There is little in sport worse than losing to your biggest rivals, however there is nothing more catastrophic than being thumped by them.
Melbourne City’s 6-0 demolition of Melbourne Victory on Saturday night marked a new low for the A-League’s biggest club.
“It’s hard to see anything positive for Melbourne Victory at the moment,” former Victory legend Archie Thompson opined on Fox Sports’ commentary as Connor Metcalf stroked home City’s fifth.
The stats paint a similar picture.
Victory has just seven points from its first 10 games — its worst-ever return at the start of an A-League season.
And Saturday night was just the third time the club had ever shipped six goals in a single game and the first time it had ever done so in a derby.
At 6-0, it was the club’s biggest ever defeat.
“It quite simply wasn’t good enough,” Victory coach Grant Brebner said.
Brebner, a former player and assistant coach at Victory now in his first full season as coach, said just a fortnight ago that he was “hurting” after the club’s horror start to the season.
If he was hurting then, he is now likely to be in the same sort of agony the majority of Victory’s supporters are feeling after the derby rout.
The truth is though that this sort of result — in this sort of season — has been coming for a Victory team whose decent from the lofty highs of their 2017/18 grand final win has been amplified by the rise of its noisy neighbours, Melbourne City.
Victory, three-time Premiers, have been dogged by off-field issues that have unsettled a supporter base that has become accustomed to success.
Few clubs can say they are sailing through clear waters during this post-pandemic era, but even by that low-level baseline, Victory are negotiating a maelstrom of discontent.
Fans have been understandably upset with the form of the side, a situation echoed in the boardroom, with foundation member Richard Wilson selling his shares in the club as a signal of his dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs.
“We are an elite club but we are not being run in an elite way at the moment,” Wilson told The Age two weeks ago.
His arguments stem back to Victory’s precipitous fall to the foot of the A-League ladder over the past two seasons.
Last year they finished in 10th out of 11, with only Central Coast keeping them from a maiden wooden spoon.
The Mariners are now top, excelling under the stewardship of Alen Stajcic.
The most visible part of that supposed mismanagement has been reflected in a series of dud transfer targets over the past two seasons who, aside from Ola Toivonen, have seriously underperformed.
This season, Victory’s key attacking signings have either spent time on the treatment table or have just been out of form. Off-season signings Rudy Gestede, Callum McManaman and Jacob Butterfield all ended Saturday’s humiliation watching on from the bench, having been subbed off.
Injuries cannot be helped, but the club has also in that time failed to identify a disappointing defensive unit that has now conceded 23 goals in its 10 games, a league high.
Brebner though, said any blame should be directed his way.
“I would say that the finger should be pointed at me for the sake of the football club,” Brebner said.
“I am the head coach of this football club, I am the one who needs to look at the game tonight, analyse the game and come up with reasons why that happened.
“It’s not finger-pointing, it’s not about scapegoating, it’s the reality.”
Brebner said he did not want to talk about his future and whether he would still be in charge for next week’s visit from a resurgent Adelaide United.
However, even a change of coach appears unlikely to be a silver bullet to their present woes.
Victory, and its large supporter base, might be stuck in the doldrums for a little while yet, evidence that no matter how big a club perceives itself to be, failure to keep up with the Joneses can lead to a dramatic and chastening fall.