Friday, February 29, 2008

Here is a bit of fun: John Aloisi

With 7 goals in 15 games John Aloisi played a key role in getting Central Coast to the Grand Final and to Asia. When he signed for Central Coast he said that it was the only A-League club he'd play for. But now perhaps not.

"There are clubs overseas that want to talk to John and there are a number of clubs in the A-League that have made their interest clear, as well," Dominguez (Aloisi's Manager) said. "Central Coast have already made a good offer. John is not a greedy footballer and, ideally, he would rather stay in Australia now that he and his wife are back here with their young family, but there are a number of important factors for him to consider." Aloisi may leave after decider, Greg Prichard, February 21, 2008

Potentially any A-League team may decide he is worth buying to get them to the finals. Perhaps the Roar could use their Reinaldo transfer cash (Roar were the first team negotiating with him last year). Or Wellington who have just released their disappointing marquee Ahmad Elrich. Or Gold Coast with property developer mega bucks behind them.

Probably not Newcastle.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Silly Season: Hooray a year of football

The season is over. Long live the season.

If both NQ Thunder and GC Galaxy join for version 4 of the A-League, there will be 6 more rounds. That means the season will start on about 11 July - only 4 months away. If NQ Thunder don't meet the criteria, and I really really hope they do because Australian football needs a hot and humid playing field much more than anything else to practice for Asia, then the season will start at the beginning of August.

Either way, the pre-season is only 3 months away - whatever that will mean this year.

In between we will have both Melbourne and Adelaide playing in the Asian Championship and a number of Socceroo qualifiers.

Plus the junior pre-season is now underway. I wonder if the Queensland league will work?

Monday, February 25, 2008

CCM 0 v Jets 1: Miron recons he has 4

Four players from the final for the Gold Coast Galaxy that is.

Newcastle's win has probably saved that team from imploding and may have added pressure on Coast players. Although walking away from playing in Asia next year is a big call. Even Bridge, snubbed by Jets owner Con Constantine in favour of Mario Jardel for most of the season, is now indicating he may stay.

Going to Galaxy are Noel Spenser (Jets this year and CCM last), Andre Gumprecht (CCM), Andrew Clark (CCM) and possibly Tom Pondeljak (CCM).

NQ Thunder has been quiet on players and they may not make the FFA requirements next year - which will be a same - reducing the games and variety. If they do get up don't be surprised to see Sydney FC's Queenslanders pop up - Steve Corica (Innisfail) and Clint Bolton (Wide Bay) - the later is pure speculation on my part.

Expect 6 foreign players (a concession on the normal 4) including Simon Lynch from the Roar and ex-Roar defender from season 1 and 2 Remo Buess. Galaxy are also promising a Brazilian international midfielder within their cap (could it be Juninho?). Plus a superstar - Kanu? Plus a host of mid ranking A-League players. Gold Coast has the glamour of Sydney overseas.

On the match, it is an irony that Danny Vukovic's career is now in doubt for striking ref Mark Shield since the Jets year was made on the back of Joel Griffiths who - early in the season - punched an assistant and only got a yellow card, with FFA saying that there was nothing to be done as the ref had made a decision.

And how will the FFA handle Lawrie McKinna describing Mark Shield's decision not to give a last minute penalty as a 'mistake' when a similar comment on a Kevin Muscat hand ball resulted in a fine to Frank Farina. My guess is they will let it go as ensuring consistency in decision making is not how the FFA follows through.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

AFL scores a greenhouse gas point

Mike has written a very informed piece on the expansion of AFL into western Sydney here.

I have the branding prod on my shoulder that shows that I am a Queenslander. However, I grew up in the Blue Mountains. Which means in my regular trips down to Sydney I copped being a 'westie' (and from the sticks) and from the 'westies' I copped worse. Still, as Mike points out football has always been huge in the mts from a participation angle. Although, rugby league was, and is, the game.

Enter the NSW government, who bulldozed a stack of trees and handed $20m to the Blacktown City. Blacktown knew what it wanted to do - build a local sport - and had discussions with Rugby League, AFL, cricket and maybe the FFA. The problem for rugby league is that it doesn't want to expand in NSW - having had Souths forced back on them - and half of Blacktown supports Paramatta and the the other half Penrith. Another team didn't make sense.

