With less than a week to go before Melbourne Heart’s first ever Hyundai A-League fixture against Central Coast Mariners, excitement has never been higher.
And although some players are still getting to know each other, the mood around the club is buoyant. As Michael Beauchamp is interviewed by Fox Sports, fellow defender Dean Heffernan does his best to put his teammate off.
This pair should feel among the most at home in this situation. They were teammates in the A-League’s first season, in 2005, as part of the Mariners maiden squad that went all the way to the Grand Final.
‘I think we proved a lot of people wrong with our first year there,’ says Beauchamp. ‘Obviously this time is a little bit different because people are expecting a little bit more from the Heart with the players we have here but we still are a new team.
‘We still are a young team too. Although we have a few experienced players here we have a lot of young players as well.’
For midfielder Rutger Worm, there is a small level of familiarity with two fellow Dutchmen on the team in striker Gerald Sibon and of course the coach, John van ’t Schip.
‘Gerald and I try to make the level a little bit higher, to train good and sharp, and more technical and tactical so hopefully it’s helping,’ says Worm. ‘And the coach loves to play with patience and with a lot of technique, not only long balls, so hopefully it’s going to work in the competition.’
Coming from NEC in the Eredivisie down to the A-League represents a leap of faith for the 24-year-old, one prompted by the presence of van ’t Schip, who played for 11 years at Ajax – the club Worm supported as a child.
As a child, Worm supported the Ajax team that van ’t Schip represented for 11 years and served as a member of the coaching staff.
‘He was a good player and he was a coach at the national team and Ajax with Marco van Basten so he has good experience,’ he says. ‘He is a good coach and he had trust in me, and I chose Melbourne Heart so I’m happy.’
Both Worm and Beauchamp recognise the importance of extending that familiarity across the whole squad both on and off the pitch, something which was helped by the club’s recent trip to Bendigo for the Westpac Community Football Festival.
‘It was good to be a part of that. We played some good football, even though the team we played against was a little bit younger,’ says Beauchamp. ‘I think we still defended pretty well and going forward we created some good chances.’
The 9-1 victory over Loddon Mallee Lightning was a far cry from the big clash against Premier League giants Everton a few days earlier.
‘It’s a bit of chalk and cheese, but it’s all part of it. We still have to go out there and do the same things, whether it’s against a top team or a lower team,’ Beauchamp says.
The Socceroos’ defender only had a couple of weeks rest following his return from World Cup duties, so his first goal for the season is to be able to put in a full shift for the Heart.
‘That’s the biggest thing for me and play regular football and good football at that. So if I can come in each game and give something to the team that’s going to help them then I’m happy.’
With what is shaping as a strong team, hopes are high.
‘We want to finish high so we can play in the finals,’ says Worm. ‘We want to see that we are a good team and a good club and we play nice football to see.’
That fluidity may take time to fully develop, but Beauchamp says the squad is confident that it will come.
‘I think it will take a few games to get that feeling within the team but each training session is getting better and better.’