Sunday, December 30, 2007

A-League: Perth 1 v Roar 4: Welcome to Tahj Minniecon's world

And Newcastle 2 v Wellington 3 - a table favour to Adelaide and Sydney.

I must say when Tahj has come on in previous games he has looked a little nervous and hasn't been able to achieve much. But tonight, while Perth were making sure that Robbie Kruse was marked tightly, Tahj set up 3 of the Roar's 4 goals. Including scoring a cracker himself.

Perth dominated the first 30 minutes. Coach Mitchell had promised that the next 3 home games would be attacking and would prove how good his side was. They looked good in all but the final third. Queenslander James Downey again had a great game setting up, from runs down the right, crosses into the box, that in-form strikers would have eaten. Perth's marksmen ended the game looking hungry.

Perth's fans wasted their energy booing their own captain Simon Colosimo who said after the game that 'nothing is official' about his move to Sydney FC next year. Clearly he has had enough. Early in the season he would complain bitterly about his team in the post game interview - a feat that few others in the A-League could expect to survive. In his case, it seems to have won him a birth in Sydney. Bad move Sydney. Don't do it. It is bad for business pinching other team's players - haven't you learnt that yet? As for Perth fans, take a cue from Roar fans - they knew Brosque - the player rescued from the sidelines of nowhere Europe was going to Sydney from halfway through season one, but they didn't boo until he was actually in a white and blue shirt (away) - and he hasn't bettered his form from those last Roar games.

Once the Roar had soaked up the first half hour, Perth's defence looked weak against the Roar's power drives - first Tahj to Robbie, then Tahj (Foxe) to Reinaldo, then immediately after Nick Rizzo had got one back for Perth - Tando (under no pressure) gave a poor throw to Downey that a pressing Tahj picked up on - bam.

The Roar's forth was a Josh McCloughan special - while Hayden Foxe had his hands around Sasa on the goal line - he left Josh free to head the ball in. Foxe hasn't been a success for Perth - injured in his first practice and since he has been fit he has looked very outclassed as a defender in the A-League.

A final word about Craig Moore. What a silly foul to get himself suspended next week. Why elbow someone after the ball has gone?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sydney on goal scoring blitz

There has been an average of more than 6 goals per game in the last 4 Sydney FC games. 27 goals - 15 for and 12 against.

Sydney 5 v Galaxy 3
Sydney 2 v Perth 4
CCM 4 v Sydney 5
Adelaide 1 v Sydney 3

And they used to have the tightest defence in the league...

A-League: Adelaide 1 v Sydney 3

25,000 watched this game. And unfortunately they experienced frustration.

Too many line ball decisions went Sydney's way.

Just after the half hour Robby Cornthwaite was red carded for a last man grab on the arm, Adelaide was a goal up and Sydney are the best 11 v 10 team in the league. I think Alex Brosque was held onto but he dived.

Just after the hour Adelaide's Bruce Djite, fairly and with skill, got round the last man and was away - called foul by referee Matthew Breeze.

A few minutes later Sydney wrapped up the match with their third goal. Unfortunately, Ruben Zadkovich had to run back from an offside position to get the ball to set-up the goal. Oh dear.

But the most unfortunate decision came in the 76th when Cassio was held back by his arm running toward the 6 yard box, penalty, red card against Sydney - no Cassio got a yellow for diving. Well it was no more of a dive than Brosque's game changer on 33 minutes.

Oh dear poor old Adelaide. If only Sydney could attract 25,000. Or even 15,000. And now they are equal second and could win it from here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A-League: CCM 4 - Sydney 5: Best game ever!

The FFA needs to work out how we get more games like this. It was a raging success even before it started. Central Coast's biggest crowd - largely thanks to traveling Sydney fans. And the Saturday before Christmas needs to become a regular fixture - like Boxing Day is for cricket (boxing?). One marquee game everyone will watch. Foxtel must have been smoking.

It was the most entertaining game of the A-League's 3 seasons.

Sydney learned from LA Galaxy, forget about defence. I don't know what happened to CCM's defence, it was a disaster. So we have an end-to-end game that at first looked like it was going to be the Petrovski & Aloisi show, 2-0. Then Australia's best goal-keeper, Danny Vukovic, slipped or something and got himself sent off for hand ball outside the box in the 16th (Christmas pudding?). Then McKinna made his first major mistake of the season. He took off Sasho instead of Aloisi. Alosis only made it to the 59th and by the 79th, CCM had run out of subs (more treacle anyone?). Occasionally they were down to 9 as Sydney played hard and CCM had injury after injury.

The scoreline went like this:

CCM 1-0 (Jedinak), 2-0 (Aloisi slid in), Petrovski misses a slide in, 2-1 (Fyfe, Trout is OK in goal but not Vukovic), 2-2 (McFlynn), 3-2 (Dutch Owens, Popovic lucky not to get sent off for a last man foul for which the penalty was given), Sydney put everything into attack - and amazingly a 10 man CCM respond, 3-3 (Biddle weaves some magic with the CCM defence - or would you call them guys running about in the park?), 3-4 (Brendon Santalab turn and shoot wonder strike), 4-4 (Kwasnik does his job), and then, after 90 minutes, a mean foul (stretching his leg out) by Talay just outside his own box only gets a yellow - he wasn't the last man but it reduced CCM to 9 men as there is no one left on the CCM bench. Sydney race up the other end, again where is the CCM defence? Chaos in the box, hand ball to Kwasnik - red card, penalty, CCM only have 8 on the field - Talay scores the winner - Matthew Breeze blows full time.

Sydney were in CCM's box 64 times! No defence to speak of from either side. There was blood everywhere - a head clash from Popovic and Andrew Clark (Clark had a good game).

What was in that Christmas pudding?

I just realised Aloisi is going to play more than 8 guest games. How do CCM get to have two marquee players?

I said to my wife 'It'll be a long time before you see a game like that again.' She said, 'You're right.'

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How to win the FIFA World Cup (Reflections on an evening with the FFA)

Australia wants to win the World Cup. ;)

Why wouldn't we? We pride ourselves on being a world class sporting nation. We are, per capita, a world class sports watching nation. But while we have convinced ourselves of our sporting prowess, the more we find out about the rest of the world, the more we find out that just about every country loves its sports teams and thinks they are, should be, or will be the best.

In a globalising world, America has been caught out badly proving its international capabilities excelling at sports that only it plays (ok Canada plays a form of gridiron but if you talk about 'gridiron' ordinary Americans think you are talking about that odd game that the Canadians play). Or, like having 'world series' in sports that require teams to be based in America (baseball).

Now Australia, like America, is having to come clean and try to prove their world (I'll put 'sporting' in here so no one gets confused) dominance by winning at a sport that most of the world puts their sporting effort into. So we tried to build up union and cricket, no-one else is interested in AFL (particularly the Irish who complain bitterly about having to get hurt playing it every year). No one watches hockey, golf and squash are too individual to prove the point, and as tennis has expanded to more countries and demographics, we are getting less competitive.

And so, to prove our sporting prowess on the world stage, Australia wants to win the FIFA World Cup by 2020 (or 2022 to be precise).

Just how far away our capability is was demonstrated by the FFA when they invited me to go and hear their National Coach Education Manager talk at Griffith University. As background, Pim had just been appointed coach, so when I sat down and heard Kelly Cross' very English accent, I wanted to shout out 'you hide your accent well.' Our plan for the world cup has been vested in going Dutch - well if you pay of course.

To summarise the evening, this question was posed:

'Are Argentina the ultimate 'World' team?
South American qualities:
Flair, streetwise, attacking philosophy, jogo bonito
European qualities:
Hard work, strikers prepared to run for team, respect the importance of defence'

The Argentine team had just won the U-20 World Cup in Canada. They played mostly one-on-one marking, their two strikers had a key role in defending up field - closing down the opposition's defence and not letting them build an attack. They attack narrow and like the ball at their feet, passing short. They play with a classic play maker whose role it is pass players into opportunities - he is 'the man' who will pass to a player and then come and take it off him if the play isn't developing as he wants (the sought of South America our A-League teams are trying to buy but end-up with something a bit - or a lot - less). The wings are hardly used. Three defenders plus a screen ensure that no opposition gets through. By enlarge, their players are lighter and shorter than other teams (I think this works for younger teams and less so for professional teams - ie maybe this is why they are so narrow they don't try to win and create much in the air?).

This works for Argentina because they were the most talented team in the U-20 cup and the the most integrated team - only 2 or 3 were playing with big clubs overseas. Plus, and this could be a message for the FFA, their coach Hugo Tocalli had been dedicated to U-17 and U-20 as coach or head coach (since 2002) since 1994.

Anyway, I learnt a lot. I will try to apply a few things. Like getting a star player to make the plays rather than just star. And the knowledge will help my reading of A-League and other games. But overall, I know that if I apply this to the team I coach it is going to end in a mess. You need it all to be happening at once, we just aren't that good.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Melbourne 1 v Newcastle 3: It's Joel Griffiths

Two goals from Joel Griffiths sealed Melbourne's fate for this year? Probably. No Mario Jardel and that probably did the trick for Newcastle. 

Amazingly, Jardel actually did seem to be a draw card for the home Newcastle fans. Yet the A-League has perhaps under-played the returning Socceroos Popovic, Vidmar, Moore and once injury made it a gamble if he was going to play, even Brazilian world cup winner Juninho. Apart from Juninho, maybe their defensive flavour has taken some of the attacking roller-coaster out of the games. Maybe fans like that risk?

Anyway here's to more teams next year. Everyone knows it just has to be done - so just do it FFA. Sunday-Mail says Queensland will run out of young players - no, don't worry we'll find them - more people will be looking. 

New teams will bring new fans, from different places, to the game. We need that too.
Anyway he is a picture of speedy Mario for you. He is even beatin' speedy old Denni who scored first for the Jets today.

