By Joey Lynch
Newly installed as the fifth captain in the history of Melbourne Victory – and first of the Marco Kurz era – Ola Toivonen says he is excited about tackling 2019/20 with a very different looking Victory side.
Change has been the defining theme of the A-League’s most recent offseason; the commencement of Australia’s professional league’s transition towards independence and the entrance of Western United’s entrance to the league serving as the two headliners.
Australia’s biggest club witnessed the end of one of the longest and most successful relationships in Australian football history when Kevin Muscat – who had been at AAMI Park since their first season in the competition – announced that he would be stepping down as manager at the end of last season’s campaign.
Appointed to replace the Victory legend was former Adelaide United gaffer Marco Kurz; the German’s first task to rejuvenate a squad that suffered the retirement of former captain Carl Valeri and the departure of starters Keisuke Honda, James Troisi, Georg Niedermeier, Raúl Baena, Terry Antonis, and Kosta Barbarouses.
In their place, Kurz has brought in returning fan-favourites Robbie Kruse, Andrew Nabbout and Adama Traoré and added veteran internationals Tim Hoogland, Kristijan Dobras, Migjen Basha and Jakob Poulsen.
“When you change 12 people, and not just players but also the staff, you get a new atmosphere,” an excited Toivonen said on Tuesday.
“It’s a different atmosphere and a different feeling.
“It’s new for the boss and his staff, for the new players that came but also for us as well to get in new faces.
“The thing with Kevin [Muscat] came a bit from nowhere, but now we’re just looking forward to [the upcoming season].
33-year-old Toivonen, who scored 17 times across all competitions in his 26 appearances in 2018/19, has previously served as a captain during his time with Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and will front a leadership group consisting of Leigh Broxham, Thomas Deng, Tim Hoogland and Jakob Poulsen in the coming campaign.
The composition of the leadership group was decided upon after a vote of Victory’s staff and players – with one slot reserved for a young player in the form of Deng – with Kurz then selecting his side’s captain from that group.
“It’s a big honour to be selected by the coach and big thanks to the team as well – who didn’t go against it,” Toivonen laughed.
“It’s nice. I’ve had a lot of help from Carl [Valeri] and Leigh [Broxham], who know the club in and out, so it’s always nice to have people around me that know the club.
“[Valeri’s] been helpful throughout the pre-season, especially for the new players. When I came out here I was trying to help the young players because I’ve experienced a lot in my career. I’m trying to help them as much as I can in training, during the week and the games.
“We know last season wasn’t a good season for the club, but everyone is looking forward to the new season. My aim is to score and win games. We need that in this club. That’s what this club is: winning games and winning trophies.
“I’m really excited for the season and can’t wait to get started.”