Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Leaving Adelaide are...

At the end of the season, Adelaide will loose Marquee Paul Agostino (retirement), Michael Valkanis (to become an assistant coach), Jason Spagnuolo (North Queensland Fury) and ex-Roar Saša Ognenovski (to play in Asia).

Other question marks (for me at least) are:
Daniel Beltrame - not happy with being keeper number 3
Cristiano - I suspect is looking at Asia - but if Adelaide, as is likely get a another ACL spot this year, he may see the benefit of staying for his final year of contract. The marquee spot may be his price.

Adelaide - as usual will have a very strong squad for 2009-10.

Photos of the experience left on the bench (Not Liam), and Tommy Oar and his mis-match in Matty Muscat...

Half way through the second half when it was 2-2 I was getting the feeling its wasn't going to be our night, again. Then I noticed just how hard Matt McKay was running and organising. And Craig Moore was pushing forward. After that I bucked up my ideas and started to enjoy the show.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Roar 3 v Wellington 2: Let's hope for Jung rather than Wagner

Wagner is big and noisy, puts people through hell and can end in failure. Jung is continually challenging, putting people through a journey that has a failure, a small success, a major failure and then a major, live happily ever after, success. At least when Hollywood does him.

At first we were dominating at home but losing, then winning away but not at home. Now the drama is within the match. Going behind and then coming back to win. First, Perth dominated first 44 minutes then its all Roar (4-1). Then, Newcastle went one up against the run but the Roar weren't playing well, suddenly they got their act together (2-1).

Last night, the Roar dominated all night with up to 70% possession.

But they need more practice with three at the back, after 10 minutes a relatively poor cross was rewarded with De Vere leading with his head and not looking where he was going. At that point it was clear just how much youth there was for the Roar on the park. We started to get worried. The Roar switched to all out attack. And Wellington retreated to their penalty area with a two player thick wall of defence. The Roar haven't really ever looked likely from distance and their were plenty of shots into defenders and away for corners. But Wellington defence looked both rugged quick to resort to shirt pulling and fouling. In the crowd, we felt the ref and particularly assistant refs just were not keeping up. I was thinking that the Roar were looking very narrow, trying to run through the middle. Then I worked out what they were trying to do. Get the ball through and wait for the trigger happy defenders to give the foul away. Mitch Nichols got it right mid way through the 30s, pitching through Durante and got clobbered. We thought it was in the box. Then it was van Dijk. Now we can see why he was picked and kept in. Great kick. Moss pushed it onto the bar and tries to re-claim but can't hang on and McKay, who has been confusing the Wellington wall, runs forward and taps in with his left.

Wellington hang on for 1-1 at the break. Van Dijk is having his best game. Mitch Nichols is amazing. A lot of the time he is walking. Telling the team what to do. Tapping the ball around. He'll be 20 in the first week of January. He'll have to watch his diving-in tackles. But now the Roar have another player who always looks ready to score. Moore is showing that he is the best player on the park, we hear him say 'work Tahj'.

After the break, we sit back to see what will happen. Then bang. Wellington have scored. What. Through Reddy's hands, seems to come out as Reddy hits the post. 1-2. Seconds later Zullo runs down the left. He may have hear me 'come-on we need to get one back.' He crosses into the near post side of the 6 yard box, whooosh Van Dijk beats the defender with the same kick as his last goal, bending off the left side of his left boot. 2-2.

On Saturday my son and I had watched the youtude videos of van Dijk. The bicycle kick, the 10 goals in a game, a few others, this is why they bought him. The only thing is the Dutch second division defenders just seem to stand around. A bit different in the A-League.

The game is really open now, it is clear that Wellington feel they must win. Shane Smeltz is just about out of the game. Craig Moore is good. The crowd gets more cheesed with the ref. But in pushing forward, the brittleness of the Wellington defence is getting more and more exposed. And they rely more and more on shirt holding and fouling. The foul count was Roar 11 v Wellington 23, and key ones were missed or advantage played. Van Dijk sets up Mitch in the box on the right and he pulls the trigger too early - over the bar. Tommy Oar comes on for Tahj, and Tommy and Zullo swap, Tommy is running right in front of us. Frank has told them at half time to play wider. It is working, Matty Muscat hasn't got anything left and he is gabbing Tommy's shirt whenever he can. At last he gets a yellow card. Now 3 defenders plus McKain are on yellows. (McKain wanted to come back to Brisbane but he is now talking about going overseas again).

Keep running at them and one of them is going to go. 'Get it to Tommy, Tommy run at them, go on grab his shirt.' Van Dijk mis-kicks with the keeper diving across him - did the keeper grab his foot? Mitch breaks through, his shirt is pulled, its as close as they can get to him, but scuffs his shot - why not a penalty? Packer, on for an injured Josh, skys a free kick. Why is he taking that? Van Dijk is subbed. Durante pollaxes a rampaging Zullo on the right, he is off. 90 minutes are up. Free kick outside the box. Later we would here Fox saying it was Zullo taking the kick. But we knew it was Tommy. Plus we knew he oarsome free kick reputation. Bang, full pelt banana.

Another young Queenslander proves his metal. What are the other states doing?

It is funny that a game can look so different to a fan sitting in the stands to a commentator in a box, a fan in front of tv, or, especially, a ref.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Victory 3 v Sydney 2: Melbourne push Kosmina out of the way...

I just heard this on my local radio:
'And Melbourne scored 3 unanswered goals to beat Sydney 3, 4, 2.'

Oh we have come so far. It is like the basketball call you get if you watch a MSL game.

It wasn't so much Melbourne as Danny Allsopp. Shouldered off the ball by Middleby he ran straight into John K with his hip and shoulder. Take that. And Kosmina was banging head on the chair legs.

The earlier story had been Cole being found by Middleby with space in and around the right hand top of the box, and Cole being able to hook the ball up and over the Melbourne defence and curl it above the keeper and in. That was about 30 seconds. Within 4 minutes, Gan had made it two from way outside the box. Before half time Archie got one back from a quickly taken free kick - running into the box unmarked and swivel kick. Into the middle of the second half Nicky Ward came on as a sub, and bam leveled it from way outside the box with his second touch of the ball. John Aloisi was waiting to come on at the time. Nay Fab looked dangerous from his entry. He didn't come to the A-League and its cap to fool around - and scrambled the winning running onto a far post ball.

Hernandas' club is asking $1m for him to stay here. So I'd say his is off.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jets 1 v CCM 2, Perth 0 v Adelaide 1

Adelaide know how to kill off a game. Shame really what with Vidmar wanting FFA to ban Victory and the Roar's crowd pleasers. Perth played the better and more interesting game.

Jets can't close-out a game. This was Jedinak's last game for CCM and it could have been Mark Milligan's last for Newcastle as he limped off the field and is now said to be looking at a move to China in January. Anyway, Gary van said that their season is over - well except for representing Australia in Asia. Sensation of the game? Dylan McMaster getting himself straight reded for getting involved in after match pushing and shoving. So much for Fox wanting him to get a Socceroo call-up.

I was at the airport this morning and ran into the Roar Women's team off to Canberra. 'Win us some silverwear, we need it.' One of them said to me 'We have already won the league.' I had meant the finals. 'Do you go to Asia?' 'No they haven't organised that yet.' 'Good luck.' And off they flew.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

John Aloisi

Players are human. You cut them and they will bleed.

It is difficult not to feel for John Aloisi. The pressure on him as a player, and possibly as a person, is significant. But it isn't something that he can't come out of as more of hero. Imagine if on his next start he scored three goals. Or even two.

He qualified Australia for the world cup. He didn't control the fact that he was there. Nor that he was able to step up for the kick that got us through. But he had the nerve to really belt it in. Good on him.

Then he wanted to bring his family to Australia. Who wouldn't? He was set to play with his brother in home town of Adelaide until Ross fell out of favour with the club. Then his agent approached the Roar. But the price was too high. Central Coast found the money was a star team was made. They won the competition and came second in the final.

Given his success, there was the opportunity to go to Sydney FC to capitalise on his match winning quality. Sydney were re-building to win the 4th season. John Aloisi was to be the marque of marques.

But with this comes expectation and pressure. And he picked up an injury in the pre-season. While he was out, Sydney did fairly well. his return was to push them into the lead. More pressure. And football is a very psychological game. Winning get a boost, they can play out of their skin, above their normal capability. bt if things start going against you. More pressure.

The Sydney had John out on the hustings. Interviewing with Hamish and Andy talking about how he was about to hit form... And more expectation...

He scores and celebrates. Particularly against his old team CCM...

Then mis-steps and slips against the team that has been down the bottom most of the season.
And ownership changes at Sydney FC.

According to Fox, the latest is a question from the Club along the lines of - do you want to play next year. Yes - he has a contract...

Whatever happens next. I will be thinking of John Aloisi the person. We all get ourselves into problems of our making and ... the making of others.

