Thursday, December 24, 2009

Huuuuuugene and Jamo for the Roos

Yep, Galekovic and Jamieson have been named in Verbeek's 23-man squad for the upcoming Asian Cup qualifier away to Kuwait on January 6. All of the English Premier League guys are unavailable, so there's an opportunity for some of the A-League boys to stake their claim leading up to the World Cup.

Eugene is probably the best keeper in the league (if not an actual God walking amongst men) and he has had another good season, so his inclusion is a no-brainer; Jamo hasn't reached any great heights this year but he had a brilliant previous season and Pim has seen enough to give him another shot in the green & gold.

Galekovic will be up against Fumbles Velaphi and High Five Vukovic for the 'keeper spot, ex-Red Matthew Kemp and highly-rated Plymouth Argyle young'un Shane Lowry will probably be Jamieson's main competition for the left back position. Also interesting from a Reds point of view is the inclusion of big bad bustling Bruce Djite in the squad, time for him to step up & stake a claim for a World Cup spot.

Oh and congrats to Tommy Oar, if he gets on the pitch he'll be the youngest Socceroo since Harry Kewell.

THE SQUAD

Alex Brosque, Jacob Burns, Nick Carle, Simon Colosimo, Jason Culina, Bruce Djite, Eugene Galekovic, Scott Jamieson, Mile Jedinak, Matthew Kemp, Shane Lowry, Matthew McKay, Craig Moore, Tommy Oar, Nikita Rukavytsya, Matthew Spiranovic, Mile Sterjovski, Archie Thompson, Matthew Thompson, Tando Velaphi, Dario Vidosic, Danny Vukovic, Luke Wilkshire

Monday, December 21, 2009

Adelaide 1-1 Wellington

With the chances and possession Adelaide had they should have put this game to bed. There were about 20 minutes at the start of the second half where the team played better than they have all season, and it was great to see. And Alemao scored an absolute belter. Yet in true Reds fashion they couldn't hold it together, lost concentration and conceded a soft equaliser.

The past couple of matches have definitely been a step forward for United though, if their form continues to improve we could be in for a decent ACL after all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time for some positive news

The weekend's 1-0 win over Roar came hot on the heels of news that the Reds were successful in snaring the services of Argentine midfielder Marcos Flores for two years, starting with the upcoming ACL campaign. Since Diego left the team has been in need of a creative attacking mid, and maybe Flores is the guy to fill the gap.

There's more positive news on the transfer front, as well - striker Michael Baird and defender Hayden Foxe are currently training with the Reds, and apparently Mark Rudan is set to sign a contract extension.

Baird moved to Romanian side FC Universitatea Craiova after a good season with the Roar in 2005-06 - he's a handy player and still in his mid 20s, exactly the sort of guy that A-League clubs should be trying to lure back to Australia.

Foxe has had a tough time at Perth Glory with injuries, but he's a class act and he's spent many seasons playing for some big clubs in England - West Ham, Portsmouth and Leeds Utd. Since Veart retired I've always thought Adelaide was in need of a new talismanic ranga, Foxe ticks all the boxes.

With any luck there will be some better days ahead for Adelaide United - the signs are good.

Hayden Foxe - new Red?

Brisbane 0-1 Adelaide

Last Saturday night, for the first time in two months, Adelaide United recorded a win. A Barbiero header sealed the result over fellow table-propper-uppers Brisbane, in front of the Oranje's lowest ever home crowd. It wasn't a completely convincing performance but it was definitely well fought, and for the first time in a while the players showed a bit of heart.

Vidmar rang in the changes, leaving Cornthwaite, Rudan, Hughes and Pantelis at home and giving Shin and Monterosso a bit of well-deserved game time. The absence of Rudan's leadership was notable in a backline that was shaky at times, but the boys in red managed to keep their first clean sheet in a long time, thanks mostly to a few brilliant stops by Galekovic.

The best thing about the win was the reaction of the players at the full time whistle. Finally the team is starting to look united again.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm back

Hooray!

Yeah, I'll admit, I'm lazy... I went overseas for a couple of months and didn't really find the motivation to write much once I came back. The way AUFC have been travelling hasn't really inspired me much anyway.

So let's get back into the swing of things. Here's a piece I've submitted for this month's issue of the excellent Half Time Heroes zine:

-----

I think we're now in a position where we can safely say that this year has not quite gone to plan for Adelaide United. Two thirds of the season has passed and we're sitting dead last, with misfiring strikers, a leaky defense and a coach whose motivational genius is exemplified by his suggestion that his players might benefit from having their heads severed from their bodies. Well, at the moment anything's worth a shot.

I do feel for Vidmar, though. He's obviously a capable coach, and he's still got some brownie points up his sleeve after the feats of last season and the ACL. But the pressure is definitely on, and it's showing. Bad results piling up, unhappy players and behind-the-scenes issues at the club create a vortex that is very difficult to escape from. And the fans want blood.

Football supporters aren't known for being the most rational creatures when things aren't going well. Once a scapegoat has been identified, the knives come out. Viddie is number one with a bullet on the terrace hate-list at the moment, with a few of the players not far behind.

Of course, by and large, we supporters don't know what the hell we're talking about. If decisions were made based on terrace opinion, Kristian Sarkies would have been sent packing last season. This year, he's been our best player. 'Two up front!' became a mantra earlier in the season for supporters sick of drab football - well now Viddie's tried it, and the team played worse than ever.

Once things are going this badly, the vortex of negativity is so strong that it starts to override anything positive. Last home game, for example, there was a period of play where Adelaide actually kept possession for a little while. The team was holding the ball, patiently passing it around outside Newcastle's penalty box, probing for an opening. Fair enough it wasn't quite like watching Brazil circa 1970 but it was the right idea. Behind me, though, there was a bloke going absolutely off his nut: "Put the fucking ball in the box you muppets! You are FUCKING USELESS!" This was the same guy that made donkey noises whenever Cornthwaite or Hughes went near the ball, and gave Vidmar a massive spray every time a substitution was not made.

Obviously, that guy was a moron. But for all his negative, irrational idiocy, one thing about his ranting struck me: at least he cared. It takes a lot of commitment to hate your own team so strongly. It's better than the antipathy of some of my mates, who have just gradually stopped coming to games because they can't be arsed any more. It would be nice if we could all go to every match happy, watch some great football and come away with a win every week, but reality doesn't work like that. Through the bad times, it's the discontent, injustice and endless disagreement that keeps us going as fans. It’s not pretty, but being a football supporter rarely is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Because of a Pissant Town... this blog is on hiatus

You'll notice that I've been a bit lax in updating this blog. And it's not as though there's been nothing to talk about.. the FFA's World Cup bid, ongoing soccerphobia from sections of the media (go here to check out what the Executive Sports Editor of one of Australia's biggest dailies has to say about our game), Socceroos matches, A-League preseason ramping up, etc. etc.

The reason the Spawning Salmon is on hiatus is that I've been directing energy towards an AUFC & A-League fanzine (working title: Because of a Pissant Town...), Issue 1 of which will be launched in time for the Round 1 game against Perth. Check out http://pissanttown.blogspot.com/ for news about the zine...

Cheers all!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Half time in Rome

It's five a.m. and, very much contrary to my usual sleeping rhythms, I'm awake. For good reason though - it's the European Champions League final. Barcelona v Manchester United.

I haven't been following European football all that closely of late, due to the advent of the A-League and my increasing (but completely natural and healthy) obsession with Adelaide United. But I've always considered myself a Barca fan, and the way this match is going reminds me what I like so much about the Catalans. They play great football, and they genuinely try to play a beautiful game.

Man U are a great side as well, but the way they play isn't on the same level as Barcelona. They seem to have a philosophy of 'get it to Ronaldo and we'll see what happens.' Barca, on the other hand, play as complete unit. You'll find plenty of commentators frothing about the style and sexiness of their play, so I'll try not to.

As I see it, this game is the best team in the world versus the best player in the world. I don't want to jinx the final result but I'm hoping that the best team pulls through.

Then I'm going back to sleep. If only I didn't have to work today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

DJ LMO in tha house?

As the off-season progresses, Adelaide fans are naturally starting to get a bit antsy about new signings. We have a squad of 16 going through the motions of pre-season training at the moment, and, needless to say, we'll need to get some new blood in before the A-League kicks off in August.

With that in mind, Adelaide have been having a good look at ex-Ghana international and Cheltenham Town striker Lloyd Owusu, who has just completed a successful season on loan with Brighton-Hove Albion. And he's been having a look at us. He's been in town to check out the club and the facilities, and has been giving the impression that he's ready for a change from the sodden pitches of English League One football. Or, he could just be out here for a free holiday.

Either way, I hope he signs. His football ability notwithstanding (he averaged a goal every two games last season), he seems a great character. According to this AdelaideNow article, "Owusu was known as DJ LMO, a master of hip-hop scratch in the London dance club scene 10 years ago."

