Tuesday, July 25, 2006

 

A-League Anticipation, Part 4

From the solid South Australians to the A-League club that has made the news for all the wrong reasons over the past month.

Newcastle Jets

It has been, to put it euphemistically, an interesting off-season up the Hunter. A new coach, a number of changes in personnel, a couple of highly-publicized ego clashes, and a poor start to the Pre-Season Cup.

One player will be missed particularly from last season. Ante Milicic, perhaps the most accomplished finisher still plying his trade in Australia, has departed for Queensland after having his thoughtful style subordinated to the dreary long-ball tactics of Richard Money for much of last season. Vaughan Coveny, the recipient of many of those long balls, has come back to the club, but there has been no proper replacement for Milicic as yet.

Mark Bridge partnered Coveny in the Jets’ most recent hitout against Sydney. Bridge’s form in the state league has been ordinary, however, and one would think that Tolgay Ozbey, a pacy, energetic young attacker who has come off a substantial season with Blacktown, should be given a try as a partner for Coveny before long.

Paul Okon’s return to Australian football, in his preferred sweeper role, will be fascinating to watch. Most of the reports of his performances so far have been cautiously positive; despite his seemingly endless run of injuries, Okon is very much a class act, and could prove even more influential than the increasingly moody Ned Zelic.

If Okon has arrived in Newcastle after a wearisome journey through the leagues of Europe, Tony Faria and Adam D’Apuzzo, like Ozbey, have stepped up from the anonymity of the state league. Faria, a former Northern Spirit player and a star for Marconi in the early part of the winter, has pace, but, in the opinion of his critics, little else. From the little I’ve seen of him, he appears to operate best with a target-man type in the centre, allowing him to do his work on the flanks. In the centre, he is far less effective.

D’Apuzzo, who, like Faria, favors a position on the left, is a graceful and skilful player, but appears vulnerable to pace and strength. I was there to see him being relentlessly out-muscled by the Sydney United midfield in the state league minor semi-final, and he apparently experienced similar troubles against Sydney FC’s speedy Robbie Middleby in the recent match in Canberra.

One piece of good news has been the return of Andrew Durante after his horrific injury at the hands - or rather the feet - of Nick Mrdja in the Jets’ first competitive game last year. He will add experience and class in defence, although it may be a while before he recovers full match-fitness; against Sydney, it seems, he was still slightly off the pace.

Liam Reddy’s departure has meant an opportunity for local boy Ben Kennedy. Although the signing from Broadmeadow has made a bright enough beginning for the Jets, Nick Theodorakopoulos will surely want to add an established ’keeper to the squad before the A-League begins.

And so to the new Jets manager. He has clearly (in fact, somewhat blatantly) been angling for an A-League job for some time, and now he has his chance. But the beginning of his reign has not been altogether sure-footed; clashes with first Ned Zelic, then new club captain Okon - the latter apparently arising, in part, from some loose-tongued discussion of Okon’s remuneration by Theodorakopoulos - have not exactly enhanced his reputation. Nor, to be frank, did his appearances on SBS’s World Cup studio panel. His pronouncements were often ill-considered and bizarre, in my opinion.

Life is never boring at Newcastle Jets FC, but one wonders if they will be finals material this time around. There appears to be a lot still to sort out.

Comments:
Yeah, Milicic will be a big loss for the Jets, especially with the new coach who I reckon would get more out of him. He was a little disappointing under Money.

I'm quite looking forward to Nick Theo's coaching. I think the Jets will go quite well under him, so long as they can get their personnel problems sorted out. I hardly followed any of the NSL, but I at least know that Nick Theo got some very good results while not having as much access to talent as some of the teams he was up against.

I'm looking forward to his comments after his team's performances too. The A-League had some colourful coaches last year (loved Bleiberg's rant) and Theodorakopolous looks like he'll carry on that tradition. He couldn't resist getting some digs in against SydneyFC during SBS's WC coverage.

ps mike I hope you had a good excuse for not coming down to Canberra ;-)
 
...I'm looking forward to his comments after his team's performances too. The A-League had some colourful coaches last year (loved Bleiberg's rant) and Theodorakopolous looks like he'll carry on that tradition. He couldn't resist getting some digs in against SydneyFC during SBS's WC coverage....

