A whole new derby for Thompson

After playing in so many F3 derbies between the Jets and the Mariners, Matt Thompson knows a thing or two about local rivalries.

After playing in so many F3 derbies between the Jets and the Mariners, Matt Thompson knows a thing or two about local rivalries. But the experienced Hyundai -League campaigner believes the first Melbourne derby between Heart and Victory on Friday will be like nothing the league has ever seen.

While there is a certain edge in the 19 previous clashes between Newcastle and Central Coast, given their closeness in terms of geography, the A-League has never featured two teams from the same city battling it out on the pitch.

The greatest footballing rivalries on earth are built on local derbies and Australia finally gets its first real taste in the Hyundai A-League era in front of an expected crowd of 30,000 at AAMI Park on Friday night.

The intelligent decision to delay the match by a week because of a clash with a certain other code has only served to heighten the expectation ahead of the match.

It’s like the planets have aligned in Melbourne. The weather has changed in an instant. After the coldest September for many years and over three months under 20 degrees, suddenly October has delivered a brilliant burst of warm weather which combined with the changing to daylight savings time has set the scene perfectly for a hot October night at the country’s newest stadium.

Thompson, representing the new upstarts on the Melbourne football scene, believes that Victory’s pride is on the line and expects a very different atmosphere than the F3 clashes.

“With Newcastle-Central Coast, a lot of us were from the Sydney area. We knew everyone off the pitch more than on, but this one is a little bit different. They’ve established themselves for five years, there’ve been together the majority of them for at least three or four and we’re a new club, we’ve only got four or five from Melbourne,” he said.

“For us to come here and to be called the No.1 Melbourne side. It’s a bit different in that way. I can’t wait. We definitely didn’t get a crowd of 30,000 against the Mariners when I was at Newcastle.”

Fans have had to wait 10 weeks into the new season for the first clash between these two sides. In that time, Heart have endured a rollercoaster, taking a while to get their first win, then making it two from three matches before crashing to a dismal 4-0 loss to Brisbane in their previous game.

It doesn’t seem like the ideal preparation for the biggest game in the club’s short period of existence but Thompson believes that having a week to reflect on the first two months of the season could prove valuable.

“It’s one of those ones, where it might have been a blessing in disguise, we just don-t know it yet,” he said.

“To get battered 4-0 in any circumstances is definitely not nice. But I guess with that 4-0 loss, it opened up everyone’s eyes and we thought, ‘we’re not there yet’ and we have to put in a little bit more.”

“I guess as individual talents, we definitely have players who can do good things on some days, it showed in the 4-0 loss we are not there yet. We have to perform as a group and put in that little bit extra.”

Developing consistency in performances from week to week is crucial in the team performances, says Thompson.

“We need to be consistent every week. You want to be able to go in there and know you are making it hard for the team that you are playing against to win. Obviously, the 4-0 loss was definitely our worst performance of the year,” he said.

“The week before that was probably one of our best. It’s hard to put your thumb on it when one week you beat Wellington 2-1 and played brilliantly, the next you get battered 4-0. It’s behind us. We’ve had 10 days to think about it and three more no. We’re looking forward, we’re not looking back.”

The evenness of the competition is a great encouragement to the fledgling club, according to Thompson. Only eight points separates 10th-placed North Queensland from second-placed Brisbane. Thompson feels that even Adelaide, who are currently six points clear on top, are not that much better than the rest.

“When we played Adelaide in the third round and we got done 3-2, we played pretty well, but our mistakes cost the goals. We looked at that and with all due respect to Adelaide we thought that we should have won that game and perhaps they weren’t going to be up there. Having them up there gives us confidence, because we know that we’ve performed against the team that’s running first,” he said.

As for his own form, Thompson, who had ankle surgery in pre-season, feels fitter and stronger than he has for sometime and together with the rest of his team, is approaching his best form.

“I feel great to be fair. Fitness wise I feel fantastic. Maybe the fact I had that time off in the pre-season refreshed me a little bit. Once I played that first game, I never really worried about the ankle or anything like that,” he said.

“I was selected to go out there and there were no excuses and I had to make sure I performed whether I had an operation or not.”

“To be honest, I haven’t been too disappointed with the performances but the fact is, we are on eight points and towards the bottom of the ladder and that’s not good enough. We have to, as a group, perform and if we do that I don’t see why we can’t get away with the three points on Friday.”