In-form City flying under the radar might be a blessing for Kisnorbo

Full story first published in SBS’ The World Game:

Melbourne Victory’s troubles might have made his side largely anonymous this week, but Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo isn’t complaining about it. In fact, with his striker Jamie Maclaren in career-best form, the inconspicuousness might be a blessing in disguise.

Though their ten-man opposition undoubtedly left something to be desired, City was utterly rampant on their way to a 7-0 thrashing of cross-town foes; the 13-0 margin across to the side’s meeting’s in 2021 the largest margin over two games in Australian national league history.

Last Saturday’s win equalled the highest ever winning margin in A-League history, moved them to outright top of the A-League table, swelled their goal difference to +20 – 13 clear of next best Central Coast and Sydney FC – and, ultimately, led to Grant Brebner’s axing and replacement, for 2021-22, with Tony Popovic. 

With at least a game in hand on all of their top-six rivals, Kisnorbo’s side continues to loom as the heavy favourites for a maiden A-League premiership. 

So is the 40-year-old City boss taking umbrage with the lack of plaudits devoted to his team this week? 

“Not really. I don’t really pay any attention to that stuff,” he said Friday. 

“That’s irrelevant for me. The relevant thing for me is that we have a good performance [against Macarthur FC] on [Saturday].”

Yet, perhaps it’s lucky for Kisnorbo that Victory’s travails and the disastrous European Super League endeavour has served to dominate the discourse in recent days – anything to distract potential suitors from the scintillating form of Jamie Maclaren. 

The City frontman was devastating against Victory in finding the back of the net five times – equalling Archie Thompson’s A-League record for goals in a single game – and moving his season tally to 19. 

That total represents a greater offensive output than the cumulative production of Victory and Newcastle Jets’ entire squads and, with a sizable chunk of the season remaining, Sydney FC’s Bobô’s single A-League-season record of 27 goals is under serious threat. 

“Macca’s [Maclaren] great, he’s humble and he works hard in training, which is the main thing,” said Kisnorbo. 

“The easiest thing to do is sit back and say I don’t need to train because I scored five goals but it’s the opposite. Macca practices hard every day, works on his finishing every day.

“When you practice a lot, he develops good habits but the pleasing thing is that he’s in positions where he can score goals, which is very promising for us.”

Set to turn 28-years-old in July, almost nailed on for an international call-up for coming World Cup qualifiers, and with five assists on the season demonstrating an added extra dimension to his game, the time would seemingly be nigh for Maclaren should he want to make one final thrust out to the leagues of Europe or Asia. 

Ostensibly now entering his prime, the former Blackburn Rovers youth has previously had stints with SV Darmstadt 98 in Germany and Hibernian in Scotland. 

“The Premier League is probably out of the reach at the moment – not to say he couldn’t do it if someone has that real big belief in him,” City captain Scott Jamieson told RSN Breakfast Club.

“The Championship… he’s a predator, [a] goalscorer. The chances created in that league, if you look at that league this year, there are multiple games with goals so there’s no doubt he could do a job in England.”

Of course, all this conjecture discounts whether Maclaren wants to make a move. 

A Sunbury native, the 15-time Socceroo spoke of his desire to become a City legend when he signed with the club back in 2019 and has reiterated his desire for team success over individual accolades throughout the 2021-22 season. 

In the process of building a house in the city, when he was asked where he saw himself in six-years time ahead of last week’s Melbourne Derby, he jokingly answered with “playing for Green Gully” – a NPL Victoria side that he spent time with as a youth. 

There’s also the happiness of pet pooch Simba to consider. 

“I can’t answer [about potential overseas interest] because I’m not those other clubs, but that’s football,” said Kisnorbo. 

“When people do well in their fields, there’s other people or other clubs that want those players. That’s part of football. I’m just happy for him that he’s doing really well and I’m happy for the team that supports him.

Maclaren, however, remains under contract at City for the next season – meaning that any club looking to pry the lethal spearhead out of Bundoora before then will need to front up a transfer fee. 

“Sometimes you need to pay for the good things,” said Kisnorbo. 

“That’s the industry that we’re in. I’m just happy that he’s been doing well along with all his teammates.”

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