Sydney 2 v Perth 4: Merry Christmas Mr Rudan san


Perth without Colosimo, Topor-Stanley, Prentice and Harnwell, plus other players injured or leaving the club beats, thrashes Sydney?

What happened to Milligan? How does he handle the pressure of talent scouts and new national coaches (Pim Verbeek was there with his assistant and Bann taking notes) putting a ruler over his future? Three basic errors and three goals. Sydney did lose Middleby early to injury but I think that was an accident (stray foot?) from Milligan as well.

Sydney looked distracted, possibly by Rudan's early early career change. Clinton Bolton also muffed his national chance with some very ordinary keeping. Early on he nearly turned a no pressure clearance into a ricochet goal off Bertos - fortunately for him it went over - just. Sydney dominated the shot clock with 20 to 10 but their goals came out of the blue - particularly Corica's leaning back in the hammock gem.

In the past when Arnold's paradise club was in control, an A-League national team was dominated by Sydney FC. Based on last night, none of them would get a go. Their best player, Bridges, has played for England young ones, and even Alex Brosque missed some sitters.

Perth on the other hand. Wow. Suddenly we see the team that was taking shape before the pre-season and even Leo Bertos got his first A-League goal. The hero was Billy Celeski with 3.

Realistically, Pim could be looking at players we have never even considered in a national shirt. Players who have never stood up before last night. By the way, now we can see why trialling is so difficult to pick winners.

Where does Sydney go now? This year they may come back and they may even win. They really could. But they don't deserve too. And next year? Kosmina is threatening too pinch everyone else's good players - Colosimo (Perth captain), Mark Bridges (a rising star that has been sidelined by Newcastle self deprecating humour), Angelo Costanzo (Adelaide captain). This is wrong. And wrong for the A-League. It is typically bully-boy stuff that came out of the old NSL and kept the fans away. A fringe team finds a new player, gives him game time and then one of three dominant clubs comes along and makes him an offer he can't refuse - money, national interest from the paradise club, and transfer showcasing (and as it turned out monkey business).

Fans HATE their young or key players being pinched by other teams. They never forget, particularly if the other club is rich, arrogant (and pinching players is part of that) and can offer more opportunities. Eventually, fans get the message that the game is stacked against them and they go watch the cricket on free TV. If you have generations of tribalism you can survive such a lop sided league. The A-League won't. Sydney should look to its strength. The 5 million people it lives amongst. The biggest junior leagues in Australia. Sydney should be trawling through that - a Robbie Kruse is there, find the best in your own territory, spend money and patience on them, and then let the other A-League teams do the same. All clubs need a core group of players who have been with the club since their teens. We don't need the elite players packing their bags and going to a new club each year.

Plus, Sydney must fix its crowd or go to a smaller stadium. It is bad to see all those seats. Perhaps a new stadium would be easier for people to get to each week? And, a full stadium would help lift the team. Based in a satellite city they could build a relationship with their community. Go west? Penrith Park anyone? Just kidding.

Last question. Why did Sydney let Topor-Stanley go?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wellington 1 v Roar 1; Adelaide 1 v CCM 2

CCM are staking the premiership while the Roar are gradually forcing their top 4 spot - needing 3 points from 4 games. Adelaide's spot is now in danger - 3rd but could be 5th by the end of the weekend. And Wellington are now level with Melbourne. Now all the pressure is on for Sydney (game in hand), Melbourne, Newcastle and Adelaide.

Wellington v Roar
Wellington needed a win. Coveny was almost a villain and almost a hero - his studs challenge in the first half only earning a yellow from Ben Williams, while his second half fudge-kick one-on-one with the keeper could have won it.

Massimo Murdocca - in the classic mid park playmaker role - had his best game. In the first 5 minutes, Reinaldo finds a goal. A good one too - stopping Murdocca's cross and then a neat turn and shoot through the mid box traffic. Great lead up work from Robbie Kruse. On 25 minutes, Craig Moore made his first clear cut error of the season failing to control a ball off his chest and giving it away for a break-away goal to Smeltz. Moore lasted only 75 minutes before succumbing to some type of injury putting his Socceroo February come-back at risk.

Not a classic. Roar had chances to win in the first half. In the second looked like they thought a draw was OK. Marcinho and Lynch fail to live up to their own expectations. Can you believe it, hardly any shots all game (Wellies 6 v Roar 8).

Adelaide v Central Coast
The combination of Aloisi and Petrovski aren't going to miss too many goals. Both scored tonight, but Aloisi did miss a sitter. Meanwhile Petrovski got booked for diving and Aloisi got booked for the keeper falling over him.

In fact 6 CCMers got yellows - reflects how they play. For Adelaide, good old Dez Giraldi managed to get himself booked while he was warming up as a sub - running onto the pitch and getting the ball before it went out - drop ball not a free kick? Strange all round.

Shots galore in this game (Adelaide 16 v CCM 18).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Roar Home Games Before Finals: Book now 5 Jan v Victory, 13 Jan v Sydney,

The Roar is on fire. Hamish is right, Seo points to Australia's footballing future, technically brilliant, humble and fair. A keeper less than Danny Vukovic and Seo's long range strike would have hit pay dirt.

Anyway, the Roar have proved they can more than match the best in the league. So while its going to be a bumpy ride, the finals and Asia beckon. Any more than 15,000, and Lang Park rocks, its intimidating in the way Telstra Dome has been for Victory. 20,000 or 30,000 and it would be deafening. We should go for 52,000 like against Paraguay...

Book here for the final home games.

Sat 5, 7:00 PM Melbourne Victory FC Suncorp Stadium

Sun 13, 6:00 PM Sydney FC Suncorp Stadium

As Frank said in his blog:

So many people were saying this match was a ‘must win’ for us and I suppose that’s easy to say when you’re not one of the players who have to go out there and get that result against a very good team.

This group of lads has a pretty special thing going at the moment in terms of the atmosphere in the dressing room and their collective will to win.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Roar 2 v CCM 1: I'm just a poor boy whose intentions are good..

This game had everything.

A clear penalty in the first 2 minutes waved on.

A goal from John Aloisi.

Two goals from Tony Vidmar. The second a nice hand ball round his keeper. And he saved us from another penalty test.

Lots of diving from Aloisi.

Great running play from Danny Tiatto on the left wing in place of Zullo - who'd have thought it? Great ball work from Reinaldo - who'd have thought it?

Central Coast tanked half way through the second half, even emptying their bench didn't work. Who'd have thought that.

Best game of the year from the Roar. Makes up for last week. And this round was perhaps the A-League's most exciting.

Crowd of 16,442, looked and sounded like 20,000.

Victory 2 v Adelaide 2: Goal ruthlessness

This was a very entertaining match. Adelaide went 2 up against the run of play and Melbourne fought their way back. A crowd of 22,000 seemed to get their money's worth, if not 3 points.

Archie Thompson was marvelous. As he has been all season.

The highlight was Paul Agostino's absolute ruthlessness in front of goal. Well the first was a tap in - which could have been offside. But the second. He beat Muscat to the rebounding header and then rammed Muscat, head first, against the post. Take that sucker.

Muscat's revenge was a beautifully executed penalty. And a a cracking own goal from Richie Alagich. He couldn't have tried to do that.

Oh looks like Nathan Burns is out for the rest of the season with hamstring problems - just when his parter Bruce Djite was ready to play half a game - how did Adelaide afford such a strong squad?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wellies 3 v Perth 0; Syd 1 v Newc 0; Sydney get massive boost

Suspensions but no suspense.

Perth's best players Topor-Stanley and Harnwell were both sent off to give Wellington an easy win. Helping Sydney for its 2nd last home game against Perth next week. In Sydney, a crazy moment from Ruben Zadkovich on the half way line sliding into Adam Griffiths, brought Sydney back to 10 men on 52 minutes. But the most sensational moment of the whole game was Tony Popovic's off-the-ball elbow to Joel Griffith's head - knocking Griffith's out cold, he came back but didn't look right from then on - which will make Newcastle feel robbed and is likely to lead to an FFA investigation and - I would think - 2 or more weeks on the side for Popovic. If Popovic is sent off, he already had a yellow, there would be no injury time goal for Sydney, and their top 4 hopes would be in crisis. As it is, a betting person would back them from here, maybe all the way?

In terms of crowd, Sydney's season has been a disaster. Poor weather, crowd behaviour and media beat-ups scaring off families, and general version 3 blues have kept people away - only just over 10,000 made Sydney Football Stadium look lonely last night. Amazingly, Sydney have only two home games left - after next week against Perth, the next will be the last of the game of the season - what is usually the season's hum-dinger against Melbourne. But after what happened in the other two games the clubs played this season, we can expect more police than families. The week-about rhythm of going to the game just has not been built for the legion of fans the game needs in Australia's biggest city. The FFA really needs to move on new teams to get interest back... maybe the North Melbourne Kangaroos...

For me, last night's results put tremendous pressure on the Roar. They have 3 of their 6 games at home. If they make the finals, the crowds will come and life will be breathed into the A-League. If they miss out, again...

While the Roar publicity has been about how 'the rest of the table will be willing us on against Central Coast' to bring CCM back to the pack, I don't think so. I think the other teams want to cement their top 4 place. Climbing over the Roar would be an easier way to do that rather than worry about CCM's position. Lose or draw against CCM and the Roar could be out of the top 4 by the end of next week.

Perth's debacle against Wellington, means Sydney are very likely to get 6 points (3 last night and 3 at home next week against a Topor-Stanley and Harnwell depleted Perth) from 2 games and firm its bid for the top 4. The Roar, on the other hand, can't afford anything other than a victory against Central Coast or its hopes of making the top 4 for the first time will look a lot bleaker.

