Ironies abound in sport.
Socceroo legend Tim Cahill quit Melbourne City earlier this month because he could not be sure he would get sufficient game time to guarantee his match sharpness leading into the World Cup in Russia.
Yet if Cahill had just hung on for a week or two, he might have found he got all the game time he wanted over the next few weeks given City’s injury crisis with strikers.
City boss Warren Joyce is looking at going into Saturday night’s Christmas Derby using either young striker Braedyn Crowley, who has made three appearances for the first team, up front, or improvising with Polish attacking midfielder Marcin Budszinski in an advanced role.
He could select the equally callow but highly talented Daniel Arzani, or perhaps roll the dice and play Bruce Kamau, normally a wide man, through the centre.
Joyce has named Ross McCormack in the squad, but the striker – who City feared would be out for the season after limping off with a suspected ACL injury last week – has made a dramatic recovery.
It’s highly unlikely that the on-loan Aston Villa frontman will start, but Joyce is relieved that the injury is nowhere near as bad as forecast and that McCormack, who is City’s top scorer this season, will be available, if not for this game, then during the busy Christmas and New Year period.
Given all that, it’s likely Cahill would have featured from the start of this particular game if he was still at Bundoora. But Joyce is not one to bother about what he no longer has.
“You can’t look back in football because you would be looking back and saying you were disappointed Bruno [club captain and top forward Bruno Fornaroli] got injured. You have to look at the opportunities it gives people, that’s the only way to be.
“The kids have done well. With the young players you are always saying you never know when the chance is going to come, you have to grasp it. If they get a chance they have to be ready to take it, turn one game into four or five games, then 15 games.”
Victory coach Kevin Muscat’s dilemma is at the other end of the pitch. Mark Milligan has been declared ready to go but a hamstring issue to Leigh Broxham will deny him the chance to be the first to play in 20 Melbourne Derbies.
Broxham and Stefan Nigro have shared the left-back position for the past 10 rounds but Muscat said it wasn’t as simple as throwing the 21-year-old into his first Derby.
“Stef comes into the mix. When called on this season Stef has responded and performed really well,” he said.”Thomas Deng also played at left back in the first game of the season and he did very well there.”
“Which way we go we’ll decide tomorrow afternoon … there’s a couple of options. You’re going to have to have a guess.”
Milligan is a chance to play in central defence, allowing Matias Sanchez to continue in midfield alongside Carl Valeri.
“Millsy’s ticked all the boxes and done everything in his powers. He’s been meticulous in his rehab,” Broxham said.”It’s a real big boost for us.”