Central Coast Mariners captain John Hutchinson has thrown his support behind under-fire Heart striker Michael Mifsud and believes the heavy criticism aimed at the Maltese international is uncalled for.
Hutchinson has played with Mifsud with the Maltese national team, which the Heart player captains. Mifsud joined the A-League club last year but has managed just one goal from 13 appearances this season.
Hutchinson recommended the 32-year old striker to then Heart coach John Aloisi before the start of the current A-League campaign.
“When I played with him with Malta he was the only goal-scorer pretty much,” Hutchinson said. “Every half-chance he got he scored and he scored against some big countries and big players.
"I spoke to John Aloisi before he came out here and he asked me what he was like, and I just told him and you can see that he would create a lot of chances himself and get in some good areas. It’s just disappointing he hasn’t found the back of the net [more]. I think if he scored half the chances he’d be leading the goal-scoring charts by a mile.
“He’s a good team player. He gets himself in good positions, makes really good runs. I hope for his sake and for Melbourne Heart’s sake he starts scoring goals. He’s a great guy and I stayed in touch with him when I came back here and hopefully he can start finding the net.”
Mifsud’s lone strike in the A-League came in round 10 in a 2-1 loss to Sydney FC. As a club the Heart has struggled to score goals this season, managing just 12 as a team, with David Williams the top-scorer with four.
“It’s just confidence isn’t it,” Hutchinson said. “You see it with all great strikers. They all go through it. I think the criticism Michael’s copping is uncalled for, unwarranted.
"The guy obviously doesn’t mean not to score goals. Against us he hit the post and it bounced straight back into Liam Reddy’s hands. When you don’t get the rub of the green of the striker you can’t score goals.
"I think if he wasn’t getting goal-scoring chances and wasn’t creating then people could be on his back. But I think some of the criticism is a little bit harsh."
Mifsud has played all over Europe with stints in Germany with Kaiserslautern, Norway with Lillestrom, England with Coventry City and Barnsley, and in the Maltese Premier League with Sliema Wanderers, Valletta and Qormi.
Nicknamed ‘The Mosquito’, the tiny striker has racked up 39 goals in 103 matches for Malta since making his debut in 2000.
International teammate Hutchinson believes the criticism aimed at Mifsud would have affected him.
“I don’t know how much players read the internet,” he said. “I know I don’t read the internet or see what people write because it’s easy for people to sit beyond a computer and write what they want.
"I’ve seen some young boys been destroyed by people behind computer screens. I hope he doesn’t look at it because he’s a good professional and I know he’ll be working hard to try and get goals."