Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Stress at Melbourne Heart (My 1,000 post thank you)

Watching the last 20 minutes of the Heart v Sydney FC game last night one thing was clear, the Heart players are not enjoying their game.

They are stressed. Perhaps even broken hearted. A goal from a corner - that van't Schip rightly pointed out wasn't a corner - and its is a draw. A 1-0 win from a quality goal from their new Brazilian signing is relegated to 1-1 and a 10th match without a win. And the home crowd, around 6,000, made their feelings clear. There is a problem.

I was very surprised at how they played. John van't Schip is the A-League's direct connection to Ajax - the club that brought us the style of football we have all been told to play - 4-3-3, attacking, dominating. But most of all entertaining.

What I saw was long ball. And once they were ahead, panic and running to the corners and fouls. The entertainment value?

What irony that Brisbane, under the coach that Heart considered and rejected, are now playing the modern version of the Ajax style of play. Maybe the resume of the coach is not the whole answer. Maybe there is more. Like how they deal with pressure.
Not the pressure of failing before a large audience but of failing before a very small one. 
Maybe that is why van't Schip chose to attack the A-League and the quality of its players and style of play in Holland in the pre-season. It is interesting what you can say to the media if you aren't a coach from Fury or the Roar.

There are now two very high quality Australian coaches with quality outcomes in the A-League waiting for a new challenge. Both left the A-League for reasons other than their teams' on-field performances. Time to give them a go. The face of one is still promoting the game.

Culina and Farina.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Brisbane 7 v Adelaide 1... match of the season.. Berisha is the best striker in A-League history

When Dario brilliantly hit the back of the net on 5 minutes it looked as if at last Brisbane's time had come. Broich had said earlier in the week that they had been lucky. Perhaps that had run out?

But no. On when the pressure. Fox had asked would Brisbane be able to chase this season, well yes. Time and again they picked off former Roar Susak. Steffanuto wide on the left flank, cut into the box and then across the goal, none there. Remonstrations all round.

Then Mitch beats everyone into the box, tackle from behind penalty. Where is my red? No only a yellow. Henrique does his long wait, run and stop, keeper dives then kick it in the other side. Then it is the Berisha show. This guy is the goods. Again it is the left flank and cut in with cross. Now we see what they where trying to do. Before Adelaide know it they are 4-1 down. Another penalty. This time Matt Smith, as captain, asks the ref Henrique was through and his legs taken out from behind - why no red card? Then 5-1. Two penalties to Henrique three premier league quality goals to Berisha.

In the second half, Brisbane were prepared to dominate. Adelaide where happy not to loose 10-1. Berisha got his 4th. Then Issy came on and got one.

Sorry Issy. Time to give Luke Brattan a go.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brisbane v Adelaide kickoff 7:00pm Friday

Adelaide has the strongest squad in the A-League, Brisbane has the best team, system and coach.

The turn-up, oops didn't turn up, nature of the Adelaide team has been their greatest challenge. Then there is the over-reliance on a single goalscorer (Van Dijk).

Despite not turning up against Perth, turning up big time against Melbourne and then not turning up against Sydney last night, I think they will turn up against Brisbane.

Prediction: Friday night at Suncorp will be Brisbane's greatest challenge so far.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brisbane 3 v Gold Coast 0 - Miron may be the first to beat Brisbane, but in what year?

At first the crowd looked disappointing. But that seems to be the problem with people turning up at game time to buy a ticket. By the time Eric had headed the ball into the back of the net there was a good covering of people across the ground, and they were in full song.

The first 14 minutes were even, then after the goal the ball raced from end to end. Maceo Ritgers showed some real class early, turning and shooting, getting past his man. And suddenly it was all Gold Coast - pushing high and Brisbane unable to get out from the back - Theo was under pressure, closed down and pressurised by Ritgers - where was this going?

The Coast's left winger Ben Halloran was playing a blinder, but more amazing was the speed from Stefanutto - where did that come from? He and Matt Smith saved the Roar time and again. While overall Mitch Nichols was the best player on the park, Steff was brilliant , the best I have seen from him. Brisbane started to show a roughness we haven't seen from Ange's team.