He's known for exuberant and ridiculous goal celebrations and is not exactly a picture of modesty. Speaking of his aerial ability, he says: "I don't want to sound big-headed but if I time my jumps right I don't think any centre half can deal with me. They don't call me 'Hang Time' for nothing."

DJ Hang Time LMO is not the only new player on Vidmar's radar, either. There are ongoing rumours about a mysterious Chilean (or is that Argentinean?) attacking midfielder, and an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today claims that "experienced Italian defender Andrea Merenda and Ivory Coast duo Vamarra Diarra and Ousmane Toure have all been scouted by Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar." Obviously, we can't fit all these players into the squad considering that we already have several foreign players, but at least it sounds as though wheels are in motion.

The main thrust of that article, though, is the proposal for a second-tier national league to sit under the A-League. That really warrants a whole post of its own, and I'm too lazy at the moment, so for now I'll just say that I think it would be a fantastic way to bring the strong 'traditional' clubs - the Adelaide City, South Melbourne, Marconi Stallions et al - back into the fold. Get onto it Buckley & co.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roar Against Papism

Now it's official - the Brisbane Roar, a team playing in orange and featuring two ex-Rangers players, will be playing Celtic FC in Brisbane on July 12, for the Roar against Racism fixture.

July 12 happens to be Orangemen's Day, commemorating the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of Boyne in 1690. If you're unfamiliar with the significance of this, let's just say that some Irish and Scottish Catholics don't look to kindly on the triumphalist, sectarian undercurrents of the Orangemen's Day festivities.

King Billy ready to Roar against Papism

Celtic and Rangers both have huge fan bases in Australia. I wonder if there'll be a march to the ground?

Marquee or not marquee?

That, fellow Salmoners, is the question.

The Football Federation of Australia has given United the green light to sign a marquee player for the upcoming season. However, according to Val Migliaccio (never a good way to start a sentence, but there you go), Michael Valkanis has indicated that United won't be looking to spend a huge amount on any player signed outside the salary cap.

Mile Sterjovski, then, would appear to be out of the picture. As would the superbly-talented Uruguayan playmaker Alvaro Recoba, who has also expressed interest in playing in the A-League. Perth had a sniff at him but chose not to stump up the cash. Perhaps a wise move, given his injury struggles over the past few years.

If we do take the marquee route, it will more likely be the sort of player that can provide a spark on the pitch and entertain a crowd but is not necessarily a household name in Australia. Which may not be such a bad thing. Sometimes the lesser-known marquee and import players in the A-League - guys like Fred, Shengqing Qu, Carlos Hernandez - have performed at a level well and truly above big-money signings like John Aloisi and Paul Agostino.

Above all, the player has to be the right fit for the team and has to be able to make an impact. A 'big name' might attract attention for a little while, but if the performance doesn't match the paycheque and the reputation the novelty soon wears off.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mutiny on the Con Air

The Newcastle Jets are currently providing the sort of off-season story line that wouldn't seem out of place in Ramsay Street or Summer Bay. Con Costantine, the club owner with notoriously shaky ethics whose motto appears to be 'my way or the highway', is on a collision course with his playing group.

The players, who have the backing of the Professional Footballers' Association, are threatening to boycott their decisive Asian Champions League clash against Ulsan Hyundai due to outstanding match payments. Con has proposed a 'crisis meeting' but the players are refusing to come to the table, preferring not to deal with him personally and to let the PFA operate on their behalf.

And, of course, a new hombre has recently ridden into town to shake things up: the eccentric, enigmatic Ljubo Milicevic.

The Ljubmobile has never been backward in coming forward. Refreshingly, he speaks his mind and doesn't seem to give a fuck who he puts offside. Even his employer. He recently slammed Con for not providing appropriate travel arrangements for the players' Asian jaunt. He's compared the Jets' organisation to running a fish and chip shop. He's worn a knit vest and pork pie hat on The World Game. His interviews are littered with references to gay discos.

Gary van Egmond backs his star defender's footballing qualities, suggesting that he should be in Verbeek's plans for the Socceroos. He also seems to support Ljubo's leadership and attitude on the training paddock, despite the recent hoopla about his blow-up at young Sean Rooney for being a lazy sod. But Dutchie has been very diplomatic about the standoff between the players and Con. Understandably - after all, he doesn't want to get thrown off a balcony.

What's amazing is that on the pitch Newcastle are actually doing quite well. Their last-minute come-from-behind win against Beijing Guoan, with Sean Rooney providing the winning strike, demonstrated a fighting quality that is, quite frankly, very surprising given all the rubbish that's going on at the club.

Newcastle fans have had a real rollercoaster ride over the past four years, probably more so than any other supporters in the league. It must be frustrating having to cope with such drama on a seemingly daily basis. They deserve some stability.

Friday, May 8, 2009

FFA: can't live with 'em, can't remain solvent without 'em

I got an email this morning from the club, confirming what we all knew was coming:

____________

Dear Friend (that's me!),

As a valued friend of the Adelaide United Football Club, I wish to inform you of an important announcement that will shortly be made public. Club owners, Bianco Trade Supplies, today handed back its Hyundai A-League Licence and therefore ownership of AUFC, to the Football Federation Australia.

It is business as usual for the club and notwithstanding the transfer back to the FFA of the club’s licence, Adelaide United organisationally and people wise, is healthy and stable; and remains a strong, vital member of the A-League competition. Preparation for the 2009/2010 HAL season will carry on as usual, including day to day administration, football and financial operations.

The financial and personal contributions made by owner Nick Bianco and former chairman, Dario Fontanarosa are truly significant. They leave a legacy that will survive for years to come, in creating an intrinsically Adelaide entity that has set the benchmark in our still evolving national competition.

Full details will be announced tomorrow.

Yours sincerely

Sam Ciccarello

Chief Executive Officer, Adelaide United Football Club

__________

So, it's official. Adelaide United's ownership is now, along with the newly-renamed Brisbane Roar, in the hands of the FFA. Which is not necessarily a bad thing: at various stages the governing body has aided or (in the case of Perth Glory) taken full ownership of other A-League clubs, with positive results.

The franchise system, which gives the FFA far greater centralised control than a system in which individual clubs are masters of their own destinies (as per the 'traditional' European leagues), can be a bone of contention. Some are uneasy with the notion of a big brother governing body being directly involved in the way clubs are run and setting all the rules.

This has been a source of frustration in the past for Adelaide fans, with the FFA carving up the club's winnings from its recent Asian Champions League campaign and distributing the loot between all eight clubs and the league itself. The only club not to actually profit from Adelaide United's ACL success, ironically, was Adelaide itself.

Some people might view the franchise system as socialistic. Which, in a way, I suppose it kind of is - the FFA is a powerful central administration which redistributes the wealth, ensuring that each of its consistuent clubs remains on a relatively equal footing, for the supposed betterment of the league as a whole. The downside of this is that the ambitions of individual clubs are somewhat hamstrung by the FFA's requirements, most obviously the limited salary cap. Clubs are prevented from growing and flourishing organically, as they might in a less regulated system.

The upside, as we are seeing now, is that when a club (or, in Adelaide's case, its owner) runs into financial difficulty, the FFA has the power and resources to jump in and steady the ship. So long as the governing body itself is financially sound, clubs' survival is more or less guaranteed. The abortive New Zealand Knights aside, I can't see the FFA ever actually cutting the cord on any of its clubs unless things really go pear-shaped.

Bianco wanted out; transferring ownership to the FFA gave him the ability to get out without fundamentally damaging the club. Now the club has time to find the right sort of investors. I don't see this as a bad thing for United at all. Let's line up a cashed-up sheik or Russian oligarch and really start cooking with gas.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Off-Season Youtube Nostalgia

Here's some of last season's best goals in the A-League, thanks to Youtube's freshcelery. A good variety of long range crackers and well-constructed team goals.


And here's some pure Red goodness for your viewing pleasure, put together by a noble soul by the name of Reds4PM. There are some gems from previous years in there, like the Fred Agius missile against Brisbane Strikers in the last season of the NSL:

Friday, May 1, 2009

National Football Curriculum

The footballing revolution continues. The long, brave march towards footballing utopia has been given another prod in the back today, with the FFA's release of a National Football Curriculum which aims to improve player development and team performance.

I can haz Han Berger?

The main thrust of the football curriculum is that it heavily emphasises development of skill and technique. Skill development takes place within the context of game-related situations, rather than through drills that exist in isolation.

An extension of this is that the FFA has identified 4-3-3 as the ideal playing formation for 'proactive' football with a technical emphasis. As such, all of the FFA's 'development' sides - for example, the national representative teams underneath the Socceroos and Matildas - should be playing this structure. Increasing players' skills will, theoretically, be favoured over results.

Those that worry about the credentials of our domestic coaching stocks should be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as well - in future there will be specific minimum requirements for high-level coaching positions within the FFA structure, including national team, A-League, W-League, National Youth League, AIS and State Institute coaches and technical directors.

