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:, 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


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:

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:,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
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."


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


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):

---------Moore-----Ognenovski ----Jamieson

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.
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!!!!!

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...

Plundering the Great Southern Land

Here' s a rather interesting story from from United Arab Emirates paper 'The National', that I uncovered through my usual techniques of in-depth and thorough research (i.e. I clicked the Google news bar at the top of this page):
3+1 adding up to be a big winner

The article discusses the AFC's new '3+1' rule, wherein teams competing in the Champions League from this year onwards will be allowed to field three non-Asian foreigners plus one player from an AFC member nation. This has big implications for Australia:
It is Australia ... where the biggest bargains can be found. The A-League is still in its infancy and with a salary cap that is just under $2million for an entire squad, it is not surprising that some of the biggest stars down under are being tempted by relative riches abroad. Concerns are growing that the increasing exodus could do serious damage to the fledgling league.

The article goes on to cite the examples of Sasa Ognenovski and Jade North, who have both accepted lucrative deals in Korea. The situation is a bit of a headache for the FFA - it's unfortunate that our league will lose the talents of some of its best players, but these players are of course entitled to go elsewhere to sell their services for full market value. The money coming in from such transfers is important, as well, for clubs' finances.

So, where to now? I think it's a bit of a balancing act: with more money flowing into the league through such transfers it will become more viable for the FFA to increase clubs' salary caps. In turn, this will give A-League clubs more purchasing power and should, theoretically, increase the ability for clubs to retain their best Australian players in future.

The A-League will always lose its brightest stars to richer and more prestigious overseas leagues. But that's not necessarily a problem, as long as there is a production line churning out high quality young players to fill their place. Plenty of foreign leagues operate like this - the best Brazilian, Dutch, Argentine and Portuguese players (for example) end up in the 'Big 4' European leagues, but the high quality of the young local players in these countries ensures that the standard of play remains at a very high level.

We're already seeing young players from the National Youth League and the state leagues successfully step up into the A-League. The potential is there to ensure that every Djite, Jedinak or Ognenovski that heads overseas is replaced by a youngster of equal quality. As junior coaching and talent identification gets better, this will become less of an issue. The final piece of the puzzle will be ongoing increases in the salary cap, allowing the A-League clubs to retain their stars for longer and lure better foreigners and returning Australian players.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A sign of things to come

"Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty." Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson and new signing Shane Huke model their fetching new strips.

One of the issues that has raised the ire of A-League supporters over the years has been the FFA's insistence on using cookie-cutter shirt templates as a cost-saving mechanism. The patterns used by Reebok in the past have been rather unimaginative: no stripes, hoops, bands, sashes or anything else straying from the generic. In their third season Melbourne were allowed to adopt the big 'V' as part of their home and away kits, but this was an exception to the general trend.

The FFA has also, until now, been reluctutant to budge from its 'whites only' away shirt policy. Perhaps this wasn't such a bad idea given such eyeball-sodomising possibilities as the bright purple Glory coming up against the fluoro-orange-and-maroon Roar, but in any event this era of away-shirt apartheid seems now to be over.

The first inhabitants of the A-League's new rainbow nation are the Central Coast Mariners. For their upcoming Asian jaunt they will be sporting a navy-and-yellow striped home shirt, with a simple all yellow for away matches. It seems they'll also be wearing these shirts (or something similar) in the next A-League season. Good - they look, in my humble opinion, pretty schmicko.

There's something about these clean, simple designs that really appeals to me. If the shorts were shorter and the hair and muttonchops longer, they would look like they could be contesting the 1974 FA Cup or something. It'll look different with sponsors all over it of course, but still, the Mariners are a team with retro style. Even their logo looks like the cover of a 70's surf flick.

Word has it that the sea gypsies won't be the only team in stripes next season, either, with perhaps Newcastle and Wellington also to take that option. As for Adelaide, I think we can expect our home strip to remain as sexy as always in solid red, but the away kit may be a different story, with the club seemingly opting for a colour as far away from the current white as is possible. Ah, rumours, rumours...