Marco Tilio was named on the bench for Melbourne City’s season opener against Western United. Manager Patrick Kisnorbo’s comments post-game regarding the move showed the club’s ruthless side.
Heading into the A-League Men’s opening game of the season, there was a focus on whether the diminutive winger would be handed a starting berth. He was not.
Instead, Kisnorbo opted for Mathew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout to flank Jamie Maclaren.
Kisnorbo’s team selection was vindicated, as his side managed to heal some of the wounds from last year’s Grand Final loss to Western United. A 2-1 win for City was the perfect tonic.
But that hasn’t alleviated some of the groans from fans that Tilio deserved to start on Friday night. After being named by Graham Arnold in the Socceroos’ last friendly against New Zealand, a game they would win 2-0 with Tilio playing 73 minutes, the winger was relegated to the bench for his club side.
Odd? Perhaps, but Kisnorbo’s post-game comments gives us an understanding of why.
The 41-year-old was quizzed about not selecting Tilio from the outset, and his response hints at a standard the club has set and that no one is guaranteed a start. Regardless of if a player starts for the national team, they have to earn selection.
“I go on my feel and the players that have done well in pre-season,” Kisnorbo said.
“I thought [Nabbout] deserved to play. Just because Marco got picked to play for the Socceroos doesn’t mean anyone is an automatic starter. You need to work hard to get into the team and he got his chance today.
“I was happy for him when he came on. I picked the best XI that I think going into a game. Just because you represent Australia, doesn’t mean you’re an automatic starter.”
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Kisnorbo’s point is about driving team standards, and if a player isn’t meeting them for his club, then they won’t play. Regardless of who it is.
There is no denying Tilio’s talent. The winger has all the tricks, pace, guile, and class to become a world-class footballer, but without the hard work that Kisnorbo is referring to, he won’t be starting.
Given Melbourne City’s performances over the last few years that ultimately yielded the team’s first Grand Final win, this attitude is working.
Fans were not happy that the 21-year-old winger didn’t start on Friday night, but Kisnorbo’s job is to instil standards and ensure that nothing is given to anyone. Even if it is at the expense of one player, that is how it is.
It could also be about sheltering a young player with the world at his feet. To remind him that not everything is given in football, even if you are extremely talented. After all, the club is about winning trophies, no matter who plays.
Marco Tilio will get his chance to shine for Melbourne City this season, and when he does get that starting berth he craves, it will be because he earnt it. Not because it was simply given on reputation.
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