Thursday, August 03, 2006
A-League Anticipation, Part 8
New Zealand Knights
Plenty of movement at last season’s cellar club. Last year’s squad, packed with honest, unspectacular journeymen, has been transformed into a cosmopolitan group with a number of interesting new signings.
Two of them, right-sided Ghanaian midfielder Malik Buari and Portuguese frontman Dani Rodrigues, have impressed observers greatly in the pre-season cup. Another African, Jonas Salley, has apparently added considerable defensive solidity in midfield.
Jonti Richter is an excellent acquisition for the Knights. Wonderfully incisive for Queensland at times last season, Richter is a thoroughly adequate replacement for the departed Jeremy Brockie. The New Zealand side often looked most effective last year playing down the flanks, with Caravella, Hickey and Brockie able to get the better of a number of opposing full-backs. Hickey is still there (although Caravella’s contract has not been renewed), and Richter is likely to make plenty of inroads this season.
Richard Johnson and Scot Gemmill are two other handy additions to the squad; both prefer to operate in central midfield. Gemmill comes with ample experience of top-level football in England – I always considered him a solid, intelligent player during his Everton days – while Johnson proved himself a tidy, versatile performer with the Jets last season.
In my opinion, the Knights could do with one more striker. Sean Devine was simply not up to standard last year, and Adam Casey is as yet somewhat inexperienced. It might be possible to use Richter in a supporting role, but I feel this would be a waste; he is far more effective out wide.
The defence looks something of a problem area as well, although they have so far proved quite resilient. Young Sime Kovacevic has given a good account of himself, but one wonders whether Paul Nevin would prefer to have a more experienced reserve for the likely starting pair of Bunce and van Eijs. And, with only one place in the squad yet to be filled, it might even be better for Nevin to acquire a reserve full-back or utility defender rather than an extra striker; the full-backs, Bazeley and Duruz, are currently without a viable replacement.
It goes without saying that the A-League would greatly benefit from a more competitive New Zealand Knights this term. The early signs are that we are not to be disappointed.
More recent signs however...
Whatever possessed them to get a keeper as their final signing? Quite bizarre when you consider that they had so many gaps elsewhere.