Next week the Roar play a resurgent Wellington in NZ, and the following week Perth (with best players Topor-Stanley and Harnwell back and desperate to appease their home fans) in WA. Both home teams will be desperate and have nothing at all to loose. Meanwhile, the Roar has been playing a 'draw is taking 2 points from your opposition' game - which is a 50-50 option when your opponents have the same game plan. Following up the Roar play Victory at Land Park, Sydney at Lang Park and finish up away to Adelaide.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

FFA signs coach

It was the strangest thing. The body language from the Australians was dreadful. Lowy and Buckley looked for all the world like they had been forced to settle for someone they didn't want. Even the room lighting was all wrong.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Perth 3 v Victory 1: Victory stumble- Thompson forced to do it all

Jerry Karpeh is looking like a great buy for Perth - speedy and with a great sense of timing and a great cross. Came on at half time and had an immediate impact flying after a long ball down the right to centre for Rukavytsya to score his second.

With Sydney with a game in hand after yesterday's rain-out at Central Coast - Melbourne are struggling to stay intouch with the 4.

Next week's game of the round could be Sunday's Roar v CCM. CCM will be without Hutchinson and Petroski whose suspensions have carried over. Moore is likely to be back for the Roar - but what does Frank have up his sleeve upfront to produce goals from the left?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Zullo looks likely to miss most of the rest of the season

Maybe proving that he can jump 2 metres off the ground wasn't such a good idea.

Time to buy a marquee striker as cover (to recover the crowd interest) or how about Mark Bridge from his wasteland at Newcastle?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Roar 0 - Newcastle 1: ref error denies Roar

In the first round match-up between Newcastle and the Roar very late in the game Stewart McLaren's leg went and he brought down Joel Griffiths in front of a crowed Roar penalty area. Mclaren gets his second yellow - his off and out for some weeks - and Griffiths scores from the outside the box free kick. OK fair cop

So when did the rules change?

Tonight, Adam Griffiths deliberately hacked down Matt Mckay - who had only a stranded keeper to beat. Peter Green points to the spot. But no red or yellow card (which would equal a red for Griffiths who was carded in 15 minute). Surely he was the last and beaten defender?

The early game 'play on' decisions as Robbie Kruse was hacked about were outrageous.

Allowing a roughhouse team to kill off attacks with such foul play is hurting the A-League at the gate-take.

Oh and the A-League's biggest secret, or unmentionable issue, is that Mario Jardel cannot play. He hardly won a ball, he can't run and even Reddy backed himself to win a ball from him by running a good 10 metres out of his penalty area.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sydney 5 v LA Galaxy 3: Beckham delivers

Last night David Beckham achieved the FFA's goals and more. 80,000 in the stadium, millions on free to air channel 10 and millions more across Asia watched the soring highs and lows of a classic match.

Even nightmare scenario one, a Sydney FC player crashing into Beckham's ankle added to, rather than ended, the drama. A few times we saw him wince at poor positioning and passing from his team mates, but his commitment could not be questioned. And of course there was that goal.

LA Galaxy have exciting attack and rubbish defence and goalkeeping - perhaps it was jetlag? Anyway, there was a message in that for the A-League - a five 3 defeat is more glorious for fans than 4 low scoring draws.

As for John Kosmina, for all his bravado last night may have been Sydney FC's match of the season, particularly if they don't make the finals.

The standout for the night was Juninho - he is a big match player and how. He gifted Alex Brosque 2 goals when Galaxy were on top in the first quarter of the game.

Hats off to channel 10. Great presentation, sound commentary (even if we don't have touchlines in football) - they did well and showcased the game.

Surprise of the night - guest commentary by Kevin Muscat - perhaps the best A-League player available given his on-field behaviour. I also enjoyed the half time work by Anthony LaPalia - or Pago as written on his back when reliving his Adelaide City days in goals against Beckham some time before the game.

LA Galaxy's Kevin Harmse was clown of the night - kicking down Juninho and deliberately treading his studs into Sydney FC's right wing Biddle's forearm.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sydney 0 v Roar 0, Newcastle 0 v CCM 0: The last remake of Dario Jardel

The Newcastle fans are amazing. The appear to have infinite patience. But it can't last. Super Mario was given the maximum windup for the central NSW derby - perform or go, even that made him look like the bull in a bull fight. He was cheered for every pass, every chest down, for running off in the 57th, arms raised. But no goals, nothing like one. And as the match wore on he got slower... And now he is apparently under investigation for an eye gouge...

Just how long will Newcastle leave out the very talented 22 year old Mark Bridge? Running with the ball and into spaces he is as good as any. He is reported to be in dispute over his pay for next season with both Sydney and Central Coast with their hands up.

Passar, passar em, passar por.. nao chumbo, tentativa

No, I just can't get around Portuguese Brazilian. Robbie Kruse found himself just waiting in and around the attacking third - while other options like shooting yourself were perferred. Marcinho looks exciting and always pushing the ball forward, but if only he'd pass rather than shoot, let Robbie take it?

According to Frank Farina, Andrew Packer can wear his red with pride. However, Alex Brosque seems to have become a diver. And Michael Bridges was very lucky to stay on the park in the 39th when he kicked out at Sasa Ognenovski - after 'I don't do tricks - Sasa had turned and got away from Bridges.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Victory 1 v Wellington 1: The last days of Kevin 02?

Kevin Muscat is the Victory's key play maker. For three years he has held the middle of the park. He has organised the defence and primed Thompson and Allsopp for goals. Muscat keeps opposing strikers in check, with the odd click of the leg and elbow thrown in.

This year Muscat has been one of the walking wounded, bandages to the head, arms and legs (not all at once). When he isn't there, through injury or suspension, Melbourne struggle to get the ball into attacking positions. Against the Roar in Round 13, Thompson had to repeatedly return to deep in his own half to run the ball forward.

However, when he is on the pitch he is now well known to refs. And with his biomechanics slowing, his tricky moves often catch an unwanted eye, making him, like Tony Popovic, susceptible to divers and refs error... or even being caught out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A-League: Adelaide 1 v Perth 1

Adelaide are clearly suffering from injuries and Olyroo duty. It was a scrappy match that Adelaide couldn't hold onto after Richie Alagich's solo effort just before half time. High points were:

- Jamie Harnwell's 200th game and a headed (or head butted as my team calls it) goal from a free kick. He made it clear he wants another year in his post match interview.
- Be interesting to see just what the tie-up with Manchester City means for Perth.
- Perth's James Downey was the standout on the pitch making many runs down the right with the ball at his feet. But he needs to learn either a step to get around defenders or an improved passing game.
- Ref Peter O'Leary had a better game than Adelaide fans give him credit for

Low points:
- a disappointing crowd - under 11,000
- the number of Adelaide's names that didn't play including Bobby Petta and Cassio
- lack of spark to the game

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A-League: A week of thoughts

Evolution of the brand

I watched the Socceroos in the English rain and cold against Nigeria. But I missed the Olyroos play Iraq in Gosford. I really did want to see that match. And I found out too late that the Olyroos match against North Korea was telecast on Fox Sport 2 this afternoon.

Perhaps in a strange way, the interest for me in the Nigeria game was Carney and Beauchamp. Both having made the transition for the A-League’s to the major games in Europe.

But I have little interest in these major games, unless a former A-League player is on the pitch. Schwartzer and Kewell playing out a friendly game doesn’t carry that much interest. I find myself agreeing with Kosmina when he said that playing against the LA Galaxy was a useful training match set between two critical A-League games. I can see the interest for those for whom this may be their once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Beckham, but I don’t expect to see anything amazing for the Sydney v Galaxy match.

On the hand, I seen most of the Olyroos from my A-League seat and met a few of them. They have their best games ahead of them and their opponents are playing as if their lives depended on it. Also, they have played in the 50 degrees, zero degrees and on the hostile pitches that we must now master to make the world cup. For the moment their games may be a touch scrappy and inconsistent, but they are full of potential and possibility. I will have my eyes glued to the Olympics in Beijing, the FA Cup I can leave.

Perhaps the A-League is bringing more brand recognition to a different level of talent and experience…

A testing week
Perth’s coach former Socceroo Mitchell was forced to move to the stands for his second match in charge. His passion spilt over when a crunching foul went un-carded. I know how that feels. Fair due to him, with 7 of his best on Australian or New Zealand duty.

Funny how winning feels
The Roar on a winning streak puts the last two and half seasons into perspective. And I know things could change but they look good now and have so much depth. I can say that when you out play a team and loose – as a fan, you experience more, not a good more just more of your emotional spectrum.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Roar 1 - Victory 0: The Secret

Robbie Kruze is the A-League's most talent striker. But don't tell the FFA we don't want him on national duty.

However, the man-of-the-match was Stuart McLaren who took over as captain with Moore's injury and made the plays and tackles for the Roar.

Strangely, it seemed to be Thompson who had to take over from Muscat in the Victory's mid-field and play upfront for them. Allsopp missed some sitters, as did Thompson when a poorly chosen back pass by Murdocca found him in behind the Roar defence early in the game and yet, somehow, still unable to score.

However, the strangest event was Victory's ability, for the 2nd week in a row to have a suspension reduced, this time Vargas's ban. How could this happen?

The Roar's 4 yellow cards to Victory's one did not reflect the fouling or intensity of the fouls. The FFA must stop the open season on the kicking out of the legs, particularly from behind of Australia's best young players. Finally, Victory must learn to stop studs-up challenges and Refs must use red cards to stop them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Roar 3 - Wellington 0

At last a home shut out.

While the first half was quite, Reinaldo showed us that he wanted to shoot. The main event was the send off of Wellington's Ahmad Elrich in only the 34th. If you are going to put your elbow into someone's nose (Seo), FFA has made it clear - you are going to get a red. This was going to be a big game for Elrich and he wasn't ready to go. Wellington needed to win to start to threaten a top 4 finish by the end of the season.

