Roar draw to test fans’ loyalty
AS ridiculous as it sounds after such a lengthy pre-season, Brisbane Roar will need time to show they are again an A-League force under new coach Robbie Fowler.
More than three months after Fowler assembled a revamped squad for the start of pre-season training, the Roar finally return to A-League action on Sunday.
And they couldn't have asked for a much tougher start than against the Glory in Perth.
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Under coach Tony Popovic, the Glory were clearly the best and most consistent side last season, winning the Premier's Plate, and only being denied the double in a penalty shootout against Sydney FC.
After the trip to Perth it's a dreaded bye for the Roar, and then they meet perennial heavyweights Melbourne Victory at Suncorp Stadium, before a trip south to take on Western Sydney Wanderers at the intimidating Bankwest Stadium.
So it's anything but an easy start, particularly for what's virtually a brand new team.
That's why Roar fans will need to show patience and not judge Fowler's men after just a few games.
But maybe the tough start on paper could be a blessing for the Roar.
It takes all teams, regardless of personnel, time to get into stride, so perhaps playing the Glory and the Victory early may work in Brisbane's favour.
It certainly didn't harm them when they beat reigning A-League champions Sydney FC 2-0 in the FFA Cup in August.
Sydney were caught napping by a host of new Roar players combining in a competitive match for the first time.
Brisbane are no longer the unknown quantity they were then, having played a handful of A-League clubs in a pre-season that has been for the most part encouraging.
Standouts have included versatile attacking weapon Brad Inman, who at his best is good enough for the Socceroos, classy Irish midfielder Jay O'Shea, and new captain Tom Aldred.
It was at the back where the Roar were embarrassing last season, but with the addition of tough-as-nails defender Aldred, who most recently played for Scottish Premier League club Motherwell, Brisbane will leak nowhere near as many goals.
Goalkeeper Jamie Young, the club's reigning player of the year, will also be under more pressure to perform following the arrival of New Zealand international gloveman Max Crocombe.
Other new faces include Brisbane-born former Premier League midfielder Aiden O'Neill, Irish striker Roy O'Donovan, and Welshman Aaron Amadi-Holloway, who like a host of other Roar players have something to prove.
As does Liverpool legend Fowler, who has finally been given a head coaching opportunity after years of being ignored despite his previous status as a player.
There has been a method to Fowler's recruiting policy. He has deliberately looked to the lower divisions of British football, where players are used to fighting for their careers and doing whatever it takes to win matches, knowing their own futures and that of clubs fearing demotion depend on it.
And while there is no relegation from the A-League, the players Fowler has assembled aren't about to change their habits and become complacent.
So it may not always be pretty and sometimes a grind, but wins will come the Roar's way this season, and there's enough class in the side to suggest a finals berth is within their reach.
And that's all Brisbane supporters should be asking for after last season's catastrophe.