For AFL this was ideal. With a major facility in Sydney's mid west it could build fans and launch a major team in 2012.

Blacktown also saw football, rugby union, league and AFL targeting the Gold Coast. These regions have quite similar issues although very different places. Both are growing, Blacktown (17% in 10 years) has over 270,000 people and Gold Coast around 510,000 (fastest growing region in Australia). Both areas have very challenging youth problems that sport and loyalty to a local club can help alleviate. But the Gold Coast has more glamour and property developers willing to back new sporting teams. Now all codes have committed to the coast. The AFL were not quite able to convince an existing Victorian team to move there, and Blacktown had no major code.

Plus Blacktown has a major sporting advantage. It has a large indigenous community. AFL has a long history of making the most of indigenous spirits and talents. Blacktown has already established an AFL indigenous academy. Soon it will have a stadium (the new team will play home games a bit further down the road at Olympic park), a national team that calls it home and the AFL NSW headquarters. Great young players will make all this work.

Cricket have the off-season agreement with Blacktown. Which is a miss for football.

As a footnote, ABC radio is now a more better and less biased source of information on football than SBS. Try here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Toffs v Toughs: A week in the A-League

Newcastle v Roar was a great game. I was emotionally drained but accepting. You don't win with 30% of possession - well not unless you were playing the Roar in season 1 or 2. Well I was satisfied on Sunday anyway. Monday and Tuesday added blows.

Sasa Ognenovski is going to Adelaide. And the club, in a turnaround, confirmed that Reinaldo is off, this time - as predicted here - the interest is from the American Major Soccer League. The MSL is also likely to take Marcinho - who looked very flashy but appears to have been over-sold by his agent.

Interestingly, when Frank Farina was quizzed by the press on replacements his response was he wasn't going to rush and that he would wait to see what the space was in the salary cap. For me this hints at two of the Roar's top 4 players Sasa and Reinaldo probably only creating the space for lower tier players because of their low cost contracts. Sasa is end of contract and free. Reinaldo could make a lot for the club - but not dollars it can plow into new players.

With Lynch off to the Gold Coast and Seo becoming Australian, the Roar may buy 4 new foreign players. Great opportunity - but as everyone has found out - huge risk. The A-League can only really afford foreign players who have not yet proved their ability or whose bodies are wearing out - and once they do prove themselves - Fred, Reinaldo and... (did Carlos Hernandez return from Costa Rica) - they are off. When they flop - Zhang and Mario - they make fools of their club.

Anyway, the other news making me feel a little quezzy is the prospective entry of Gold Coast and Townsville. The A-League needs variety for its survival. So it has to happen. And the clubs have two weeks to report back to the FFA. But I hope it isn't at the expense of the Roar. Their will be 69 players in Queensland next year, equal to the 5 times bigger NSW market, and 3 times the players in the much more mature Victorian one. The Roar have already had difficulty attracting current A-League players up north - Jade North, Greg Owens and Sasho Petrovski (who even agreed to come until his wife apparently said she wasn't moving).


Adam Griffiths was the key to Newcastle's performance this year. Not because his bravoury led to Sasa being off the field when Newcastle scored. No that's not it. At the start of the season the Roar were after Jade North - he had played with Frank before and was interested. Joel Griffiths was offered the Newcastle captaincy to keep him after the mass exodus. However, Newcastle then gave the captaincy to North and he stayed. Griffiths thought about going till his brother Adam said 'hey I came all the way from Europe to play with you at Newcastle.' So Newcastle kept both North and Griffiths - without them them Newcastle would not have made top 4 and the Jardel decision would have been a body blow. And imagine the Roar with Seo, Moore, Packer, McCloughan and North - particularly in the light of their getting snagged by Melbourne Newcastle, Central Coast and others when the back line has been under-strength.

Which is why it is so extraordinary to hear that, on the eve of the final, Newcastle is once again being pulled apart. Apparently they have spent the least amount on players of all clubs and Gary Van Egmond has seen fit to go public today to prevent a post finals walk out of 4, 5 or more players. Can they perform Sunday with that type of pressure?


