Read what Kevin Muscat had to say at Tuesday morning’s media conference at AAMI Park.
Q: You’ve got a few reinforcements now, so the squad’s ready to go?
Muscat: Obviously Rhys (Williams) is available, he’s been in training for a long period as is Thomas (Deng). Kosta (Barbarouses) and Jimmy (Troisi) and Millsy (Mark Milligan) have come back in really good condition as you’d expect having a break of four weeks after the Confederations Cup.
We’ve had a couple of hit-outs against local NPL sides which has been good. We’ve had a look at a few of the younger players in the group so we’ve got a healthy list to pick from.
Q: So Jimmy and Millsy will play?
Muscat: At this stage Millsy is the only one whose clearance we’re still waiting on coming through. But everyone else is available.
Q: How do you balance up the needs of winning a competitive match tomorrow night against a lot of these guys still being in the first couple of weeks of pre-season?
Muscat: They’re in very good condition, they’ve had over a couple of weeks training prior to that, we had them on some individual strength programs as well.
We’re comfortable in where they’re at in terms of risk management side of things. They’re available and we’ll pick a side accordingly, because it’s important. We’ve all fallen in love with the competition.
We go across to Brisbane wanting to be in the hat come Thursday night.
Q: Likewise Brisbane is fairly unsettled at this time of year. Is it hard to get a read on the opposition at this time of year as well?
Muscat: I like that side of it, because there’s an unpredictability to it so you’ve really got to be switched on and make those decisions.
Analysing Brisbane, for example they’ve tried a few different things in the games they’ve had so far in terms of their formation when they’ve got the ball. It poses a different problem but I certainly enjoy that side of it.
Q: This is arguably the biggest FFA Cup game you’ve played at this stage of the tournament. Coming this early in the pre-season, how much emphasis do you place on it, given it’s a cup competition that you want to win?
Muscat: We place a high importance on the game, without doubt. Having said that we’ll work backwards from trying to win the game. No risks will be taken with anyone but it’s a competition we want to stay in.
It starts here for us tomorrow night in Brisbane, and we look forward to it. We’ve looked pretty sharp (in pre-season so far) without having that competitive edge. You respect the local games you have against NPL sides and we have good relationships with them, but it’ll be nice to test ourselves and see where we’re at.
Q: You touched on Millsy before, how’s he settled in?
Muscat: He’s looking very good. All the players have come back this pre-season understanding what’s required. They had a little bit longer off this season than they’ve had previously, knowing what we’ve got coming up towards the back end of the campaign.
We’ve given them their individual programs and they’ve come back in really good nick. The three boys that were at the Confeds Cup have come back in really good condition and Millsy’s no different. He’s got a big month, him and Jimmy and Kosta have a big month with important qualifiers in late August and early September.
This is an opportunity to get themselves in really good condition for not only what we’re doing here but also for their international careers.
Q: Are those games something you’re taking into account with internationals coming up?
Muscat: I haven’t taken that into consideration, for the fact we want to present our players in the best possible condition and once they go away with their national teams it’s their responsibility.
Q: Will Millsy physically fly up to Brisbane?
Muscat: At this stage, yes. There’s paperwork that needs to be filled in and Trimmers (Paul Trimboli) is across it. I just know green light and red light, and at the moment we haven’t got a green light (laughing).
Q: Is there a chance you’ll have the green light before tomorrow?
Muscat: There is, there’s still plenty of time, we’re talking almost a couple of days. We’re optimistic.
Q: You talk about how everyone’s fallen in love with the cup. A couple more results last week with NPL sides beating A-League sides, and all this talk of a potential second division. What’s your view, given the pathway you trekked – do you see the need for a second division to come in?
Muscat: I don’t know the ins and outs of it, and I don’t want to not answer your question, so I’m going to try and answer it. It’s easy to identify problems. Solutions are far harder to come across.
Do we need more teams? Could we do with a second division? Of course we do. But it’s got to be something that’s sustainable and not, as we’ve done in the past, jump into it and then see it fall away very soon after.
It’s important that we get it right. There’s certain other things as well. The states are screaming out for second division but the states are not sorted out themselves. We as a club, along with Melbourne City, struggle to get teams into junior NPL competitions yet we want a second division. I think we’ve got to make small steps before we get the big one right.
Q: There’s been a lot of opinions on whether there’s a big gap (between NPL and A-League sides). Do you see a big gap in the standard of football?
Muscat: It’s a debate that can go on forever, and a debate when your opinion can change from game to game. Once a game kicks off, the gap is zero. You’ve got to get everything right, your attitude has to be right, you’ve got to have a good team and you’ve got to apply yourself correctly because otherwise how do we determine if the gap is big or if it’s not.
We’ve seen two this season. I think on any given night the gap is not as big as you’d think. Certainly in a one-off anyway. Over a period of time I think the gap is huge, but in a one-off if you’re not right, the gap’s not very big at all.
Q: Does the venue tomorrow night have any consideration?
Muscat: Having drawn an A-League team, we expect the standards of the surface and everything else to be as good as an A-League game.
Q: On transfers, there’s a few spots to fill. How is that progressing?
Muscat: Things are going ok. I’m very pleased with the current group. We’ve maintained we want to fill the squad with as many Australians as possible. We’ve got some visa spots available to us at the moment and we’re exploring all those situations.
What I will say is no different to any other year, we’ll bring someone in only if we believe it’s going to improve our squad. Having said that, we know we need some depth with three competitions so we’re working on that at the moment.
We want to be sure those additions are going to improve us.