Wednesday, March 26, 2008

China 0 v Australia 0 - points clearly to Australia

A very interesting game. The conditions had weakened Australia before the ball was kicked off. Players and Pim suffered from 'Bali Belly'.

And Harry Kewell flew back to Sydney for assistance on his groin. Looks like Kewell's EPL career is over - he came into camp to save it but further injury in the match against Singapore has probably cost it. Hard to see where he goes now given his UK TV star wife and English family life. Can't see him wanting to get knocked about in the Championship league. Perhaps the A-League is an option? Newcastle have been courting him. In any case there will always be a Socceroos place for him. But clearly we need to find more talent.

The China game was held at high altitude and their super league had been delayed to allow extra localised training.

Then the ref was from UAE, not quite Kuwait, but not high quality. Far from picking up on the physical play, the ref appeared to encourage some Chinese outrages. In almost the first tackle of the game, Archie Thompson was taken out - literally - with a two footed challenge that would normally have received red. Given that it was the 2nd minute - probably deliberately timed by the Chinese defender given Archie wasn't on goal - the Ref only gave a yellow.

In about the 60th minute another off the ground studs up two footer was only penalised by a free kick to Australia. Pim was livid clearly it was an attempt to take out Wiltshire who again was not on-goal. These two miss-slips made the penalty against Megs look very suspicious.

Then Pim's attempt to kill the game with an extra time substitution was ignored by the 4th official. It will be interesting to see if the FFA makes any official moves to FIFA.

China will be very disappointed with their game. They had no advantage from either the altitude or the extra camp training.

Suddenly it looks like Australia may make the next round.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Singapore 0 v Australia 0

Let's hope the Socceroos were not trying to win. Let's hope it was a training game where running and passing were being tested. Highlights were the tropical downpour before the game that killed it off. Adam and Ryan Griffiths got a run but Joel is being punished for saying Qatar are easy beats.

A-League 2 beat K-league 0 but a lesson in dollars from Thailand

Adelaide and Melbourne both looked way better than their K-League counter parts. Both the Korean teams looked overly reliant on their Brazilians who were shut down by the Australians. Thailand was another and more challenging story for the A-League. Rich owners who care only about winning can make small teams from minnow sporting countries powerhouses. A-League teams with their salary caps and owners without bottomless pits of money aren't going to be able to buy Brazilians that have already proved their worth. In fact, as Reinaldo from the Roar has shown we are likely to be the proving ground on their journey to Asia.

No expansion from FAA

This is a mistake. I think it may have been done to save the Roar. All journeyman A-League players will be disappointed because their careers aren't going to be extended and their salaries not doubled. But at least the clubs can afford to keep their players. Actually I think Central Coast and Newcastle may have been harder hit than the Roar - but we will never know. One bye per week would have been OK and is not the reason for Gold Coast being shut out. I hope the fans stay interested next year.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Professor Rob Goffee on authentic leadership, football and West Ham

Rob Goffee is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School. His books include:

'The Character of a Corporation' published by Harper Business, 1998
'Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? What It Takes to Be an Authentic Leader' with Gareth Jones published by Harvard Business School, 2006.

Last week I caught up with him in Brisbane during his trip to Australia interviewing clever people for his new book. He spoke to me as well.

John: Do you find football leadership to be an opiate or inspiration? And 
how is it reflected in your work?

Rob: ‘More an inspiration. Have a look at our book for discussion on Clough. - (He was) good on many dimensions, differences, weaknesses and social distance. Most of his obituaries talk of him as being seen like an elder brother (closeness) and a sergeant major (distance). He was brilliant at being himself - and a test case of being able to excite some fairly average players to extraordinary levels of performance


John: Professor Goffee argues that Authentic Leaders have the skill to quickly move between being close to their employees to empathize, encourage and motivate them, to being distant so that they can provide critical evaluations when required. They also have to take responsibility for developing and exciting their team.

Professor Goffee makes the point that authentic leaders do not need to be liked. Brian Clough, who took Derby County and Nottingham Forest from the second division to be the best teams in England, and in the case of Forest, to be European Champions, was also a great example of this type of leader. And he was loved by fans for it. Club owners at Derby and Leeds didn’t like him as much.

John: Why do you think David Beckham is an authentic leader?

Rob: ‘I didn’t say this. I did say he is clever in that (he) is a source of disproportionate value: skilled, scarce, well connected etc’

John: Are there many authentic leaders in football? Who comes to mind?

Rob: ‘I am biased but I thought Bobby Moore was pretty good! There are some other very strong characters who are impressive: Ferguson and Wenger.... Mourinho also good - all of these appear able to develop players AND excite them - a rare combination.’

John: What needs to be done in junior football to develop leaders and how 
would this benefit society?

Rob: ‘I feel we just need more of it, I am sure participation in sport is developmental of teamwork and leadership.’

