Heart Buoyed By Prospect Of U23 Return

Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John van ‘t Schip anticipates the return of Australian Under 23 stars Aziz Behich, Mate Dugandzic and Jason Hoffman will provide a massive boost to the side ahead of next week’s clash with the Central Coast Mariners.

Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John van ‘t Schip anticipates the return of Australian Under 23 stars Aziz Behich, Mate Dugandzic and Jason Hoffman will provide a massive boost to the side ahead of next week-s clash with the Central Coast Mariners.

The Dutchman will have a near full complement of players to call upon next week as Heart prepares to host the league leaders in what is shaping as a crucial clash at AAMI Park.

Heart has suffered from the extended absences of numerous stars over the last month, with a combination of injuries and international duty conspiring to deny van ‘t Schip of his strongest eleven.

But with midfielders and on-field leaders Fred and Matt Thompson re-entering the fray after injury enforced layoffs yesterday, and the Australian Under 23 trio poised to be available next weekend, Heart-s fortunes appear suddenly on the rise.

With a wide array of playing riches set to be at van ‘t Schip-s disposal, the 48-year old believes the increased competition for places will bolster Heart-s cause.

“(Aziz, Mate and Jason-s forthcoming return) means a lot because it means the whole squad will feel again that we're strong, 'we have to fight for our own position to get into the team',” he said.

“Fred is of course back. Matt Thompson is going to have nine days now that he can train till the next game, we're getting players back, we're getting more depth in the squad and that will certainly help us.

“If everyone's there we can have a very strong line-up and a strong bench.”

While Fred was impressive in his comeback yesterday, van ‘t Schip revealed there was an inherent risk in his decision to field the Brazilian for 90 minutes.

Van ‘t Schip said he and the Club-s coaching staff relied on feedback from the 32-year old in assessing his ability to play out the entire contest.

“We had to win, we had not scheduled Fred for 90 minutes but you have to take risks, we asked him how he was feeling, every time we saw the thumb going up,” he said.

Youngster Craig Goodwin managed to continue his impressive start to life as a professional with another strong performance, while Eli Babalj, who ultimately settled the contest with the decisive goal, also drew van ‘t Schip-s praise.

“Looking at the performance of Goodwin again today he did very well he's (played) an excellent three games and we're happy that he is helping us out, he is showing that he can easily be part of the team,” he said.

“Eli was good when he came on, he was sharp, ready, very aggressive. He showed coming from the bench that he had a very big impact and that's what we want when we have players coming from the bench.”