Imagine you’re the coach of an A-League club. Imagine your team is undefeated five games into the season, and has a miserly defence that has conceded just two goals in that time. This weekend your team is taking on the only other undefeated team in the competition in a massive, first-versus-second clash.
So what do you do in the lead-up to the game? Why, drop your goalkeeper, of course.
Not, mind you, because your goalkeeper’s been doing anything wrong, but because you made a promise to the reserve goalkeeper pre-season that he’d be played in this particular game. Then add to the mystery by claiming that the decision has been made for “professional reasons”, and hint obliquely at secret reasons why the reserve keeper is actually better suited to take on this weekend’s opponents.
Welcome to the bizarre world of the Queensland Roar, and its coach Miron Bleiberg.
The Roar, currently second in the A-League, take on Melbourne Victory at Telstra Dome on Sunday in what promises to be a massive contest. But Bleiberg says he is sticking to his pre-season commitment to reserve goalkeeper Tom Willis to play him in the game at the expense of first-choice keeper Liam Reddy.
Bleiberg has acknowledged he’s taking a huge risk and has conceded he’ll cop stick on Monday should the plan backfire. Somehow we can’t see too many other coaches sticking to their guns in the same circumstances.
The question over who will stand in goal for Queensland is a neat little sideshow to what is shaping up as a significant game in the A-League’s short history.
With the Victory already outgrowing Olympic Park, there will be plenty of people keenly watching the crowd figures – especially with the game coming on the same weekend as the AFL and NRL Grand Finals.
If they drag more than 30,000 through the gates on Sunday – and there is every chance they will – it will represent another important step in football’s development in this country.