BALLARAT will be the destination for A-League club Melbourne City’s first on-field outing.
City, formerly named Melbourne Heart, will stage a pre-season hit-out against Ballarat Red Devils in a friendly at Morshead Park next Wednesday night.
The rebranded franchise, taken over by Manchester City in January, officially started training under new head coach John van’t Schip last week.
Socceroo and all-time club leading goal scorer David Williams, who topped Heart’s goal kicking with 11 goals last season, and 200-game Dutch league defender Robbie Wielaert will headline a near-full-strength squad. It will include new young guns Connor Chapman and Jacob Melling.
Selecting Ballarat for its first match was an easy choice, according to City chief executive officer Scott Munn.
Munn said the club already had a strong relationship with Ballarat, knew the redeveloped facilities at Morshead Park were a great standard and the competition would offer a good battle.
Ballarat Red Devils are midway through their inaugural National Premier Leagues Victoria campaign.
“That’s important for us to always play at the highest possible standard we can,” Munn said.
“Our players have had about eight to 10 weeks off now and this will be a good opportunity for them. We’re certainly looking forward to it.”
Red Devils manager James Robinson said the match would be a great experience and exposure for his players, particularly with City tipped to lure a strong Melbourne fan base to the game.
“It’s great for Ballarat and the whole region to watch and there’ll be plenty of people coming down from Melbourne, too” Robinson said.
“We’ll be giving all our boys a chance in the match because we’ve also got to be mindful that we still have a (NPLV) match ahead on the Saturday.
“It’s all about a chance to experience what it’s like to play against these guys and we’ll utilise what we have.”
Robinson said Morshead Park was a replica of the AAMI Park pitch.
It will be the training base for the Bahrain national team leading into the 2015 Asian Cup.
Robinson said the upgrade was the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of people and, when clubs like City chose to visit, he could see the positive effect it had on his players.
The Red Devils’ last visit from the A-League franchise was in April 2011 for an exhibition game at Eureka Stadium, in which the Red Devils beat Heart 3-1 on penalties after a nil-all draw.