Victory under radar

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick said his players have enjoyed a low key build-up to the defence of the premiership and championship titles, but are ready to hit the ground running in the season-opener on Thursday night against Central Coast.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick said his players have enjoyed a low key build-up to the defence of the premiership and championship titles, but are ready to hit the ground running in the season-opener on Thursday night against Central Coast.

Speaking from the Hyundai A-League launch in Sydney, Merrick said that the hype around the new franchises Gold Coast and Townsville and the other big signings in the league has seen the spotlight shift away from the Victory.

"We've pretty well flown under the radar. I suppose because of signing like Robbie Fowler and three Socceroos at Perth, and Gold Coast telling everyone how well they are going to do, we've virtually flown under the radar, signed a couple of internationals, maintained the same squad from last year and look what we are going to hit the ground running," Merrick said.

The two-time championship coach said the lack of attention on his side in the lead-in to the new season is fine with him, and has allowed the club to focus on public appearances rather than the media.

"I'm glad it hasn't. The action is on the field I think. We look like breaking the membership record of 22,500. It's all about what you do on the field and how it goes from there," he said.

"We'll never be underdogs, but I quite like us getting on with our business without being in the media until it counts."

Merrick said the club has a full list to pick from in Thursday's match after a perfect build-up for the new 27-game season.

"I don't think we've got an injury out of the 21 and all the boys are pretty fit. It's been a good build up for us."

"We've felt as though the squad we have is quality. Where we've lost Jose Luis Lopez, we've got Surat Sukha, where we've lost Michael Theoklitos, we've got Glen Moss. We've planned well ahead, and I think it's worked out well for us," he said.

And Merrick does not expect the prospect of the Asian Champions League next season to be any form of distraction in the title defence.

"We've got 27 rounds to think about first of all. We weren't unhappy with our last ACL performance, given we didn't have Archie (Thompson) or Carlos (Hernandez) for most of it. To finish second in the group that would have got us through in the new rules. We've got that to look forward to, but the focus has very much been on looking forward to the league," he said.

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