Victory coach Tony Popovic admits his team is struggling to cope without fans as the club continues to deal with the consequences of its supporters’ actions in last month’s Melbourne derby riot.
The Victory host a match on Friday night for the first time since sanctions were imposed on them following the December 17 pitch invasion at AAMI Park that also led to the banning of 10 people – including two for life – from all football-related activity in Australia.
No tickets have been allowed to be sold for the match – against Brisbane Roar – and while some Victory members can attend the game, those whose memberships are for the northern end of AAMI Park won’t be permitted to attend the match as that section of the grandstand will be closed.
“We don’t want to use that as an excuse, but Melbourne Victory does have the most fans and the most members in the league,” said Popovic, whose side is hoping to avoid a third successive defeat on Friday night.
“We’re accustomed to hearing noise, and when we play away games, if we have 50 of our supporters, they can drain the home support’s noise – that’s how loud and that’s how great our members are, and fans.
“We want them back – we need them. There’s no doubt we’ve missed them, and I believe they’ve missed us as well.
“For (the actions of) a few silly spectators, I don’t think that they should be robbed of the chance to support us.
“Hopefully we’ll have them back in full voice and supporting us soon, and us together climbing up the table.”
Sitting second from bottom entering this weekend’s round, the Victory are struggling to score goals, having scored only nine goals in nine matches.
Only the Roar (eight) and cellar dwellers Perth Glory (seven) have scored fewer A-League goals this season.
Recent signing Bruno Fornaroli has failed to fire thus far for the Victory, with the Uruguayan ace having been left out of the squad entirely for last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Central Coast Mariners.
“He’s a fit player, but he’s not in the condition that he and we believe can get him scoring the goals that we all want and he’s working extremely hard to make that possible,” Popovic said of Fornaroli, who joined the Victory from the Glory.
“We’re very happy with him, but it’s a process, it takes time, and we’re seeing some good signs from him.”
“Each individual’s case is different. They all know why they were in or why they weren’t in. We’re trying to get the players in the best condition they can be.”