May be I have learnt something as well. Particularly when I get frustrated with some Roar strikers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Coach John Wooden on how to succeed...

'1. Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.

2. Remember, it's the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.

3. Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.

4. Be more interested in character than reputation.

5. Be quick, but don't hurry.

6. understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.

7. Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.

8. Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.'

John Wooden and Steve Jamison 'Wooden: a lifetime of observations and reflections on and off the court' McGraw-Hill 1997 page 72.

This book was nominated by former Brisbane Bronco coach Wayne Bennett as his favourite book.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sydney Fc 1 v Perth Glory 4: A few here for the post Christmas bargain basement bins...

Like the careers of John Aloisi and John Kosmina.

Aloisi turned his back on Central Coast Marina's fans and Kosmina made what he thought was a safe bet by buying Aloisi - the most expensive player in the A-League at $500,000, Collosimo from Perth and Mark Bridge from Newcastle. But oh dear. Collosimo very quickly was out for the season. And now neither Aloisi nor Bridge can get a full came. And Kosmina just hasn't got the team to play the latest 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 fashion. 4-4-1-$ (I mean 4-4-1-1) just didn't work tonight. Aloisi mist 2 open goals - the latter he was right on the line but couldn't get his feet working.

Sydney fans have had enough and booed Aloisi round the park, the team off at half time (0-2) and Aloisi off in the 60s. Still he showed character to stay with it.

Just where are all these new quality players coming from for next year. Newcastle are buying 10 plus, Gold Coast 23 - 5 foreigners, NQ Fury 23 - 5, Perth say 10. Youth league and state leagues or not - it just isn't adding up.

Perth has bought a Dutch international as a guest for its last games to replace Amaral who looked great but too old. But they haven't signed Dadi who may go to Newcastle for the Asian Champions League.

Meanwhile, Kosmina has now tried 30 players. I think with the new owners he must be thinking his time is nearly up - certainly if he doesn't make the finals. I think John Aloisi's career could be over too, looks like it was the CCM system that got him goals last year. Let's hope that Popas isn't over as well.

The good news for Roar fans is that with perhaps the A-League's biggest upset round ever, the Roar goes up from 3rd to 2nd without even playing. Howsthat?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Newcastle 4 v Victory 2: 'every night and day, I get down on my knees and pray, and say thank you.. '

Calling off Archie Thompson's goal for an off-side that wasn't was a let off that allowed Newcastle to score against the play and go in at half time 2-0. Then Matt Thompson got his third - first hat trick for the season (who would have thought?) - and Joel Griffith crossed for Song to get his first ever goal. Melbourne turn around and its 4-0.

But they came back. Particularly when Ney Fab came on. Anything could have happened in this match, that with the Wellington win, and the Adelaide-Roar bye keeps the top of the table really tight.

Newcastle youngsters looked great.

Wellington 1 v Central Coast Mariners 0

Shane Smeltz is on fire. Interesting that overseas clubs aren't looking at him. But he is the only one who can score for Wellington.

This was a smash and hold for Wellington. It looked very long ball in the last 10 minutes.

Did the cold and windy weather help? Probably.

If the Roar can win at home on 28 December against Wellington, then this was a big favour that will really help Roar finals hopes.

I wonder where Nic Mrdja will end up next year? He wants to score but he doesn't get enough time and looks very blunt - trying to drill through teams.

Will Gold Coast's Brazilians be able to supply Shane Smeltz next year? Today it was a great cross and header early.

Bremner cops 2 weeks - also fines for Muscat and Moore

British fever. Four years in is this the first time players have gambled on the A-League?

Moore gets $5k with $2k suspended for winning some money on a game that didn't involve the Roar.

Muscat also gets $5k with $2k suspended for losing some money on a game that didn't involve the Victory.

Bremner gets $5k with $2k suspended for putting some money on a game that didn't involve the Victory.


Bremner gets 2 weeks suspension for betting on Melbourne in an ACL game.

Surebet provided the evidence. Isn't that what you have friends for? Or weather maps (a cricket joke).

But good to stop this.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Roar Women Win First W-League

Neil said...

'tsk, tsk. What no mention of the Roar W-League team winning the inaugural premiership? Doing something that the boys can't do.'

He's right you know. Under the right circumstances the W-League could be the most popular of all football codes in Australia - including AFL. But at the moment it isn't getting much coverage. One game is live on the ABC on Saturday afternoons, so they are very accessible.

The youth league has had a real impact on the A-League. Fringe players and players getting back from injury get to show their stuff plus young players could get a call up. As far as the young players go the Roar has been the best at this so far.

For the women there is no direct connection. And while the youth games may get a go within a few hours of the seniors, I don't recall this for the women.

The Roar women have done something the men haven't been able to, win silverware. And talking to Roar officials it seems that Queensland has had a big advantage in the womens, with more quality players coming from up here than other states. Meaning that key players in other teams are often Queenslanders. In the game I watched the Roar were playing short passing football and Sydney a long ball game - Roar won 3-0.

I think the women - with the extra money and quality and competition could bit a World Cup threat in a few years. Football has a real chance to attract the young athletes that currently stick with netball and basketball. More coverage and international results will attract more sponsorship - have you scene the huge banners in Westfield.

Currently, the W-League is where the NSL used to be - limited coverage and airplay, some international success but limited competition - only around 3 competitive teams - and small crowds. A bit of magic and it could suddenly be a great night out...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Roar 2 v Newcastle 1 - very happy, game of the season

It didn't look like it for much of the first half. Newcastle looked desperate and the Roar looked slow. Almost dis-interested.

Then Newcastle scored on the counter. And Frank brought on Mitch Nichols for Andrew Packer. It changed the game. In earlier games Charlie Miller had been playing in Mitch Nichols shoes. Tonight Nichols slipped right in. He was go go go from the moment he was on.

In fact just before Mitch scored his wonderful sliding header right on half time, Tahj was caught walking into attack and missed an opportunity. Unfortunately Tahj looks like he can't make a full 90 minutes. He seems to give up too easily. Mitch does not give up. He is everywhere.

Van Dijk was really upsetting the fans. He missed 3 'must score' opportunities. It is funny how Foxtel call him. The camera angles make him look a much better player than he is. He just is too slow. Fullstop. Fortunately he scored a great winner on 90 plus 6 seconds. But not before Tommy Oar came on and electrified Lang Park. Tiatto, after nearly getting himself sent off in the first half, looked great in attack. Hitting the side post and then Zullo hit the bar - was it going to be the same old story - no Tiatto showed everyone how to do a cross and this time Van Dijk beat his man. Everyone said thanks be...

Ben Williams refing... oh dear.

Jobe Wheelhouse's send off - (he set up Joel Griffith in the first half) - I am expecting him to get 9 to 15 games as he clearly manhandled Ben Williams several times including a push in the back. So FFA are you going to be consistent??? Or are you going to let Jobe off the hook?

Moment of the match? 16 year old Tommy Oar putting Socceroo keeper Covic off his game and giving him a cheeky grin. priceless.

Mitch Nichols won this game for the Roar. Time to sign him.

Wellington 1 v Perth 1 and CCM 2 - Sydney 1... no more drinking when the pub shuts down...

Umm. Let's start with the Wellies v Perth. Not such a great game. Nik R missed a sitter in the second half. Then Straight away Smeltz got himself one-on-one with Tando the keeper. First short brilliant save. Rebound - sky'ed over the bar. I did that in a cup final once. But I was 10 and we won anyway. Great goal from Dadi.

I think Kossie could be gone. If not now they at the end of the season. Frank Lowy got him there and with frank gone. And new ownership - The Ramsey Health people I think plus Russian gizzionaires - well its going to be all change.

The Roar need to Newcastle tonight. Can they without Miller? And with Newcastle at - what is for them - just about full strength. If Newcastle attack, as they are saying they will, it could be a big Roar win. Otherwise Joel Griffiths could make it the same old story. 7 goals from 7 Roar games...

Miller Light - ... give back like there is no tomorrow...

I went to the Roar Christmas party yesterday. I wanted to donate some gifts to the kids in hospital. I've been a scrooge so far this year - decorations shouldn't really go up until today. But I did want to see how the guys are going. In particular, I wanted to congratulate Mitch Nichols on his U19 world cup qualification goals. Anyway Santa was going to be there...

I shook Craig Moore's hand, first chance I had had to do that since his op. Had a long conversation with Mitch - hope we keep him.Spoke to a guy from Lions, we both hoped they'd keep former Lion Tahj. Expressed my views about how to build a fan base...

Then the news came through about Charlie... ah well there is next season for him.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More A-League from the Japanese viewpoint

Clayton: 'This Adelaide team has grown so much. the Asian adventure has given them some real mojo. They have played in games that the other a-league teams can only dream about ...'

