Heart is where the home is for an Anglo in Oz
When you follow a sport in a new country, eventually you have to nail your colours to the mast and start supporting a team. After all, half the fun of watching sport is that innate desire for one arbitrarily-chosen bunch of people to score more goals, runs, tries, points or baskets than the other.
Picking a team has its problems. The number of UK-based Aussies recently supporting the likes of Chelsea is typical of the glory-hunting that can often come as a result of being able to pick a team through choice, rather than through where you were born or who your Dad supports. You could just choose the team that your mates from your new country support, but where's the fun in that? Better surely to support their biggest rivals. And anyway, none of my mates really has a football team.
To be fair, many of the lads in the team I play for over here have eschewed any kind of glory-hunting in their choice of UK teams: there's a Derby fan, a Cardiff fan and a Newcastle supporter in there. With this in mind I was determined to choose a team that was something of an underdog.
That immediately ruled out Brisbane Roar who, at my time of choosing, were on an unbeaten run that had become the longest by any club in Australian sporting history. The fact that that run has since been broken by Brett Emerton's Sydney United is neither here nor there: they are the dominant force in Australian football and as such I couldn't support them.
Living in Melbourne I looked closer to home, but the major team here, Victory, didn't appeal. They have name players like Archie Thompson (the guy who scored 13 in a game for Australia against American Samoa), and besides, Harry Kewell has signed for them.
I could have been completely obtuse and gone for Wellington Phoenix, who have a couple of names I know: Keeper Tony Warner has been around a bit, while Chris Greenacre ingrained himself on my consciousness merely because I used to play with another Greenacre so I noticed his name on the vidiprinter. However, supporting a team in a different country seemed a bit silly.
So I decided to make my choice simple: I looked at the bottom of the league and thought I'd start with the worst team around. The first week I did that, Adelaide United were at the bottom, and I had tickets to go and see them in the near future, so this was perhaps the way to go. Still, I couldn't get excited about the idea.
And then Melbourne Heart came to my rescue. The very next week, as if knowing I was looking for a place to plant my flag, they sank to the bottom of the league. This was ideal: a team from the city I was living in; a team that was doing dreadfully. Not only that, but they boast similar colours to my chosen AFL team, the Sydney Swans. I determined there and then that I would become a Heart fan.
And I must be a lucky charm, because since then they've won three out of four games Ã¢ÂÂ which a league of 10 teams means they've stormed up the table to sixth. Gloriously, they now sit one place above Kewell's mob, who were sidetracked by a rather ridiculous friendly with Beckham, Keane & Co. as the LA Galaxy roadshow rolled into town. This was less a football match than a eulogy for Beckham whose every touch was fawned over to a ridiculous extent.
But I didn't care Ã¢ÂÂ my Heart boys were keeping themselves fresh for the big weekend clash against top-of-the-league Brisbane Roar. Could they do what Sydney did last week? With my support, why not?
STOP PRESS: Ed's note: Why not indeed? On Fri 9 Dec at just before 9pm local time, the final whistle sounded at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane Ã¢ÂÂ and Melbourne Heart celebrated a 2-1 win over the champions to go within five points of the league leaders. Followers of unsuccessful teams may wish to beg Paul's allegiance at http://www.thewinslowboy.com.au/