MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo has demanded the A-League champions improve across the board for their title defence as Australia’s top flight prepares for kick-off under a new broadcaster after years of stagnation.
City will start their campaign against Brisbane Roar on Friday at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium where they celebrated their first championship in June with an emphatic 3-1 win over league heavyweights Sydney FC.
“There’s always room for improvement in every area. We need to push harder,” former Australia and Leicester defender Kisnorbo told reporters on Thursday.
“I’ll try to be a better coach, manager and person.
“I’ll make mistakes but hopefully I’ll learn from them.”
The A-League has had a rocky two years through the COVID-19 pandemic, with huge disruptions to the schedule and clubs chased from their home bases for months at a time due to lockdowns.
The disruptions strained the league’s relationship with its previous broadcaster Fox Sports and sent much of the game’s international talent packing for home.
Now starting a new five-year deal with ViacomCBS and fully managed by the clubs, the A-League will launch with an air of optimism and a dash of free-to-air action after some 16 years of operating completely behind a pay-wall.
League bosses hope a bigger marketing splash by the new broadcaster will help lure fans back to stadiums as COVID-19 restrictions fall away.
“The players are excited just to play but the supporters and football lovers are obviously excited with everything else that’s happening,” said Kisnorbo.
“If our game expands and gets better and gets more people to stadiums, that’s what we want.”
Backed by the oil and private equity wealth of its City Football Group ownership, Melbourne finally found their winning formula in the 2020/21 season after years of flirting with the silverware.
They have high hopes of going back-to-back, after adding seasoned Australia winger Mathew Leckie to an attacking arsenal already featuring twice Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren.
With Australia opening up after 18 months of closed borders, the league will also welcome the return of international glamour.
Former Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is set to revive his career with Perth Glory when they host Adelaide United on Saturday after spending two weeks in hotel quarantine.
“It’s about getting match-fit now and being in football shape again,” Sturridge said this week.
“I don’t see this as work, I see this as my life.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)