They’ve endured a hellish post-shutdown schedule and will face a further three games in ten days but Western United’s in-built toughness – and playing for a “greater cause” – can carry them to claim a miracle A-League title.
And manager Mark Rudan is not afraid to upset the apple cart by limiting the playing time of his star trio of Alessandro Diamanti, Besart Berisha and Max Burgess in Wednesday’s regular season finale against Melbourne City to ensure fatigue doesn’t become a factor in the finals.
Rudan was cagey on Tuesday when asked about whether he planned on rotating his squad for the team’s sixth game in 25 days since the league resumption, but pointed to the toughness of his squad while in the A-League bubble as reason to believe his squad can maintain its stunning run of form.
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Mark Rudan is confident his side can deal with Melbourne City’s threat.Source:Getty Images
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Ever since their mad dashes to beat the border ban that allowed them to join the rest of the competition in Sydney, Western United’s players have been living out of suitcases and removed from their family life.
That has put a strain on all teams in the hub, as highlighted by a notable omission from City’s teamsheet for the rest of the season – with captain and defender Scott Jamieson staying in Melbourne following the birth of son Cooper.
“It’s tough,” Rudan admitted.
“It’s a never-ending challenge that we need to stay on top of in order to get the best out of them every day as well. It’s not all roses when you’re away.”
Rudan says life in the A-League hub has been a ‘never-ending challenge’. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
Rudan and his squad are also acutely aware of the challenges faced by their fans, and families, back in Melbourne – where the city remains in Stage 4 lockdown, unable to leave their homes.
The coach drilled home on that message as he delivered a passionate pre-game speech to his players before their pivotal 2-0 victory over Perth Glory last week which secured a finals berth in their debut season.
“That speech was all about doing it for our fans, members and loved ones back home, and how much joy it puts on their faces,” Rudan explained.
“We get video clips of family members and fans and members watching our games and it’s not easy being locked up. For those in Melbourne, it’s tough.
“We understand that, we know that. And we are doing it for the greater cause. It sounds cliche, but we genuinely mean it.”
Besart Berisha celebrates a goal during Western United’s crucial win over Perth Glory.Source:Getty Images
Rudan wouldn’t be drawn on how he intends to manage his squad for potentially four more matches this season, though defender Josh Risdon is available after recovering from a knock and veteran Andrew Durante will be rested.
But Rudan declared all his players are “champing at the bit” to feature at Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday – despite giving early marks to Burgess, Diamanti and Berisha, who is two goals shy of golden boot leaders Jamie Maclaren and Adam le Fondre, in Western’s 2-1 comeback win over Sydney FC on Saturday.
“At the moment they’re all champing at the bit, they want to play,” Rudan said.
“The three experienced players played 60 minutes. Diamanti said he felt like could’ve kept going longer, ‘why’d you take me off?’… no disrespect to the opposition.
“He meant to say that physically he felt like he was going through it pretty easily. It’s a big decision (on Wednesday).”
Originally published as‘For the fans’: Passionate speech inspiring newcomers
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