Fans more important than hosting rights for Melbourne City
Melbourne City would begrudgingly give up A-League grand final hosting rights for the chance to play the decider in front of fans.
Should City win their semi-final on Friday week, it would earn the right to host the grand final courtesy of their first-placed finish on the ladder.
However, if Melbourne’s Covid-19 cluster was to prevent spectators attending the decider, A-League officials would likely move the match to the state of the other grand finalists to ensure a crowd could watch the game.
While it would be a kick in the guts for City, by far the A-League’s dominant team this season, club veteran Rostyn Griffiths said playing in front of fans, even in a stadium dominated by supporters of the other team, would be better than staging the match at an empty venue.
“It would be a bit of a hammer blow because we’ve worked hard to earn the right to have a finals series in Melbourne,” Griffiths said.
“We feel strong in Melbourne, we feel we give ourselves the best chance in Melbourne, but then on the flip side to that, it would be an unbelievable story for us if one more thing went against us and a bit more adversity … it would just be another thing we had to overcome.
“I’d rather play in front of fans. As much as Melbourne would be an advantage for us in not having to travel, I’d still rather play in front of a crowd.”
Look who’s back! 😍
Andrew Nabbout and Nathaniel Atkinson are a chance to return from injury tomorrow night and have both been included in our squad. Stefan Colakovski also is back after missing our last fixture due to soreness.
📰 Full squad: https://t.co/cS2uxUaAFO#CmonCitypic.twitter.com/Dr1rXhJQdL
Griffiths found it hard playing in an empty AAMI Park for City’s 1-1 weekend derby draw with Melbourne Victory.
“In some ways it felt like a training match,” he said.
“We were just getting back used to having fans again, and feeling that atmosphere, and the City crowd were building and then it goes back to no one again, so it’s quite tough.
“For the finals as well, it’s a special occasion where fans deserve to be there and I think players deserve to have fans there as well just to make it that bit more added pressure for both teams.”
City will finish their regular season commitments behind closed doors in Thursday night’s catch-up match against Newcastle,
The game was due to be played in Melbourne but was switched to Sydney’s Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Griffiths said the match would be good preparation for a City side adjusting to life without key trio Jamie Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe, who are on Socceroos duty in Kuwait City.
“It’s played into our hands. With a changed squad with a few players away, it’s allowing us to work on things that we’re taking into the finals series, so in some ways it’s worked out better for us,” he said.
Attacking weapon Andrew Nabbout and defender Nathaniel Atkinson are a chance to return from injury after being named in an extended squad.
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