As Frank said after the game, it isn't always easy against 10. And it is a bit of a fashion to just play out the first half with no mistakes, holding the ball, building from the back and hoping to wear out your opponents. Then you throw everything at the 2nd half.

Wellington's approach was to foul Robbie Kruse every time he got the ball, and I think his ankles earned most of the Wellies yellow cards.

Nothing really happened until the 58th when Stuart McLaren succumbed to a rib injury and on came Marcinho. He was electric. Every time he got the ball something was happening, running at defenders, great passes...

... then in the 64th a Pele style bicycle kick in the penalty box, stopped by the hands of Karl Dodd. Reinaldo had to kick it in twice, but he too was on fire. And the summersult, backflip and tuck was back. And tomorrow he is going to be a Dad.

For a while the Roar lost rhythm. Wellington looked like they could break back. But they couldn't get through.

In the 79th, Reinaldo go a ball right in front, back heel and in off a defender - so much for Frank saying he would break his drought with a goal off his back.

There were a few welcome backs as McLaren got a good run. Murdocca saw out the game. And Milicic had a cameo (Lynch got a kick yesterday).

Things have changed. The Roar are earning their share of fair penalties, and other teams are getting sendoffs, while the Roar stay at 11. And now we are clear 2nd.

In the 82nd, Zullo is released on the left. He has been waiting all night. We all think he will shoot, like so many others have done tonight. But no he finds Marcinho in space on the right, loads of time and he uses it. Bam Boom. 3 nil.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A week of thoughts from the A-League stream

This blog was going to be for the week of 8 Nov, but I over cooked it, trying to use wireless with a laptop and my thumb hit the nuke button.

The photo is Andy Harper. Former Sydney FC exec, Foxtel commentator, ABC radio host... one of the game's major avocates in Australia...

This week's red mist...
Dick Advocaate eh? My heart says sue, my head says is it worth it? But the opportunity cost of turning off other options months ago has been the millions of dollars it will cost to lure someone else now. Apparently, we had a firm, signed contact, just it couldn't be announced until he finished his stint with a Russia club. In retrospect, interesting. Were we just a stalking horse? It is not the first time players or agents or coaches have extracted more money from their club this way. A second cold war symptom?

Everyone loves winners. Major sponsor for the Roar?
Roar haven't been able to convince a big corporation to join them. According to Foxtel, a deal with a new partner will be announced in the next month.

Police presence
Melbourne fans were almost matched one-for-one by police at Lang Park last night. I wonder who pays for the baby sitting?

Perth allstars
How much bad luck is that? Last in the league and both the Australia and New Zealand teams demand your best players in the match after you win your first game of the season. What luck for Central Coast.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Super challenge 2: Mario Jardel 0 v (Juninho) Bridges 1

Sydney FC are back. And it is on the back of Micheal Bridges. In a way it shows how unlucky Culina was. If they'd got Bridges a week earlier and Juninho was fit...

It wasn't all one way traffic. Juninho has re-injured his shoulder, but with Bridges in - it isn't a knockout for Sydney. Super Mario nearly got his goal and has started to look a handful for defenders. His header and then off the ground kick would have been spectacular if not for Middleby being on the line. But he does seem to go to ground very easily for such a big person.

Bridges' goal was a left instep thunderbolt - Newcastle left him unmarked around the top of the box. But it wasn't as powerful or sweet as Reinaldo's goal of the week for the Roar (complete miss, then into the keepers outstretched hands and 3rd time - boom).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A-League: Adelaide 0 v Roar 1, Perth 0 v Wellington 1

The Roar are a team that learns. They have learnt to use Reinaldo to free-up Kruse, and Kruse to feed Reinaldo. Zullo is able to soak-up a defender and occasionally devastate a team will a solo run or amazing cross. They have also learnt to defend and close out a game.

While Adelaide missed Angelo Costanzo, McLaren and Murdocca stepped into the Roar midfield that missed Marcinho and Tiatto. McLaren has only played 3 times this season and 3 positions - defence, striker and now mid field. Wow. Frank Farina's selection headache has reversed - who to leave out?

While it was the Kruse-Reinaldo show, man-of-the-match was Moore. Organising the team and particularly defence, Moore also saved some power shots with his head and feet. Matt McKay also had a great game and had more to do without Marcinho or Tiatto to take all the set pieces.

At Perth the Board will determine Ron Smith's future. It is getting very hard for them to keep him, even if he is a good coach, their poor funding and injuries have given Smith few options. I'm not really sure where they take it to from here. Perhaps they will appoint assistant coach David Mitchell?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Round 11: Half way status

Adelaide: Very strong reconstruction of squad over version 2. Hallmark of physical strength remains. Like most teams, young guns have provided the attacking brilliance. Cassio was a sound Braziallian to buy. Things are going well for coach Vidmar. Injury now testing the depth.

CCM: Aloisi buy reflects clubs financial strength and John Singleton's deal making ability. Amazing that he was looked at by Roar, Wellington and Sydney. Perhaps a case of 'if only' for the Roar with their early season lack of ability to punch into the net. CCM has always been a great defensive side. Looks like they now have the fire-power to stay top 4 - despite injury and Damien Mori not quite making back (Roar also looked at Mori).

Newcastle: Surprisingly strong this season after losing stars from version 2. Relying on defensive strength game. And Griffiths brothers play a tough game. Super Mario just hasn't delivered for them but they seem prepared to make the hard decisions. However, this hasn't beeen optimal for crowd size. Question mark on whether they will remain top 4.

Melbourne: Not the team they were last year. Team cohesion is in question as is the health and form of Kevin Muscat. Top 4 spot is under-threat. Will be interesting to see how they react. Do they have a guest player surprise for us to please the fans? Perhaps Fred back post USA season? - My view is that between marquee and juggling the cap - they could have paid up for Fred. All teams can make room one way or another. They seem to have gone for average depth.


Roar: Outside the top 4. Need to be be there and win at home to get crowd to 52,000 seat lang park. Have started to play less attacking and have produced wins and draws. Foxtel story of the week was about a Brazilian they didn't sign in pre-season who went onto score 27 goals for a major club. Injury question marks now coming out. But players like Murdocca and McLaren can win games if they hit form. At first I thought Zullo was the find, now I think Kruse. His assist for Marcinho - despite being marked out for most of the game by Topor-Standley - showed you only need to give him one chance to make things happen. Just what the Roar need in front of goal.

Sydney: Look fearsome with Kosmina and Bridges. Although why Hull don't want Bridges is a mystery. More than half the home matches are gone and the crowd hasn't turned up. Limited time for Culina reflects need to spark crowd interest - some how. Potentially Top 4 or even Top squad. Can they do it or will they run out of petrol?

Wellington: 10,000 plus crowds at home is a good start. Hope the faith is maintained. NZ football needs Wellington to do well financially. Their squad is quality and attacking. Best Brazilian hires of the A-League plus Elrich can win games. Have we seen the best of Felipe and his combination with Daniel. Or has the A-League learnt to handle them?

Perth: Give me a squadran of Topor-Stanleys. Clearly Sydney miss him and he outplayed the Roar in Rd 10. One of the best defenders in the A-League. Perth have been unlucky in some of their draws but captain Colosimo seems to be losing patience. They deserve a win.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hey Frank the Brazilians are with me, OK

Roar 3 v Perth 3

John: Great coaching Frank.
Frank: Thanks.
John: You didn't give Marcinho any points tonight.
Frank: That was Marcinho's best game for us. He did well.
John: You still didn't give him any points. He was everywhere and with the elbow thing, I mean shoulder gone.
Frank: Perhaps you should do the scoring (laughs).
John: OK that would be great tell be me where and when. I'll do it.

Then I raced off to talk to Marcinho. I had to get a Portuguese speaking woman and official looking guy involved. I can't make it sound as fun and funny here as it was, you had to be there. But it ended with me pulling my shirt the way Marcinho did when he scored and saying I am doing it next week and your getting some points. 'OK, I got that.' said Marcinho. I also asked him about his shoulder and got to act out Tiatto putting his back in.

Imagine. Ben Williams was the ref and we got a penalty and no send offs.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Melbourne 0 v Newcastle 2: Allsopps tales

O boy. It's starting to get hot and humid and the players are getting edgy.

Lose one game and you can blame the ref. Lose several games and its time to change your coach. And back pops the intimidator, John Kosmina. John clearly is part of the paradise club and that club has made it clear they have missed him. And all the headline news is not an uncharacteristic way for a sport to keep itself in the public interest. AFL does it all the time, one club setting itself up against another to remind the fans about this week's game. AFL are going to do it next season by deliberately setting their game calendar in competition with rugby league, see if that gets interest.

Just as long as they spell your name right. Or in the A-League's case print the right game location, day and kick-off time.

And so it was was that Sydney hit back over the Central Coast's signing of John 'world cup qualification goal TM' Aloisi. He'll leave in January they said. Well I can only see that happening if he scores a truck-load of goals and I don't think he is going too. But he should lift the league leaders to a decent attendance. And Foxtel will be pleased too.

Back to Victory v Yets. 27,000 fans and one very rough game. Adam Griffiths scored but the FFA may care to have a look at that one. He fouled Allsopp here and up the other end of the park with the aid of Ante Covic.

Joel Griffith scored the other goal and was involved in the running, arms flailing tussel that led Steve Pantelidis to take the law into his own hands and get sent off. Newcastle's Andrew Durante was also lucky to stay on the park after pushing Allsopp down (again) in the penalty area.

It was rough and really Melbourne got a bit of a taste of their own medicine after not scoring despite 60% possession. Thompson is a real class player, and he plays fair. We are lucky to have him in the A-League. But Danny Allsopp needs to work more closely with him if Melbourne are going to stay top 4.