John: 'I agree. Adelaide have gone about building a domination of the A-League that other teams only dream about. I believe that this success is built on the sound commercial decisions made by the club, in the own interest from the start of the A-League. Like Sydney and Central Coast they spent wisely to get a quality side from year one. Quality players want to play for winning clubs. In a perverse way the salary cap has locked some clubs out of the reach of quality players - clubs that can't assure a player that they will make the finals and will be on show in Asia just can't put up enough money to cover the risk.

The other great commercial decision was to ignore the opportunity to play at a bigger ground. The problem for the Roar is that if their former owner Queensland Lions had not committed the club to back breaking Lang Park, then Clem Jones and his Brisbane Strikers would have won the 1st Queensland franchise. Simple as that. That decision was a huge opportunity cost. Miron complained bitterly at the lack money he was allowed to buy a squad that could do justice to such a large stadium.'

Clayton: 'One thing they (Adelaide) have (well, on one side at least) is genuine drive from the fullbacks ... dunno about mullen/cornthwaite, but with jamison on the other linking with cassio they have got something going that they didn`t have at the start of the year.'

And oggie is playing out of his skin atm.

I don`t think the Roar get that much going forward from their fullbacks. Packer? I think he is a squad player. Unfair maybe, but that is my gut feeling. Seo? his marauding days are over. could be a handy holding mid though.

The modern attacking team has got 9 or 10 attackers. at least one of the centrebacks has to have decent distribution. get more oomph out of the fullback spots and we`d unlock more teams, more easily methinks.

Others have said it before, and i think it is a good idea - McKay\Murdocca to the fullback slots?'

John: 'Jamieson is a real find. I noticed him from the first game at Land Park this year. They are lucky he hasn't had rep time off. On the other hand he has been given quality game time. Whereas, Mitch Nichols, at the other end of the park for the Roar hasn't.

Don't forget that Andrew Packer had played in about four finals before he came to the Roar. Since he has had injuries. And I suspect we won't see much more of Seo.

The Roar have the best defence in the A-League and have conceded the least goals. If they could win at home they'd be on top. If they tinker too much with their defence they could get flattened.'

Clayton: 'Bring on teams 9,10, 11, and 12. If Sydney lost that game, they are stuck in the basement and their coach is gone. They win and they are 3rd? They should have brought in two teams for this season - there are probably a range of reasons why crowds are down ... but i think 1 reason is that the league stayed at 8 teams for 2 long.'

John: 'Yes Clayton if you trawl my back catalog from last year you'll see I was warning that delaying new teams was a mistake. I think the FFA decided that the two proposals from last year were not there in terms of sustainability. Plus I think they could not get agreement from teams like Sydney and the Roar on access to their original franchise area. A lot of these details are not really that transparent. And they were counting on the Socceroos to qualify at the end of this season leading to a double kick next year. The major concern now is the dilution of talent at some clubs - particularly Newcastle and Sydney FC.

However, I think the major issue is the lack of sophistication by clubs in the development of the fan base. frankly too many decisions seem to be being made by people who are expert in football and way too few by people who are expert in understanding and attracting customers.

As I have said before I think the A-League needs to adopt the American gridiron and MSL models where investors share all revenues and the central body controls player transfers. This means teams have less incentive to bore the away crowd. And the transfer and recruitment control stops one team getting all the good players including foreign players when the salary cap starts to hold weaker clubs back. In the USA it stops New York dominating through its size. Here it would help the teams with big stadium. (Adelaide are now saying they want to go back on the agreement to share ACL money with other clubs - is an example).'

You can read more from Clayton at:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Newcastle 1 v Sydney 2

At the start of the season it appeared that Sydney had successfully raided the best of 3 other teams to create a power house - Bridge (Newcastle), Colossimo (Perth) and Aloisi (CCM). But through injury or poor form these three have barely contributed to their current position. Sydney FC's stand outs have been new players like Cole and now Gan.

Newcastle shares with Sydney the trauma of appearing, in the words of FC's Ian Fyfe, a team in transition. And given the demand for players next year it is very difficult to see either team repeating Sydney's, as it turns out pyrrhic, Bridge, Colossimo, Aloisi raid. 50% or more of the starting squad of both teams could be gone by next season. And the fans of both teams are likely to left wondering what happened.

Having said that, this game, in front of a financially painful 7,000 Newcastle fans, was about who goes into the last 7 rounds looking likely to qualify for the finals. And Sydney are still in a position to have Bridge, Colossimo and Aloisi pay off for them at the end and all could be forgiven.

Can anyone stop Adelaide? Other than their fatugue?


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Adelaide 6 v Wellington 1, Perth 3 v Victory 1

Perth have done Adelaide a favour.

2-0 up at half time, Adelaide were rampant in the 2nd half. And the Wellington defence was up to its old tricks.

Not sure what happened to Melbourne. Lots of soul searching to do there with 2 losses to pull it well back to the pack. Perth show again how hard it is play the passing game - but if you play it well you reap rewards. And their foreigners look great.

The Roar with draws against Sydney and now CCM is holding together the middle of the table. Oh if they could only bite and hold.

Central Coast 1 v Roar 1


It is hot and sticky up here. And had been hot as hell in Gosford. But it cooled down quite a bit in time for the game. Here it just got stickier and stickier. Speaking of which. The pitch was rubbish. And no one else is playing on it or waving their violins.

The Roar played their best half of football this season. And Sergio Van Dijk scored the goal of the season. A free kick between the box and half way. A flick on from Miller, at first Van Dijk seemed to have let it run too far then bang. It's in the bang of the net. CCM were left saying 'what the'. In the first half Van Dijk was in play and also had his best half.

The main comment on CCM is that Sasho Petrovski needs to unlearn diving. And if you air-swing and dive, don't yell at the ref. You could get booked. He didn't. He was lucky. So were a couple of CCM defenders who in that first half dove in with their studs but only got yellows.

CCM really missed Matt Simon. He is the best player in the A-League. A wing player, great crosser - Petrovski really missed that, and an out and out goal scorer. The Roar still need a player like him. Where are you Robbie (are you going to North Qld?, Looks like Minniecon may as his uncle is involved with the Fury, a real blow to the Roar).

Zullo was also out. I assume injured as the speculation was that Packer was going to make way with 3 at the back. But both teams played 4-4-2 in the first half. The Roar missed Zullo. Too many passes didn't get to their player in the final third. Particularly, in the 2nd half.

In the 2nd half it was all CCM. Except that their final third looked weak. Even when they went back to 4-3-3 with Mrdja on and Gumprect pushing forward. It was Gumprect who scored. Another scorcher.

For the Roar, against the play, Murdocca created an opportunity in the box. And should have scored himself. But passed to an unmarked Van Dijk who was way too slow and could only manage to put the ball into his defender. In the 2nd half Van Dijk had run out of puff. But it was Minniecon who was subbed.

And Charlie Miller. Copped a crunching tackle early in the game. He played the full game. But CCM had him under control. Maybe the Youth leagues top scorer Chris Grossman should have been given his chance? There is a presence I guess.

Tiatto came off in the 2nd half - I saw him at training a couple of weeks back 'play with the hand break on?' he asked the conditioning coaches. 'Both brakes' they replied. He looked professional. And it was his replacement Ben Griffin who gave away the fatal free kick and was on the wrong side of Casaras as Gumprects shot rifled passed. Humm. Where is Mundy?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A few comments on the A-League

1. Newcastle 1 v Adelaide 1 - another bellyflop with Adelaide scoring in 90 + 3:35. Leading to claims of poor time keeping. However, I think that was about the faceoff between Jamieson and Elrich. I thought maybe that kick went the wrong way and therefore og wouldn't have scored.

2. Charlie Miller seems to have lost his battle with the hernia. Miller taught Roar fans what a real striker is capable of. And even he seemed to loose confidence in his team mates occasionally. Due to Moore, whom the Roar could also loose after Christmas, the Roar has least goals conceded. But also one of the lowest scoring rates. Take out Miller's 7 and it doesn't look great.

3. Adelaide is concerned about its poor away scoring and is interviewing Nik Mrja from CCM. Look this isn't the players, it is the way they play away from home. And it is tedious for all. Adelaide are also after 2 Newcastle players including their star keeper Covic as Eugene is off to Japan. This type of pinching is poor form. Grow your own Adelaide.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Perth belly flop: Perth 2 v CCM 2

Across this season and last, Perth probably have the worst record for closing out games. After being down 0-1 at half time - against the run of play, Perth displayed brilliance to get Nik R two goals. The second could be the team goal of the season - passing back and forth Trinidad, Nik, Trinidad, Nik, Dadi set up Nik

Bograad is sent off for a studs up from behind on Trinidad.

Then wollop against the run of play, CCM with everyone playing striker get level at 90 plus 2 with 1 to go. Petrovski scores as a sub. Could have been offside but it counts anyway. And CCM stay in the race.

