No home beginning to take its toll on Western United

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Halfway into their inaugural season, A-League newcomers Western United may be feeling the consequences of having rotating home grounds.

While United have been a competitive side on the field in their first season, their introduction has not been as well-received as A-League administrators may have hoped for when they were announced as an expansion side in late 2018.

Playing the majority of their home games at a 36,000 capacity GMHBA Stadium in front of crowds ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 people has done the club very few favours in their attempts to create atmosphere and culture.

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With eight games played at GMHBA Stadium, four in Ballart at Mars Stadium and a wildcard in the form of Whitten Oval on Australia Day it is obvious that the travelling is getting to A-League’s newest team.

Despite the seven-goal thriller against Adelaide United, the Green and Black’s performance was flat and outstretched.

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Though United came back from a two-goal deficit in the first half, their midfield struggled to find the speed to make them competitive against Adelaide.

United deviate from most A-League teams in terms of their speed, yet their midfield was uncharacteristically slow against Adelaide, consistently being outrun and overtaken.

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United’s attacking third was also not their usual selves with Bersart Berisha and Alessandro Diamanti missing key opportunities that could have had United leading early in the match.

Panagiotis Kone, Jerry Skotadis and Connor Pain all had one on one moments in which they were outsmarted by their counterparts.

United manager Mark Rudan was adamant that the travelling home stadiums are not a valid reason for his squad’s performance.

“We can’t make excuses because we knew we would play in Geelong and Ballarat,” he said.

“The clubs philosophy is to represent the West, so we play in different parts of the West.

“It’s not ideal but we’ve all said from the start that we’re here to grow the game and the club.”

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Barely scraping in attendance of 6,000 people each game, Whitten Oval’s smaller 12,000 capacity seems to be a better match for the Green and Black’s.

The crowd at Whitten Oval does not look as desolate on television when compared to GMBHA Stadium, with no bands and sections of empty seats providing a bland image for home viewers.

Located in the heart of Melbourne’s inner-west, the Western Bulldog’s training ground meets United’s requirements to be located in a key division of Melbourne’s western suburbs.

United’s match at Whitten Oval was a welcomed surprise for Rudan and his squad.

“We knew that we were going to play in Geelong and Ballarat,” he said.

“This one [Whitten Oval] sprung us by surprise but we really enjoyed it.”

“The boys didn’t have to drive around an hour to get to the match.”

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It is easy to draw comparisons between United and Western Sydney Wanderers’ seasons where they too were without a home ground.

Not zeroing in on one home ground did not do the Wanderers’ any favours either with them finishing below the top six every year since 2016.

Sydney FC has taken a different approach, staying put at Jubilee Stadium until the new Allianz Stadium is completed in 2022.

While the competition’s newest club has plans to eventually build its own stadium in Tarneit, United seems to be stuck travelling between multiple AFL grounds unless they can find a more permanent position next season.

Feature Image Credit: Western United 

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Suzanna Telai
Football enthusiast and student journalist, covering Western United for the 2019/20 A-League season