Did you know that all finals gate-take goes to the FFA to help fund the annual $1.4m distribution to each club. Actually, I think this is a very good idea as it helps to keep the competition close - vital to its survival. But. The Roar managed 36,000 for their game, Sydney only 23,000, Newcastle only got 16,000 to the Roar match...


Actually, this leads to something that is cheezing me off. Sorry Wayne, but its Central Coast. Great team, but the behaviour of their management appears to leave a bit to be desired. My understanding of their story is: CCM get through the early part of the season a cut above with Tony Vidmar as marquee. Fair dues. Then Nik Mrdja got reinjured, Damien Mori returns but fails to shine. So CMM fork out $500,000 for John Aloisi and win the league. How? apparently excluded from the salary cap and marquee requirements as 'injury cover'. What? FFA how about making this option transparent at the start of the season? I am keen to see how that will work next season, or is Vidmar to gracefully retire to make it all happen? And now we hear that CCM is trying to talk the FFA into giving them prise money - presumably to cover their wage bill. The line is something like why should a successful club like CCM subsidise Perth. Well because that is what gives us a competition that's why.

My view is that we must avoid at all costs giving financial rewards to clubs that can risk $500,000 on ensuring they have an edge on other clubs. Otherwise the A-League will be doomed to an NSL style demise - with 2 or 3 wealthy clubs boring everyone by winning every year.


So Sunday it is CCM Toffs v Newcastle toughs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pushing Og forward backfires for Roar: Newcastle 3 v Roar 2

Newcastle did have the goods.

The defining moment:

Ognenovski pushed forward into the Newcastle box, searching for a defenders goal, as he had been up to that point. Heads in but collects the ball, which goes out, and Adam Griffith's head. Blood and bruises. In the time he is off the field, Newcastle counter and make use of the space his absence causes - Zullo turned by Bridge on the right, Reddy can't clear and its a goal. In reality its the decider.

Ognenovski not at his best from the time he came back - the 'if only' is if Farina had switched him for Seo immediately he was injured. Is Seo fit enough?

Up to that point, Marcinho, Kruse and Zullo had all missed easy (ish) goals. Marcinho may pay a high price for his foot over the bar from the 6 yard box - open goal all beaten by the cross, should have put Roar ahead.

Tiatto came on late but couldn't get into the match. Very flat. Reinaldo was obviously still injured stayed all match - scored two penalties. The youngsters got experience out of the match. Two doddgy penalties - Song's dive the most blatant.

Moore got two yellow cards and was sent off.

Simon Lynch got another chance to show what he could do, apart from winning the last minute of normal time penalty - he seemed unable to create.

Newcastle defence excellent - particularly after last week.

Go Roar!

Asia awaits this afternoon.

Not the EPL, it's MLS

English Premier League support is pretty mature in Australia. And holding some minor games here - let's face it they would be - wouldn't be that much of an issue (except for UK based fans - ask AFL fans whose teams have been forced to Sydney, Brisbane and now Gold Coast). Frank Lowey stepped into line with the Asian Conference, that is our caucus and we did what we had to to support our rep.

No, the danger to the A_league is the financial growth of the American MLS. Amercia has a huge opportunity and potential supporter base, but not enough quality players for the number of teams. Their scouts are already reported to be looking at the highly regarded A-League and the Beckham show has introduced others. The Gold Coast Galaxy is already talking about stronger and perhaps feeder links.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sorry... And thank you.


And thank you to Archie Thompson (the A-League's best striker over 3 years - carried Melbourne this season), Jade North (one of the league's best defenders - had to be given the Captaincy over Joel Griffiths to stay with Newcastle and not return to his old mentor Frank Farina) and Tahj Minniecon (the fastest and perhaps most skilled young find this year).

Can't wait to see the other indigenous players waiting to be found. Surely Townsville and the Northern Thunder will surprise us with a few. We need to get smart like the AFL and promote our game in Darwin. Even rugby league has tapped the rich talents from up north. And now we need your ability to run all day in the heat (for Asia and beyond).

Sorry for how we treated you and your families. Sorry for ignoring your prodigious potential and football talent.

And thank you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Danny's back... with Moore for the first time against Newcastle

Off the field, Danny Tiatto is one of the gentlest people I have met in football. On the pitch he tries to give back what he gets. And this gets him into trouble.

