There would not be too many Melbourne Victory players – if any – who have heard Alice Cooper’s 1975 classic The Department of Youth.
The song made its debut on the Welcome to my nightmare album, a fitting title for Melbourne Victory’s campaign even during the season’s temporary suspension.
Captain Ola Toivonen joined Swedish giants Malmo, Tim Hoogland returned to Germany and Robbie Kruse re-injured his knee – souring the build up to the side’s return to competitive football.
But as Alice and interim boss Grant Brebner would tell you, power can be found in the department of youth.
”I’ve always felt, personally, they were looked at as youth players and here to make up the numbers,’’ Brebner said.
”While I haven’t had them for a long time, one of the biggest gulfs I’ve tried to bridge is telling them they’re not youth players but young players. They’re in the squad just as much as Kruse and [Andrew] Nabbout and they’ll be viewed just the same as them. If they see it any differently then they only have themselves to blame.’’
The two-time A-League champion has not hid his intentions to blood the club’s youth in his quest to restore optimism among fans heading into next season.
”We’ve got Aaron Anderson who is a tough no-nonsense centre-back…how I like it. So Nishikawa…he’s a left-back who likes to get forward and join in attacks,” Brebner said.
”In the midfield we have Josh Varga, a very tricky ball playing number ten who likes to link from the back to the front. Birkan Kirdar, who we’ve seen during the campaign, he excites me a lot. Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio is probably one of the quickest players in the team so if we want to exploit areas in behind and get some pace in attack, which we have, Luis is going to explode up there for us.’’
The task will be an arduous one for the youthful Victory who meet Alessandro Diamanti and a Western United squad filled with seasoned campaigners on Saturday.
Mark Rudan’s side is yet to lose to the Victory this season – defeating them at Marvel and GMHBA Stadium – where they scored three goals on both occasions.
”[Western United] are a decent side and seem to improve as they go on. What we expect is what we know, we don’t envisage any surprises their starting eleven we’ll more or less know,’’ Brebner said.
”We’ve got a lot of things to think about and while we have a fair bit of knowledge on them if we’re worrying about them more than what we want to do we’re in a bit of trouble.’’
A win for Western United will put them on equal points with Adelaide United in sixth, with an additional game in hand.
The match will also be Grant Brebner’s first game in charge of a professional outfit, but the 42-year-old says the occasion is more about the players’ response rather than his own managerial debut.
”It’s not about me but I genuinely thrive on seeing our players do things well and as long as we have that they have my full support. For me, it’s about creating an environment where every player wants to play and most importantly wants to be the best player,’’ he said.