‘It’s shattering for everyone involved in this football club’ – Rudan takes aim at perceived lack of respect for Western United

Thanks to the layout of Ballarat’s Mars Stadium, the converted dressing room that serves as a makeshift venue for post-game press conferences sits right next to the space where the hosting side congregates before and after the match.  

Unwieldy as it might be, it’s a location that meant journalists were given a rare chance to eavesdrop on the immediate impact of United’s potentially season-defining 1-0 defeat to the Sydney FC on Saturday afternoon. 

Looking to sit back, soak up pressure and pinch a smash-and-grab goal in transition, United had absorbed body blow after body blow against a wasteful Harboursiders unit but, at the same time, offered little in the way of attacks of their own. 

And eventually, they were brought undone by a contentious 76th-minute penalty from a returning Adam Le Fondre.

In awarding the spot-kick, referee Shaun Evans deemed that defender Ivan Vujica had committed an infringement when his block of an Alexander Baumjohann cross ricocheted off his thigh and into his arm – but only after a significant amount of play had continued and lengthy consultation with replays on the VAR.

“It’s ridiculous. Obviously, I’ll take it because it’s a bit of a weird law but I didn’t think it was a pen personally,” Le Fondre said.

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With just four games remaining on their season, the result left United three points back of sixth-placed Brisbane Roar in the race to play finals football – with the Queenslanders possessing two games in hand. 

Though the hustle and bustle of Fox Sports technicians and assorted club media stuff suppressed the exact words of Rudan as he addressed his side following his defeat, the noise that did make it through the walls was loud and liberally seasoned with a four-letter word rhyming with duck.

Initially, it sounded as though the United coach was delivering a bake for the ages but, as noise inside the conference room subsided, other words related to ‘effort’ and ‘pride’ began to seep through. 

When he eventually appeared to fire his post-game press conference, Rudan fielded a perfunctory opening question to open proceedings – a request for his thoughts on the penalty decision –  but quickly established that he had his own agenda to layout. 

“I want to start off by saying how proud I am of my players,” he began. 

“Absolute superhuman effort by them. We’ve travelled to five different cities across the country in 14 days and played five games.”

Thanks to the chaos wrought by COVID-19 enforced reshuffle of the schedule and a hard limit on the length of the season dictated by the coming end of the Fox Sports broadcast deal, Rudan’s team – as are a significant number of A-League sides – are experiencing a significant end of season crunch. 

United travelled approximately 9,672 km to play five games over the past two weeks: facing Adelaide United in Adelaide on April 30, Brisbane in Brisbane on May 5, Western Sydney Wanderers in Sydney on May 8, Perth Glory in Perth on May 12, and Sydney in Ballarat on Saturday. Of course, it must be noted that the Ballarat staging of the final game was a United decision. 

The Harboursiders entered the game coming off back-to-back seven day breaks, although they will now have to back up for a Wednesday evening clash with Melbourne Victory. 

“That is extremely unfair. Extremely unfair,” Rudan said of his side’s schedule. 

“They [should have] never have put on a performance like that. Superhuman. And I told them that after the game. 

“They gave me everything of themselves, plus more. 

“Do we as a football club deserve it? No. 

“We’ve got a very generous owner. Our chairman, Jason Sourasis, has put a lot of money into this football club. He’s given people opportunities to continue their professional careers. Be it coaches, players, office staff. 

“We’ve got a very passionate CEO in Chris Pehlivanis, who is right behind us as well. 

“Unfortunately, when it comes to decision making, I feel as though we’re treated like second-rate citizens sometimes. 

“And it’s not fair. We need to be more respected as a football club as far as I’m concerned.”

Having delivered his sermon, Rudan then addressed the penalty decision – which then segued into a broader summation of the officiating. 

“I think when the opposition players say it… Adam Le Fondre said to me that he couldn’t believe it,” he said. 

“The reaction is always the first thing that you look for; there wasn’t much of a reaction from the Sydney FC bench or the players. 

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“Shaun Evans was five meters from it, saw it clearly… made a decision to play on, everyone was happy with it and then all of a sudden it gets called back. 

“Once again, we get dudded. We don’t deserve it. I’m sick and tired of getting treated like a second rate citizen in this league. It’s just not fair. We’ve got great people at this football club. We work extremely hard. My coaching staff work so hard, my players are incredible human beings. 

“For us to continue to be on the wrong side of these decisions it’s shattering for me, for my chairman, my CEO and everyone involved in this football club.

“I can tell you an instance. Rhyan Grant trips over Besart Berisha right in front of Shaun and it’s play on. 

“You might think it’s a little thing but for me, those little things build up. Not even a yellow card – a clear trip in transition.  

“[Alessandro] Diamanti gets fouled on seven occasions – today we tried to work in transition – and not one conversation [by the referee] with a player. One player made the same foul three times on Diamanti. 

“They stop us from playing – but it’s ok? That’s just not fair. 

“You might think that this is a sook or a whinge or whatever, I don’t really care how you want to put it. I’m standing up for my football club, for my players, for my coaching staff and everybody involved at this club. 

“We don’t deserve what’s gone on.” 

Asked if the travel load had resulted in any injuries, the 45-year-old gaffer said that he was, at that stage, unsure, before taking the chance to heap further praise on his players.

“I got them all together [after the game] and told them all how proud I am of them,” Rudan said. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have much to show [from their run of games] from a points perspective but for me what’s more important is the human element.

“We’re second year, we want to grow this football club and what I saw today was a huge growth being made from day one to where we are today. Today’s performance today showed me exactly where we are as a football club.

“We never give up, we continue to grow, and we stay together. The effort was just increndible. All those values that we’re about, I saw them out there today. For me, there’s a bigger picture than a match that’s worthy of three points. And that’s what are we as a football club.

“Our values were there for all to see today. There’s some more important things than a game that’s worth three points. Because if I continue to see that then I know this club’s in a great place going forward.

“Clubs bigger than ours and managers bigger than me, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjær at Man United has been complaining about their fixture, they lost their two games, and they’ve got 35 world-class players to choose from.

“Why are we any different? It’s harder for us, because they don’t have to travel like we do.

“It’s the same all over the place, we get it, but it’s extremely difficult. I’m so proud of everyone involved in this football club. We deserved more.”

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

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