On the other hand, the Griffith brothers are not what the Socceroos need if we are to succeed in Asia. The refs will not stand for the way they play. And that is the challenge for the A-League. I think it should be the hot humid, low tolerance simulation ground for Asian qualification.

The return of John Kosmina, albeit to the stands for four weeks, does not send the 'we've learnt about cool heads for Asia' lesson.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Did you hear that? I think it was a dog whistle.

Football's friend at SBS Les Murray heard it:

Finally, speaking of youth, memo immigration minister Kevin Andrews, currently under fire for cutting back on the African refugee intake because they have ‘difficulty integrating’ (whatever that means. As a refugee and an immigrant, I can tell you it means nothing. Everyone integrates eventually).

The newly selected Joeys squad contains no less than three refugees from Africa: Million Butshiire from Congo, who’s been here five years; Kamal Ibrahim, who arrived from Ethiopia four years ago; and Tedros Yabio, also from Ethiopia, who’s lived here for 12 years.... These boys will soon wear the green and gold and maybe will go on to proudly represent Australia one day in the World Cup.

But Mr Andrews says there should be less of them. They can’t integrate.

Quote from Les Murray Opinion 13 October 2007
My experience coaching and watching youth football backs up Murray's viewpoint. The boys from the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia (think of this part of eastern Africa as Victoria, NSW and Qld - about the same land mass anyway) have serious natural ability. They can run, run with the ball, they have insight into where to go off the ball, some are rough, some are soft - just like any kid.

One of their parents said to me at the end of a season, 'what I am I going to do with him now he only wants to play football.'

Well I think the Commonwealth needs to spend more on football, get these kids on the pitch and off the street. Perhaps instead of putting them in the spotlight for our own deficiencies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A-League: Newcastle 1 - Roar 1

Robbie Kruse has real pedigree. I have seen the youngsters at Queensland Lions drilling over and over the trade mark turn with straight leg shot. Anyway, 45 seconds and Zullo and Kruse combine to get the Roar in front. Well Kruse had so much time he could air-swing once and still score with the 'turn and straight leg'. And the Foxtel commentators made the point that Zullo and Kruse's coaches should be applauded - probably a reference to the anti-coach nonsense we have been hearing.

Mark Shield's showed that even Australia's best ref can miss-fire. Zullo was clearly tripped in the box in the 10th minute, but play on. On the opening of the second half, Troy Hearfield shows Zullo how to go down when fouled in the box so that you do get the spot kick.

And Kruse is a quick learner and he wins what is only the Roar's second ever penalty in the 66th. Pity Moore gives it to the keeper (otherwise this game is the Roars). Stephen Laybutt was the guilty party for the Jets. Can't say I am a fan of Laybutt, who seems fond of holding down and doing extras out of sight of the ref. Still he kept the Jets on the game and fans appreciate that. And he also seems to have got away with another last man foul on Kruse.

Anyone could have won this game. Both teams did enough. And again the teenagers were the stars (James Holland clearly the best for the Jets).

This was a very entertaining game with something for everyone. Four stars.

By the way, Foxtel in their Total Football show had a very interesting interview with FFA chief Ben Buckley. Ben is very frank and smart. Good answers to explain how the game is being managed. For example, the FFA will respond to direct questions on ref decisions. And Perth's coach Ron Smith was 'cited' for his half time for comments on the refing of Sydney's first goal last week. Unless we - or someone asks - we may not find these things out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What's happening at SBS is a bit sad really

I was asked to comment on

I feel SBS has been so left out of Australian football they have been squeezed into a pretty unpleasant niche. Of course this was a very serious and extensively researched article. And the author in no way would have meant or felt what I am about to say. But. With my passions for the game, the way the article sounded to me was:

'Those big kids with lots of money have taken our ball and now they won't let let us play. And if you don't do anything about it then I'm going to yell at those kids playing. And I'm going to find one who says that - players getting $1m plus per year overseas can play better. And I'm going to blame the coaches. And you'll see, you'll see. And if you still won't let me play then I'm going to tell all the fans to stay away.'

But I realise that that wasn't what was being said.

Let me declare my hand. I think Mary Kostakidis is fantastic and I hope she comes back. I liked Nerds FC season one a lot and Andy Harper, former official with Sydney FC who is now with Foxtel still does great work with ABC local radio some Saturdays. In fact Andy showed the way and I consider him to be following the path that Johnny Warren told us to go down.

What is the point of knocking a sport? Particularly in a country where it is competing with AFL, NRL, ARU, basketball and soon twenty20 cricket.

To be honest I didn't like this bit
'However, those of us who refuse to accept the status quo and believe in the potential of a better league were celebrating a major breakthrough recently.

At long last, somebody with enough courage and credibility to tell the truth says he's only stating the obvious when highlighting the A-League's technical and tactical deficiencies....

Compare Moore to someone like Dwight Yorke - he did play for Manchester United but I never heard Sydney FC's former star identify the failings of Australia's system. Why would he bother? He was paid $1.2 million dollars to smile for the cameras, sell the A-League and get fit for Trinidad and Tobago's World Cup adventure. Yorke's priorities were elsewhere, a long way from helping Australia discover the fundamentals of what it takes to be a top-class footballer.'

Quote from A-Grade Mediocrity - Andrew Orsatti 5 October 2007 at

Because I remember seeing an interview with Dwight Yorke when he did criticize the quality of the A-League and suggested that each team have two marquee players to raise the standard. I spoke to a young A-League player about this (who is now playing overseas) and complained how Sydney did nothing till Sasho Petrovski came on and Yorke didn't seem that interested - he agreed laughing: 'yeh he said we weren't good' but marveled at Yorke's penalty kicking ability.

Weirdly, Mr Orsatti builds up Moore as a credible source of commentary on the progress of the A-League over 3 years - and then provides evidence that Moore has no knowledge of version 1 and 2 of the A-League. To be honest, I will get excited about what Craig Moore says when he dominates a game like Danny Tiatto, or Michael Zullo - rather than getting sent off for fouling Nathan Burns twice then bringing the game down by yelling at him. No, quoting Craig is not proving a point.

So SBS lost out to Foxtel. A lot of people have sympathy for them because now you have to pay to watch away games or go to a pub and not be able to hear the commentary. But to go on like this, well what is the point??? What is the best outcome???

Andrew Orsatti again...

My concern is, if the best Australians are on the first plane to land lucrative contracts overseas, what are we left with here?

When wasn't it like this for Australian football? Until it becomes as popular as AFL expect that. Money to keep them comes from people watching pay TV and not free to air - sorry but a fact of life. But when they go we get to see new players and other teams get to be strong - and sometimes they come back - ask Central Coast.

We have been seeing the football we have because the competition is so small and everyone knows each others game plan. But now we are seeing the antidote to that.


And this is where the A-League is adding real value. Dario Vidosic (now bundesliga), Nathan Burns, Michael Zullo, Robby Kruse, James Holland, Nikolas Tsattalios... and more waiting for their starts...

And what did Mr Orsatti have to say?

'In essence, it's the same issue. What do you expect when there are very few qualified coaches to teach our kids?'

Good on you mate. But it seems to me that there are some great coaches in the A-League and the backing of the FFA and Foxtel is encouraging them to bring out the teenagers. Just how is SBS helping?

By the way I have a different view on what it means to be a good coach and it isn't about finding the next Harry Kewell - but that's another story.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A-League: Central Coast 0 - Roar 1

-- Something funny happened. I must have fell asleep or something. Because I thought the Roar was at home and were wearing yellow. That we'd conceded an goal early from some brilliant attacking football and a goalkeeping lapse. Then had one of our players sent off for a minor foul (remember Chad Gibson v Sydeny in Sydney last year?) and yet still out-played the other team who just sat back and only did what was necessary in reaction to the flow of game. --

But it was the Roar playing away and we had won. But not in a way I had ever seen the Roar do before. Foxtel called it winning ugly. Oh, so that's what it looks like and feels like. Not much to write home about is it?

I had seen this type of game before of course. Twice this season when Central Coast and Sydney came up to make sure that there was no entertain for our home fans.

Reinaldo played well and again was involved in the play that led to the corner that led to the goal (great backheel). McKay was more involved today, mainly getting fouled including the notorious send off (which he kept out of). Kruse looked good and was attacking. Nichols came on and looked like he should also get a start. Lynch had a few half chances but was pretty lonely upfront despite the 11-10 overlap. In fact, the Roar played like they were a man down. And worse just could not keep possession. And Tiatto got his 4th yellow so again he doesn't play Newcastle (Stuart Mclaren in?).

Marcinho eh, just not sure about him.

Still, for most home fans it is a win they may not have watched and the 3 points take the Roar from 7th to 5th (just off 4th on goal difference).


In the Newcastle 2 v Wellington 0 game I saw a refing decision I hadn't seen before - the ref call time just before the ball rolled into the net (may also have been a hand ball penalty) - so the refs don't wait till the end of an attacking play to call time.

A-League so far: In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight...

Are you enjoying version 3? Suddenly I am. Well Hamish pointed out that it should be fun and he was right.

Take this week. I predicted that Perth would beat Sydney 3-2 because I thought it would really confuse the pundits that Perth scored so many goals and won. Well football had fun with me. Sure Perth scored 3 goals and where 3-1 and then 3-2 up for the last 20 minutes, and were hammering Sydney. Then bam Alex Brosque comes from nowhere and has his best game ever, scores in the last minute and Ron Smith is wondering what to do next.

Then on Friday night our sneaking (sneaky feelings can't let those kind of feelings grow) suspicions are confirmed as Keven-02 Muscat misses the game against Adelaide and Melbourne are trounced 4-1. I wonder how Fred is going in the USA? And have you noticed that Adelaide (when they aren't playing the Roar) actually play attacking football?