All of this is, to me, a good sign that Australian football is still going in the right direction. We have a governing body with a clearly-structured plan for ongoing development of the game. We're not going to see the results straight away, but things like this have to happen for football to benefit in the long run. Maybe one day, when I'm old and grey, we'll see the seeds planted in this decade finally come to fruition.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pre-Season Matches

This pre-season, it looks as though A-League clubs are really starting to pull their fingers out in terms of attracting big European clubs to our shores. So far, from what I can gather:
- There will be a mini-tournament in Perth, featuring Perth Glory, North Queensland, Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves are currently in the Championship but look set for promotion to the Premier League;
- Fulham will play in Melbourne and Brisbane as well. They'll be Brisbane's opponent for the 'Roar against Racism' match that, in previous years, featured SuperSport United and Palmeiras;
- Brisbane will also host Celtic - sure to pull a very large crowd given the club's huge levels of support in Australia.

There doesn't seem to be any movement at the station for Adelaide United, but it's early days yet. Oh well, we're used to disappointment - remember how Inter Milan were supposed to play a match at Adelaide Oval?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sterj for sale


According to the Daily Mirror, Nigel Clough is currently in the process of overhauling his Derby County squad. It seems that Mile Sterjovski is not part of the plan for the Rams' future, and has been placed in the shop window with a 'for sale' sign around his neck.

Sterj seems to be an ideal candidate for a move to the A-League (and was apparently considered by Gold Coast United) - he's a current Socceroo, played at the World Cup and in the English Premier League, still at the top of his game but at an age where he may be starting to think about returning to Australia with his young family. He's a good player at a Championship level in England, but could certainly make an impact in the A-League as a marquee player.

Given Adelaide's dearth of good attacking players, Sterj should be at the top of our shopping list. He could do the job as a wide striker, right winger, second striker or even attacking playmaker - the only problem would be fitting he & Travis Dodd into the same lineup. But that's a problem that any A-League club would love to have.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A-League Draw 2009-10

The t's have been crossed, the i's have been dotted, and the 2009-10 A-League draw is finally ready for public consumption. Here is is in .pdf format, off the official website:
http://www.a-league.com.au/site/_content/document/00001133-source.pdf

The 27-round regular season kicks off on August 6 and wraps up on February 14. There's a finals series, 0f course, culminating in the Grand Final (Adelaide United v TBA) on March 20.

Here's a few things that I can gather from a quick scan of the document:

  • Adelaide play 14 home games. Unfortunately, I'll miss 5 of them (including the only home games against North Queensland and Melbourne) because I'll be overseas. First home game is against Perth on August 7.

  • The finals series has gotten even more ridiculous. There are now 6 teams in the finals - i.e., over half the league - with a convoluted system that seems specifically designed to befuddle (so that's why they hired Ben Buckley from the AFL):





  • Lots of clubs seem to be moving home games around - Sydney are playing a match at the SCG (blergh) and a match at Parramatta (woohoo!); Perth are playing a match at Subiaco (double blergh); Wellington are playing a game in Christchurch and one in Palmerston North. Central Coast's fixtures at home to Adelaide and Perth are listed as 'TBC', which could mean anything but is probably Coffs Harbour or something. Interestingly, Adelaide doesn't look to be repeating the Adelaide Oval experiment this year, but other clubs seem intent on becoming travelling roadshows.

  • Thanks to the greater number of games and longer season, there are more midweek matches. Adelaide's home fixtures include a Tuesday night match against Perth. Bizarrely, Adelaide plays 11 home games on Friday night - it suits me fine, but surely a bit of variety wouldn't go astray?

  • Thankfully, there is no Pre Season Cup. Clubs are free to play whatever friendlies they want leading up to the start of the season, without the burden of having to compete for a trophy that might as well be a Mickey Mouse figurine spraypainted silver.


I have my reservations about a few aspects of the draw, but I'm looking forward to a longer and more varied season thanks to the two new teams. A 6-team finals series is just ridiculous though. In my humble opinion, they should scrap it altogether and start up a proper FFA Cup. Enough of this madness!



I'm definitely starting to get excited about the new season, even though it's still three and a half months away. Join me, will you, in this rousing rendition of Rolling Along:

http://www.fanchants.com/football-songs/adelaide-united-chants/and-united-is-rolling-along/

Come on boys, make some noise, we’re a team of class and poise, and our Adelaide is rolling along... etc

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Naoki Imaya's Football Vision

In my last post, I railed bitterly against the tendency in modern football to treat young players as expendable commodities, to be bought in bulk by large clubs and dispensed with if they prove surplus to requirements.

Thankfully, not everybody is taking that approach. There's a great article on the FourFourTwo website highlighting the work of former New Zealand Knights player Naoki Imaya. Having played in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Germany, Imaya is a strong believer in the power of football in bridging cultural gaps and fostering understanding and cooperation between people of different backgrounds.


Back in Tokyo, Imaya has set up an English-language school that teaches football to Japanese juniors and adults. Through football, the students mix and interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

In the FourFourTwo interview, Imaya is clear about the objectives of his school: "Aiming to be a world class player would be on anybody's mind who have tried to pursue a career in this beautiful game, but I think it is more important to aim to be a first class human being."

Imaya's vision also involves a sharing of football knowledge between Japan and Australia. "I hope in the future I can help the youth from Australia and Japan in some kind of an exchange program where they could learn each others' football style and build a better relationship between the countries as well."

Maybe I shouldn't be too cynical about the modern game. Imaya's football school is an example of the fact that there are still people and organisations around that see football as more than just a business and young players as people rather than robots. Here's hoping that there are people in Australia that are willing to take a similar approach.

If you can read Japanese (I certainly can't), you can find more information about Naoki Imaya's school at http://www.naocastle.com/blog/.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This is the modern world

Football can be a very positive social force. In modern western societies, people's identities have become increasingly attached to ephemeral and transitory things: income, occupation, social status, possessions. Following a local football club, and especially one that reflects an identifiable set of values, is an extremely important mechanism for a lot of men to experience identity as part of a community - a reprieve from the often-alienating demands of life in a society where getting ahead as an individual is everything.

Like the black and white cookie in the Seinfeld episode, football is a great leveller. It connects people across countries, cultures, religions, political beliefs, social classes, and income levels. Supporters bond to one another over a shared love of the game or the club. You can always strike up a meaningful conversation with a fellow fan, whether he's a university professor or a cleaner of public toilets.

Playing football, and sport in general, is obviously also important for kids' development into well-rounded adults. Values of teamwork, sportsmanship, humility in victory and grace in defeat are vital to counter the prevailing forces that encourage individual success - academically, socially, and as an adult monetarily.

At the highest levels of football, though, these values have been utterly perverted. The English Premier League has been disconnected from reality to the point where, especially for the top clubs, success is simply a question of purchasing power. England goalkeeper David James has written a very thought-provoking article for the Guardian highlighting the questionable ethics employed by EPL clubs (bravely including his own club, Portsmouth) in casting their nets wide and buying up huge numbers of promising junior players. This is usually a preemptive move designed to ensure that the players do not end up at rival clubs.

The effects of this are quite significant. It means that 'youth development' becomes a numbers game rather than a meaningful exercise in providing juniors with a solid football education. In the example of Portsmouth, the club has 180 under-nines on the books. Of these, maybe one will end up playing senior first-team football. The rest get loaned out to lower leagues in England and abroad, and end up being discarded when they are proven to be sub-standard.

These kids grow up believing that they are special, that they will become superstars, the next Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo. Their well-meaning parents contribute to these pressures, as do the forces of society through things like reality television and a celebrity culture that fosters the notion that fame and fortune are quickly and easily obtained. Psychologically, it must be devastating when these young players finally realise that they will never 'make it'.

And, of course, the hegemony of the big clubs in the big leagues is reinforced by this practice. Buy up all the best young players and success is pretty much guaranteed. Actual youth development and the promotion of the club as a community focal point takes a back seat.

Leagues like the A-League, outside the top European tier, suffer in terms of their football development. The wealth of big European clubs, as well as the status of playing in Europe, is a huge carrot for young Australians. There are hundreds currently playing overseas, with only a few of them playing at a level higher than what they could experience in Australia.

Meanwhile, the big clubs are now little more than brands for fans to attach themselves to. Teenagers in Sydney or Singapore will declare their undying loyalty to Manchester United, Liverpool or Real Madrid, clubs from cities that they have never been to and to which they have no connection, on the basis of a well-marketed concept of the 'history' and 'traditions' of the club.

It's not hard to see how this sort of attitude to football as a branded commodity undermines its significance as a force for community identity. Success and image is everything (witness how many people jump off the bandwagon as soon as a club starts doing poorly - Sydney FC is a prime example). It must be slightly depressing for a lifelong supporter of an English side to see what has become of their club during the big-money Premier League era.

I don't really know what can be done to fix these trends in the long term, but I think Sepp Blatter's '6 + 5' rule, limiting the number of foreign players that a club can sign, is a good start. A cap on the total number of players a club can have on its books would also put an end to some of the extreme practices highlighted in David James' article. Ultimately, a salary cap of some sort would be a good thing for European football, but as long as the big clubs call the shots I can't see that happening.

