Warren Joyce is declining to get caught up in the hype of this week’s Melbourne Derby.
Joyce’s Melbourne City side will head into Friday night’s fixture in third position on the A-League table, just four points clear of cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory with only six games left to play in the 2017-18 regular season.
But with the second-placed Newcastle Jets sitting eight points clear of his side heading into the round, Joyce is not proselytising the need to secure Melbourne bragging rights or a desire to enact revenge for December’s 1-0 Christmas Derby defeat; but instead the need for consistent wins.
Speaking at City’s Bundoora headquarters on Thursday, Joyce called on his City side to bring the intensity and passion concomitant with derbies to every game they play during the rest of the campaign.
“Derbies … you look forward to big games all the time,” he said.
“We can’t approach it and treat it any bigger than any other game.
“If you do that its detrimental to your own mind, it means you are not putting all that concentration and effort into every game.
“Every game from now until the end of the season has got to feel like a derby game or a grand final.
“That’s how you have got to look at it, you’ve got to relish it, look forward to it, stand up to it and enjoy it, put every little bit of concentration effort and skill into getting through those games.
“We have six, seven eight, nine grand finals to come and we have to win every single game that we play from now to the end of the season.”
While Joyce himself claims to be focusing on the next game, there are likely to be others – in Bundoora, Manchester and Abu Dahbi, with a different view.
Since their purchase of the then Heart in 2014, much has been made of the City Football Group’s desire to see their Australian investment play Asian Champions League football, with City yet to qualify for the prestigious tournament since the purchase.
Asked how important he himself felt playing in the ACL was, or if the importance of City taking part in it had been communicated to him, Joyce once again played a straight bat.
“First and foremost, you’re are trying to win the league, that’s your aim at the start,” he added.
“You’re trying to win every single game.
“If that’s your aim and you put all your focus on that, the other things look after themselves.
“It’s got to be the same focus on that, you try and win every game and if you do that all the little side things that come from winning games and being successful happen.
“You look at the short term, concentrate on that, and if you don’t have the performances, don’t have the wins you don’t get them things.
“It’s an obvious statement that you want to be competing with the Sydneys, be involved in Asia, involved in all the cup competitions right down to the death.
“That’s been the same approach from the first day of preseason.
“Every single game that we lose is a massive disappointment. Every single game we draw is a massive disappointment, but you pick up and go again and try and win the next one.
“Any player, if you have something about you, you do those things all the time.”
One player that will come under intense focus during the derby is City’s new signing, Oliver Bozanic.
Signed as a free agent to the club on 10 February, Bozanic made his first start for City last week against Perth, playing a full 90 minutes as his side lost 2-1 thanks to two late goals from Perth Glory’s Neil Kilkenny and Adam Taggart.
Bozanic of course, spent two seasons at Victory, scoring five goals in 48 appearances after signing a three-year marquee deal with the club in September of 2015.
Asked if he expected his history with Victory to give his new signing an extra boost during the game, Joyce downplayed the impact that playing his former club would have on Bozanic.
“It’s not about having a point to prove, players who are professional conduct themselves the right way and live the right way and do the right things all the time anyway,” he said.
“I’ve been impressed by him as a man as well as a player.
“Fitness and game time is lacking but he has come into the group as type of professional you want at this club.
“You can sense he has got some pride about him, I would imagine the pride in his own performance is no different playing from last week to this week, to playing a five a side game out there or playing a game behind closed doors. He wants to do the right things.
“You want to perform well for the fans and the owners of the clubs, then they want to perform for themselves and their families, but that’s the same for every game to the end of the season.”