For the first time in recent memory, Brisbane Roar enter the season as mortals. Not Premiers, not Champions. But with Mike Mulvey set on returning Roar to glory and the club’s most-loved figure back in the sidecar, success seems within reach.

Matt McKay has followed Liam Miller’s lead by investing a crucial career move in the promise of an orange-stained A-League to complete a star-studded lineup, but will it all come together?

Last season:
A-League: 5th
Finals: Semi-Finals

They’ll win the league because…

…the supremely talented starting eleven practices what Mike Mulvey preaches. Since replacing Rado Vidosic shortly before the halfway mark of last season, former QAS head coach Mulvey has managed to attract Jade North, Liam Miller and Matt McKay to join his rebuilding. It’s a handy endorsement of the clear-thinking coach’s skills.

Seven full internationals, a goalkeeper with the most victories in A-League history, an Australian with swoon-worthy technique and Thomas Broich are all now enacting a gameplan not devolved from Ange Postecoglou’s Roar. Instead of the club telling supporters their faith was in Vidosic, the players are visibly proving it in preseason performance for Mulvey. He knows what he wants and it syncs with what’s needed to preserve ‘the Brisbane Roar way’.

They’ll be cellar dwellars because…

…nine separate misfortunes can happen. You’ve all seen Homer at the Bat. And frankly, that’s not entirely what it will take to unravel Brisbane Roar.

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While the starting eleven is arguably the most exceptional in the league, their abilties means the wage pool is reduced and youth fills out the squad.  Diogo Ferreira and Dimitri Petratos are both discards from elsewhere in the A-League yet – aside from the injury-riddled Henrique – they are the most senior players of those outside the eleven. The very real concerns of injury and international selection mean the likes of James Donachie, Ben Liftin and Kwame Yeboah may have to put their talent to swift use.

Talk around the water cooler… look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.

Matt McKay and Besart Berisha have yet to appear in the A-League together, meaning the impending season will be like adding vanilla to Coke: damn tasty. Berisha arrived on the back of McKay’s departure at the end of the all-conquering 2010/2011 campaign, scoring 23 and 14 goals in the respective seasons following. If the Albanian was a fan of Massimo Murdocca’s work, wait ’til he gets a load of McKay.

The off-season brought…

…calm for Mike Mulvey. From bafflingly premature calls for his head to one step from a Grand Final, the gaffer has used the time to sculpt his side. A flawless record against A-League opposition was managed in preseason with wins over Melbourne Heart, Central Coast, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC. Mulvey’s words say the results matter little, Brisbane supporters’ eyes disagree.

Key signings in Matt McKay and Liam Miller fitted in without fault while the likes of fullback Corey Brown ventured further forward and wingers Brandon Borrello and Julius Davies retreated back as raiding defenders.

Key player…

… Matt McKay. It seems outside views of the former PFA Footballer of the Year have been somewhat blurred by his unconvincing attempts to nail down the unfamiliar left-back for the national team, but if there is one legend in this club’s near nine-year history it’s the local Brisbane boy turned championship-winning captain. Just see his euphoric celebration post-Paartalu header for empirical evidence.

The 30-year-old left largely with well wishes but returns on a wave of overwhelming joy. Both Postecoglou and Vidosic were unable to replace the inspirational workhorse in his #8 role and now Mulvey has bought time to do so by luring back the man himself – in the process forming a classy central-midfield trident with Luke Brattan and Liam Miller. Goals from McKay will be important but his work ethic in recapturing possession, particularly with the playmaking Brattan at #6, can be crucial.

One to watch…

…Kwame Yeboah. The electrifying attacker has been the breakout star of Roar’s preseason, notching six goals including the winner over Melbourne Victory and a brace against Sydney FC. After displacing Julius Davies as the diminutive spark at the back end of last season – which included a cameo off the bench in the Semi-Final loss to Western Sydney – the Gold Coast product is now likely to be Besart Berisha’s foremost backup.

Yeboah starred alongside Roar teammates Ben Liftin and Brandon Borrello for the QAS in the final season of the Queensland State League last year, ascending to his current status as quick as he covers the ground. Expect both direct dribbling and classical goal poaching off the bench, if a right-wing berth doesn’t come earlier.

Full squad list…

1. Michael THEO, 2. Matt SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 7. Besart BERISHA, 10. HENRIQUE, 11. Liam MILLER, 12. Julius DAVIES, 13. Jade NORTH, 14. Diogo FERREIRA, 15. James DONACHIE, 17. Matt McKAY, 18. Luke BRATTAN, 19. Jack HINGERT, 20. Matt ACTON, 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Dimitri PETRATOS, 25. George LAMBADARIDIS, 26. Corey BROWN, 29. Kwame YEBOAH, 30. Ben LIFTIN

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