Anyway, I guess the point of my rant is that here in Australia we have the opportunity to make sure that the mistakes of European football (mostly stemming from unregulated greed by the clubs) are not repeated. Frankly, I don't care if the A-League continues to leak its best players to Europe and Asia - as long as Adelaide United continues to represent the city, develops and gives opportunities to young local players, and provides an outlet for me to go and yell my lungs out every second weekend during the season, I'll be happy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New A-League kits

Click to enlarge. These are leaked images of A-League shirts for next season. Interestingly, no sign of Queensland (Brisbane?) Roar or Gold Coast United just yet.





I must say, I am a fan of the black away shirt for Adelaide, although I did like the white with red sleeves. All up these are very nice and it's good to see a bit of diversity in the designs. Both of Wellington's shirts are great, and I think Perth and North Queensland will be pretty much on the money.

Also, it seems that these will be 'alternate' strips instead of strictly 'away' shirts. A good move by the league.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nearly there ... Australia 2-0 Uzbekistan

This one was a classic game of two halves. From an Australian point of view the first period was generally underwhelming and frustrating - Uzbekistan showed a fair bit of intent while the Socceroos were seemingly unable to get out of second gear.

The second half was a different story, though. After the break (and no doubt a rocket or two from Pim), Australia started to take control of the match. In the 66th minute a fluid and well-constructed attacking move got the end product it deserved when Marco Bresciano received the ball wide on the right and whipped a pinpoint cross into the area. Super-sub Josh Kennedy connected well with the header, directing it low to the keeper's left.

Seven minutes later the referee called a penalty (admittedly, slightly dubious) on Richard Garcia. Harry Kewell stepped up and converted. Two nil. I feel a little for the Uzbeks: playing away from home and with very little preparation time they gave the Socceroos a decent run for their money. There's no room for sentiment in World Cup qualification, though. And Australia are just about there, barring a string of highly unlikely events.

There are better analysts than me that could talk about Verbeek's tactics. There is the ongoing issue of results versus style - the Socceroos under Pim certainly aren't playing with the same panache that Hiddink had, but our record (especially defensively) is not to be sniffed at. Ultimately qualification is by far the most important objective; it would be nice to do it while playing beautifully but that may not be realistic.

What is interesting, though, is the atmosphere around the country in comparison to four years ago. In the leadup to the Uruguay matches, the second leg in particular, there was a real feeling that Australia was on the cusp of doing something special. This time around, everyone's a bit more blase about the whole thing. It's almost as though qualification is a given, rather than a special achievement.

To a point that's an understandable attitude. Australia is obviously one of the strongest national sides in Asia, but we need to be careful that we don't become arrogant. Once we get to South Africa it will be a different kettle of fish - the Socceroos will need to be very much on top of their game to do well again. The way Australia have played at some points during qualification would be punished mercilessly by better teams.

One thing that has changed for the good over the past four years is the general profile of football in Australia. Wednesday night was another example of this - Australia v Uzbekistan set a pay-TV viewership record with a peak audience of 508,000, not including those watching in public areas.

Pack your bags for South Africa - the good times are rolling on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Johnnies v Mehmets

While we're still on the subject of Asia Minor, the FFA has just announced annual fixtures between Australia and Turkey, coinciding with Turkish Independence Day on April 23 and ANZAC Day on April 25. The matches will be played in Turkey and Australia on alternating years, and the teams taking part will be agreed by both countries based on their calendar of commitments. This year it's the mens' Under 16 teams that will battle it out in Turkey - in future years it would be nice to see the senior national teams in action.

It's a good initiative and one that should further bolster the relationship of mutual respect between the two countries. The intersection of our nations' histories at Gallipoli in 1915 means that these games will have a symbolic weight far greater than normal international friendlies. In fact, it would be interesting to see whether a joint Australia-New Zealand side could be a possibility for these matches in future.


"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well."

- Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), 1934

Monday, March 23, 2009

Australia's young Turks

Jedinak scores for Genclerbirligi

The World Game website is currently running an article about the young Australian players at Turkish club Genclerbirligi and the culture shock that they have had to face when settling in to their new environment in Ankara. The ritual slaughter of a goat to bring luck at the start of the season (and a second one when the luck wasn't forthcoming), the muezzins' call to prayer five times a day from countless mosques around the city, the food, the traffic.

Currently there are three Australians at Gencler: Bruce Djite , James Troisi, and Mile Jedinak. Like 1. FC Nuremberg a few years ago, Genclerbirligi has emerged as a 'home away from home' for Aussies abroad, with Nick Carle and Josip Skoko also having played there.

Other than football, there really aren't many other sports that offer players such varied cultural experiences. Ben Somerford's excellent 'Euroos' blog includes a pretty comprehensive-looking list of the Australian players plying their trade overseas. What's striking is not just the number of players making a living outside Australia, but the diversity of destinations - from Australia's footballing 'homelands' of England and Scotland to countries on the periphery of Europe like Romania and Turkey, to Asian countries like China, South Korea and Indonesia, to the United States. If and when these players are called up to represent their country, or return to play in the A-League, or turn to careers in coaching, administration or punditry, their experiences with tactically diverse football cultures and their contacts overseas can only help to enrich football in this country.

In line with our history as a nation of migrants, Australian football has through the years become a melting pot of disparate styles and mentalities. Waves of new arrivals - first from the British Isles, then from Greece, Italy, the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe, and now from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, have helped inform the football we play. Add to this the vital experiences being gained by Australians playing in tough leagues overseas and the concerted push by the FFA to add Dutch coaching, technical and tactical knowledge to the mix.

The young guys playing overseas, like the trio at Genclerbirligi, are the next generation of Socceroos. The trick for Australia will be to effectively harness the positive aspects of all of the diverse structural, cultural and technical viewpoints feeding into our football culture. Vive le difference.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Newcastle Debts

In general, A-League clubs have been lauded for demonstrating a professionalism in their business operations that was sadly lacking in domestic football during the NSL years. Every generalisation has an exception, though, and at the moment that exception is the Newcastle Jets. A while back I wrote an article highlighting the contempt that Jets owner Con Constantine seems to have for fans, players, and sound business ethics.

Most recently, this has manifested itself in the Professional Footballers Association alleging that the club owes unpaid superannuation and bonuses to its entire playing staff. Keeper Ante Covic has left the club to sign for Elfsborg in Sweden, citing unpaid super as one of his many gripes with the club. Con's take on the matter is that Covic used the pay dispute as an excuse, running to the PFA "like a little boy to his mother." The PFA holds that this sort of disrespect regarding player payment and contracts is more or less par for the course at the Jets, with Constantine guilty throughout his history with football clubs of rather lax ethical standards in his dealings with players. How this turns out is anyone's guess, but it must be a source of endless frustration for Jets fans.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sorry, I'm a lazy sod.

It's been a while since I've posted anything here. There's a few reasons for this: busy at work, post-season football hangover, general laziness. We've also had friends over from Melbourne for the Fringe & WOMADelaide. WOMAD was awesome. If you ever get the chance to see the Bedouin Jerrycan Band or Paprika Balkanicus, I suggest you take it.

Anyway, here's a short recap of some things that have happened in Australian football since my last post:

- Newcastle Jets are rubbish. Lost 2-0 away to Beijing in the ACL, with Joel and Ryan Griffiths inflicting some of the damage. Seriously, who loans their best player to a club that they're about to play?

- Central Coast are rubbish. Drew 0-0 at home to Pohang Steelers, in one of the most godawful matches I've ever had the misfortune to attempt to stream over the internet.

- The A-League based Socceroos are rubbish. Lost 0-1 to Kuwait in Canberra. I didn't watch the game but it sounds like the players and Pim Verbeek should all give each other dead legs as punishment for their sheer crapness. I don't get how they can be so bad: on an individual basis these players are all good enough to be playing at a reasonable level in Europe (maybe League 1 or Championship in England, Dutch 2nd Division, etc), and they are doing well for their clubs in the A-League. Put them all on the pitch together, though, and they have forgotten how to pass, control the ball, and carry out the basic functions expected of a professional footballer.

Very strange. Mind you, even the European-based Socceroos big boys generally play like crud against Asian opposition. If you don't believe me, merely cast your mind back to the 2007 Asian Cup....

- It looks like Scott Chipperfield is staying in Europe for another season, after all. Booo.

- Matt McKay has joined the exodus of A-League players going to China. We need to get some of that traffic coming the other way as well: more Shengqing Qus, Yuning Zhangs, Leilei Gaos in the A-League. Well, maybe not Yuning Zhang.

-Michael Petrillo has resigned as AUFC Director of Football, replaced by Michael Valkanis. I don't know whether this is a cost-saving mechanism, or piss ant politics, or what: if the former, maybe it's a good thing that the club is pulling funding from its administrative/management arms before cutting spending on players. Who knows, though. Hopefully United can get back to stability soon enough.