For the first match-up between Newcastle and the Roar in round 2, the 'Monday experts' at the FFA decided to make an example of Tiatto and he and Moore were absent. As the round ball analyst commented on my last blog, the Roar are an up and down team. In round two they were down. And while the Roar led 0-1 from the 70th to the 88th, Stuart McLaren had been left to do all the tackling all day - and he succumbed to a 2nd yellow card which led to Joel Griffiths bending round the Roar wall. The close out from Tiatto and Moore was missed.

Lynch was still in the starting 11 at that stage, Zullo sat the game out on the bench and Robbie Kruse was still recovering from his pre-season face injury.

Newcastle had not yet played the ultimately embarrassing Mario Jardel.

By the return in round 9 Zullo and Kruse had made their mark and Kruse scored in the first minute. To be cancelled out by a Griffiths penalty in the 47th. Moore was there but no Danny.

In the round 15, for the 90 minute plus 2 Griffiths sucker punch, Tiatto was captain and Moore was not there.

Sunday it will be Tiatto and Moore together for the first time against Newcastle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A second bite at the most important game... Thanks to Central Coast

Given that Central Coast has already qualified for Asia, whoever wins the preliminary final automatically qualifies for Asia in 2009. This makes Sunday's game on the same level as the Roar's round 21 debacle against Adelaide. And perhaps more important than the final.

The prize is a fully funded Asian campaign including at least 3 home games. And as players jump all over the place to join a pre-qualified Asia Cup team, the importance to squad attractiveness is undoubted. And on that front the Roar has moved to shut down speculation on Reinaldo - he is to honour his contract for a further year.

Clearly the work the Frank Farina has done since Adelaide has been designed to keep the team out of the limelight and away from public pressure. Before Adelaide he appeared to expose them to the fire to inspire greater effort, clearly this backfired. Since he has used lock-downs and shields to keep them away from the press (allowing Kozzie to steel the spotlight and as it turned out put his side under pressure).

Kosmina rightly pointed out that the finals are a lottery, any of the three teams can win from here.

An 8 team competition, leveled by salary cap, has an intrinsic randomness built into it. After supporting a team that missed the finals for the first two years, it is interesting to watch a team like Adelaide squirm at missing out for the first time. And Lawrie McKinna was in the paper today banging on about how much respect his team deserves - steady on boys, life and football often has lessons just around the corner. And in this my respect for Frank Farina grows every time I manage to grab a few words from him. As a former elite player and coach of the Socceroos he has seen highs and lows. He of all people knows the power of the press for good and evil. I appreciate his passion when his side is on the pitch, off the pitch he is the epitome of the Kipling line:

'.. meet with triumph and disaster and treat these two impostors both the same.. '

Sunday, February 10, 2008

CCM 3 - Jets 0, 3-2 aggragate as Jets tank at Singleton Park

Petrovski wants his 'King of Football' title back from Aloisi and Joel Griffiths, as he bags 2 including the decider in extra time. Just as well too as three serious injuries would have made it difficult for Central Coast to back up next week.

Joel Griffiths was very quiet all night with not much to do.

And Jets felt that they could give their new striker a go - Song from Korea. The trouble with Asian players is that they are paid so much at home that you don't get much for A-League money. Song is a right-sided playmaker who loves being involved. But so far hardly looks better than a raft of young A-Leaguers.

Football is a corporate sport in Korea, funded by the 4 major companies and the Moonies. Apparently.

Ode to Sydney FC

Put away your shirt
Your scarf, hide that flag.
Tear down those nets, that practice field.

Those posts aren't needed anymore.

No more yelling, cheering, or handy tips for that blind ref.
The season's over now. No more till next year.

No more we'll see the likes of Beckham, gone is Juninho, off with Bridges, farewell Patrick.
And Milligan, who sacrificed his nose for Socceroo training, it's off to Europe or Galaxy for him. At last Ufuk Talay rejoins his team mates and former coach in second league Japan.

A silent goodbye to David Zdrilic star of the NSL, who along with his former 40 goal in a season partner Ante Milicic (Roar), disappears without a farewell.

Goodbye also to Steve Corica or is hello to Townsville's Norther Thunder? The FFA may tell his fortune on 22 Feb.

Oh Brosque, Juninho made your year with through balls, but in the finals you failed to finish. So much promise three years ago. Where to now?