Yeah, he'll probably be good entertainment value, that's for sure.

...ps mike I hope you had a good excuse for not coming down to Canberra ;-)....

Erm...poverty? ;-)
 
Mike, if World Soccer ever gets around to doing an A-League preview, they'd be well advised to get in contact with you! ;-)

I'm expecting Newcastle to be much better to watch this season, even if they struggle somewhat for results, and with an eye on the NT I hope Carle finally hits his straps, well and truly. Good to see that you've mentioned Durante, he seems to have been forgotten by most A-League fans but Newcastle could well do with him IMO, providing he gets back into form.

All that said, I've been a bit of a nay-sayer when it comes to Nick Theo. Even if Milicic had stayed and the Jets didn't have the player problems they're having, I would still be a bit hesitant to back them to win anything. For all his attractive football, it still staggers me that he failed to top the table or win the GF with Parrmatta despite having the services of Milicic, Rech, (an in-form) Colosimo, Elrich, Bolton, Petrovski, Gumprecht, Ceccoli, Travis Dodd and Beauchamp in 2003-2004. And while he got plenty of plaudits for the Wolves' remarkable comeback in the 2000 GF, I reckon the 2000-2001 Wolves team, coached by Ron Corry, was more impressive on the whole.
 
G'Day Mike, great blog.

Re: Wollongong, it makes me wonder how much of the credit should go to Ron Corry, as Hiraldo rightly pointed out. As much as I enjoy Theo's style of football, I don't think anyone markets Nick Theo better than Nick Theo.

I still believe that Newcastle should have at least reached the GF given the talent at their disposal, lack of pace notwithstanding. They were absolutely atrocious after the Christmas break, and it was almost as if Money's signing of Coveny prompted the coach to identify long balls to the big man as some piece of coaching masterstrokery.

Such a pity, because they were one of the better teams in the comp prior to Christmas IMO, with a style of play that often inspired. Their first half against Sydney in Newcastle earlier in the season was at times champagne football.

It's a pity that Theo is on such a short contract because I feel he will need at least two seasons to develop a strong team.

Unfortunately, they might struggle.

All the best with your blog Mike.

- The Fourth Official
 
Hi TFO, good to hear from you!

Yeah, re Corry, he certainly did a good job with Wollongong but ain't into self-promotion as much as Nick Theo. Was it you who suggested (and I think others might have as well) that Corry would have been a good alternative local option were Soccer Oz (as it then was) to look for a local (i.e. cheap) alternative after Farina's failure in Montevideo? Certainly a suggestion that deserved more serious consideration, at the time.
 
Re:Ron Corry.

I'm not fully up to speed with what he might be doing these days. NSWPL? Goalkeeping coaching only somewhere?

Anyway, it does lend some weight to the argument about best utilizing our local coaching talent.
 
I loved Nick Theo's comments during the World Cup.Certainly better than Zelic and Orsatti anyway...
 
The last I heard of Corry was him leaving his position at Newcastle ( funnily enough) as a goalkeeping coach sometime early last season I think. IIRC it was the Jets who moved to get rid of him though, in favour of reserve veteren 'keeper Andy Petterson.
 
"Was it you who suggested (and I think others might have as well) that Corry would have been a good alternative local option were Soccer Oz (as it then was) to look for a local (i.e. cheap) alternative after Farina's failure in Montevideo?"

That might have been someone else, but I do recall lamenting the lack of employment for underrated coaches such as Corry and the equally ignored Stuart Munro. The latter should have been appointed Victory's coach IMO.

Based on the general level of coaching in Year one of the HAL, Corry would've been up to the grade at this level.

- TFO
 
...Based on the general level of coaching in Year one of the HAL, Corry would've been up to the grade at this level...

I agree. From a tactical POV in particular, the coaches as a whole certainly didn't cover themselves in glory last year...very much the opposite, in fact, Lawrie McKinna being an honourable exception.
 
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