Kewell: Unity will drive us forward

While the on-field riches have yet to flow, Melbourne Victory striker Harry Kewell has praised the unity the club has shown under recent scrutiny and said that will be the key driver of success going forward.

While the on-field riches have yet to flow, Melbourne Victory striker Harry Kewell has praised the unity the club has shown under recent scrutiny and said that will be the key driver of success going forward.

Kewell was the face of an ambitious off-season recruiting drive, which created massive hype and expectation around the club ahead of the season. Nine matches in, and things haven't quite yet gone to plan with two wins, two losses and five draws.

But Kewell said the tough start to the season, and any media conjecture around disharmony, had not affected the relationship between the players and the coaching staff.

"The best thing about this club is that you can talk to everyone and everyone is on the same page. The good thing is, I feel I've got the support from the club, which is an important thing," he said.

Kewell also denied that any personal agreement had been reached at any stage with former Argentina international Abel Balbo, saying that while preliminary discussions had mentioned a possible role for the coach, he felt his services weren't needed.

"Personal coach, no. It was in pre-contract discussions but at the end of the day it was something that was merely talked about, but as far as I am aware, it has nothing to do with me or Melbourne Victory now," he said.

"My dealings are only with Melbourne Victory and they always have been with the club."

Kewell's revelations follow those of club Chairman, Anthony Di Pietro, earlier in the week that Balbo had not been approached by the club to fill any role on the behest of Kewell.

"He's not employed at the club at all. There were certainly discussions. Abel was coming out to Australia and wanted to look at an opportunity to work with us, and there were discussions about possibilities but there was certainly no contract and certainly no offers," the Chairman told Radio Sport National this week.

"Certainly there was no precondition (on Harry's) contract. The next stage was discussions between Harry's camp and Balbo about the possibility of Harry working with Balbo for his extra curricular training. I don't even think that's happening now."

Kewell insists the speculation about his involvement in the club's off-field machinations have not affected the way he has approached his football in his first few months at the club.

"I don't see anything. People are going to write things about me, which is no problem. But I've never liked talking about myself. Every time I speak of things, it's always about the team," he said.

He also praised the work that Mehmet Durakovic has been doing, despite the massive expectations on the rookie coach.

"From the first time I walked into the club and trained, I always said it had a European feel about the training, He's a great trainer," he said of his former Socceroos team-mate.

"Yes ok, maybe he doesn't come across as everyone might want him to (in the media), I make the same mistake sometimes on TV, but that's not in our nature, our nature is on the park and worrying about the football."

Di Pietro's view on Durakovic's tenure so far is shaped by the context of the fact he has had only nine games in charge.

"It's just way too early. We have got a long way to go, and we are not where we want to be at the moment. Certainly every opportunity is going to the coaching team and Mehmet," he said.

The Chairman took a similar take on Kewell's contribution to the season so far.

"He's certainly improving every week. He's playing a bit more time. He's coming off a hamstring which kept him out for a week. I think he played an excellent game on the weekend, I think he is only going to get better," he said.

"Just remember Harry only landed before the season, so he missed the pre-season with the team and I think the improvement, week in, week out, has been evident."

Kewell's assessment of his own performances so far are harsher than those of his club. He says he has been caught by surprise by the level of the league and it has taken him longer than he would have hoped to adjust.

"It's been difficult, the league is not as easy as everyone made it out to be. It's a tough league. It's fast, it's furious, it's strong, it's quick, so it hasn-t been easy for me to adapt to that. This had probably been a big learning curve for me, coming from Europe back home to play in the league," Kewell said.

"I've been hearing about for the past six years, that it's not like this or that. I've had a rude awakening."

"It's completely the opposite. It's quick, it's strong, sometimes the passes are not as crisp as European passes but the thought is there."

"I'd love to be able to fit into a team and gel straight away, but the players have got to gel with me and me with them and that's still happening. The best thing about this league is that you just have to make the top six and that's where the fun and games begin."