By Joey Lynch
The long offseason is finally over and Melbourne City’s Curtis Good says his side are ready for a fierce clash with rivals Melbourne Victory to open 2019/20.
Getting set to commence his second year with City/Heart since stints with Newcastle United, Bradford and Dundee United, Good, alongside his City teammates will open their season against familiar foes Victory at Marvel Stadium this weekend.
Thanks to an injury-interrupted pre-season by newly signed Austrian defender Richard Windbichler, Good – himself in the midst of an all too rare run of good health that has allowed him a full pre-season – appears set to start in the heart of Head Coach Erick Mombaerts defence alongside Harrison Delbridge on Saturday night; a now healthy Windbichler forced to wait in the wings for his opportunity.
Nonetheless, with the departure of Bart Schenkeveld following the conclusion of the 2018/19 season, there will be significant pressure upon whoever does start for City at centre-back heading into the coming campaign.
A fan favourite, the now-departed Dutchman’s ability to win aerial battles, read the play and use his pace to get back mop up the errors of his teammates looms as a massive hole to fill.
Good, however, says that he’s confident that City has what it takes to cover the loss of Schenkeveld.
“Bart was fantastic,” Good said on Wednesday.
“I loved playing with him, and his personality was commanding. I learned from him and, hopefully, you can bring that to the back four [this season].
“It’s an important position at the back there, you want to take up that leadership role as well. I feel like we have the players that can do it.”
Good has yet to taste defeat in his three meetings against Victory across his two stints in Bundoora, only playing in the two side’s 1-1 draw in Round 20 of the most recent season. City themselves have lost just one of their last four games against Victory at Marvel Stadium, and Good on Wednesday said that his side was prepared for a fierce battle to come on Saturday night.
“Hopefully it keeps going that way,” Good said when informed of his unblemished record against Victory.
“It’s a good omen to have, haven’t had that losing feeling against them; don’t want to start this week
“Everyone knows the rivalry has always been big, you won’t get many players taking a backward step. Personally, those are the games you want to play in and I’m up for the fight and looking forward to it.
“Both of us have gone through a few changes but I suppose with them, you always know they’re going to be a quality side and hard to beat.”
Any potential City triumph over their rivals, however, will likely rely on strong performances from a number of the club’s younger players.
Midfielder Connor Metcalfe and winger Ramy Najjarine appear to have won places in the starting XI of Mombaerts heading into the coming season and, with Jamie Maclaren absent thanks to Socceroos duty, 19-year-old Moudi Najjar looms as a potential starter at the tip of the City spear.
Reports from The Herald Sun’s David Davutovic have indicated that 16-year-old winger Raphael Borges Rodrigues may be in line for a call-up to City’s bench for the contest and, should the FFA Board approve the expansion of A-League benches for U23 players, young players such as Nathaniel Atkinson or academy players Stefan Colakovski and Mark Karlic could all come into contention to play a role.
Good, who himself debuted as a teenager when Melbourne Heart played against Newcastle Jets in round one of the 2011/12 season, was confident in City’s kids.
“They already have,” the defender said when asked if the youngsters would show they have what it takes.
“The stage hasn’t been as big as it will be on the weekend, but I know when I first started as a teenager the senior boys get around you and you block the rest of that and you concentrate on your football. We’ll do the same for them and we’ve got the highest confidence they’ll do the job.
“It’s [Playing as a teenager is] more a frame of mind. My first game wasn’t a fantastic start and it plays with you mentally. Luckily, I had the people around me to support me. I probably wouldn’t have tried to worry about it as much as I did at the time.
“I was very stressed about debuting; I got to the game and I was already… I had no energy thanks to nerves. Looking back at that now I think why was I so worried?
“That’s the kind of advice you give the boys, it’s just a game of football and we’ll be there with you. That’s the information I wish I had.”