There were plenty of eyebrows raised prior to Friday night’s clash between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney when the name of Wanderers marquee Alexander Baumjohann didn’t appear on the team sheet.
The German was one of Markus Babbel’s key off-season signings and had shown more than a few glimpses of his class in an injury-disrupted campaign.
Back to full fitness and with the Wanderers starting to find some rhythm, a firing Baumjohann could be a huge weapon over the final rounds of the season.
But Babbel left his star recruit back in Sydney, omitted after the coach confirmed pre-game a less-than-ideal performance in training over the last week or so.
It was a huge call from Babbel, especially considering his side’s results in the 2018/19 Season had put his own job in question in some circles.
But his players backed him in sensational fashion, putting in one of their best displays of the campaign to crush the Roar 4-1 at Suncorp Stadium.
Even without Baumjohann’s creativity and flair, the Wanderers attack created chances at will, firing off 18 more shots at goal than their hosts.
Imports Oriol Riera (two) and Roly Bonevacia both got on the score sheet, while mid-season signing Mitch Duke scored the Wanderers’ first goal after Dylan Wenzel-Halls had given Roar an early lead.
Duke was the beneficiary of Babbel’s hard-line stance, coming into the starting side for the axed German and he gave a glimpse into why his coach made the call.
“Everyone stepped it up at training since I’ve been there, in that first week I have noticed everyone stepped up another level,” Duke told Fox Sports after the match.
“You know what, with the form the boys are in, it takes a bit more than your reputation to get you in.
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“They are pushing him [Baumjohann] at another level. Now it’s up to him to prove his worth. [The healthy competition] makes a big difference.”
With the Wanderers in such strong form, it will be interesting to see what plays with Baumjohann and the Wanderers over the last six rounds.
But with the club looking to build a strong foundation heading into 2019/20 – and their brand-new stadium – the message seems that every player needs to get on board with Babbel’s vision or else.