- The FFA has officially submitted its bid for Australia to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

- An extremely wealthy Dubai-based sheik is reportedly interested in providing financial backing for Tasmania's bid for an A-League club licence. The mystery man is apparently the Saudi Arabian/Ethiopian Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi, the 43rd-richest man in the world. This guy has a net worth of $13.7 billion, and apparently once wrote a blank cheque for the Ethiopian government to build a 30,000 seat football stadium. A sugar daddy of this magnitude - he makes Clive Palmer look like small fry - would, needless to say, be brilliant for our little league. Lets hope there's something substantial to the rumours.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Red cards overturned

Well, well. The FFA has finally done what we've been waiting years for: admitted that their match officials are fallible. Following the dramas of the Grand Final, the FFA match review panel have overruled Matthew Breeze (and his assistant referee Matthew Cream) and determined that Cristiano and Allsopp did not deserve to be sent off. The red cards have been stricken from the players' records.

As an Adelaide fan this news provokes mixed emotions. We can feel validated in our grievances about the way the game panned out - the match did not take place on a level playing field, and therefore the final result was not necessarily the correct outcome. But, of course, it's too late now. The trophy has been presented, the horse has bolted. All we can do is vent our frustrations at the circumstances that allowed this to happen.

It's not the first time officials have destroyed a game with their errors - last season's grand final was marred by the referee Shields missing a penalty call for a Newcastle handball in the box, then sending off Central Coast keeper Danny Vukovic (that was a fair call, but his ridiculous suspension afterwards certainly wasn't).

This season Cristiano should have been penalised for an outrageous dive, Muscat should have seen red for stomps on Agostino and Mullen (at least - this is only the Adelaide games that I'm thinking about), Fabiano should have received a far more lenient sentence than a nine-game ban for a loogie that didn't connect, Tiatto should have been sent off for any number of heinously dangerous two-footed challenges, et cetera, et cetera.

My wish list for A-League officiating in the future is as follows:
  • That the referees are employed full-time, and provided with high level training and development from the FFA;
  • That referees are randomly chosen for league matches. It's ridiculous that Breeze has held court in the past 5 Adelaide-Melbourne games;
  • That finals go to those referees whose form during the season deserves it. Srebre Delovski has been far and away the league's best this season, yet Breeze's seniority saw him get the grand final;
  • That the FFA look to import referees from abroad if the standards of Australian refs is not up to scratch; and
  • That the match review panel holds referees accountable for their actions, and has the cajones to overrule poor decisions. I don't want to see the panel keep hiding behind the old 'the referee saw the incident and took action, therefore it is out of our jurisdiction' argument. This week has seen the first departure from this line of thought - let's hope it continues.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A-League Grand Final: Melbourne 1-0 Adelaide

Man, writing that title hurts. It eats me up inside, even three days later. Watching your team lose a grand final to their arch-enemies is not a pleasant experience.

It's not the same feeling as it was after the 6-0 drubbing two years ago, though - that was completely shattering. That day Adelaide were outplayed by a witheringly effective Melbourne, and the team fell apart in dramatic fashion on the pitch (and off the pitch, after the match). There was nothing positive to come out of that performance, no redeeming qualities at all. Just pain for the supporters.

This time around, the bitterness is tinged with some more positive emotions. Adelaide can take a lot out of the narrow loss, which, any other day, might have panned out very differently.

As I'm sure everyone is by now very well aware, this grand final was dominated by the decisions of the referee, a certain Mr M. Breeze. He sent off two players unfairly, was unable to keep control of the heightened tensions of such an important match, and let players, the crowd and the gravity of the occasion get to him.

I was going to go off on an abusive rant against Breeze but everything that needs to be said about his performance has already been covered by commentators that are more neutral in their allegiances than me (see: Fox Sports commentary team, The World Game panelists on SBS, ABC's Offsiders, and any number of print & internet journos) - the general consensus is that he stuffed up big time.

The first of his errors, and the one with the greatest bearing on the match, was the send off of Cristiano after ten minutes for a stray elbow that connected with Roddy Vargas' head. The two players went up for a header, both had eyes on the ball and arms raised, Vargas ended up on the ground with blood covering his face. Breeze's first instinct was to give a yellow; Kevin Muscat got in his ear, he saw the blood, he went to confer with the linesman, he produced a red card.



It was not a reckless challenge, the elbow wasn't swung at his opponent - in leaping for the ball it was a completely natural movement. Vargas was unlucky that he got a nasty bump out of it - a referee with more common sense may have just taken Cristiano aside and warned him to be more careful. But no - straight red.

Needless to say, Adelaide were disadvantaged from that point on. The Reds had Melbourne on the back foot in the first ten minutes, but once they were a man down it was largely backs to the wall for the rest of the first half.

After the break, Vidmar reshuffled his team to try to regain some impetus, with Jamieson playing a more advanced role in midfield. Lacking a true striker in the absence of Cristiano, Pantelis and Dodd sat higher up the park. Salley, Reid and Barbiero worked well together, nullifying Melbourne's midfield and creating attacking opportunities for the Reds.

Even a man down, Adelaide began to take control of the game, and had several good chances - the most memorable being a shot in the box from Jamieson, kept out miraculously by Theoklitos' foot (I'm not sure he knew too much about it), and a jinking run by Travis Dodd, who beat a number of defenders before firing straight at the keeper.

Then, almost inevitably, Melbourne scored. Pondeljak took the ball outside the box, at a diagonal angle from goals, and swung his foot at it. Somehow avoiding a sea of legs in the penalty box, the ball made its way into the bottom corner of the net. Galekovic, who may have been unsighted until very late, could do little but watch it as it crossed the line. The massive crowd of over 53,000 at the Dome went wild. A goal and a man up, the result looked to be in the bag.

There was only one thing missing from the second half: our good friend Matthew Breeze. Just as it looked like the football was going to steal the show, the man with the whistle decided to force his way back into the limelight. A melee in the penalty box - the usual big-game argy-bargy - descended into high farce as Breeze picked out Danny Allsopp and sent him off. The crime? Who knows. Apparently there was an alleged headbutt on Cornthwaite - it doesn't look like much at all on any replay, but once again players got in Breeze's ear and he produced a red card. Currently, the Victory are quite rightly appealing this decision.

If it was a square-up for the unfair dismissal of Cristiano, it was sixty minutes too late. The damage had already been done. With the sides at ten men each Adelaide once again had all the attacking play, but at a goal up Melbourne could afford to sit deep and defend (oh, but I thought it was only Adelaide who tried to close down a 1-0 lead?????)

After all the stoppages of play in the second half, numerous substitutions, and the fracas that saw Allsopp take an early shower, there should probably have been five minutes of time added on at the end of the half. But no - only three minutes. During injury time, Berger took a nasty knock and required attention on the pitch, all of which chewed up another couple of minutes. Did the ref add these on at the end? No, he did not. At the stroke of 93 minutes - as Celeski committed an awful foul on an Adelaide player (Barbiero?) just outside the box, right in front of Breeze - see the second video at the 9 minute mark - the clown blew full time. Melbourne Victory, 08-09 champions, blah blah blah.

Well done to them, they seized their opportunity. Unfortunately for Melbourne fans, the win is somewhat tainted - the refereeing robbed them of the ability to say that they won this championship fair and square. There will always be a question mark. For this reason, I think the Melbourne fans have every right to be as angry at Breeze's performance as Adelaide fans.

This is what I'm talking about when I say that Adelaide's loss is one of mixed emotions. As Adelaide fans, we can be extremely proud of the way the Reds played and kept fighting, against a team that has had the wood on us all season, even when unfairly disadvantaged due to poor officiating. We can take heart in the fact that, when the team numbers were even, Adelaide had the run of play. Who knows what would have happened if the game took place on a level playing field. Losing the way we did, we can quite rightly feel that the game may have gone the other way had Cristiano stayed on the pitch.

Anyway, what's done is done, Adelaide have just finished their most successful season ever. I could not be more proud to be a pissant. Next season, after all the dramas of off-season recruitment are out of the way, we will have a real chance to go one better. And, immediately after that, another Champions League campaign. As long as we can look forward with hope and optimism, we're in a good place.

Shalom, noble Ants.





The first half.


The second half. Youtubes courtesy as always of JayFCAK47.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Miller's Tale

Australian football's favourite porky Scotsman, Charlie Miller, is still a very respected man in his native Glasgow. That's why an article like this one, published on the Glasgow Herald website, is such a good advertisement for the A-League.

In the article, Miller compares the league's standard with that of the Scottish Premier League, and says that the openness of the competition makes it a challenging place to play football. He is obviously enjoying the lifestyle and the football here. The article also hints that current Rangers & Scotland captain Barry Ferguson may soon follow Miller, Craig Moore and Ian Ferguson to the A-League. Here's hoping.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Soccer sucks

In my surfings of the world wide net, I came across this great blog on the Guardian site, cataloguing the attitudes of various American soccerphobes to our beautiful game (the article is over a month old now but, meh, I have yoghurt older than that in my fridge). Many of those viewpoints are instantly recognizable in an Australian context - it's especially interesting to see that fans in the US face the same problems with an entrenched anti-soccer sports media that we face here. If anything, I would imagine that it's even more ingrained over there.