Perth have real keeper problems. They have tried 3, none seem to have it.

Sydney 1 v Roar 1: Some ideas

At the beginning of this season it appeared that every young up-and-coming player wanted to play for Sydney. Now they can't wait to get out. Perhaps the answer lies in having to take less pay, than other clubs would have stumped up, to secure your birth. Once you are in it is all pressure pressure pressure to perform or loose your spot. Sydney's track record of making the finals would seem to make it a low risk decision, but this season the players are experiencing the downside of being outside the top 4. Add to this many players went to Sydney as a showcase for the Socceroos and European clubs. Pim put the kibosh on the Socceroos entry and Milligan (supposedly he was going to Arsenal) showed Sydney players how hard it is to get a decent Europe contract. Now they, along with Newcastle players seem to all got the message at once and want out.

And it shows in the way they play.

John Aloisi must be very frustrated. Last night he made Van Dijk at the other end look very good. While the Roar could mark their strikers one-on-one, with Moore covering Aloisi, it took two Sydney defenders to sit on Van Dijk. Great for the Roar as it opened up Minniecon and Zullo.

Again it was the Roar that should have won this match. While the Roar outplayed - outclassed - Sydney till the against the play equaliser in the 63rd, it was Miller leaving the field in the 38th or so that changed the game. Before that he was weaving his magic including a goal bound shot that was stopped by a Sydney forearm. His replacement, Tiatto, usually looks great it defence and less so in attack. Last night he looked very creative in attack opening up Minniecon and Zullo. Unfortunately his defensive error led to Corica's knee in.

Very impressive again was the cameo from Mitch Nichols, whose cannoning header looked most likely to create the win for the Roar. This year Mitch is re-developing the X factor he had at junior levels. He has a tenacity and fighting spirit that can go missing from the Roar up front. - McKay's brilliant poached goal from Minniecon's shot was another example of it at work in the team - Mitch just does not give up on balls and he is sky high with confidence. It would be a shame for the Roar to let this guy go when next year he could emerge as a star. Let's see him start Frank.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The week that MLS comes to the A-League

Fox Sports FC recon that Fred is the first of several MSL stars to head to Australia to top-up their centrally controlled, salary capped incomes. I have loosely followed the MSL for a few seasons. My main interest is that the A-League business model appears to be a hybrid of the J-League and MSL (with MSL as the major inspiration). Will the Roar pick up a new centre forward - Reinaldo being on the injured list for the rest of the season could facilitate another foreign player, or the guest rule could be used.


On the subject of business models, France has used its turn as its leader being President of Europe to support an Italian move to wipe out the dominance of the EPL. The plan is to have the FA accountable to a European football body. It would then restrict club debt levels and limit the number of players foreign players on a team at any time to 5. In one stroke this would collapse the value of non-English players as streams of foreign players would be forced out of the EPL, force massive promotion of English citizen players from lower leagues, and damage the international franchise of the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool... (See Kevin Eason 'England to fight Sarkozy takeover' in The Australian 26/11/8 page 19). What would this mean for the world game?

In a perverse way it may help England to its second world cup as the massive club infrastructure would, for the first time in a generation, be focused on the development of local talent.

Wither also up-and-coming players from third world countries whose shot at fame and fortune would be blocked.


Sydney FC and Newcastle appear to be quite a bit of bother.

Up until now Sydney has been the club that Australian players want to join. However, suddenly it appears that 5 of their squad are off at the end of the season - the latest being Ian Fyfe who is off to Adelaide.

And Newcastle, now equal last, lost key players last year and look set to loose more next year. Both Milligan and Joel Griffiths are out for 2 weeks, and coach Van Egmont has 2 more to sit on the sidelines. The will to spend to keep up with the A-League arms race just isn't there.

I agree with Robbie Slater that all this moving around of players is anti-fan and the entry of new clubs could have been better managed. And Frank Farina in that now coaches are under much more pressure than players - even poor performers will be needed next year to make up the numbers - while coaches will cop the blame.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Roar 4 v Perth 1: Phew, and Wow and 'Give him a contract Frank'

Mitch Nichols that is.

The first forty odd minutes were excruciating. At about the 30th minute the guy next to me had said 'This is the worst they have played'. It was park football. The long ball game and only Perth looked like scoring. Nik R, playing lone striker, had it all over the Roar. De Vere saved us with one brilliantly timed tackle. And Moore would amazed all with his presence. Yet it was Perth who looked like scoring.

Then Van Dijk, who was having a dreadful game (he can't run, he can't jump, he can't beat defenders), got through the Perth defence only to be hit with a studs up challenge... surely a send off and kick just outside the box? No play on. But minutes later Tahj ran straight into the box to the right of the posts - and yes penalty, the Roar's first of the Season at home and only 2nd overall. Miller gets the ball and walks to the spot, but what's this? Van Dijk wrestles it off him 'Do let him Frank' - he scores anyway 'Now we're stuck with him'. Then right on half time Van Dijk is through does he shoot or pass? Either way Tahj gets onto it and slides home a second.

For the first time this year - happy at half time.

Perth come out strongly. 'Come on don't bore us with this sit back stuff.' Then Miller finds space to the right and the ball comes in from the left - first time, volley 'Wow, it's in' Seemed like he hardly hit it. Then Perth hit back hard and split the Roar up 3-1. Lucky they haven't done that all night.

'Sub Van Dijk Frank'. No its Minniecon coming off. Why? At least Mitch Nichols is getting his go. And it isn't that long before he loops one over the defence and in. His first for the club. Great goal. 'Sign him Frank. Give him a contract.' Stop Miron getting him.

Wayne Srhoj takes out Zullo from behind, should have been his second card, but the ref just gives the free kick (Sydney and Newcastle will be cheezed at the leniency) - he has been doing it all night and he keeps Van Dijk out of the game.

Miller wear's Mitch's boots. I wonder if Mitch wears Millers? 4-1.

Then its all Roar. Perth have had enough.

Great game from the u19s - Minniecon, Nichols and De Vere. Great come back Moore.

Ahhh I remember the winning feeling. More of that. More of that.

Roar keeping up with A-League: Michael Branch

I doubt it.

According to Michael Branch's Wikipedia entry, this 30 year old has barely trained for the last 2 years. It is a typical story of a youngster with a lot of promise who has failed to live up to the rigors of EPL, Division 1, Division 2, and, by the look of it, non-league English football. Plus he is a winger - frankly I am happy with our wingers...

If the Roar wants to win back its fans it will need to do better. Unfortunately, it has done its money on Van Dijk.

Finding a player in the league of Fred, Petrovski, Cristaino, Travis Dodd, Fabiano, Dadi, Joel Griffiths, Archie Thompson, Matt Simon... That is to get someone of the standard that is, well standard, for other clubs. Is, for the 10 games remaining (9) ex-today, going to cost the Roar money, serious money.

Dare they?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Roar Challenge

Since the Roar announced they were acquiring a quality striker, Wellington have forked out for Fred and Adelaide look set to guest one of Japan's top strikers Urawa Reds striker Ichiro Nagai.

The challenge is there for the Roar, a club noted for both its limited spending on strikers and its poor goal scoring techniques, to match its rivals.

Dare they?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Asian Boss says no to Wellington

According to Fox Sports FC Sepp Batter's 2IC and the head of the Asian region has said that Wellington will not be welcome in the A-League post the original agreement of 2011.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Craig Moore's Roar

The great strength of the Roar is the team environment. And Craig Moore has been Frank Farina's partner in the development of this team. Both Tiatto and Miller are at the Roar to support Craig and Frank. And their focus has been to build a team for the future.

As John Lennon warned before his untimely death, life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. The prognosis for Craig is very positive. He can still plan to be part of the 2010 world cup. The early detection of his testicular cancer will ensure a quick recovery. And we wish him well.

November and its Movember campaign reminds us that for men another cancer, prostate, can be as deadly as breast cancer is for women. But men are much less tuned into its dangers and slower to react. Further, depression affects people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. And again has considerable stigma and slow reaction times for treatment.

Craig's disclosure reminds us to foster both a optimistic approach to life and to take responsibility for our health. That is something valuable to share from his experience. Now I am off to sponsor Neil and his Moe for Movember.

CCM 3 v Adelaide 0: Strike power

Central Coast was offered a gift by FFA and they took it.

While Melbourne and the Roar have been forced into inconvenient and tiring re-schedules to support Adelaide's Asian matches, CCM caught Adelaide at their lowest ebb. While the Roar played Adelaide as a warm-up to their ACL run, CCM benefited from playing a team coming down fast.

Watching the game, it was clear that CCM have used every minute of the 3 and half years of the A-League to build a champion team. Their strike power of Simon, McMaster and Petrovski, backed up by Caceres, matches that of Melbourne. Contrast this to the Roar and Sydney who (apart from season one for Sydney) haven't been able to live up to their attacking promise.