And why couldn't Sydney have their key defenders, and Melbourne have their central mid-fielders, on national duty or injured when they played the Roar?

And I even have a conspiracy for you. Frank Farina wrote about Seo's strength of character and ability to learn by not reacting to Ross Aloisi's elbow in the 2nd minute of the Roar v Wellington game last week. Having learnt from the Central Coast game where he reacted to Nicy Mrdja's aggression and was sent off and got half his side sent home letters from school (I mean the FFA). Well maybe that was Ross's plan, get the Roar at least one man down early?

By the way, isn't it amazing that the FFA seem to have cleared Aloisi - what happened to the Tiatto role surely it isn't just for him?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A ten-team A-League? Sooner the better...

Everything I have heard and read to date suggested that 2 new teams would enter the A-League in 2008-9. However, a statement from Ben Buckley via Fox (9 October 2007) states that the original agreement with the foundation clubs was 5 years (2010-2011).

Waiting another 2 and half seasons would be bad. Already the teams know each other backwards and barring some accident from the ref, a draw is the most likely outcome. Plus while the talent in the A-League has gone up, there is an argument that the entertainment value has gone down as away teams grind out draws or smash and grab wins with defensive games.

New teams will spread the talent. Keep more talent in Australia. And give more undiscovered players a go. Plus there will be more goals and more wins, particularly at home if far North Queensland and perhaps Tasmania get a go. Also, we get to see more players from Asia.

Forget the consultancy Ben, just do it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Zullo and Kruse: A-League's best ever debut

On August 20 I posted this on Zullo and DCH said:

"Dont be at all surprised by Michael Zullo. He's a class act."
Now the secret is out. Zullo had scored with 4 minutes and set up Robby Kruse (header right in front) in the first half extra time. Every time Michael Zullo got the ball, he looked like something was going to happen. He looks the goods even more than Dario Vidosic. Meanwhile, Kruse showed he can run at defenders and across goal and shoot at pile-driver velocity - something that has been missing from the Roar for 2 1/3 seasons. He put one just over the bar from outside the penalty area early in the first half.

The Roar dominated but played for the draw after Kruse and Zullo had been subbed off. Wellington's defence did what they had to do and gave both teenagers bruises to remember. While both Sydney and Central Coast are talking about how their academies will produce players from next year, the Roar and Queensland Lions have already produced a wealth of talent into the A-League and beyond. It will be great to see Mitch Nichols starting along side Kruse and Zullo. I can see these 3 linking up well with Reinaldo (who was in the action keeping the play going for both goals).

Plus, it must be noted that since joining the Roar last season, Ante Milicic has been passing on his vast experience to the younger players, particularly Kruse - whose style I hope emulates Ante's.

Zullo and Kruse are going to bring a whole new group of fans to the Roar. Happy 19th birthday Robby.

Anyway, Wellington got one back in the 5th minute of 4 minutes of injury time - again showing that more work is needed on the Roar defence. Chris Grossman in for the guy in the middle at the back anyone?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sydney FC get a lift from has emailed is database a promotion for this week's Sydney v Melbourne 'grudge match'. Some nice graphics of Tony Popovic and Beckham, interesting that they have gone for the Beckham rather than Juninho 'halo effect'. Which could mean the campaign was designed fairly early on or when Juninho was off injured. Still this is the type of promotion action the A-League needs to fill stadiums. Any chance of doing it for the Roar?

I have had a quick review of the Sydney teamsheet and I was reminded just how many quality players they have been able to get under the salary cap. I am not a fan of the way they play but these guys are pedigree. A City of 5 million needs to be showing more support for players of this quality... not that the customer isn't always right which indicates some product positioning changes are needed.. perhaps Sydney are the Chelsea of the A-League?

If you get a chance read Ray Gatt's piece on the A-League's refs and yellow card total - which is 108 v's 82 for the same period last year. I think more homework could have been done. But I know how hard it is to do wading through the fixtures and results for 3 seasons. Gatt follows the Sunday Mail and quotes Craig Moore who in my view needs to be proving that he is better than the lower cost A-League grown defenders before we let him off the hook by blaming the refs. This is because as Gatt's article clearly shows it is the Mariners that have had the most cards and they are leading the comp! To be fair I think Moore may well have been refering more specifically to ref's treatment of Tiatto. In his own case, Moore's second yellow red was earned because he couldn't keen up with Nathan Burns. Anyway, for Gatt's article see The Australian 2 October 'Red and Yellow cards soar, but 'it's not a dirty league'' on page 18 of the sport section (next to a rap for Lisa De Vanna getting in the FIFA world team which should have had more of the Aussies in it).

The A-League has had more or less the same refs for 3 seasons, which negates the 'part-time' angle that Craig Moore is said to be pushing. The refs know the teams, although strangely my discussions with players indicates that they don't pay much attention to who the ref is unless it is Mark Shields.

On the other hand, it is no surprise that new FFA operations manager, Rob Abernathy (again in the Gatt article), is saying the refs are doing what the FFA wants - as the Tiatto and Milligan citings clearly signaled that the FFA wanted more ref control of the game. In my view this reflects the rise in the FFA of the Asian qualification mandate (which I think is good - play like you'll have to in Asia) and a less A-League success emphasis (ie the A-League teams need to adapt despite playing their whole careers in a physical game - which I think is less good because if the Socceroos fail to qualify for Africa 2010, the A-League needs to have established its own sustainable business model - which needs crowds that feel that they get value for money from their home games).

And throwing back to the Ben William's refing job for Melbourne V Roar. Williams may be the only ref to send off a Roar player in all 3 seasons. And the Roar have had their share particularly at home. He may be aware of this.

Dear My Ticketek member,
Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory FC
Saturday 6 October 2007, 7pm, Sydney Football Stadium
1 of 6 quadruple passes to the LA Galaxy match to be won!

On Saturday 6 October inaugural Hyundai A-League Champion's Sydney FC will take on last year's Champion's Melbourne Victory in a NSW vs VIC grudge match.

Four best dressed fans from the precinct will be selected to take part in the Hyundai half-time. The winner of the Hyundai half-time challenge will get to toss the coin with David Beckham at the Sydney FC vs LA Galaxy game on Tuesday 27 November 2007.

Get to the game for your chance to win this once in a lifetime prize, and show your support for Sydney FC!

As a special offer to My Ticketek members, book tickets online to Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory FC match between now and Friday 5 October, 4pm, and go into the draw to win 1 of 6 quadruple passes to the LA Galaxy match. View terms and conditions.


My Ticketek

Monday, October 01, 2007

Round 6 update

Inconsistent refereeing set the tone for round 6. While a dive and Leandro Love wink for the cameras and an ignored wrestle to the ground of Reinaldo allowed Melbourne to get their first home win, both Central Coast (Tony Vidmar) and Perth (Dino Djulbic) appeared to cop dubious 2 card dismissals. In both cases going down to 10 men proved match crushing blows.

The wins for Adelaide and CCM pushed the Roar to second last. The win for Sydney has taken the pressure off Culina. And like the pass-the-parcel game, the focus now switches to Ron Smith in Perth. However, given that player selection and salary cap are made pre-season, it is difficult to see what the options are for the Glory. Smith is a highly credentialed coach who appears to have been forced to operate under both a tight budget and the miss-fortune of player injury.

I am very impressed with Frank Farina. Before he came to the Roar my picture of him was informed by the footage of SBS chasing him up the Socceroo tunnel. However, he seems cool under pressure. he has given the likes of Milicic an Lynch a fair go and is now likely to move onto a start of Zullo and Nichols. Farina was expected to dull down the game - like other teams have. But he has stuck to football as entertainment. Good on him.

Unfortunately, to attack and win you have to be substantially more skilled than your opposition. Otherwise in throwing so many forward, gaps eventually appear at the back. Particularly, if defence is your weaker area, as it appears to be for the Roar (and as, interestingly, conceded by Craig Moore 'The two goals we lost were schoolboy defending' in this week's Sunday Mail page 102 an 103 'Too soft, too slow').

My guess is that Roar management have agents charging round the world seeking to fill this year's 6 week guest spot. My advice to them is to go to Fox and Hyundai (Hyundai subsidised Sydney FC by $450,000 in its first season to get Dwight Yorke) to pay. I recon they will need to fork out big time of anything quality at this point. The Roar is the second most popular team after Melbourne and the only Australian team playing attractive football. The A-League needs the Roar in the Top 4.

The trouble is the best performing teams are those that have built on A-League (and NSL performers) - or the NZ national team. Foreign players are huge gamble.

I feel that the FFA will regret giving Wellington the nod over a Gold Coast team this season. We may find that a NZ team winning is far worse for football in Australia than a NZ team losing.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Juninho 1 v Jardel 0

Juninho showed last night what you need from a marquee player. His perfect, look the other way, pass to release Brosque won the game for Sydney.

The first step for a marquee is that they must be the best player on your team. Then they need to, at least, offset the best player on the other team. Unfortunately, too many teams have been suckered into buying players who they think will bring in a crowd. At least Jardel is doing that for Newcastle.

However, the problem for Sydney is that even with Juninho they could only attract 13,755 fans.

This factor, together with Sydney playing Melbourne, the spirited CCM v Newcastle derby and most importantly absolutely must win games for the Roar and Perth, make next round, the last of the first of the 3 sets, the round of the season.

In this round we will know if the success factors for version 3, and perhaps the A-League in general, are hit:

- Sydney must regain its crowd anything less than 20,000 will be unacceptable and Melbourne is the team to bring it out (expect this to happen)
- the Roar must win at home and it must set itself up with a credible chance of making the top 4 (yes I expect this to happen)
- Perth must win at home (yep I think Perth can win)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Melbourne Victory 2 - Roar 0

There is a slogan, 'one nuclear accident could ruin your whole day.' It feels a bit like that today.