Anyway, that blog links to a website that's too good not to share: http://www.soccersucks.net, whose aim is to save the world from the perversions and depravities of the round ball game. It's clearly a pisstake but it's very, very funny.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

dontmentionthegrandfinal

In an effort to avoid thinking about the Grand Final, I've decided instead to focus on things of an international nature.

There's some interesting stuff going on at the moment with regards to the bids for the 2018/2022 World Cups. The FFA have announced the establishment of a FIFA World Cup Bid Team, chaired by Frank Lowy and led by Ben Buckley, as a business unit within its overall governance structure. Within a few months, there will be up to 15 staff working full time on the World Cup bid. An offshoot of this process is the formation of another bid team, headed by Rob Abernathy, working on Australia's submission to host the 2015 Asian Cup.

The A-League Head of Operations post, which was held by Abernathy, will be filled by the (now ex-) St Kilda Football Club CEO Archie Fraser. Despite his status in the world of eggpunching, Fraser is a round ball man at heart, having played professionally for Greenock Morton FC in Scotland (aye, the Pride of Clyde, the very same*) before moving to Australia in 1980 to play for the Queensland Premier League. Ben Buckley is obviously using his AFL connections well.

Meanwhile, our favourite national team coach Pim Verbeek has taken time out from sheeing the shexy girls at the coffee shop to pick a squad for the upcoming Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait, to be played in Canberra on March 5. There are plenty of Reds boys in there:

Danny Allsopp (Melbourne), Fabian Barbiero (Adelaide United), Billy Celeski (Melbourne), Shannon Cole (Sydney FC), Robert Cornthwaite (Adelaide United), Tarek Elrich (Newcastle), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Dean Heffernan (Central Coast), Scott Jamieson (Adelaide United), Ben Kantarovski (Newcastle), Matthew McKay (Queensland), Craig Moore (Queensland), Daniel Mullen (Adelaide United), Mitch Nichols (Queensland), Tom Pondeljak (Melbourne), Paul Reid (Adelaide United), Matt Simon (Central Coast), Michael Theoklitos (Melbourne), Archie Thompson (Melbourne), Matthew Thompson (Newcastle), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle), Rodrigo Vargas (Melbourne), Danny Vukovic (Central Coast), Michael Zullo (Queensland).

Making their first appearances in a 'Roos squad are Fabian Barbiero, Daniel Mullen, Queensland's Mitch Nicholls and Newcastle's impressive centre back, 17 year old Ben Kantarovski. I'm not going to try to predict a starting lineup, but we need to see more creativity out wide. Dodd was overlooked again for the squad - his form hasn't been great, but he's still the best pure right wing option in the A-League.

Anyway, I think that, on home turf, we will see a far better showing from the A-League Socceroos than was the case against Indonesia. Do it.

*Not that I'd ever heard of them, of course.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Adelaide 1-0 Queensland







After the humiliation at the hands of Melbourne, a loss to Queensland seemed inevitable. The players looked sluggish and defeated, and Vidmar's outburst could easily have served as a warrant for hanging by those wielding power at the club.

Who knows what transpired behind closed doors in the aftermath of that infamous press conference. What matters is that club management gave their support to their embattled coach (in public, at least), allowing Viddie to focus on the task at hand. Recapturing team spirit and morale, essential ingredients for any successful team, was the first step, and to that end Vidmar took his players out for dinner and a few drinks to brush away the cobwebs. From the looks of things, it worked.

On the pitch, Adelaide went back to basics. The line-up against Queensland was very similar to that which was so effective in the Asian Champions League and in the first two-thirds of the A-League season: a 4-5-1, or 4-2-3-1 (whatever you want to call it) with two deep midfielders in front of a back four, and wingers pushing high up the park. In terms of personnel, the big change was the inclusion of Jonas Salley in midfield.

Salley had probably the best game I've ever seen him play. He was everywhere: breaking up attacks with steely discipline, and demonstrating an often-overlooked creative, attacking side to his game. At one point he had a snapshot volley from outside the box that, had it gone in, would have rivalled Barbiero's missile. It didn't miss by much. Salley's performance was outstanding, and the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation when he came off for Griffiths late in the game.His efforts raise a few questions: why are Adelaide are letting him go, and why he has been overlooked so often this season? I wish I knew, but I'll be sad to see him leave.

From the outset, Adelaide played with purpose and confidence that had been so lacking in the matches against Melbourne. The midfield converted defence to attack well, pushing up to support Cristiano far more effectively than has been the case at times. Adelaide were noticeably more mobile this match, moving into space and passing the ball well.

The match started pretty evenly, with both sides launching decent attacks. In the 25th minute, though, a moment of magic turned the game on its head. Galekovic pumped a long ball forward, to which Craig Moore got a head on under pressure from Cristiano. Unfortunately for Moore, he managed to nod the ball into the path of Fabian Barbiero, steaming forward toward goal. Barbiero took a touch to control on the run, then smacked the skin off the ball from 25m out. Top corner, probably the most spectacular strike in Adelaide United's short history. And I missed it thanks to a compelling urge to urinate and purchase beer. Goddammit.

From then on, Adelaide had the game well under control. Vidmar's defence locked the door and threw away the key. It's not hard to see how Zoran Matic's tutelege at Adelaide City has influenced Viddie's modern-day catenaccio. Queensland dominated possession in the second half, but of course stats never tell the whole story. The Oranje were reduced to taking low-percentage shots from outside the box, and, with the exception of Nicholls, who found a fair bit of space, were contained intelligently by the men in red.

Vidmar's defensive tactics are often a bone of contention for those around the league. Michael Zullo's sour grapes after the loss are a case in point: he thinks that Adelaide's style of play is a poor advertisement for our league, and whines that Queensland's exciting style should have been rewarded with a grand final berth. A win for Adelaide over Melbourne will be a 'great shame'. To which the obvious reply is: tough titties, that's football. You win games by scoring more goals than your opponents. Complaining that Adelaide were playing to defend a lead is a ridiculously stupid thing to say. Queensland failed to take their chances. Farina claimeded after the match that Queensland were 'the better side' - I beg to differ.

If anything, Adelaide showed Queensland to be tactically naive. Their mobility and pace on the wings works wonders against most clubs, but they have always struggled against Adelaide's excellent full-backs and the tall timber of Ognenovski and Cornthwaite. Much like Adelaide's problems when playing Melbourne, Queensland were unable to change their game to put pressure on the home side.

I do feel for Queensland, though. It's difficult to comprehend that, for all their obvious quality, they haven't ever managed to bring it all together at the end of the season. They have fantastic young players, though: if I were a Roar fan (and had I not moved to Adelaide prior to the start of the A-League, I probably would be) I'd be very optimistic about next season. A nice touch at the end of the game was Sasa Ognenovski going over to applaud his old team's fans for making the trip and supporting all the way. Well done Sasa.

And here we are, about to play in our second major final of the season. We have a chance to finally put one over Melbourne in a big game (oh, how I wish I could be there). I'm not going to try to presuppose how that game will pan out, but I would like to see Vidmar start with the same team again, bringing Cassio on reasonably early if Pantelis is having a quiet match. Needless to say, Mustang Salley must play. He's the only Adelaide player with the potential to nullify Hernandez.

Perhaps even more important than making the Grand Final, this match secured our qualification for the Asian Champions League for the third time in four attempts. There's no reason why we can't have just as good a run in that competition again. Asia, here here we come.

The only negative point of the night was the crowd - a mere 8,500 showed up, influenced no doubt by the raised ticket prices as well as Adelaide's poor efforts in the past two games. Still, it was a pissant effort. Understandable for those who genuinely couldn't afford it, but shame on the fairweather fans who didn't show up when the team needed all the support it can get. The home end was in good voice to make up for the missing numbers, though: I particularly liked the 'We all live in a pissant colony' chant.

So, in anticipation of the big one against Melbourne:
COME ON YOU REDS!!!!!!!!!

The small but vocal crowd



What better place to celebrate a win against the Oranje than the German Club...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Journalistic integrity

Or lack thereof. Check this out:

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,25065773-12428,00.html

It's absolutely unbelievable that our city's leading football journalist is willing to put his name to such a petty and personal attack. Here is Val Migliaccio 'interpreting' Vidmar's outburst (i.e. putting words in his mouth and leaping to conclusions). The full text below:

---

What Vidmar said .. and what he meant
VAL MIGLIACCIO
February 17, 2009 12:30am


ADELAIDE United coach Aurelio Vidmar's outburst at his post-match press conference interpreted.

