this will be one that Heart might not win.
Max’s prediction: Have to agree Ash, WSW are a team headed for the finals and will probably get another win against us with their huge home support urging them on.

Round 19: Melbourne Victory VS Melbourne Heart: Head to Head: W 3, D 3, L 2.
Ash’s prediction: Victory are in some good form, and Heart haven’t lost a game in 2013, I don’t want to put Victory down as a win, so I’m hoping for at least a draw in this one.
Max’s prediction: Heart will fire up once again and be looking for a reversal of the last derby result. A high scoring draw.

Round 20: Melbourne Heart VS Perth Glory: Head to Head: W 2, D 3, L 4.
Ash’s Prediction: I would love to see us beat Glory at AAMI Park, but they have seem to have it over us in the recent meetings. Lets hope Heart can get out of this form against Perth, but I’m thinking another draw could be up.
Max’s prediction: We pipped Perth at home in the dying minutes last time and I predict Heart will be hungry enough to get another home win on the board.

Round 21: Newcastle Jets VS Melbourne Heart: head to head: W 3, D 2, L 3.
Ash’s prediction: No game this season has been easy, and its hard to predict the right results, but going by current form of both teams I’m thinking that the Jets would have the home advantage and maybe a win to them.
Max’s prediction: Heart has proven it can score multiple goals against a leaky Jets defence and we should be able to get a draw here, if not a win.

Round 22: Melbourne Heart VS Sydney FC: Head to Head: W 2, D 5, L 0.
Ash’s prediction: So far Sydney is the only team not to beat Heart. lets hope it stays that way. Heart win.
Max’s prediction: A bumper crowd will provide great atmosphere for a game both teams will be desperate to win. Sydney may have sorted out some of their problems by then and welcomed back injured players, so a pulsating draw is likely.

Round 23: Wellington Phoenix VS Melbourne Heart: Head to Head: W 2, D 3, L 3.
Ash’s prediction: Heart haven’t won against Wellington on their turf yet. Last time they met, Heart were down experience players and were up at half time, with Heart ended up losing the game. Going by last time they meet and if we had a full line up we might be able to pull this off. But, I’m going by past form and so will be making this one a loss to the Heart.
Max’s Prediction: Phoenix are proud of their home record and will be pressing for finals action too so should to be too strong for Heart.

Round 24: Melbourne Heart VS Adelaide United: W 1, D 2, L 4.
Ash’s prediction: Another home game against Adelaide and I’m hoping Heart proves me wrong. Heart might lose this one.
Max’s prediction: Again a tough opponent but this time I reckon Heart will do just enough to take 3 points.

Round 25: Melbourne Heart VS Western Sydney Wanderers: Head to Head: W 0, D 0, L 1.
Ash’s prediction: I’m thinking home ground advantage and a win to Heart.
Max’s prediction: WSW’s defence is one of the best, a draw is likely.

Round 26: Brisbane Roar VS Melbourne Heart: Head to Head: W 3, D 2, L 3.
Ash’s prediction: This is going to be a very tough game, and maybe a win to Roar.
Max’s prediction: Brisbane will only improve and will be out to redress Heart’s two wins over it this season; I agree Ash, a win to Roar.

Round 27: Central Coast Mariners VS Melbourne Heart: Head to Head: W 1, D 1, L 6.
Ash’s prediction: Mariners are in fine form all year, and it doesn’t look like changing, this is the team to beat, and going by form factor I would think Mariners would win this one.
Max’s prediction: With the Mariner’s eyes on the finals and the league title likely to be theirs already, I predict Heart will be able to score a draw.

Final verdict from Ash and Max:
Ash’s verdict: I have tried to be hard and unbiased towards Heart, but looking at my predictions I’m thinking that Heart will end up with W 8, D 5, L 14. With the way this season has been going I am thinking Heart will finish between 5th and 7th position. Lets hope that Heart win more than what I predict, but even so I’m thinking the best case scenario would be aiming for 5th spot.
Max’s verdict: I’m banking on Heart’s recent form turn around to predict it will be a tougher team to beat and make the finals by finishing in either 5th or 6th. My predictions mean Heart should finish with 8 wins, 9 draws and 10 losses.