COVID in the rear-view mirror ahead of Western’s first interstate game

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You can be forgiven for forgetting that Western United are yet to play a match in 2022, or travel outside of Victoria.

As we move into the third week of the year, the club has seen games against Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers, Macarthur FC and Newcastle Jets postponed as a result of COVID-19.

The impact of the virus has been felt by all squads around the league, with Western no different.

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United’s head coach John Aloisi touched on how his side had been affected by the pandemic.

“Including full-contract and scholarship players, we had 20 in total [test positive]. It’s a big amount and we ended up getting hit with the majority of players all at the same time,” he said.

“Against Adelaide United we missed a couple of players and then against Melbourne Victory we missed a few more. Then all of a sudden we had a total of 14 players that couldn’t play.

“At one stage we were only training with four players. That doesn’t make it easy for you [as a coach]. You just have to adapt and make sure you prepare as much as possible. It actually wasn’t bad because you can get a lot of work into those players. You have to make the most of every situation.”

 

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The side is yet to take to the A-League Men’s field in 2022 and has not left Victoria yet. And that is perhaps why Friday night’s game against Wellington Phoenix was being welcomed.

It represents the first time United have travelled interstate this season, and provides a great opportunity for the squad to come together amidst all the uncertainty around matches.

Last season the Green and Black were the worst-performing side on the road in the competition. Two wins from 13 games is a stat that new coach Aloisi will be desperate to avoid, as the club seeks to continue its strong start to the season.

The coach, however, sees it as the perfect opportunity to unite the group.

“The players are excited. The new boys haven’t been able to do their signing performance that they usually do when they have their first away trip,” he said.

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“We were unlucky that we weren’t able to go away during pre-season at all. Normally you get to go away and there’s that bonding and players getting to know each other even more.

“The players are really excited and looking forward to travelling and going away together as a group.”

It is a warning to Wellington. Because a happy squad is not something to be ignored, and for a team sitting third on the table despite not playing since Boxing Day, all signs point towards a positive result on Friday.

Feature image credit: Western United

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Dillon Izon
Dillon Izon
Marketing graduate at Monash University. Sports addicted, fan of Manchester United and Melbourne City. My gran “knows” Gareth Bale.

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