VIDMAR SAID: "It's a disgrace.
"We owe the world an apology. A performance like that was a disgrace."
HE MEANT: "I'm totally embarrassed by this performance."
VIDMAR SAID: "Politics, that's what I put it down to.
"There's too many people in this club with hidden agendas. That's the problem. That 4-0 result tonight was politics, nothing else."
HE MEANT: "I've lost control of the players' group. I tried to change it but it didn't work."
VIDMAR SAID: "Whether you're involved directly or indirectly, you have an effect.
"It has an effect on everyone."
HE MEANT: "I'm not at fault here, outside influences have cost us the game."
VIDMAR SAID: "Because of a pissant town, this club will never win anything until you get rid of that crap."
HE MEANT: "Adelaide's small-town mentality and factions are dividing the club."
VIDMAR SAID: "You should know, you can name them. You name them, you should know.
"Everyone's involved, mate, everyone. It's a disgrace.
"And you know, because you're (The Advertiser) involved as well."
HE MEANT: "How did you get the starting XI and the formation right in the first leg against Melbourne Victory."
VIDMAR SAID: "Things change very quickly.
"Someone's not happy with something they'll do anything they can to fracture it.
"Jealousy, whatever it is, whether it's ego, it smacks of all that at our club at this time.
"It's the underlying things around the club.
"I'm not going to name names."
HE MEANT: "People are trying to undermine me."
VIDMAR SAID: "I could not give a damn.
"I want to be the coach, yes, to work in a happy environment."
HE MEANT: "I still want to be the coach despite this outburst."
VIDMAR SAID: "You can't tell me that they've forgotten how to play football overnight.
"There's a lot of shit in your mind. You can't play football, you can't do anything."
HE MEANT: "They've forgotten how to win."
VIDMAR SAID: "It's going to be a massive heart-to-heart (with the players) on Monday morning."
HE MEANT: "Hopefully, I can win back the respect of the players' group."

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This is just unbelievable, and to my mind crosses the line between opinion piece and personal attack. Val Migliaccio's credibility has taken a huge hit with this sort of thing. Here's a response that I submitted as a comment on the Advertiser website:

Val, one of the most disappointing things to come out of this whole mess is that you seem to be using it as an excuse to gain revenge for your own personal grievances with Vidmar. If Viddie was out of line when he said at the press conference that you were part of the problem, your articles since then haven't exactly done much to dispel the notion. As an outsider it certainly looks like you've got your own agendas in terms of how the club should function - not really an ideal situation, given that as a journalist you're supposed to be an unbiased observer. Please, the people of Adelaide aren't idiots - we deserve a bit more impartiality from the football media.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It was Costanzo... with the lead pipe... in the conservatory!

And so the recriminations begin.

Who's at fault for Adelaide United's implosion? Vidmar? Stubbins? Bianco? Patzwald? The senior players like Costanzo and Valkanis? Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter, not least the Badvertiser's very own Val Migliaccio. In this article, published on page 4 of today's paper, he takes extraordinary liberties with the notion of unbiased journalism in his reprisal for the shot Viddie fired at him during the post-match press conference..

The whole thing ends up looking like a hatchet job on Vidmar's character. It's a self-serving rant. Perhaps Viddie was wrong for having a go at him personally, but nobody can claim that Val hasn't been prone in the past to editorializing in his articles about AUFC and Vidmar. It's one thing for people within the club to play politics and pit their egos against one another, but its a whole other kettle of fish when journalists start doing it, especially as Val is pretty much it when it comes to the 'football media' in Adelaide.

This Fox Sports article suggests that the recent problems stem largely from a dressing-room rift caused by the axing of Costanzo, Salley and Diego. The other Brazilians, Cassio, Cristiano and Alemao, are also apparently unhappy. Four Four Two has run a similar story, reporting that two players in particular (no names, unfortunately) are behind the whole thing, with a source claiming that they are the same two players who were causing trouble 'a few years ago'. That would narrow it down significantly: Valkanis, Beltrame, Costanzo, Dodd and Pantelis are the only players I can think of that have been at the club more than a couple of years. That article also states that Cassio could be on his way out soon - I'll be very upset if that is the case.

Meanwhile, the SMH has run an article quoting a certain ex-captain of the club (let's call him 'Ross'), backing up the notion that there are certain senior players that are not getting a game (well, that rules out Dodd and Pants), were involved in Kosmina's downfall, and seem to be part of the current rot. Furthermore, according to 'Ross', there is at least one Board member actively trying to bring down Vidmar.

It's unfortunate having to watch all of this finger-pointing and infighting again. It's also very hard to know what or who to believe, because everyone involved naturally has their own agendas and biases. All we can hope is that it all gets resolved quickly so the club can concentrate on the future. There will be some good young players stepping up into the first team next year; I just hope that Adelaide United has regained some stability and direction by that point.

In the meantime, there's the game against Queensland this weekend. Win that and we're in the ACL again, and we've got a chance (slim as it may seem) of winning the Championship. Lose and, well, there's always next year. I'll be supporting either way.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Melbourne 4-0 Benny Hill Select XI

Something very strange happened to me during the course of this match. After the first couple of goals I wanted Melbourne to really thrust in the knife and keep twisting. I wanted no quarter. In a fit of masochistic bloodlust I was urging Melbourne on, watching in delighted horror as they, once more, ritualistically put Adelaide to the sword.

I'm a bit concerned about the perverse pleasure that I gained watching the slaughter orchestrated by Carlos Hernandez, Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp and co. It was just like watching that terrible grand final again. The same utter capitulation in the Reds midfield, the same magnificent performance by the home team, the same beautiful balls played through to their strikers by the man in the hole. Only difference was, this time we waited until later in the match before one of our players got sent off. And the (aggregate) score of the loss? 6-0.

So, why did I want to see Adelaide fail? I think I can justify my feelings like this: The greater the loss tonight, the more likely they will also fail against Queensland next week and not have to play Melbourne again in a grand final. Better to get the humiliation over and done with. Let's start thinking about next season, and let Melbourne and Queensland battle it out for the championship. At least that is likely to be a competitive game.

The funny thing is, I'm not really put off by this result. I'm not going to boycott the match next week. I'll get my membership next year, same as always, even if we make it to the grand final and lose 10-0. I've come to terms with the fact that Adelaide are Melbourne's whipping boys, it's starting to feel like that's just the natural order of things. In the same way that night follows day and death follows life, Adelaide will cop a hiding whenever we play Melbourne. It's inevitable.

There's all sorts of things I could say about individual performances, but I don't think it's necessary. Pretty much 'fail' marks across the board. As for Vidmar, here's what he had to say after the match:

"It was an absolute disgrace... We owe the world an apology. Politics is what I put it down to. There's too many people at this club with hidden agendas... This club will never win anything until you get rid of that crap."

See this Fox Sports article for more... and here's a link to the interview audio.

Apparently, he also referred to Adelaide as a 'piss ant town'. I'm thinking he'll be on very very thin ice after this outburst - not being privy to the machinations inside the club it's hard to know what he's on about and whether he has reason to say these sorts of things. If it's just the sound of a man under pressure finally exploding then perhaps it's best for the future if Adelaide look to another coach, but if his criticism of the club is merited then the problem is deeper than the coach and the players.

Anyway, more on this when we know more about it... stay tuned kids.

I'll sign off on a positive note: well done to the Adelaide United fans that made the trip over. Well done for supporting until the end, and, especially, well done for the messages of support and solidarity for the victims of the bushfire disaster. You've done your club proud.

Highlights of the game.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Congratulations

Well done to the five Adelaide United players, plus Viddie, named in the A-League All-Star team chosen by the FFA. I'd probably have them lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, something like this (it's hard trying to fit in 3 wide lefties):

--------------------Galekovic-----------------------
---------Moore-----Ognenovski ----Jamieson
----------------Jedinak---------Cassio----------------
Dodd----------------Hernandez-----------------Zullo
----------------Smeltz--------Rukavytsya-------------


Coach: Vidmar

This is quite an interesting selection - the players chosen demonstrate just how dominant Adelaide's defensive line has been this season. It's also interesting because, despite all the whinging from Adelaide fans and calls for Viddie's head (bearing in mind that Melbourne only won the league from us by one measly goal, having finished equal on points), the Reds are getting recognition for all the good things they've done this year. Finishing second in the league is an exceptional result, considering that we also made the Asian Champions League final and, thanks to that competition and the Club World Cup, had a far heavier workload than any other A-League side.

I'm not saying that the 'All-Star' team selected is perfect - I would have chosen Sergio van Dijk ahead of Nikita Rukavytsya, and players like Charlie Miller, Tarek Elrich, Archie Thompson and Roddy Vargas would also have a fair argument for inclusion. But it's interesting thinking about just what Adelaide could have achieved this season with a more potent attack....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Japan 0-0 Australia

I missed this game (too much football, too little time) but my mate Nunny watched it at the pub and had the following to say:

It was a fairly good performance by both teams. Australia held strong with solid and decisive defending and excellent man marking. Japan's excellent playmaking midfield skinned us repeatedly, but struggled to find openings going forwards. Japan had 5 good chances during the game and a few missed free kicks....

