High expectations motivate Melbourne

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick is comfortable with the high expectations of his members and supporters heading into season 2008/09 and says they've got every right to expect the best from his new-look side, starting with the season-opener against Sydney FC on Saturday night.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick is comfortable with the high expectations of his members and supporters heading into season 2008/09 and says they've got every right to expect the best from his new-look side, starting with the season-opener against Sydney FC on Saturday night.

The build up to the new season has been full of positives on the field for Victory, with strong recruitment and few injury worries. That was topped off by success in the Pre-Season Cup. The momentum is all going Victory's way and the coach and his players can't wait to kick off the year.

"There's a lot of excitement around, but we're well aware the Pre-Season Cup is over now and the slate's wiped clean and it's start afresh and let's get off to a good start. The first round of seven games are really important for us to get off to a good start this year," Merrick said.

The buzz around the team creates an expectation that Victory, who missed the finals last season, will be title contenders again this year. Merrick said that's a perfectly reasonable expectation given the personnel the team has.

"I think it's always good to have high expectations. What sort of team would we be if people didn't expect us to do very well? We're a club that needs to be in the finals. Our supporters and members expect us to be in the finals and if that's high expectations then that's the way it should be. We've got the team to make the finals," he said.

The coach is emphatic that this is the best squad he has had at his disposal in the four years he's been in charge. He said the competition for spots will be hectic and Victory will be prepared to attack opposition teams.

"This year we have the opportunity to not only get the best team out there, but players 12, 13 and 14 are very good players as well. Across the board, with the depth we've got, I think we've got more quality, and we can have a go at more teams, maybe than just playing out a draw," he said.

"I thought last year was a strong squad and it was, until we lost players. This year, there is no doubt that this is the strongest squad that Melbourne Victory's ever had."

Merrick said the team would have had to improve, however, given the continued leap in quality made by other clubs.

"All teams in this league have improved their squad and the coaches have had more time to develop their younger players. The standard of the league has lifted. The number of high quality players coming back, Australian and overseas players, are very good," he said.

"The A-League is progressing in leaps and bounds, we know we've got a good squad, we've proved that to some extent in the Pre-Season Cup, now its time to prove that in the league."

Given that Melbourne and Sydney are expected to be the two great improvers of this season, Saturday night's clash will be fascinating viewing. Added to that is the sense of rivalry between the clubs and the fact that Sydney coach John Kosmina said earlier this week that his side deserve to be short-priced title favourites.

"Kossy is Kossy and they've recruited very well," Merrick said. "He's without a couple of players in the first game, so are we. We won't have Archie Thompson and Brebner, but he's still got a very good team, and any match, Sydney against Melbourne is a very exciting match," he said

"We're certainly looking forward to it and on the day, it's who's up for it. We're up for it and I'm sure they'll be up for it as well and that should make for a good game."

Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.