The Roar in particular looks vulnerable. Reinaldo looks to be out for the season. Kruse for most of it. Tiatto hasn't reproduced last year's spark and make now be out injured for a number of games. Moore (our best wishes to you Craig) seems set to rush back into the team. The club admits that Miller's injury is a time bomb. Other players just have not lived up to their expectations. And half way through the season none of the young potentials have had enough game time to be realistically relied upon in numbers. Injury, bad luck and international duty have stepped in the way.

The Roar has announced it is in the market for players. At the same, time Perth and Wellington have achieved major coups with Scottish and Brazilian stars. For Wellington it is a 6 week guest appearance by no less than Fred.

For the Roar a major new recruit will need to be of the caliber of Fred to turn their home season around (only 5 games left). American MSL players are available but just who is there that would have the physicality to make a mark in the A-League?

All A-League clubs know that with North Queensland and Gold Coast entering the market local and international players will be able to pick and chose next year. For teams finishing in the bottom 4, particularly if they have regularly been doing so, tempting players will become relatively more expensive. Players, as Cristiano has done this year, will invest in ACL exposure, but only look to non ACL contenders if the money is better than the value of their skills. Next year the salary cap will, for the first time, limit the equality of the A-League. The buying power of the lesser teams will be restricted. Sydney found this out this week with the loss of Middleby, new star Santalab and other to North Queensland.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mitch and Matt

Mitch Nichols - U19 super star

My mate Mitch. This year he hasn't had a run this year for the Roar. But against the toughest team in Asia, Korea...

I was feeling quite down this morning. Clayton had told me about the Packer dive. I hadn't seen it. I had re-watched the stuff that had concerned me from the match. It's a service I provide my mates given FIFA won't allow controversial events to be replayed at games. So the Tiatto foul - looked like he just scared the guy by jumping on the ball then that thug Fabiano ran into his back after the whistle, the Murdocca pen that was but wasn't called, the Zullo pen that may not have been ... that sought of thing.I hadn't bothered with the Packer incident. At the time it just seemed that Celeski poked Packer in the eye and should have been sent off or at least booked. Then my wife told me it was a dive and she'd seen it... jez Andrew we didn't even draw, it wasn't near the goal...

But then I nice surprise, I read the paper. My mate Mitch. The most down to earth teenager you'll meet, scored both goals to qualify Australia for the U19 world cup next year. This is a team with 5 Roars in it. Against Korea who Mitch told me had beaten Australia 4-0 last year. And Mitch's late goal winner - a bicycle kick. Come on Frank you know you like those goals, let's see Mitch v Perth.

Poor old van Dijk. It isn't his fault, seems either he was over-sold by his scout, or quite a few people made a mis-calculation about how tough it is in the A-League. Even feather-weight Michael Thwait out-muscled him in the game and consoled him afterwards.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

From our Japanese Corespondent

After last night, I didn't have much left. Our our Japanese corespondent has got it spot on here:

Somehow, this wasn't the typical Suncorp match. The last game I saw there against the Jets wasn't one either. All that possession and bombing forward that the Roar does did not ruin their defensive shape. Whilst Melbourne at times looked dangerous countering, Craig had the backline organised and it felt solid.

The Melbourne goal came from two uncontested headers. The Roar's tall timber was nowhere near Danny Allsopp and no one was near Archie. The goal in the jets game? A goal mouth scramble after a corner. Adelaide's recent winner? A badly marked corner (yes Cristiano was offside, but the defending that followed was rubbish) that's three points dropped.

Mass is impressing me playing wider on the right. He wants a goal. And he is trying to make it happen. A couple of his turns were great to watch. (John: Agree absolutely this is looking like his season).

A handful of Van Dijk`s touches were fantastic. He'd be this year's Johnny Warren medalist if he could take last night's first 5 minutes, and play like that across the full 90. Hell, if he could do that for 40 I'd be happy. (John: there were two Melbourne players on him whenever he got near the box. He does great tricks and flicks, but as the guy next to me said, he has one KRA - number of goals. And from the tone of today's Courier Mail my guess is that he could be replaced.)

Danny Tiatto is a liability. going in for a two foot lunge, then jumping up wild eyed and screaming at the ref? getting hauled away by your team mates? Kevin Muscat is also a thug, but at least he isn't a mad one. Roar was lucky not to be down to 10 men (not the tackle, but for the dissent). Dodd doesn't have Tiatto's footballing brain, nor his range of passing, nor his movement off the ball, but he isn't mad. And he isn't injured. He should start. (John: Tiatto looks like he could be out for a lengthy time - the rest of the season? He seems to have lost his impact since last season. Plus he can not get away with a thing. Anyone notice Fabiano charge him after the whistle? The refs provide no protection to Tiatto. Clayton isn't the only one who thinks Tiatto's time is up and yet he is already signed for next year).

Charlie Miller is tired. He is injured. And he doesn't trust his teammates. All those long range potshots he's taking when other options are available. But then, should he trust these teammates? Robbie Slater was saying that he thought he should be on the field for about 60 minutes. Frank is mad playing him for 90. He is gonna run down the most skilled player he has. its mad. He could probably use a week off at some point too. (John: Yes this was obvious last night. It is all Charlie Miller. Which leaves the Roar with few options. However, on the injury the prognosis seems to be that the hernia will burst in its own time which means they will use him while they can. What happened to the Roar of last year? Was Marcinho better than the club thought? Or is it Ognesovski that is leaving the whole?)

Mike Zullo is ready, willing and able to play 90. He is maturing, and would give a definite lift in pace, width on the left, and he has actually scored a goal this season. He should start. Out of all the bench players, he is the most ready to step up. (John: Without Zullo the Roar look narrow and very easy to defend against. Again in the Courier Mail Frank indicated that some U19s would be straight in - I would think Tahj Minniecon).

With enough seasoning this year, could Smits turn around and do a Matt Simon the next? HGe stays around the goal mouth. great tendency for a centre forward. and he won a couple of 50 - 50s with Kevin Muscat. Needs a bit more sharpness. And a lot more confidence. And the roar would have its centre forward. (John: And another 10 kilos in the gym. The Roar needs a Nay Fab or Cristiano. Our front line looks soft).

I didn't feel disappointed with the loss. My gut wasn't enraged. The Roar's attack all felt a bit toothless and aimless in the end. I couldn't argue to a Melbourne fan (if there was one over here in shingu) that my team should have won. (John: The future of the A-League requires winning teams in big population centres. The lack of interest in Adelaide's success demonstrates how important this is).

Umm, the penalty shouts? I thought Mass`s fall could have been one (but the challenge seemed fair enough for me), and Zullo fell over by himself. (John: My reflection last night was from the sentiment of the crowd. The FFA can not expect home crowds to keep showing up to have 50-50s go against them. The refing just looked one sided - look at the yellow card count (2-0)).

God, I ALMOST forgot the blackest mark on the Roar's performance. Packer's attempt to get Celeski carded. Going down in a heap clutching his face after Celeski's trailing arm went near him but DID NOT touch him? I`d love to see guys banned for this. If a handball can get some extra time out, this kind of simulation can cop it too. Got me wondering, was Cornthwaite lying when he went to the ref and said that Ney Fabiano spat at him? the video was inconclusive for me. They can ban Danny too for his two foot lunge, or for dissent, or anything really. Saves him coming off with a red card and leaving the team a man down. He is a red card waiting to happen. which is a pity, cos there is a good footballer in there too. (John: On the Packer incident given that that ref gave a free kick, it should be assumed that he thought it was intentional. Therefore it must be a yellow card or a red. Yet after the kick was taken the ref ran passed Celeski and touched his arm - which made the crowd very suspicious. If he though it was unintentional - why give a free kick? If he thought Packer dived, he should have been carded).

Dunno how many weetbix Lawrie McKinna is feeding them down at CC, but Frank should send a spy down there to find out how they are getting so much self belief. I've got a bad feeling that it comes from the top down. Frank is feeling the pressure, and it shows on his team. (John: The squad looks very thin now. Given that Van Dijk has been a failure, Miller is injured, Reinaldo is injured, Tiatto is injured, Kruse is injured and getting into trouble, it isn't clear where the solution is coming from, although football is about people standing up without notice). The CCM is all Matt Simon, who can work off Sasha Petrovski. You would have though after 4 years the Roar would have got their player acquisition right. But then some of their youngsters have not paid off - Grossman, Kruse, Griffiths. The answer is you need strong youths who will be forgiven indiscretions. I think other clubs looked the international schedule and decided against investment in players that may get there, particularly for youth. Hence Roar got 5).