1. A run down the right and a perfectly weighted pass towards the side of the goal close to the goal line, a player ran on and kicked it first time towards the goal... Lucas Neill with a sliding deflection which put the ball into the side netting.

2. The only penetrating through ball of the game, a Japanese player running on cut the ball back dangerously. Luke Wilkshire used his body well to defended the ball from a player coming through to smack it home. The ball spilled wide to nobody.

3. Some Japanese dude won a header from a cross. Missed the goal though.

4. Some Japanese dude teed up Endo on top of the box. Luckily for us he banged it straight at Schwarzer's head - safely palmed over the bar. (geez he kicked it hard)

5. Three minutes from time the ball spilled out after a corner and fell to a Japanese player on the corner of the six yard box. His shot across goal would have gone in but bounced off his own player in the heavily populated goal mouth - just wide of the near post.

We had two chances, one of them good. The bad one first: someone kicked the ball forward to Cahill with two to beat, and excellent first touch beat one defender....then he appeared to trip himself up and pushed the ball too far ahead of himself...suck. The good: Kennedy came on with 10 mintues left to replace Cahill, he won the ball in the center circle and passed it out to the wing -you could see him then calling for the cross in the middle. The cross was perfect and he got a touch on a strongly contested header right in front of the goal. Well done boys. In the wise words of Pim Verbeek: "We don't need to win this game, Japan do, so the pressure is on them."

Oh, I almost forgot: Some Japan guy went up for a header just outside the box and we booted him in the shin. Yellow card. The whole pub was like "Ohhh what was that for"... the commentator even said it "was a harsh call for an obvious attempt at the ball" I laughed a bit inside and wondered if they were serious... it was ugly...we were nowhere near the ball and kicked the crap out of the poor guy. Luckily their shot went into the wall. Card well won.
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As I said, I didn't watch the game, but two chances all match? I know a draw was a very good result away to Japan, but the Socceroos are starting to remind me of Adelaide United. It would be nice to be able to support at least one team that plays exciting football. I might have to dig up my old Barcelona shirt.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I take back everything...

...that I said about the A-League kit redesigns being a good thing. Behold, Newcastle's Asian Champions League shirt:


So, this is the fetching outfit in which our androgynous heroes the Jets Space Command 3000 will take to the battledrome to protect our planet against the marauding alien hordes.

Joel Griffiths should punch himself in the dick just for wearing it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Adelaide 0-2 Melbourne

I've just gotten home from the match. In this post, therefore, you may catch an elusive glimpse of that rarest of creatures, Angry Salmon. Keep your eyes peeled!

To say that I am disappointed with the way Adelaide played would be a gross understatement. Spineless. Once again, we soiled ourselves as soon as we saw that big 'V' on the opposition shirts. It's frustrating watching our defenders cowering in abject terror whenever the ball falls at Archie Thompson's feet.

The refereeing was craptastic, but I'm not going to try to blame the result on that corrupt blind sonofabitch in the middle, even though he's (in my completely objective and well-considered opinion) completely unfit to officiate a wet T-shirt contest, let alone a football match. Even if it were a wet T-shirt contest, he'd probably still give it to Muscat.

The personnel choices were suitably bizarre - Cristiano on the bench until the 70th minute? Valkanis desperately shuffling around in the backline watching Thompson and Allsopp, and even Tubs Hernandez, breeze past him at will? Ridiculous. Marrone was a deer in the headlights, as was Mullen. Alemao gave the ball away at every opportunity. Pantelis' first touch was diabolical. Barbiero, Dodd and Agostino were mostly invisible. I feel for Ago especially - how many times were balls hoofed up for him to flick on to nobody? BALLS TO FEET, Vidmar you bum.


I think I've worked out the root of the problem, though. Nothing to do with tactics, refereeing, or anything else: simply, Adelaide United literally forgot how to play football during their two weeks off. You know, the basics: pass to teammate rather than opposition; play the ball, not the man; object of game = score goals while keeping opponent's goals out....

Galekovic/Ognenovski/Sarkies/Jamieson/Reid: Hold your heads up - you deserved better for your efforts. Everyone else & Vidmar: Go back to football school and learn how to play the game. Take some notes this time. Good work, you lazy, uncoordinated schmucks. You spoiled my night.

But, we're only halfway, there's still another leg yadayadayada. Sorry, but 3 goals in Tardistan just ain't gonna happen. If we get to the Grand Final we'll have to do it the hard way.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Let's get ready to RRRRRRRUMBLE!!!!!

http://www.theage.com.au/news/sport/soccer/lets-get-ready-to-rumble/2009/02/05/1233423406384.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1



It's very true. Melbourne versus Adelaide is, I think, turning into our young league's biggest rivalry. Tomorrow night will be fantastic: Hindmarsh packed to the rafters on a balmy summer evening, a large contingent of travelling Melbourne fans providing plenty of banter, and hopefully a typically feisty effort on the pitch. Bring it on.



I, for one, can't wait to see what sort of shenanigans the Melbourne fans will get up to this time: will they light a flare inside the Governor Hindmarsh? Will they scrawl 'MELBOURNE ULTRAZZZZZZ [insert Serbian cross]' on to a commercial premises on Manton Street? Will they, inspired by Italian fan clips on youtube, wrap their faces in scarves and run amok through the streets, frightening schoolchildren and the elderly with their unpredictable behaviour and ribald chanting? Time will tell (actually, all the Melbourne fans I've met have been pretty decent types, but there's always a few bad and/or borderline mentally retarded apples in every barrel)...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Silly me..

.... I forgot to mention Sydney FC's replacement of John Kosmina with former Sparta Prague coach Vitezslav Lavicka. Let's hope they haven't signed a Czech their ass can't cash (you'd better start getting used to the corny headlines).

This SMH article talks about the details of the signing... and also refers to another possible new catch to put in the Adelaide United esky - Thai midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao, currently plying his trade in Vietnam with Hoang Anh Gia Lai. According to his Wikipedia profile he looks a pretty handy player, but then again, that could have been written by his mum. Could he be the answer to Diego's departure?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

White lines.... runnin' through my mind

It's been another massive week of news for football in this wide brown land of ours...

Most significantly from a red-shirted point of view, Rostyn Griffiths has signed with Adelaide on a four-week deal. It seems we cunning Reds have exploited the A-League's injury-cover rules to obtain the 20-year-old Blackburn reservist as a replacement for North Queensland-bound Jason Spagnuolo, instead of calling up a National Youth League player. I disagree with this in principle, but in practice... high five, mofos. Especially if he does well and Adelaide take up the option to sign up the Welsh-Aussie midfielder on a two season contract.

The Newcastle Jets, having read and pondered on my previous post about how crap they are, have decided to finally do something about it and start rebuilding their decimated squad ahead of their Asian Champions League campaign. According to their official site, they've sealed the deal with AUFC folk hero and all-round legend Angelo Costanzo, gun-for-hire Sasho Petrovski (the whore with a shirt of gold - currently giving Damian Mori a run for his money for the title of 'A-League's most money-hungry mercenary bastard ever'), and Dutch striker with typically awesome name Donny de Groot. On top of this, they've added ex-Sydney FC and Sydney United coach (and Jason's dad) Branko Culina to their staff as football director. Oh, the oedipal conflicts that will arise when the Jets & Gold Coast collide...

The biggest surprise for Newcastle, though, is their signing of ex-Socceroo and current employee of Ricky Diaco's family's garden shop, Ljubo Milicevic. It's great to see that the Ljub-mobile has regained the hunger to keep playing at a high level - recent interviews paint a picture of Ljubo as an intelligent and articulate guy who doesn't quite fit the mould of a stereotypical football player.

He's fought battles with his own and other peoples' expectations of him and has had a long journey struggling to cope with depression, even when leading his team into battle in the European Champions League. If he can get back into a good place he's certainly got the talent to make a big impact in the A-League. If there is any justice in the world he will be back in the Socceroos squad for the 2010 World Cup, after the disappointments of 2006.

Undoubtedly, though, the biggest news of the week has been the North Queensland Fury snaring the signature of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler. In his prime he was one of the most dangerous goal poachers in the world, and he's still only 33 years old. It'll be interesting to see whether North Queensland can provide the service to make the most of the ageing tap-in merchant's abilities - although Jason Spagnuolo was able to put a goal on a platter for Romario at Hindmarsh, so there's certainly hope.

Worryingly, God's manifestation in Townsville has been the catalyst for The Times Online writing an article entitled 'Sport's top ten biggest bellies'. Fowler was never known for his trim physique, however, and history is littered with plenty of examples of fat bastards playing excellent football (think Diego Maradona, or closer to home Charlie Miller). There's not much else I can add to the myriad of existing articles about this signing, other than to say that I hope it goes well, so for now I shall leave you with a picture of the great man that has captured an exquisite moment of athleticism, passion, and heroic dedication to the cause...