Towards the 40 minute mark the game turned again. Paul Beekmans, Gold Coast's new Dutch import was found out. And overall, far from being youthful, the team seems overweight and slow. The 30 minute pressing of the Roar left Gold Coast without energy and gasping, too old, too slow.

Apart from the the occasional early threat, the second half was all Brisbane. At the time it got to 3, 6 seemed possible. But Roar slowed and held possession, protecting players and preparing for the great challenge ahead next week in Adelaide.

By the way, it should have been 4, the ref missed a clear hand ball penalty in extra time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brisbane's Marquee games

Building the game is not about quality. It is about capturing the imagination of the live sport watching public. The crowd chooses the marquee game, not FFA, or Fox.

FFA was surprised in season one about the rivalry that Brisbane people felt about Sydney FC. The opener and one of the best crowds for the new league was 20,000 against the doomed Auckland Knights. But later they would turn out in bigger numbers for Sydney games. The end of season games v Sydney FC where very well attended - surprising club officials with 30,000 plus crowds.

For the people of Brisbane, Sydney is the real derby, the state of origin. Further despite some poor overall seasons the Roar would lift for the Sydney game and often come away with some great goals and surprise wins (Reinaldo's half the pitch run through the whole Sydney team!).

But when Gold Coast was established, FFA took the opportunity to switch the opening game to Gold Coast and dropped the promotion of Brisbane's home games with Sydney. The switch may have worked but for Gold Coast's petulance, not turning up for the promotion of the first game - turning of fans of the sport here in Brisbane.

5 games without a win for Brisbane and then poor weather conditions further turned the crowd off. Travelling to Gold Coast on that first boxing day with 90% of the crowd Brisbane supporters and then losing 1-5 was too much.

Games against the other derby team Fury, even with Robbie Fowler, created limited interest.

This year the pitch was grand final rematch. In reality, even with the FFA highly active, that message had no 'cut through'. The people of Brisbane showed little interest in CCM. While the weather didn't help, the moment has passed for 2011-11.

Why not bring back the biff. Bring back the Sydney FC capital city derby.

In the meantime, it seems a shame that Brisbane has never experimented with a marquee player.

Oh and the other thing, ignore FIFA and replay controversial moments on the big screen - you are just encouraging people to watch from home or at a bar. It is basic for every other sport. Get real.

Building crowd numbers is about attaching sentiment to games, this happens through crowd involvement, and their 'ownership' of the team. Quality football and winning contributes to this, but it is bigger. It is about the bigger emotional hooks for the City - like Brisbane's relationship with Sydney. As Melbourne Victory fans.

BRISBANE 2 (Besart Berisha 43m, Thomas Broich 72m) v SYDNEY 0 Crowd: 15,781. Referee: Strebre Delovski.

Sydney were value in the first half, pushing hard mainly via Emerton on the left. The ground was wet and at times it seemed to be raining, leading to spectacles like 2 Roar foul throws in a row. However, in the second half Brisbane kept the ball clear of Emerton, and Sydney ran out of steam. The last 30 minutes of the game were not even close as Roar's possession pushed up to 80%.

After the game, Sydney's coach lamented not having a striker. Gee. I hear Branco Culina and Frank Farina are available as coaches, both could make more of what is a very talented Sydney squad.

I don't understand the Sydney decision to keep playing at the SFS. It makes a nearly 16,000 look like a poor show-up.

The game of the season will be Brisbane v Adelaide. Despite Adelaide's loss to Perth first up, I expect them to emerge as title contenders.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Brisbane 1 v CCM 0 - hacktonberry

This game was all Brisbane. A margin of 3 or 4 was there for them. Perhaps a little over cooking of their lead up. And some miss firing from new forward Issy the artist Nakajima showed some great touches but overall made the classic mistake of trying to win the game with every touch. Of the new players, I enjoyed Besart Berisha and Kofi Danning. Kofi came on late and showed real class down the far right.

The man of the match was Mitch Nichols. CCM were content, disappointingly to take turns getting yellow cards hacking down Broich - I thought that they would have more talent than they showed.

