Wednesday, July 19, 2006
A-League Anticipation, Part 1
It is now little more than a month away.
That glamorous but somewhat disappointing event in Europe is over, and the real business starts up again at Olympic Park on my cousin's 35th birthday, August 25.
Over the next few weeks, your favourite tragic will be presenting a brief piece on each team, in the lead-up to the national competition. And where better to start than with the defending champions, my very own hometown club?
How should Sydney FC's off-season be described? Interesting, disquieting, dramatic? At times, it was all of these. The boardroom manoeuvres certainly took centre stage for the period immediately following the Grand Final, and with the World Cup commanding much of the fans' attention from May onwards, there has been little discussion about the team itself until now.
David Carney and Dwight Yorke will wear the light blue jersey again this season, much to the relief of the Cove. The retention of Carney is indeed a blessing, but the fans will be earnestly hoping that it is the Yorke of 2005, rather than the meek, uninterested midfielder of early 2006, who will take the field.
There is reason to assume that he will show a little more commitment this season. His dip in form towards the end of the 2005/06 A-League season seemed to have more than a little to do with Trinidad and Tobago's qualification for the World Cup; no way was Yorke going to let an injury sustained at club level prevent him from taking part.
There have been only two departures from the club during the off-season. Andy Packer has left for Queensland, and all those who remember his commanding display in the Grand Final will acknowledge that he is a considerable loss. Matthew Bingley has also ended his stint at Sydney FC, but most fans will feel that the veteran utility man, who saw perhaps more game time than he deserved last season, is eminently replaceable.
Sydney FC's playing roster still looks the best in the country. They have captured two exciting young players in Alex Brosque and Jeremy Brockie, and can still call upon the services of the estimable Clint Bolton in goal, and the still underestimated Steve Corica in midfield.
The acquisition of Brosque and Brockie does present an interesting conundrum: how will Sydney FC set out their stall on the flanks? The two young recruits both function most effectively on the wing, and with Carney, Robbie Middleby and Ruben Zadkovich already on the books of the defending champions, there will probably be a couple of talented players reduced to bit parts this term. Zadkovich, it must be said, looked ill at ease on the wing during the finals series; one hopes that he will have the opportunity to occupy a central position at times this season.
Midfield, then, appears to be the area of least concern for Sydney FC. Ufuk Talay - unfairly written off by some supporters last season - and the pugnacious Terry McFlynn are still there, to fill the central places. It is quite possible that the current midfield preponderance will induce Terry Butcher to move Dwight Yorke back into a striking role, a switch which would surely be welcomed by many fans. David Zdrilic is still there, and the consensus among the fans seems to be that he is something of a dead weight. I'll reserve judgement on that until he is able to play at full fitness for an extended period.
Perhaps the squad is short a defender at the moment, particularly in the light of Packer's departure. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, a short-term signing from the state league, apparently showed some form in the pre-season outing against Queensland, and Terry Butcher may be tempted to snap him up, rather than look for an established name to fill the breach.
Finally, there is the matter of the new manager.
Anxious perusals of Motherwell fansites by Sydney FC fans were rewarded with mostly positive references to our new man. By all accounts, his Motherwell charges played enterprising football, and he wrung more out of the squad than expected.
Those Sydney fans present must have groaned, however, when the team took the field against Queensland on the Gold Coast with Carney on the right and Corica on the left...exactly the deployments for which Pierre Littbarski was so roundly criticised last season. But Butcher shifted his formation as the game wore on, suggesting that the Littbarski system might not last too long under his stewardship.
Next: our pirate neighbours from up the coast.
Your blog is one of the shining lights of football sites on the internet. I very much enjoy reading it.
'Twill be interesting to see how he goes this season. The whole back line looked a bit shaky last season, at least at some points. In fact the goal by Qld against Sydney was due to crossed wavelengths between Milligan and Fyfe. But apparently Milligan was very impressive in Asia for the Olyroos just before the WC, which is why he made the squad (that, and Vidmar having to be rushed out).
Carney himself says he prefers to be on the right. I think it's a medium to long-term plan to turn himself into a genuine tvo-sided player. Remember that Littbarski himself would play Carney on the left for most of the match, then switch him to the right for the last 10 minutes.
Mikey did you happen to catch the live text commentary from the ground in Qld, relayed by the Chairman himself and one other Cove supporter? Sydney's second goal was supposedly the result of a 21-pass move. I don't know exactly who would have been counting passes all game, which is what they would have had to do.
That's not the way I recall it TBH, mags. Carney mostly started on the right and occasionally switched to the left during the game (during the regular season at least).
And as for his personal preference, he tended to hedge when he was seriously quizzed about his preferred position (trust me, I was at the press conferences ;-) ), and Jaza for one says he privately confessed he'd prefer to be playing on the left.
We shall see!
...Mikey did you happen to catch the live text commentary from the ground in Qld, relayed by the Chairman himself and one other Cove supporter? Sydney's second goal was supposedly the result of a 21-pass move. I don't know exactly who would have been counting passes all game, which is what they would have had to do....
Didn't catch it at the time unfortunately (I was up at Gosford for the Mariners-Perth game), but I saw the commentary later on SFCU. Counting 21 passes without the benefit of a replay is pretty damn impressive!!