Bring on Ballymore. 10 - 15 k at bally will feel much more like a home. Suncorp with 12 k feels empty. good noise from the crowd though. I figure go to Bally, and then go back to Suncorp when you are turning people away week after week. When i see j-league crowds, this is what I want for the a-league and the roar. Not the numbers, but the passion of the fans. especially the lower half of the table teams. Crazy bastards get smacked 3 - 0 by an Urawa or some other big club, and they are singing and stomping the whole way through, then they give their players a clap off. We DO NOT want the kind of fan who jumped on the basketball bandwagon, but then jumped off after a couple of good seasons. Build the love a-league, build the love ...

(John: The trouble with Bally is that the crowd could be 5,000. Public transport is very difficult there and currently the whole crowd uses buses and trains. In the pre-season I thought about going to Perry Park till I looked at the transport - an hour each way. Ballymore would be seen as a backward step and could encourage long suffering Roar fans to switch over to Gold Coast which is on the trainline).


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Roar 0 v Melbourne 1

12,000 sat through the pouring rain to see, in their eyes, referee Peter O'Leary wave 'play on' to two penalties. Before Melbourne scored the winner.

These people knew that all Cristiano, leading goalscorer in the A-League's Asian topping team, did to win a penalty last week was dive. Perhaps the two must authentic players in the A-League go down in the box - Murdocca and Zullo and its 'play on'.

The FFA has a credibility problem. The answer is get into the box as often as you can and go down.

Cheats have a green light.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sydney 1 v Wellington 2: Don't blame it sunshine, moonlight, Kozzie

Neither coach is prepared to commit their x factor players, Aloisi or Daniel, to a full game. Aloisi did get a run late in the game but seemed easy t push off the ball. Given Wellington's control of the game, it is hard to believe that this is Sydney's first loss at home this season.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Osaka 3 v Adelaide 0: Lots of positives

The key numbers are:

Osaka Gross Revenues - $50 million AUD
Adelaide Gross Revenues - $7 million AUD


and then:

Australian Rules Football team typical Gross Revenue = $40 million AUD

So, if the Australian public want internationally competitive A-League teams it can be done. Transfer support and potential talent from AFL to the A-League.

New teams at Gold Coast and North Queensland are steps in this process. It is hard to see the Gold Coast sustaining an AFL team as well. And now that Clive Palmer has backed football, it would seem unwise for a millionaire to back another code, particularly now. And Jade North's move at the end of the season from Newcastle to North Queensland is another great step. I understand that part of his commitment is the development o local indigenous talent. A long overlooked step which the AFL has plied for a generation.

And of the game: some of the commentating was disappointing. Ross Aloisi was quick to point out and shake his head at the errors of his former team. Yet for much of the game they held their own. And for other A-League teams they would have learnt a troubling amount. Particularly about the short passing game and playing in tight positions. You could see them learning.

I suspect if they had played at Hindmarsh first the result and the pressure may have been different. But Osaka would have seen the tapes. They would have known how Adelaide play. And I suspect they would still have outplayed them. Less players, probably because of the language and cultural barrier, the work permit barrier (few English or other European relatives up there) and reputation barrier, leek out from the J-League. And the commitment from fans, players (no cricket, rugby codes or AFL to tempt them) and coaches (to technical excellence) and the age of the competition, gave Osaka a huge head start. Their coach acted and re-acted - stretching the defensive fortress to braking. Vidmar hasn't been used to that, even in the ACL.

While the second leg is still next week and anything is possible, what next for Adelaide? Well I think the end of the season will see dramatic changes in their line-up. I think Travis Dodd, despite his lack of fitness will be snapped up somewhere is Asia. So will Vidmar and all he wants to take of his coaching team. He may well get to pick who goes with him, particularly if he ends up in the Japanese 2nd division. Foreign teams will pick through the squad. I think Cassio will be rewarded with a major contract somewhere - I thought he was a stand out in the second half last night and people will notice that. Cristiano will go, against a high quality ref and defence he was disappointing, but he is a man in hurry and will not show loyalty to fans, club, just like he doesn't to the A-League now. Other A-League leaguers will work their way through the best of the rest, particularly goalkeeper Galekovic. Of course if they qualify for Asia again this year, some may be tempted to stay for another shot (Melbourne Victory if their keeper goes overseas?).

Whichever team qualifies for the next ACL expect the next big thing to come knocking on their door.

Meanwhile, Zora has packed his bags and left Newcastle. he was only a goal scorer in 2nd division and we are better than that. And Lei Lei Gao seems to have mentally done the same for Wellington. The later will further discourage A-League teams from considering Asian players for their squads.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hamish at My favourite Shop (Archives Fine Books)

' ... I'm looking for passion, truth and a window to the infinite. Literally anything can be a window to the infinite of course, but soccer is my preferred path just now... a good sequence of passes which befuddles a defence, a sharp and timely throughball or a clever, witty goal can always lift my heart.... ' Hamish 2008
My interview with Hamish from Football Down Under and Beyond and Archives Fine Books

Hi Hamish, how have you been?

Hamish: Busy, but pretty good I guess.

John: I have seen you leave a few comments around cyberspace, but few blogs if you include that hen joke.

Hamish: Indeed. Truth is I'm not just getting as much time to watch soccer, let alone write about it. I'm sure I'll write bits and pieces occasionally, and I follow the football media, including the blogscape, pretty regularly.

John: You now own Brisbane's best 2nd hand bookshop. A big change for you?

Hamish: Yes is the short answer. It's what's made me much busier than I was of course. I never thought I'd be a businessman, and if it wasn't books I guess I never would have been. It's a lifestyle change, even a spiritual change. Owning and being responsible for your own economy, with debts to pay of course, is a huge responsibility. Maybe a snappy description of the change is that working to live has changed to living to work. The distinction between living and working is no longer very helpful actually.

John: Is it going to feature football?

Hamish: It's a huge shop with sections on just about everything, including sport of course, and there is a soccer section (there is no alternative to the word 'soccer' in this context incidentally, as if I called it a 'football section' it would be poor communication as people wouldn't immediately know what I meant). I'm very proud of my personal soccer library which keeps expanding, and I think sometimes I could just put the whole thing in the shop (as I have with other parts of my private library) but I'm very reluctant to say goodbye to them. I got a lot of them from this shop after all (which is reflected in the smallness of the section left). The tension doesn't disappear if I just consider buying new stock for the shop, as I'll just want to buy the books myself, which isn't necessarilly good business.

I know I haven't answered your question. Of course I want to have a good and growing section on soccer, but the shop will not 'feature' it as such, as it would sort of be contrary to the spirit of the shop, which is to be very broad and cater for pretty much anyone. Difficult as it is for me, for example, we also stock books on baseball and American football, which I frankly see as pretty silly games. Not to mention cricket, which is a huge section.

John: What is your favourite football book and why?

Hamish: There's a few. For pop-fan literature, which is probably my favourite genre, Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch is heaps of fun, as is Tim Parks' A Season With Verona. An American book, Soccerhead is a great read as well, from the point of view of a genuinely new soccer not-even-fan, who ends up coaching his lads team and becoming fanatical. It might have rung a bell. Biographies? Probably Johnnie Warren's book. Mia Hamm's biog/memoir/soccer self-help book is right up there too - can't remember the title. I like collecting everything from coaching and refereeing books, fiction, childrens, history, books on hooliganism and even books on football injuries, but the ones I enjoy most are biographies and fan's books. In a good soccer book, like in any good book, I'm looking for passion, truth and a window to the infinite. Literally anything can be a window to the infinite of course, but soccer is my preferred path just now.

John: Actually Hamish you have quite a background. One of Brisbane's first bloggers?

Hamish: That's not a claim I'd make, but perhaps it's true. Maybe in the first few hundred or something. My sister Margo Kingston is credited with being a real pioneer in blogging.

John: You introduced me to the concept of getting joy from watching football. Do you still get joy?

Hamish: Whenever and wherever I can. It is a struggle to get joy, as you know, when you percieve all sorts of wrongness in the institutions of the game, but yep, a good sequence of passes which befuddles a defence, a sharp and timely throughball or a clever, witty goal can always lift my heart. Form and function in motion. Poetry even. Love it. I get more consistent joy probably from playing myself or watching my son play. Watching the lad pop a goal or do some really clever play? You know it yourself mate - that is joy.

John: How much A-League do you watch?

Hamish: Honestly this season I've been to one live match and watched one other at the pub (Jacob and I generally go to Richlands for this). I'm often working when the game's on.

John: You seemed pretty cheesed off with Frank's latest fine?

Hamish: It's appalling that there is such little transparency and then officials are institutionally protected from criticism, even when it's a) pointing out something that is bleeding obvious, and b) pretty light really. I have no evidence that the A-League is corrupt, but my point is that it might as well be, as noone would know or be able to find out, and with billionares and high stakes running around it inevitably WILL be corrupt. As a long-term student of history and politics, there is no maybe about this in my opinion. Corruption is 100% inevitable in the A-League if the current institutional arrangement continues. Here's a question for you... Do you think the A-League could even survive a match-fixing scandal?