The first half was all Roar. In the second, CCM got the ball into the Roar half more, but this led to Mitch's goal and lay bear their limits.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Brisbane's weather for Saturday...

Showers, thunderstorms.
Min 14
Max 26
Min 14
Max 27
Possible thundery rain.
Min 15
Max 27
Min 13
Max 26
Min 13
Max 26
Mostly fine. Possible shower.
Min 14
Max 25

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Wild A-League guessing WAG only thanks

Top group:
Favourite - Adelaide - amazing recruitment

Victory (Kewell factor?)

Bottom group:
Perth, Wellington, Heart, Newcastle (great start guys:) )

Question marks:
Sydney (will Emmo make the difference), CCM (will their Roar style no marquee approach pay dividends?), Gold Coast (will their Dutchmen payoff? Great Culina handoff so far).

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Brisbane Roar v CCM - Saturday 7:45pm

Here we go...

Grassroots: who they are, why they come and where they went...

Soccer clubs all over Australia see themselves as masters of the grassroots and sit waiting in their club houses for their local A-League team to see the apparently obvious and come knocking. In the absence of this knock, they carry on.

The A-League grassroots are the untapped crowd potential.

Families that enrol their kids at the local have taken a step that indicates that they are interested in watching the sport. But for most, after a few years it becomes a fleeting interest, as they waver from watching their children play, to dropping them off and leaving a bare skeleton of people to run the club and show support for the team on game day. Some clubs appear to be run by people who once had children playing there, but now are grown up and off doing other things.

Beyond the very early teenage year or two, the soccer clubs lack their own grassroots. But hope that the A-League will bring it.

Live game A-League fans have their own lifecycle. Some come and go for one match of one season, perhaps riding the success or star attraction of the local team. The grassroots fan base commence as parents, or teenagers draw into the game. For children their special dedication to the sport may start by being taken to games by an enthusiastic parent or two, then breaking out with their teenage mates to enjoin the tussle of a supporters group, before dropping out as other priorities take over. The A-League is not old enough to see whether they will bring their life partners and children back to re-live their early experiences. Perhaps this cycle is 5 to 10 years. We are now getting to the upper limit of that timespan.

The foundation A-League teams have touched most of the potential fans in their cities. The Roar, for example, has probably has had more fans than other A-league teams have fans - remember the 30,000 plus fans for Roar v Sydney games in season one? A mass of people have come and gone.

Melbourne Victory have perhaps held onto its fans more effectively than other teams. Roy Morgan's research shows Melbourne's fans are most likely to support more than one sport. And Melbournians seem more likely to go to games.

The Roar churns its fans, holding only a very small base of members. These poeople are really season ticket holders rather than members.

In Brisbane the grassroots are out watching the rugby league. These are the people likely to buy and stick to a local team. They are also more likely to watch only one sport.

Around 1.3 million people support the Broncos, a group larger than the city (1 million people) and 240,000 of them go to a game each year. The Broncos have been around for about 20 years and are owned by News Corporation. Only 60,000 of the Bronco's supporters will go to any form of soccer game in a year - and that is probably to watch the kids or the national team. This is a very small base for Brisbane's grassroots to convert to regular Roar fans. Having said that NRL is struggling to keep its fans (see Roy Morgan research).

The NRL has experienced growth of 3.8% of fans in 10 years. But this is after recording 930,000 new fans in Townsville, Gold Coast and South Sydney, and it is interesting to see that the Gold Coast and Townsville teams have around the same number of fans. Looking at the detail shows that the NQ Fury did well relative to the early days of NQ Cowboys (114,000 total fans in 2001) and that the Cowboys fan base is well down on its 2006 peak of 613,000 fans at only 376,000. Otherwise the NZ Warriors are an NRL success story going from 109,000 fans in 2001 to 204,000 in the lead up to today's grand final.

The other NRL standouts since 2001 are the decline of the Newcastle Knights (minus 39%) and Cronulla Sharks (minus 43%). The Knights and the Jets share the same owner.