As Melbourne Heart coach John van `t Schip flies off into the black night, he leaves behind a simmering sky blue A-League brawl.
Just three days after finishing their rollercoaster season, van `t Schip and football operations manager John Didulica left Melbourne on Tuesday night to meet their new parent club, Manchester City.
While squad renewal and relationship-building is high on the two Johns’ agenda, it’s a change of kit colour that looks set to dominate discussion of Heart’s imminent transformation.
They won’t say so, but Heart are set to become Melbourne City, playing in a similar sky blue shirt, white shorts and socks to the English powerhouse club.
That would align the Heart’s brand with Manchester City and its American offshoot New York City FC.
It would be a major change for Heart, upsetting both a segment of their devoted fan base and Sydney FC, who claim sole tenancy of sky blue in the league.
Chairman Scott Barlow has written to Football Federation Australia (FFA), the arbiters of any colour change, arguing the colour is “central to our identity”.
It’s understood the FFA is some distance from a final decision, leaving plenty of time for the two clubs to argue their case, and fans to simply argue.
A group of Heart fans is campaigning to “Keep Melbourne Red and White”, with hundreds of fans wielding supportive placards at their final league match last Saturday.
That match ended 3-2 to the Western Sydney Wanderers, a fitting end to the Heart’s topsy-turvy season.
The Heart finished last on the A-League table, but not before an almighty recovery from van `t Schip after inheriting the reins from John Aloisi.
At the club’s awards presentation on Monday, Heart chief executive Scott Munn revealed Aloisi was still a part of the “Manchester City family”, spending time at the Premier League club this month.
David Williams picked up the Heart’s major awards, including player of the year, supporters’ player of the year and golden boot awards.
Williams said he would rather be training for a finals match than enjoying the end-of-season function but left no doubt about the club’s ambitions, whatever shirt they play in next year.
“We can go from the bottom to winning it next year,” he said.