Note from John: Readers are encouraged to comment on Hamish's question.

John: I see it as a lack of professionalism. The ref standard just isn't up to the job, keeping up with the pace. Look at Perth, their coach's job is on the line and Adelaide beat them 2-1, yet the replays showed that Adelaide's first goal was offside and the second was an out of the box tackle and not a penalty. Former Socceroo and sports journalist Robbie Slater said that the FFA risks creating a boring league by fining people that complain, and the fans actually come to see controversy - particularly if their team loses. Do you agree?

Hamish: Yes. It's another point but yes, I do agree. Controversy and the banter between coaches is fun, and most certainly part of the entertainment and indeed news-worthiness of the ongoing game. I guess fining coaches for speaking their minds is contoversial and newsworthy too, but it makes the game look stupid and anti-liberal. This final point is not small either in my view. Sepp Blatter makes lots of noise about how football can help the world move to a better place. Well, if that doesn't include the basic liberties of social democracy then I'm very skeptical.

John: Last week the FFA banned the Eureka flag and a few hours later rescinded and said it was Ok. Mixed messages?

Hamish: See last question. Freedom of speech is our most valuable liberty. That sort of shit doesn't help our game or our world. I was just glad they saw sense but you're right - it was too late for them to not look like tools anyway.

John: What do you think of the Roar squad now? Your favourite players?

Hamish: Well I'm a little behind of course. Moore is outstanding every time I see him play. Yeah, Moore I guess. I don't really feel qualified to say what I think overall. Last season I loved, for different reasons, Matty, Tiatto and Seo, as well as Reinaldo, Zullo and Kruse. But from reading various commentaries on these guys' games, I think I need to watch some games to reassess my opinion.

John: Still can't win at home?

Hamish: Simple. I have to start going to games and wear a franjipani behind my ear. I had a high success rate with that technique last season. QLD Roar should sponsor me to do so.

John: Your prognosis for the A-League?

Hamish: Honestly I'm worried for the medium term. Being dependent on FOX, which is now the main bottleneck of any increasing of the fan-base, is a dangerous risk. Having the superficial appearance of corruption also doesn't help. Adding to what is discussed above, Frank Lowy being an owner of Sydney FC is as good as satire. Clearly the A-League needs to keep growing its fan base, and these things just don't help. I'm guessing that THOUSANDS of people were either put off by Farina's fine for speaking the truth, or merely had their disinterest in soccer reinforced. I mean it - thousands I reckon. Great timing guys.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Jets 1 v Roar 2: Squadran say: whowa whoo whoa

Both teams had 9 shots in the first half. But Newcastle only got one on target which was Joel's 7th goal in a row against the Roar. But it was way to early. Within a minute Van Dijk, near the left corner, had squared for Murdocca, who centred for McKay. And McKay cleverly stabbed the ball along the ground and straight ahead to have Covic go the wrong way. I even think it was on McKay's right foot, which would be his wrong foot. The left was happy hunting for the Roar as around 15 minutes later Murdocca chipped in for Smits to on head to Charlie Miller who had quietly slipped in behind the Newcastle defence on the right.

Just about all the action was in the first half. Murdocca was man of the match. He is leading the Courier Mail points table. And today he was both playmaker and prospective striker, drawing saves and hitting the inside of the right post. Charlie Miller popped up now and again and landed great passes, in the second half he ghosted in a few more time but his team mates where unable to provide him with quality passes. He came off in the 50s with his hernia playing up. He had done his job (could be a challenge in the heat against Melbourne next week).

Van Dijk had his best first half so far. Held off defenders and landed some great passes. He had a point blank header - straight at keeper Covic. He was quieter in the second half as the Roar sat back. He did win some great challenges. And had his best turn and shoot so far, but Covic was - again - on the ball.

Reddy had a busy game. And showed, despite the start to the season - which were not altogether his fault (against CCM at home 2-4) - he is capable of being a great keeper. He had one great touch over the bar from - I think - Joel Griffiths' head. Reddy played with his old support base the squadran - taking out Joel Griffiths in the first half and charging them in the second.

Adam Sarota got his first start. 10 minutes, chased some attackers, but no ball to see what he can do.

The Roar are now a point clear of CCM in 4th spot. If they were winning at home they would be 1st. If they can beat Melbourne next week, they will be a point ahead of the current leader. Whoo Whooo Whoo. That will be worth watching.

Sydney 3 v CCM 3: It is the Matt Simon show

Full marks to all for an attacking and entertaining game.

It was Matt Simon that dominated. He is, after only a year and half at the top level, the best striker in the A-League. His temperament is Kevin Muscat in attack. Score get that ball and get on with it.

I wonder how long CCM have this guy tied up for? In a year or two, if he is still here - and he is on Pim's radar, he will be the highest paid player in the A-League.

Sydney score 3 times against the run of play - some crackers too. Simon score two for CCM and Nic Mjra, back again, shows why he was once considered the A-League's best prospect.

Oh and Sasha Petrovski got a yellow for diving - but it was no-where near the box. Vidmar take note.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Let justice be done or the heavens fall: Adelaide 2 v Melbourne 3

Cristiano needs to leave the A-League. He is bringing the game into disrepute.

It is one thing for bloggers to point out that when Cristiano is in play he is looking to win a foul, dive or do thuggery on his opponents. But he has now been found out for all to see on worldwide TV footage.

In each game this year there has been suspicions and accusations. It was Cristiano that used an offside position to assist the goal against the Roar and won Frank Farina a fine for pointing it out.

He can play. And has scored 5 goals. But he seems to prefer to cheat. In this game he targeted Vargas, diving in front of him to win the penalty, ramming his elbow into Vargas's chest to win high balls, and getting caught shoulder checking Vargas inside the Adelaide penalty area (this one looked like straight thuggery as Vargas was well away from play and the ball wasn't going in the goal).

It is time to do something about Cristiano. At least tonight justice was done.

Mark Shield's last game. Will Adelaide's Captain Dodd and Coach Vidmar also leave (for Japan)?

Mark Shield with his back to the seat at the A-League and warming up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reinaldo out for a month

The Courier Mail have the story. It seems Reinaldo has been playing with a pelvis injury all season. Which explains a lot.

Winning away, Ballymore and all that

This post is essentially a response to our Japanese correspondent the honourable Clayton san. Clayton wrote a comment on my response to the 'why the Roar don't win at home question.' This is the latest running story now that Craig Moore has actually played for the Socceroos again.

Clayton san posted the comment:
'Dunno, something felt a bit strange to me about your post. So the Roar go away from home and sit back on the counter, so they win. And that`s good. But its bad when other teams come to Brisbane and do the same to them?'
Well yes, in a way. I wanted to illustrate that as a tactic it is easier to deploy defence successfully than attempting to entertain the crowd. Mike Colman had pointed out that 'Roar' rhymed with 'bore' so I wanted to address that. What the Roar seem to do is hit teams away hard till they score and then sit back and defend. Against Wellington it worked. Against Sydney they let in a last minute goal and had to settle for 1-1. In any case, the point is that it easier to defend than attack. Boring is not good, but all teams have learnt that it is at least better than losing away. This is what I heard when listening to Aurelio Vidmar in his conference after Adelaide beat the Roar 0-1. He basically said the Roar are a very good team, if you play attacking against them at home, they will thrash you, so you defend and play on the counter.

Colman had made another point:
'Other "smaller" clubs like Central Coast, Newcastle and the ACL finals-bound Adelaide have gone forwards while the Roar for all their potential crowd support and world-class stadium have gone in the opposite direction.' Couriermail.com.au 23 October 2008.'
I agree that being small is an advantage. The initial assumption was that being small would be a disadvantage and could lead to failure.

In his book 'It's Only A Game: A Life In Sport', the first FFA CEO John O'Neill documents how Central Coast where going to be rejected in their bid for an A-League franchise because their potential supporter base was just too small. However, I have come to believe that the reverse is true. That the salary cap works to protect the small teams at the expense of the ones with a larger potential fan base. It gives them more spare money to invest in club development rather than in supporting either the search for fans or the need to finance losses from home games. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 October 2008, by Michael Cockerill and Sebastian Hassett highlights this point. They argue that Sydney FC is currently in another round of fund raising from its shareholders to fund operating costs. They also state that 22% shareholder Russian oil and gas millionaire may switch to a potential western Sydney franchise as he is frustrated with his lack of influence at Sydney FC.

