Magpies Crusaders coach Carlos Garcia Alejos believes the long-term benefits of playing a Hyundai A-League side in a friendly mid-season match will outweigh any short-term pain for the fledgling National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland club.
The Mackay outfit are to play three-time Hyundai A-League champions Brisbane Roar at BB Print Stadium next Thursday, 12 July, in a match that coincides with the Football Queensland Community Cup.
Alejos acknowledges the friendly against the Roar could come at a better time, with the Crusaders locked in a dogfight for survival with three NPL Queensland rivals locked in a fight against relegation.
The Crusaders are 12th on the 14-team NPL Queensland ladder with 15 points. They trail Redlands United (16) but are ahead of North Queensland United (12) and Sunshine Coast (5) in the scrap to avoid a drop to the Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) in 2019.
The bottom two NPL sides will drop a level next season.
That is most definitely an issue for the Crusaders, Alejos says, and naturally the priority is to remain at the state’s top level.
“I want the team to stay up, that’s my motivation,” Alejos said. “It is a most important target for the club.”
But taking on the Roar on a Thursday night means the Crusaders will be playing three matches in nine days.
They travel to Toowoomba to play the South West Queensland Thunder on Saturday, they then back up against the Roar the following Thursday night before a crunch clash against Gold Coast United at Sologinkin Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Yet having a Hyundai A-League side in town – the Roar are having a training camp in the north Queensland city – means a promotional bonanza for the code.
Alejos, a former youth coach at famed Real Madrid, said the town is buzzing with the thought of having the Roar in town.
“Everybody is excited to get them up here, it’s a good opportunity for everyone,” he said when asked what the visit of the Roar could mean for football in the city.
“From my coaching eyes it’s not good because it’s midweek in the middle of our season.
“Yet to host Brisbane Roar can do nothing but good for the game here.”
Alejos promised to field as strong a side as possible to tackle the Roar. He said that away from a couple of injuries the bulk of the squad will be the best the Magpies can trot out.
The Spaniard said he originally accepted the coaching role at the Magpies to take on the challenge of guiding the new club to be a force in the NPL.
It has been a task, he admitted, but is confidence his side can work themselves further away from the danger zone at the bottom of the ladder.
“Are we struggling? Yes and no,” he said.
“Five victories so far has been good but over the remaining eight weeks we have to do our best, although we have been struggling with injuries.
“Relegation is a possibility but we are fighting.”
On the subject of the FIFA World Cup, and after his beloved Spain joined football royalty like Argentina and Germany to exit Russia early, Alejos was asked which country can take the title.
“It has been a crazy World Cup, but I think Brazil can win it again,” he said.
Tickets for Magpies Crusaders vs Brisbane Roar can be purchased via OzTix.
Magpies Crusaders United v Brisbane Roar FC
Thursday, 12 July 2018
Kick-off 7pm, gates open 6pm
BB Print Stadium, Mackay
Tickets available via OzTix
Words: Terry Wilson