Brisbane Roar captain Matt McKay has opened up for the first time about the hurt within his squad after they under-achieved last season.
The Roar’s new Head Coach John Aloisi has said a number of times since taking over two months ago that it had been easy to motivate his players as they were already determined not to repeat the disappointment of last season when the Roar bowed out in the first week of the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
As the Roar prepare to open their 2015/16 season with a Westfield FFA Cup tie against Western Sydney Wanderers FC in Penrith on Tuesday night, McKay agreed there was a steely commitment among his players to regain their reputation as one of the competition’s most successful and admired sides.
“For me, this season is all about being successful with the Roar,” McKay said.
“Some of my greatest joys in football have come . . . in fact, everyone’s joy here at the Roar . . . has come when we have done well.
“As a squad we were not happy with last season. It hurt a lot not to be able to defend our title.
“We want to get back to the top and I believe we will.”
McKay says that commitment to win includes this week’s challenging Cup tie.
“Last year we got beaten (in the Cup) by Adelaide (United) who went on to win it. We want to go deep in the competition this time,” he said.
“Our first test is Western Sydney, another A-League team that I am sure also wants to go deep and it is going to be tough.
“They will be very competitive. They have had a lot of (player) changes but they have recruited well. I think they will definitely be up for it and Penrith is still a home game for them.”
The Roar’s first game under the guidance of Aloisi was an impressive performance against Liverpool FC.
Even though the Roar lost 2-1, their football – particularly in the first half – earned high praise and Reds boss Brendan Rodgers kept his strongest team on the park until the 62nd minute.
McKay, who sat out the Liverpool game because of his late return from the off-season after playing for the Socceroos against Kyrgyzstan on 17 June, said he was eager to get back into a competitive game after a month of training.
He has no doubts the Wanderers will be a tough first-up Cup assignment.
“We had the joy of playing Liverpool and now we have another competitive fixture which is great,” McKay said.
“Everyone has been working hard but these pre-season games are always a challenge physically.
“We have to concentrate and do our jobs and work on the stuff we have been doing in training.
“If we can do that right and execute properly, we will give ourselves every chance of getting a good result in Penrith.”
After the Cup tie, the Roar have a busy pre-season schedule leading up to their Hyundai A-League season opener, also against the Wanderers, on Thursday, 8 October at Pirtek Stadium.
The Roar plays Melbourne Victory at Southport on Wednesday, 19 August (kick off 7pm) followed by games in September against Newcastle Jets, the PS4NPLQLD Under-23 All Stars and Central Coast Mariners.
McKay says the pre-season program is great for the players and the fans.
“It is really encouraging that the Roar and other A-League teams will be able to showcase their talents in South-East Queensland,” he said.
“I hope people take advantage of this opportunity, it is a chance to see top games at local venues.”
On a personal level, McKay hopes to add to his tally of 56 caps for Australia as the Socceroos continue their qualification bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“The Socceroos have a big qualification phase that I really want to be involved in,” McKay said.
“It will definitely help me if the Roar are doing well so my full focus is on having a good season and helping the boys get back to where we want to be.”