The cap means that the A-League has no prospect of a Chelsea or Man U. Which is good because it means that no team will grow to dominate and price the others out of talent available to the Australian market. But it does mean that teams find it much harder to leverage their potential fans to create advantage. There the key stat becomes net income to overheads. The teams with bigger overheads must find ways to control costs. And this can become a priority over building team support, marquee payments and guest players. My thinking on salary caps was shaped by an article in The Economist 'In a league of its own: America's national football league offers a business lesson to other sports' published on 27 April 2006. This article points out that American gridiron franchisees control and share all revenue, from gate-take to TV rights. Therefore, small teams have the same financial resources as large teams. But critically they also share the same risk. So if the big stadium are not filling because of negative tactics from the small teams, all teams feel this pain. There is also a strict salary cap. Indeed a balance has developed in which both large and small teams can win and be very financially successful. This is contrasted with the English Premier League which has always been barely viable financially and has increasingly become a place for billionaires to spend money with limited prospect of a sustainable return on their investment. Even the English Football Association has recognised this problem. The American Major League Soccer has learnt this sustainability lesson and adopted a small competition, some revenue sharing, a salary cap with marquees, and player purchases controlled centrally (for example this has prevented David Beckham's LA Galaxy from dominating). An excellent book on this is 'Inside The Minds: The Business of Sports - Executives from major sports franchises on how a team operates behind the scenes' published by Aspatore Books in 2004. For information on the viability of EPL, I recommend Stephen Aris' 1990 'Sportsbiz: Inside the sports Business' published by Hutchinson, and 'The Economics of Football' by Stephen Dobson and John Goddard published by Cambridge in 2001 (looks at relative long term success by size of fan base).

In the A-League, certain teams larger share of costs are essentially the seats in the home stadium and the support servicing costs on match day. Teams with bigger stadiums pay for the seating capacity, and extra for the services (like Spotless) for crowds that are smaller than anticipated. Of the teams with big stadium, only Melbourne has reached a critical mass. I recall from season one that Melbourne was one of several teams that received FFA assistance. Since, their exciting play and players (particularly their successful foreign players) has carried them to huge home support. Victory will be the only Victorian franchise for the foreseeable future. In this they have a massive advantage over Sydney. NSW has supported 3 teams and, from next year, so will Queensland. In later seasons, NSW may add Wollongong and a team from the western suburbs. It can also be noted that Adelaide trialled playing at a bigger field - for major games over new year - and while they seem to made money from it seem to have dropped the idea. They seem to prefer - a clear message to their fans about where they play, a full house even if some miss out (see their ACL home games) and the intimidation effect on visiting teams of Hindmarsh.

Miron has promised that Gold Coast will keep its fans by playing attacking football. Win or lose he did so at the Roar. So far it seems that he will have both a relatively small home ground and massive financial backing from Clive Palmer (I wonder whether the financial crisis and declining commodity prices have affected this). Miron has had a few arguments in the press with the Roar and, in particular, Craig Moore. He may have scores to settle over the way he feels he was treated when he was the Roar coach (an alleged meeting between management and Frank at an airport). He also poached 5 of the Roar's middle managers this year which I feel has impacted their strategies. Given this, I am surprised that Miron seems to be very visible at Roar home games in a commentary deal with Foxtel. I wonder what the Roar think about that.

This brings me to the next part of Clayton's comment:
"Against the cross bar had a post saying that the Roar could be off to Ballymore next season. And they could be changing names. What do you think about these possibilities?'
The Ballymore issue has been covered in the Courier Mail. When the Roar went through its financial issues in season two Ballymore was an option. In the end, this option was used to negotiate a better deal with the State Government for the use of Lang Park. Recently, it has been reported that the Ballymore move is for training only. The Roar has been looking to finalise its separation from the Queensland Lions club (no longer owned by the Dutch club and not to be confused with the Brisbane Lions AFL team). It has also been reported that the Roar's contract at Lang Park lasts until the end of next season. I feel that this is probably too far away - a season and half - to have much impact on the Roar's destiny. Next year's conditions and the development of Gold Coast's fan base will have more impact. So going to Ballymore is unlikely next year. If they did move it may be harder for some fans to get to but it also may be less comfortable for visiting teams, because the other viable that does impact home team performance is home packed the stadium feels. 11,000 at 24,000 seat Ballymore would be much more intimating than the same at 52,000 seat Lang Park. Winning regularly at Ballymore could lift the fan base. Perhaps the lift of 32,000 against Sydney at the end of last year explains why the team played so well.

As far as the name goes, it has been mooted that Queensland could be dropped for Brisbane Roar. I would strongly recommend that they do not do this. Why not keep all the fans outside Gold Coast and Far North Queensland? Equally, changing the name Roar would be like the team starting again. I would recommend against this. Changing the name will do nothing for results and is likely to alienate the fans, give them a result to reconsider their support. A brilliant book on keeping fans is 'The Elusive Fan: Reinventing sports in a crowded marketplace' by Irving Rein, Philip Kotler and Ben Shields published in 2006 by McGraw Hill. Again this should be compulsory reading for the FFA and A-League franchises. The A-League also has a lot to learn about keeping fans in Australia from AFL. When you have a name in the marketplace you need to built, perhaps re-position, but to start again is very dangerous. This is because reputation management is a very difficult practice, and in particular markets it can only be learnt through experience.

Finally, Calyton commented:
'There is a lot of pressure on at the moment, but the Roar should have been expecting tougher times this year. Couldn't expect Adelaide and Melbourne to play as badly as they did the year before. So that is 6 decent teams and only 4 playoff spots ... '
This is a good point. The strength of the A-League is that any team can win. The question was 'what could they have done differently?' They may feel they did the best they could. In the off season their chair John Ribot resigned and Jayco sold its stake. I think Ribot's sports business wisdom had been a major asset. This year they have focused on keeping their current squad and not losing what they see as key players to the Gold Coast. The FFA has had two CEOs with sports management experience, rugby union and AFL, rather than football experience. This ensures than the head rules on decision making. For example, the Roar has close Dutch connections and acquired Dutch 2nd league striker Sergio Van Dijk.

Paul Downward and Alistair Dawson's 2000 'The Economics Of Professional Team Sports' published by Routledge attempts to answer the question of whether dominant teams kill public interest in professional sports.

Anyway, I have found that economists like writing about what their discipline can teach about sport. What I have found interesting is how few owners and potential owners have read them. Still probably a good thing as it may have put them off. You need to be an iconoclast to invest in football.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wishful thinking from rugby league, and home form

As rugby league struggles towards its death bed, Brisbane's sports journalists are desperately trying to point the bone at football. As crowds to rugby league plummet outside Brisbane, and interest in the so called rugby league 'world cup' drains away, Sydney and Brisbane papers run page one colour photos of the cup teams. Meanwhile, the greatest achievement of a team of any code, Adelaide's qualification for the highly contested Asian Confederation Cup is relegated to 10 pages in from the back.

Meanwhile, the Courier-Mail's football and basketball specialist, Marco Monteverde has hit the nail on the head as far as the Roar not winning at home and it has nothing to do with Reinaldo, Frank Farina or other Roar personnel. In his interview with Massimo Murdocca it was disclosed that:

"I think our mentality when we go away is to let the other team come at us first," Murdocca said. And perhaps the Roar's success at absorbing pressure before landing killer blows on unsuspecting hosts has them adopting similar tactics at home particularly since Frank Farina replaced Miron Bleiberg in late 2006 instead of taking the initiative in attack. "We can't really do that at home, we can't let other people come at us, because if we sit off, they'll sit off and we'll just be drawing all the time," Murdocca said. Or losing. Queensland has only tasted success 10 times in 37 matches at Suncorp Stadium, with the Jets having won five out of five in Brisbane.' 'Murdocca says Roar have no confidence at Suncorp' 27 October 2008
The salary cap does this. Teams with small overheads can afford to bore their fans on the evenly balanced chance of a win or draw at home. Sydney and the Roar with massive home stadiums to fill must entertain or loose their fan base. Remember how Sydney's home crowd disappeared in season two when the tactics were switched to defence?

And when the home team attacks all the visiting team has to do is absorb, absorb and then hit on the counter. If the strikers were good enough and athletic enough to get through the Newcastle, CCM or, particularly Adelaide, defensive walls - they would be earning big money in Europe. As Adelaide's Asian success shows, the quality to punch through a well disciplined back four of reasonable quality, but physical defenders, just isn't that common. Interestingly, it is Adelaide that have learnt the trick to their own tactic. Get a very strong, physical striker, stronger than your opponents defenders, who will barge through, dive, run at defenders in the box - concede fouls - Cristiano has the 2nd or 3rd highest foul rate in the league, but on will also win penalties and penalties win games, or make defenders afraid to tackle them, or barge through with headers. Cristiano's success highlights the Roar's Van Dijk and Newcastle's Zora's failure - the later try to get there with finesse and skill. A waste of time if you don't have physicality.

Only Melbourne with its massive rain, hail or shine interest in watching sports has been able to survive playing attack at home. And it has been painful for the Victory faithful - failure in season one, victory in season two and, despite a late run, failure in season three. But their Asian appearance attracted so quality foreigners to allow success and again in season 4.