By Lance Jenkinson
Western United striker Besart Berisha underlined what a derby victory would mean to his club in an impassioned plea to teammates in the huddle before they went out to battle against his former club Melbourne Victory in the A-League on Saturday night.
Berisha’s words were most important because they deflected a week of build-up largely revolving around his first game back against the Victory – a club where he will go down as one of the greats – to the us against them mentality United took into the local derby.
In footage released on Western United’s social media accounts, Berisha said: “Boys, it’s an important game, not for me, but for us. This is the game every football player wants to play in. This is the games every football player wants to win.”
It was clear this was a game for Western United that was far bigger than the individual storylines. This was all about making a strong impression against a Victory team that has ruled this city since the A-League’s inception.
Max Burgess came on as a substitute in the midfield for Western United and savoured every moment of his side’s 3-2 upset win.
“It was one of those special moments as a player,” Burgess said.
“Definitely for the club as well, it was a special night.
“Obviously a big derby and hopefully the start of something special in terms of that rivalry.”
The quality of the match and the high drama of Western United’s comeback win will spark a rivalry between the two tribes.
“To come back from two-nil down was really gutsy,” he said.
“It showed a lot of character and I think everyone saw that with the way we celebrated together at the final whistle.”
A pocket of Western United fans donning the striking green and black merchandise never stopped chanting or waving their flags for the full 90 minutes.
Burgess said the away supporters provided great contagious energy.
“We love their support as players,“ he said. “There’s that real connection with the fans because it’s the first year.
“We’re starting from the beginning with them and we’re all starting to connect on a personal level.”
Western United is a perfect two-from-two on the road, but the fourth placed side is yet to register a win on home soil.
That rankles Burgess and his teammates and they want to fix that unwanted record against Western Sydney Wanderers at GMHBA Stadium this Saturday night.
“It will be really good to get back to the fans and test ourselves against a really strong side,” Burgess said.
Meanwhile, Western United has just launched a new four-game membership, which includes admission to the remaining 2019 games in Geelong against the Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC and the derby with Melbourne Victory.
The price is $60 for adults and $15 for children and can be purchased through the web at wufc.memberlink.net.au