Melboure City, Newcastle Jets and the A-Leagues’ great wealth divide

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Melbourne City’s Friday night win over Newcastle Jets in many ways acted as a microcosm of the two teams’ very different existences

Marco Tilio, one of the most exciting prospects in Australian football, was the star player as City ran riot in the second half over a hapless Newcastle.

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The kind of performance that for many teams would ensure regular opportunities to start games to ensure his development continued at a steady pace, in the hope of maximising his potential.

Yet the conditions Patrick Kisnorbo’s squad means even Tilio will continue to struggle to secure game time, as he has for most of the season.

With established Socceroos like Andrew Nabbout and Mathew Leckie occupying positions on the wing, whilst Florin Berenguer is in career-best form in attacking midfield, Tilio seemingly can not break into the City team.

The luxury of having such talent sitting on the bench has become characteristic of City this season.

“One thing I will never do is guarantee people will play,” Kisnorbo said post-match.

“Marco [Tilio] is a player who needs games to improve, he is still young, but a performance like this helps.

“Just because someone has had a good performance though, that does not mean they are guaranteed to start a game.”

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Kisnorbo was clearly unwilling to lavish Tilio in too much praise, despite the player-of-the-match performance.

“I thought he was good at times, but sometimes I thought he was a bit sloppy,” Kisnorbo said.

“That is part of the learning process.”

Kisnorbo’s refusal to start Tilio this season, ahead of either Leckie or Nabbout, has been a source of consistent criticism.

City fans could be forgiven for feeling frustrated at the stubbornness of their head coach, considering how transformative Tilio has been when he plays.

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More importantly, however, it is a reflection of Melbourne’s position as a football club which can out-resource their opposition.

Of course, Kisnorbo deserves credit for transforming even this well-resourced City team into the on-field powerhouse that they have become.

In contrast to Arthur Papas’ situation at Newcastle, however, the gulf in opportunity was jarring.

“You can find a whole host of differences as to where we both are as clubs,” Papas said after the game.

“There were periods in Melbourne City’s history when winning was not simple. Obviously, they have turned a corner since [Kisnorbo] came into the role so credit to him.

“But that took a long time with a lot of resources invested into the club.”

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In contrast to City’s oversaturation of international-calibre players, Papas was having to work with the bare minimum resources.

Whilst City can leave the likes of Tilio, Stefan Colakovski and Jordan Bos on the bench – all players seemingly raring to perform consistently in the A-League Men’s – Newcastle are forced to rely on a handful of key players to compete with other clubs across a season.

The loss of Angus Thurgate in the match against City, to injury at half-time, appeared to be the catalyst for the team’s unravelling.

Limited funds and fewer established players mean the uphill battle for a club like Newcastle was seemingly endless.

“We are at a different stage and we have different variables to manage when building our team,” Papas said.

“Even simple things like how the January transfer window works for a team like us compared to other teams.”

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The distinction in recruitment potential was, in Papas’ mind, a clear factor on Friday night.

“There is a level that they have reached which they have built over time and signed players to achieve,” he said.

The Jets are a team evidently undergoing a project under Papas.

As is necessary considering their circumstances, a long-term plan is in place to attempt to gradually overcome even their unfortunate disparity in resources with other clubs.

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For now, though, the contrast remains clear.

City have young players capable of winning matches at this level through sheer individual brilliance, yet cannot find a way to regular starting opportunities.

At the other end of the scale, Newcastle can seemingly only hope to play positive, attractive football, earn plenty of plaudits, but fall short when it comes to the results.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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