Tough Asian campaign helped Victory, says chairman

The Asian Champions League is regarded by some Australian clubs as a fixture pile-up they don't need at the business end of an A-League season, an arduous and difficult diversion at the wrong time of the campaign.

But Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro believes that his club's bold bid to make the knockout phase this year – it went close but ultimately failed – had nothing but a positive impact on Kevin Muscat's squad and players.

Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro (left) and coach Kevin Muscat have overseen a strong end to the season.

In fact, says Di Pietro, after a tough opening in which several key players were missing for weeks on international duty it may well have been the Champions League campaign that helped propel Victory towards their strong finish to the season, when they were playing their best football of the campaign.

''There was a lot of disruption early on, and the international call-ups made it hard,'' he said.

''The coach wouldn't say it, but there was no question that was disruptive. There is always a period of time that players settle in and gel together.

''We had a few injuries, James Donachie's [going down with a quad injury] was quite significant.

''There were a few things that caused a lack of consistency. We couldn't pick the same team week in week out.

''But at the back end, despite the travel in the Asian Champions League [trips to South Korea, China and Japan], they came good.

''I would say that the ACL certainly helped the team. They really seemed to have benefited from the intensity of playing regularly and it really seemed to help them. That's how it looked from the outside looking in.

''I am not an expert on this. I think those things helped them come together, they have become extremely competitive towards the back end.''

Sydney FC have rather overshadowed Victory in the past couple of seasons, and Di Pietro would love nothing more than for his team to reassert itself as the dominant force in the domestic game.

''We are in our sixth grand final , we are going for our fourth trophy, which would be a record. We want to lead,'' he said.

''We have said this over the years. Being up there in that challenging position, year on year, is what we aspire to be.

''We have been through a tough year this year, there is no hiding from it, and to get here has taken a hell of a lot. To be up there challenging year in year out is what we must do.''

Like everyone else involved in the game Di Pietro is frustrated at the continuing rows that are preventing the sport from growing year on year.

''Last weekend demonstrated what this game can be, and how quickly it can be at the forefront of interest in sport.

''There is an undercurrent in this country to want the A-League to succeed, and wants us to be on the international stage.

''Right at the moment this governance issue is coming to a head. The congress review working group needs to appoint a chairperson. We have until July 31 to get to an outcome that can go to an EGM, which can then change the constitution.

''The committee's brief is to come up with a model on an independent A-League – well, that's our view – but a different and reformed model where we have a base for growth and expansion.

''We need to have the best players to interest the mainstream, people who may not yet be on board with the game.

''We need to think about what it's going to take to connect better. Governance and independence is critical.

''Whoever is governing that league, it's absolutely critical that that's at world's best practice.''

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