But there is light on the hill for next season. The league's unfulfilled promises are coming to the emerald city. Simon Colosimo (Perth) and Mark Bridge (Newcastle), frustrated and feeling under rated, with burning desires.

And who will be the million dollar signing? Who will come to save the day?

Sydney FC will enter season 4 re dux and hunt that Asian crown.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Roar 2 v Sydney FC 0: Rain in the city of light

Last year Kosmina pushed Adelaide hard. Perhaps beyond their capability and they reached the grand final. He pushed too hard. Got himself suspended and fired. His team lost 6-0 and a large proportion of the club were sacked or left.

This year, rescued by the football establishment, he took over a faltering Sydney FC and led them to the finals. Last night we saw the toll of that effort.

Sydney, favoured by the rub of the decisions in the first leg, had the pressure table turned by the Roar's 36,000 fans (even these numbers were limited by a massive pre-game storm). And Sydney wilted. Its game plan of fouling Zullo and Kruse and Alex Brosque diving around up front and calling for attention, back-fired - even when there was a case the decision went against them. Arguing with the ref on-mass rarely pays dividends. And the sight of Bolton get ting stuck into teenage - and very late substitute - Biddle after the game was very sour and sorry.

The emergence of Reinaldo as a great striker just as he may be leaving the club, and the superb match and penalty kick by Ognenovski as he also is on his way, could be great parting gifts if repeated for the next two weeks.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Go Queensland

Go Zullo, Reinaldo, Kruse
Come on Murdocca, McKay and Seo
Go Packer, McCloughan, Ognenovski and Moore

Come on Marcinho, Reddy, Minniecon and Nichols

Where are you Tiatto, Lynch, McClaren, Griffin, Grossman, McMaster and Ham.

Frank, let's take football to the next level up here...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Steven says no.

The Australian Government has announced that it will not negotiate with Foxtel to allow free to air viewing of Socceroo matches. You can listen to Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy on the ABC this morning here. It means that the only Socceroo games on free-to-air TV will be the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa all the way to 2013.

At least the Socceroo qualification against Qatar is now over and we can get back to the A-League finals. It has been like being in a vacuum. A-League clubs has struggled to get coverage and as we know only scandals and fights can cut through.

The Roar has apparently sold 25,000 tickets for tomorrow night's last home game for the year and believe that 40,000 is possible. Let's hope the rain holds off. Kick off has been extended to 7:30pm.

This could be the last time Roar fans get to see a sizable slice of their squad. Some to Adelaide (Ognonovski), Gold Coast (Lynch) and overseas (Reinaldo plus others - Kruse? Murdocca?).

The club will be glad that Craig Moore has quit international games. Unfortunately he was the only A-League player to turn out last night. Hopefully he can last tomorrow.

The Queensland State Government has signed a sponsorship deal with the Roar - ahead of any Gold Coast entry.

Ballymore oval is back in play as the new Federal Government has backed out of a $10m investment in upgrading the stadium to a training facility.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Mariner's show how to do it

The Central Coast Mariners had shown other clubs how it is done. Criticising refs that is. In an amazing act of bravardo CCM are reported to be sending the FFA complaining about one of Australia's top refs, Matthew Breeze, implying bias or perhaps worse, and then leaking the letter to the press. They have shown the deft hand of public relations mastery. Other A-League coaches speak out in the heat of the moment and feel the heat and fines of the FFA, but CCM have found a way to cast real doubt on the game and get away with it.

'Central Coast officials will make a point of the club's remarkably poor record under referee Matthew Breeze when it asks for a "please explain" in the wake of the controversial loss to Newcastle Jets... have not won a game under Breeze in their past eight matches, five of them this season...' 'Not surprisingly, Central Coast officials, wary of upsetting FFA and earning a charge for brining the game into disrepute, refuse to be drawn publicly on the matter.' Ray Gatt 'Irate Mariners to blow whistle on final referee' The Australian 30 Jan 2008 page 16 Sport

Of course not, that's how it got in the paper.

The article also points out that the Mariners record under Australia's (and officially awarded by FIFA as Asia's) top ref Mark Shield. Further, that they have won all four games refereed by Peter Green this year. Now that makes me think it is Peter Green's games that should be investigated?