The Roar scored Ben Williams as ref for the 3rd time in 6 games. Muscat, who surely must be on the FAA's 'Tiatto Player Rule' watch list, got away with shoving his wrist caste into Reinaldo's face. But must infuriating of all Leandro Love was rewarded for a dive in the penalty area just after Vargas cleared off the line a Craig Moore strike. Later, the Roar's run of 48 A-League games with only one penalty was continued by Williams despite Reinaldo being dragged down inside the box. By mid game, the Victory were making a game of trying to goad Tiatto into a second yellow card.

In the first half, Victory defence were everywhere closing down the Roar strikers. With only 8 teams, the A-League has learned to sacrifice entertainment for against run of play goals. Funnily enough, some former Roar fans made this point about their expectations for Frank Farina. He has boldly proved them wrong.

There were flashes of brilliance from the Melbourne defence, and both goal opportunities were constructed by Archie Thompson. Apart from Reinaldo's feistiness, the highlight for the Roar was Michael Zullo's 71 minute substitution for Simon Lynch. Zullo nearly pulled one back for the Roar with a magnificent header into the inside base of the post. Expect Mitch Nichols to be given the nod next week against Wellington, probably at the expense of Ante Milicic. The Roar defence is still a problem and they are missing Andrew Packer.

Now the pressure is on the Roar is like a pea stuck in a straw caught under a waterfall.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tempted by the light of another: Perth could beat CCM

Well I watch Roar dismantle Perth last week, and saw the goals that Perth missed after opening the scoring and their account. Then heard Total Football tell us how bad Perth's player acquisition strategy was (well we all know how had it is to buy players and how tempting it is to buy names to get the crowd in).

And have have seen the injury and sideline list, including Foxe and Lazaridis.

Then I read The Australia's wrap of the Sports Bet tipping. Humm $6 on Perth eh. I'll have some of that, well $5. Maybe I'll wish it were $50 or that I'd invested another $5 on the $3.60 for a draw. CCM have Mrdja out and Petrovski in doubt. But then Mori's back.

Don't know, not a punter. But this is a close league. Away teams do just as well as home teams. And I'd rather see Perth do well than Wellington any day. So I had to back Perth.

The Positives

The Roar will probably have attracted the biggest crowd this round - over 16,000. That's thanks to Melbourne being away, but can you image any other team with the Roar's home record doing that? (four wins in 23 games at Lang Park but who would count?)

Marcinho was on fire last night and set up some fabulous opportunities, including a cross for Reinaldo to stretch Bolton to the maximum. He was cheezed off about something, I not sure what. Simon Lynch showed flashes of capability. And Massimo changed the game when he came on. He (on the right) and Zullo (on the left) are remarkable to watch tearing up the Sydney flanks.

I was disappointed to watch Mitch Nichols make his way out from the non-playing players bench at half time. Maybe next week.

This week the shots weren't wild swings, at least were on target and 3 or 4 against any other keeper would have been in.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fan crusher: Roar 0 Sydney 1

Sydney is a boring team to watch. This is the reason that their gatetake in such a large city is so small. There is no getting getting away from it. I think playing a boring game is worse than playing a losing game. Just as well being a Roar fan.

The Roar's inability to score. Sydney's slow stop play. Bolton taunted Roar fans before the game - 'they'll probably shoot and miss all night' and then he pulled off around 8 world class saves....

Sasa Ognenovski came on as centre forward and it nearly worked.

Alex Brosque muffed what chances Sydney had before they scored against the run of play.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sweet Sweet: At last Roar make music: Perth 1 Roar 2

The A-league is small. The A-league is beautiful. The A-league is fragile.

Frank Farina explained the game to fans and the press this week. He sounded good and strong. The Roar must stick with him. There is no one else.

But as the Roar went a goal down in the 14th after the Roar had already had a barrage of chances - well you could see it was going to get harder to explain. And a big crowd must be attracted for the Sydney game next week.

With a win, at least now the team has given the marketing team something solid to work with.

I was impressed with Moore's performance this week. Still the Roar rely heavily on Matty and Danny. Marcinho has been unable to live up to his promise, he talks a lot, misses a lot of set pieces. Reinaldo, is the fittest player in the A-League, and can be seen in every position on the park and played a lot of time in defence today. 18 year olds Mitch Nichols and Michael Zullo rewarded Frank's risk with great cameos.

There were 21 official shots. Great goals from a McKay corner - at last someone was there to take the goalkeepers deflection (Josh McCloughan) and from Milicic's bustling forcing run into the box to set the ball free for McKay to do his 'best practice' volley. Tiatto looks like he is going to score some goals - 2 or 3 for keeper saves and 1 into the post.

Perth could have equalised (hit the post in extra time) or run away with it. But at last things went the Roar's way and they got over the Ben Williams refing ho-do without a send off.

The Roar are by far the most exciting A-league team. And we knew they could win away. But now they must win at home. And against Sydney who just must win or risk writing of the season (and their home crowd).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Against the run of play: Sydney 1 Wellington 2, Newcastle 1 Adelaide 0

Matthew Breeze did not have his best game last night. First being fooled by a Brazilian dive to give Wellington the lead. Then waving on a dangerously high foot in the Wellington box. Alex Brosque was chopped down in full flight several times. Also it will be interesting to see whether the FFA invokes its new 'Tiatto' playing rule and gives Karl Dodd a citing and ban for his crowd killing and aggressive fouls.

Felipe's goal was a cracker. Could Wellington have scored the best Brazilian?

Sydney's Patrick doesn't do nearly enough.

If only Newcastle and Adelaide had played their respective games against the Roar at such a low ebb. Maybe the Roar's game made them lift or look good? In any case, not much action apart from Bridge's goal.

Overselling Juninho's return failed to fool the mums and dads and resulted in a disappointing crowd of 11,491. Less than Newcastle's 13,000 plus.

The Roar, Perth and Sydney will now be feeling that must win pressure. I had a smile at Culina trying to deflect the press by pointing to the Roar's failure to win, as the Roar is copping it pretty hard up hear with the Courier-Mail continuing to run Farina denies crisis flavoured stories. Anyway, next Saturday's Roar v Sydney at Lang Park is usually the Roar's big gate take game. But it is coming early and against the run of play for both teams. Both teams will need to win to silence the wolves at their doors. Former FFA operations manager Matt Carroll's nightmare lives - no-one can afford to loose any game and a draw is considered dull.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tactful Damian

We keep going out and signing marquee players, but we're signing marquee players in the wrong positions. Defenders shouldn't be marquee players. If it's a marquee player, you need to spend the money in an attacking sense, because that's what people pay to come and watch, and that's not being disrespectful to defenders.
Damian Mori quoted in Burning Q The Courier-Mail 13 September 2007 page 103.

So let's count the marquee defenders. I got to one. Craig Moore. Are their any others?

So I wonder who Damian thinks the Roar should have bought? Not many were available. And Petrovoski, or his wife, had already said no to Queensland.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Lamborghini Tiatto

It is an older, affordable model, but it is a Tiatto.

All parts are in working order, although some appear prone to falling out (arm from shoulder socket). Having said that, unlike the Brazilian Juninho and earlier Italian Carbone models, this model self-repairs and can be back up to top performance in minutes.

In fact, so far, despite not being in a leading team, Tiatto is the A-League's leading marquee or marque.

The height he can reach for headers (called by my son's team - head-butts) is amazing. He 0-60 short running game beats younger strikers and team-mate defenders alike. He does tyre (sic) if you ask him to do this too often. And he has been known to swear at under-performing team-mates and to highlight their goal-scoring deficiencies.

Tiatto is a class player, so far the best in the A-League. I had my camera on Thursday night but when is arm popped out I was so absorbed watching him in the torturous manoeuvre to put it back I forgot to photograph him.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Roar 0 - Central Coast 1

Nearly 9,000 people went out on a wet Thursday night to watch the Roar hold around 70% of possession and take 24 shots to Central Coast's 8.

The Roar management are working hard behind the scenes. Brining in professional refs to explain rule implementation subtleties and differences to Tiatto, Moore and others.

There is no mistake the Roar dominated this game. And with more concentration upfront and lesser opposition (say a full strength Roar against last week's Newcastle) and big wins will come.

So off we go to Perth. Another big test. But one the Roar can and should win. And then a a most win game at home against Sydney.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Agree it isn't a conspiracy... however, coaches are saying similar, if toned down, things...

I agree it isn't a conspiracy. However, there are unintented consequences of the FFA's actions that they should have thought about.

For me, if Tiatto's tackle deserves suspension then every tackle in that category must lead to suspension. It cost the Roar the game against Newcastle. McLaren had to make all the tackles and got two yellows for his trouble, and it led to Packer playing too much and re-injuring his leg - out again.

Frank Farina's article in the Courier Mail last Friday points to the need for the FFA to be consistent. I take it further and say they need to be transparent. People need to know the rules before they run on the pitch, in this competition one set of stolen points and you miss the finals.

Sydney FC's coach has also indicated that he thinks the FFA are not focusing enough on the A-League with his comments in today's Australian. However, his comments are that this week should be a bye because of international duty. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Roar doesn't have any current national squad members.

Plus I say whoever injured Juninho should be out for 3 weeks (Juninho is out for at least 6 weeks).

Sunday, September 02, 2007

FFA 'fouls' Queensland Roar to set tone

Central Coast 3 - Wellington 0
Sydney 2 - Adelaide 2
Melbourne 0- Perth 0
Newcastle 1 - Roar 1

The FFA's approach to matches is no longer transparent.

The FFA has lost some core talent, Matt Carroll and John O'Neil are the obvious ones with sports management experience.

Last year when there was a problem, the FFA's A-Team waited a few weeks and then made a discrete call to Melbourne Victory and asked them to stop diving in the box to win games. Victory complied and Archie joked about it.

