Goal Australia offers up our verdict on each team's efforts as 2013-14 draws to a close, with the wooden spoon 'winners' in red and white the first side under the spotlightIn the dugout
It's going to take John Aloisi's fledgling coaching career quite a while to recover from the first half of 2013-14. With the benefit of hindsight, his promotion to the job two years ago, ahead of the highly rated Ante Milicic and after just one campaign in charge of Heart's National Youth League team, now looks like one of the biggest mistakes in the club's brief history.
And while John van 't Schip won't have wanted to see his former colleague fail, it's all worked out perfectly for the Dutchman, who was out of work after lasting just eight months at Deportivo Guadalajara of Mexico. The only way was up upon his return to Heart, and that is exactly the direction he's taken them in, his return also coinciding conveniently (for him and them) with the takeover by Manchester City.
Few would argue against Heart having the right man at the helm to lead them into a brave new (Sky Blue) future, and it will be fascinating to see what changes he makes to the squad ahead of 2014-15.
Harry Kewell's final season in professional football mirrored his club's. An abortive start, a revival and some much needed consistency in the middle before ultimately fizzling out. It's a great shame, but Kewell's two campaigns in the A-League have not afforded domestic audiences a chance to see the former Socceroo at his best.
Expect rugged centre-back Patrick Kisnorbo or experienced midfielder Massimo Murdocco to contend for the captain's armband next season, unless a superstar with leadership credentials arrives as part of the Manchester City makeover.
Orlando Engelaar is yet to decide if he wants to stay in Australia for a second season. If he goes, there is unlikely to be another overseas talent so highly thought of despite having played only half a season. We know now the broken leg he suffered in pre-season effectively scuppered Heart's hopes before a competitive ball had been kicked, such was his importance and influence upon returning.
Earning deserved comparisons with Yaya Toure and Patrick Vieira, the 34-year-old got better and better with each week after finally making his debut, scoring spectacular goals and having a hand in much of Heart's good play. If a return to Europe or a move elsewhere is his decision, we'll be sad to see Engelaar go, but wish him well and shall hold the towering midfielder in high esteem for ever more.
David Williams was undeniably Heart's best and most consistent forward is 2013-14, deservedly sweeping the board at the club's awards night. He matched James Troisi's return of 12 goals for Melbourne Victory and scored more than both Besart Berisha (11) and Alessandro Del Piero (10), bettered only by the Newcastle Jets' golden boot winner Adam Taggart (16). Re-signed for next season but not as domestic marquee (watch this space), Williams will still be an important part of the new-look Heart.
Mr Reliable | David Williams has been a reason for Heart fans to smile in another difficult campaign
Wellington Phoenix 0-5 Melbourne Heart, Round 19 (Sunday February 16, 2014)
We'd already had the drought-breaking 3-1 win over a lacklustre Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park, a defeat that saw Engelaar's long-awaited debut and cost Gary van Egmond his job. But it wasn't until this extraordinary display at Westpac Stadium that we saw what the previously hapless Heart were really capable of. Absolutely everything the visitors touched at the Cake Tin turned to goals, with Wellington - in their own run of good form at the time - powerless to stop them. Engelaar produced his best performance yet and David Williams, having won the previous two games as super sub, started this one and ran amok with a hat-trick.
Honourable mention for Melbourne Heart 4-0 Melbourne Victory. Another great display and all the sweeter against the local rivals, but mitigated by the bizarre early dismissal of Victory's Nick Ansell for a non-foul.
Melbourne Heart 0-1 Wellington Phoenix. Still winless after 11 rounds and up against a Phoenix team who only had one victory to their name, earned the previous week away to Sydney FC, this was an absolute must-win game for Heart in front of their own fans. As we all know, they failed to break the drought, costing Aloisi his job.
Off the field
Jaws hit the floor in the living rooms and work places of football fans all over Australia on Thursday January 23 when the news broke that The City Group, backed by Manchester City and their super-wealthy Abu Dhabi backers, had purchased arguably the A-League's weakest franchise. Nothing will ever be the same for Melbourne's second club and some fans may not like the direction the new owners go in. Which leads us to ask...
...Where to next?
Van 't Schip and representatives of the club are in Manchester this week for discussions with their absentee paymasters over player recruitment and other issues.
Reports have indicated that plans to change the name to Melbourne City and the colours to sky blue are gathering pace, with Sydney FC lodging their objections. In the final game of the regular season, the club's active supporters also signalled their displeasure at potentially having to say goodbye to red and white.
Whatever happens, there won't be a dull moment for Heart/City (Hity? Ceart?) in the off-season, and for once Melbourne Victory might find themselves overshadowed in the PR stakes.
Major improvement in on-field and commercial performance is needed, and although they now have the resources to make it happen, expectations are set to explode.