The club has prided itself on its promotion of youth, but Michael Huguenin wonders how the Heart will cope if both Brendan Hamill and Curtis Good are allowed to leave
By Michael Huguenin
On the back of their debut A-League finals appearance, Melbourne Heart are aiming for their maiden Australian title in the upcoming season.
At his unveiling as Heart's manager in May, John Aloisi laid down the gauntlet for his side and set his sights on lifting the A-League championship trophy in the 2012-13 season.
"The squad we've got, we're going to be very ambitious," Aloisi said.
"Our goal will be to win the league."
But Heart's own policy of developing young players to play overseas could impair their title aspirations.
And the prospect of losing central defenders Curtis Good and Brendan Hamill may require Heart to rethink their policy of putting a player's opportunities to play overseas ahead of the club's success.
Good has been heavily linked with English Premier League club Newcastle United, while Hamill is on a verge of a move to K-League club Seongnam Ilhwa.
With Hamill all-but gone and Good seemingly on his way, the loss of the two 19-year-old central defenders would leave Aloisi with a gaping hole in his squad.
Aloisi would have only Simon Colosimo and Irishman Steven Gray as natural stoppers, with right-back Michael Marrone, the versatile Matt Thompson and Argentine midfielder Jonatan Germano three possible fill-ins.
It begs the question; Should Heart block one of their young defenders from leaving the club if they want to challenge for A-League honours?
McGowan played 18 games for Gold Coast United last season while on loan from Hearts. The 20-year-old has been farmed out in successive seasons by the Scottish club and could be open to again returning to Australia.
The recruitment of Croatian striker Josip Tadic filled Heart's fifth and final import spot for next season and he will join Gray, Germano, Brazilian captain Fred and Liberian midfielder Patrick Gerhardt in pulling on the red and white stripes in the 2012-13 A-League season.
That means home-grown solutions need to be found, and there are few Australian central defenders overseas that are off contract, with Socceroos captain Lucas Neill a notable exception.
If Heart cannot entice a foreign-based Australian to Melbourne, they may have to look at the domestic state leagues, which would be a gamble on whether the player could adapt to the A-League immediately.
The better option would be to convince at Good to stay for another season and go all out for the A-League championship.
This would provide Heart with one more season to line up replacements for their young defenders, while Good would gain another season of first-team football before heading abroad - hopefully with an A-League medal.
If Good is allowed to follow Hamill out the door, Aloisi's title aspirations could be over before the season even begins.