This year's FFA team are keen to respond to the public humiliation in the Asian cup and, as a result, are trying to tone down the game. The No. 1 priority of the FFA appears to be, and perhaps should be, the national squad. They have to create a team used to dealing with the referring standards of Asia. This means softer play.

However, the A-League teams have recruited to cover their perceived weaknesses from version 1 and 2. However, the refereeing talent just can't be improved on such short turnaround. And buying in marquee refs (as suggested here before and directly to FFA) isn't going to be tried.

Clearly, for the first two seasons the Roar played great attacking football without enough success. It was probably football that would have been praised in Asia. However, in the real world of the A-League, hard head team's like Adelaide just pushed them off the ball and in the words of John Kosmina, 'ground them out.'

In response, Frank Farina has brought in Tiatto and Moore. These guys shouldn't get pushed off the ball. But both were lost after the first game. Tiatto's case in particular is a big problem, including ultimately, for the FFA. The Roar is battling to survive. It has the best stadium in the league and pulls bigger crowds than from the 5 million population of Sydney. Plus it is, now that Melbourne has filled its potential, the A-League growth market.

The FFA appears not to understand what it will take to tap this potential. I don't think changing the rules of international football and over-riding a ref is going to help. In fact it is going to hurt.

The first round Roar v Adelaide was poorly refereed. Clearly, the FFA agrees that its ref team did not see key parts of the game. So it intervened where it could to send a message - we are watching. Unfortunately, even the FFA can't push the FIFA defined envelope as far as righting the decision on the Roar's disallowed goal. But that is what the fans will remember.

In fact, the fans won't understand why Tiatto was cited (and another topic is 'why bother to call the player to put a defence case if there is no independent judge?' - I interpret some of John O'Neill's reported comments as an allusion to this problem).

The FFAs actions will discourage the fans. In particular, it will turn off the fans that take a crowd from 15,000 to 50,000. They will see the game as either unfair or full of dirty players. Let's remember that the FFA used both Tiatto and Moore to promote the launch of the season.

The other problem for the FFA was its treatment of two other fouls in round 1. Heffernan's deliberate elbow to Milligan's head and a Milligan tackle. Both Milligan and Heffernan were needed for Socceroo duty. So Heffernan's outrage is left as the ref had it - ignored, and Milligan's sentence is entirely suspended. And why wasn't Adelaide's Valkanis cited for his late two footer?

The struggling Newcastle, whom the FFA assisted in version 1, were saved by the sending off of the Roar's Maclaren. How will Roar fans react to that? It is unlikely that they will rush to fill Lang Park on Thursday mid week after that.

FFA need to show they were not scapegoating the Roar. It now needs to suspend Harnwell for a close of play wrestle with Muscat. And to suspend who-ever it was from Adelaide that put the crushing to threaten Juninho's season. I would like to see that.

It will be interested to watch the FFA now. Will they look increasingly like the old ASA?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To lose one captain may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Danny Tiatto has been cited to appear in Sydney over a tackle early in Saturday night's game. This comes on top of the sending off of Craig Moore. And of Seo the week before. Further, there are reports (Fox commentators) that up to 7 Roar players where sent letters by the FFA after the 3 v 4 pre-season play-off against Central Coast warning them on their behaviour.

All this is a bad sign.

The Roar have paid a lot of money for Moore and Tiatto. People come to watch them. If the FFA is going to go further than what was considered a poor referring job in the fans eyes, how is the game going to grow up here?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roar 2 - Adelaide 2

Well quite a few missed opportunities there lads.

Gota Love the way you can come back from goals down.

Pity about the red cards.

Still there is aways next week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rainy Opener: Sydney 0 Central Coast 1

Central Coast are going to be an even tougher team this year - without Brazilians (who take the place of Australians according to coach Lawrie McKinna). They have their traditional defensive blood and guts and, now, a devastating attack force in Sasho Petrovski and Nic Mrdja.

The plus for Sydney is that they will play better in the dry. Juninho, by his admission, was short of game time. Yet he still had flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately for Sydney, Popovic did not. Popovic's game was uneventful at best, at worst he was missing at key times. Alex Brosque got himself in the right place a few times but squibbed his opportunities (ah just like old times).

Central Coast did dominate in the first half. And Sasho got his revenge goal early.

But it was Peter Green's greeness that led to a refereeing blunder that let Central Coast off the hook. Heffernan clearly and with malice took Milligan out in the penalty box with a deliberate elbow to the head. Penalty! Send off! No. Free kick to Central Coast. Eh? Ref inexperience and mistakes could turn out to be a problem for the FFA. Particularly when trying to attract crowds to watch superstars like Juninho (who was repeatedly fouled in the first half).

Sydney dominated the second half but didn't look like scoring till the final 5 minutes. Then it seemed incredible that they didn't, particularly when jet-lagged under 23 star keeper Danny Vukovic decided to play up field and left his goal for the no hands men to defend (you probably had to see it to believe how Chancey that was).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ohh so far it looks close.

Once again it looks like the a-league has gone up a notch, the arms race continues, and the teams are close. Melbourne, of all teams the only one that looks out of form. But can you believe that?

Will the crowds come? I hope so, the teams have done their bit now the crowds need to pay for the entertainment.

We are in drought up here in Queensland. But would you believe it we have a mini cyclone off the coast. Limited training for the Roar. And Lang Park could turn into a quagmire. Will the fans come in the rain. I hope so. Never been to a wet game yet. The Roar really really need to get 20,000 at the first game.

Brazilians everywhere and not one low cost Asian star. reflects what the fans know and what the clubs are prepared to bet on.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ready for version 3: Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren are!

If Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren can fight father time for one more season, the Roar are going to win this year. Their Australian experience will match Frank's new signings.

Ante's goal against the Solomon Islands was so controlled a tap in from 18 metres, it illustrated his confidence. Stuart has muscled so much I didn't recognise him. He clearly wants in this year.

Danny Tiatto and Craig Moore looked very smooth and obviously know what they are doing. Plus there were surprises from Michael Zullo.

In a few days we will know. Can't wait.

Ready for version 3: Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren are!

If Ante Milicic and Stuart McLaren can fight father time for one more season, the Roar are going to win this year. Their Australian experience will match Frank's new signings.

Ante's goal against the Solomon Islands was so controlled a tap in from 18 metres, it illustrated his confidence. Stuart has muscled so much I didn't recognise him. He clearly wants in this year.

Danny Tiatto and Craig Moore looked very smooth and obviously know what they are doing. Plus there were surprises from Michael Zullo.

In a few days we will know. Can't wait.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A cold night in August. On playing in the Coaches v Coaches

A coaches v coaches game is going to be makeshift. But it is the sought of thing that our club is excellent at. Bringing together children and their parents, different cultures and economic circumstances and creating a fun learning environment. Big heads and trophy hunters aren't really at home. But like everyone, we like winning.

And our club has its share of off-field champions. More than its share. But like everyone and everywhere, we are too reliant on too few. Human nature. The workers do so much carrying that the carried don't even notice they are being lifted.

Some of these champions are just like us. Others have great footballing CVs but you never really find out. They are here because this is the type of club they like.

Anyway. I walked into the change room with a group of men about my age who I don't know that well. So I opened up with a loosener. 'I used to play in the 1st division.' The unspoken response is a mixture of 'smarty' and relief. So I followed up with, '29 years ago when I last played.' It worked. Laughter. Nothing funnier than the truth in black humour.

Like everyone, I dreamed of bulging the back of the net. But it wasn't going to be. I noticed in the warm-up that no-one was wearing the keeping gear. So being a bit hyper, I started asking where the seven foot, 18 year old was that we needed. He, nor anyone else, was coming. So I volunteered for goalie.

It started bad and got worse. I was really keen to get my first touch so I called for a back pass, and picked it up. Damm. I forgot about that rule. Survived the free kick. But for my second touch I got over excited trying to kick a ball away. It connected with my studs and kept going. Someone, who ran far too fast for his age, whipped in behind me and scored. Damm. (1-1) Then someone crossed the ball and it went through my legs (so that's what being nutmegged felt like). But at least they don't score. Actually, I started to get the hang of it. Long minutes of doing nothing, then intense pressure for 30 or 40 seconds. Actually, this is what my team's goalkeeper tells me he likes and I can see why. But 100 kilos running full pelt at you can be a little intimidating, at first. But I had noticed how slippery the ball was and I had got my 'eye in'. They only got one more goal when some smarty chipped me from outside the box, and I miss-judged where I was. I actually pulled off some good saves. Not world class but I did charge back at strikers and got down on the ground to take the ball from a striker's feet. Plus our defenders did some real tackling, which surprised me. I found that even though the ball was like a block of concrete, I could kick it over half way from goal kicks (despite how my leg feels today I am still glad I did that). Cool. 3-2 to us at half time.

In the second half, I owned up to not being a good goalie and switched to mid-field - which when I ran out of breath ended up as striker. Should have stayed in goals. By the time our team worked out what I was doing I had made about 10 runs into gaps, curving to stay onside. And I had lost my edge. Well, I was bent over and holding my knees. I thought this would make the other team relax about me and but after a couple more runs this became a necessity. So our team started pumping balls down the left wing for me to chase. Which I did, and did do some great work to keep the ball in. But crossing it from the far left was something else. Stationary free kicks were one thing, kicking the ball across goal while running as fast as I could was something else. Then it happened. One of my team-mates, running behind me, got the ball and I ran forward and towards goal - it was on. And he cannoned the ball straight into my back. Thanks for that. The game got a bit slower after that. 3-4 to them.

I went back to the changing room and closed up with another loosener. 'Hey number 10, if I'd been 10 years younger I would have got those passes across to you.' He replied 'If I'd been 10 years younger, I would have got them.'

Ah, that happy sound again.