John: You have said the best players don't necessarily make the best team, how does a leader get the best out of his team?

Rob: ‘Mainly role modeling it. In sport I think Moore again, Beckenbauer, Keane.’

John: When I was young, I loved watching Bobby Moore play. And after he retired, I looked forward to his commentary on Jimmy Hill’s Match of the Day. After his death it was disclosed that he had been in remission from cancer while he captained England in the 1966 world cup, a truly courageous effort.

John: Who would you like West Ham led by? What are Lucas Neil's strengths 
and weaknesses?

Rob: ‘Neil has done a good job, he helped to steady the ship with his experience last season. On the field and on the ball he rarely panics it seems to me. But as said yesterday, I am not sure I know enough about him and his previous career.’

John: I am interested in the influence of physical activity on happiness, of sport on the development of young people, and the success of some people who are susceptible to obsession. Professor Goffee provided this insight:

Rob: ‘I do think there are connections with obsessiveness for some high performers. In fact in our new work we are seeing that clever people of many kinds are prone to flip between obsession and indifference.’

Thank you for your time Rob. Enjoy your time in Australia.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Third Place: An A-League Week

I was sat down next to Mitch Nichols after the Roar's win over Sydney and a fan and his kids came up and asked me for my autograph. Yes, I did resist the temptation. But I did spend some time explaining how good Mitch is going to be. So when honourable Clayton san, living way up there in Japan, asked me 'how the roar youngsters went last year and where they need to improve', I had to start with Mitch.

Mitch Nichols DOB 5/1/89 is the 2nd youngest of the 'young guns'. His play set the Brisbane league on fire in 2007 and became an obvious recruit for the Roar. His younger age may have helped him beat out attacking talent Tim Smits (Tim has just been signed for the Roar).

Mitch was in the u20 Australian squad that went to the World Cup qualifiers in Vietnam and missed out last year. He scored about 5 goals there (he says most were 'tap ins' against weaker sides - that's Mitch all over understated). This team and young Australian football were taught a lesson by the young Korea. Having visited Korea, a country still technically at war and essentially a corporatist state with a Buddhist past, I can well believe stories about the total commitment expected by young people to their football career. Total commitment. None of this 'Mad Monday' stuff or developing relationships with other people. The good news is that I don't this style of training and cultural indoctrination works for adults in a free market.

Mitch played 10 games off the bench for the Roar. Robbie, Tahj and Michael only showed their true talent when they were given a start. Four talents u20 were too many for them all to be given justice. The balance of age/experience would have been thrown out to play them all. The skills that Mitch did show on the park highlighted the weakness of many A-League clubs in finding and giving a go to u20 talent. Some teams found none, others 1 or 2. Who else found 4?

Anyway, playing an average of 24 minutes across 10 games, often coming on late into a close-out or desperate times did not bring out the best in Mitch. And I expect a lot more next year. His highlight was coming on late in the last home game of the season verses Sydney FC (Round 21), running in from the right wing he had a cracker shot that was well saved by Bolton.

Areas for Mitch to improve:
- he needs more game time. I hope the Roar will work something out for him in the off-season
- some strength work like that done by Reinaldo in last year's off season

Robbie Kruse DOB 5/10/88 was the A-League find of the season. I think the FFA award to Bruce Djite was off the mark (my guess is that the awards needed to be shared around and the limelight taken off Joel). Kruse is a better player. But. He needs more stamina. And he gets bullied too easily - something that Djite does not suffer from. Robbie has been linked with an overseas move, but I don't think he is ready.

Areas for Robbie to improve:
- fitness
- argie-bargie

Michael Zullo
DOB 11/9/88 should be credited with saving or at least re-starting the Roar's season with his first start against Wellington. He scored himself, when no other Roar looked like they could score, and set-up Kruse. But then everyone learned to hack him down and the refs, for all their big FFA talk, did nothing. Then he jumped too high and was out for 7 weeks.

Areas for improvement - the same as Robbie.

Tahj Minniecon DOB 13/2/89 could be the best player in the A-League in 2008/9. Again, it was his starting debut that showed his potential against Perth. In some quarters it has been suggested that he is a bit of a hog. But against Perth his passes set the game up, particularly the opener for Kruse. Tahj is a tremendous talent finding a way through packed fields and never giving up. I saw he dribble past 3 players a number of times - no fluke.

At the moment the 4 young guns are getting the wing jobs, if Tahj wants to be centre forward he is going to have to be stronger and hold the ball up more.

Will the Roar keep all its players under age 22? Not sure about that. It will be interesting to see if it keeps Ben Griffin (DOB 7/3/86) and Chris Grossman (DOB 6/3/87). They may end up back with Miron at the Galaxy.

The Third Place is a reference to people's need for another place to refresh away from work and family. The idea comes from a book by Ray Oldenburg.