Tim Cahill in action for Melbourne City in the FFA Cup match against the Brisbane Strikers at Perry Park in Brisbane.
Tim Cahill in action for Melbourne City in the FFA Cup match against the Brisbane Strikers at Perry Park in Brisbane. DAN PELED

Returning stars show how good A-League has become

I AM always excited when a new football season comes around but I have to say this A-League campaign promises to be the best in the 12 years since its inception.

Football Federation Australia would expect that every year and has probably made claims to that effect, especially when the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and David Villa graced the competition.

But this year those claims would be bona fide.

Home-grown players such as Tim Cahill, Brett Holman, James Troisi, Alex Wilkinson and James Holland are all returning to the domestic league after seeking fame and fortune across the globe in a sign of respect to how good the A-League has become.

In fact, it's like being in a foreign country and trying to find the best restaurant ... you always go where the locals go and it appears that some of our best locals are now seeing the football served up in Australia is now worth taking a nibble at.

Cahill, of course, was the biggest fish for the FFA to catch and you have to applaud chief executive David Gallop and his offsiders for going all out to get the former Everton and Millwall man.

It's just a shame that he isn't around for the opening round because he is away on Socceroos duty.

In fact, the only big disappointment to me is that the kick-off of the domestic competition could not have been put on hold for a week so fans could get to see the best players in action.

I see the A-League being as close as the AFL was this season, with any one of seven teams a chance of winning the competition.

In fact, I have predicted that Adelaide United, which won both the minor premiership and the grand final last time round, will finish seventh in this campaign and out of the finals.

Brisbane Roar striker Jamie Maclaren, the top-scoring Australian in last season's competition, finishing second only to golden boot winner Bruno Fornaroli, said this week: "Every team has made some really good gains.”

If Maclaren can keep up his goalscoring form this season then I see the Roar as a chance to win a fourth A-League grand final.

With Holman, Thomas Broich, Thomas Kristensen, Tommy Oar and Matt McKay providing the ammunition, John Aloisi's men have the firepower to go all the way.

Most people's favourites are Melbourne Victory and with Marco Rojas and James Troisi alongside Besart Berisha, then it is obviously a big chance.

But I can't look past Melbourne City. The combination of Fornaroli and Cahill looks tasty and if they get going City will be hard to stop.

Sydney's new men, including Bobo, Josh Brillante and Bernie Ibini, will mean the Sky Blues are more potent in front of goal and across the board it looks like coaches are going for more attacking line-ups, which has to be good for all us fans.

The only three teams who look off the pace are the Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets, but who knows if they can put a run together - anything is possible as the Western Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks have proved in our other football codes.