Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Not-so-New, but Improved

The “Version 2.0” marketing hook for the new A-League season gave rise to plenty of jokes, but the pleasing truth is that the league has indeed improved.

And a small but significant point to note is that the four teams who have been producing the best football so far are exactly the ones who retained their coaches from season one.

What’s this, you say? Wasn’t our tragic friend in favour of dispensing with Pierre Littbarski?

Indeed I was, and I still believe that it was the right decision. The pay-packet being offered to Littbarski was enormously over the odds considering the drab football produced by Sydney FC for much of Version 1.0.

But Miron Bleiberg deserved another shot. As, of course, did Lawrie McKinna and John Kosmina.

By contrast, Steve McMahon and Richard Money had shown no inclination towards encouraging positive, attractive football. Not missed, in my opinion.

Adelaide United have added some genuine flair to their erstwhile resolute qualities, and have unearthed a wonderful young prospect in Nathan Burns.

Queensland have stiffened their defence immeasurably with the addition of Sasa Ognenovski, and they now boast some genuine striking power up front.

Lawrie McKinna’s men have simply carried on where they left off. After an indifferent period at the start of the season (occasioned, in large part, by the injury to Andre Gumprecht), they have gotten back into their 2005/06 groove, playing positive, cohesive football.

As for Ernie Merrick, what can one say? Last season’s Aunt Sally manager has presided over a stable, effective team, restructured with a view to eliminating last season’s midfield frailties.

Elsewhere, the managerial changes have largely been for the better.

Newcastle, under Nick Theodorakopoulos, have been playing a far more enterprising brand of football, and I still feel he could have been given more time. Full marks to Gary van Egmond for leading the side to two wins on the trot, but in some ways he has been reaping the benefits of Nick Theo’s approach, in my view.

Ron Smith has overseen a modest improvement at Perth Glory, aided by Simon Colosimo’s return to form. Even the Knights, despite their wretched results, have shown some signs of life.

And Sydney FC?

That same well-informed Covite who questioned the conventional wisdom on Kazu put it best.

The rest of the league, on the pitch, has moved forward. Sydney FC has stood still.

I was talking about this with a mate of mine the other day. Last season, I thinnk there were really only three teams worth their salt in contention for championship by the season's end (Queensland were pretty much out of it from round 19 onwards). Now we have Melbourne, Adelaide, Central Coast, Queensland, Perth and Newcastle all looking at least pretty decent, and Sydney are still thereabouts and should improve considerably with their injured players returning later on in the season.

It's going to be a very competitive race for the top two and four this season, and Melbourne still have a fair bit of work to do to finish first IMO. In 2005-2006, meanwhile, we had three worthwhile finals teams and another that limped into the top four, sort of by default with the four teams below it simply not doing enough.

Can't wait for the finish to the regular season. Should be a real test this time around for everyone.
It's interesting how strong the correlation is between each club's off-field problems and the team's performance on the field. Occasionally you see a team doing well in spite of, or perhaps because of, off-field dramas, but not here.
I'm going to start charging royalties.
...I'm going to start charging royalties....

Share and share alike is the "Christian" spirit, I believe... ;-)

At least I don't nick your material, like some journos have in the past.
Well I am a HUGE believer in the power of off-seasons on teams, coaches and players. We never really had a proper one because Lowy needed another ivory backscratcher so they got rid of Litti and sold Yorky.

It is really not much suprise that Melbourne are doing so well. Didn't they even say at the very start of the A-League that the plan is long term competitivness? Sydney obviously bought the first championship and now are trying to make the money back while ripping off the fans (well at least some fans - amazingly most people on SFCU condone everything that has happened since we won last year).

And now with Sydney's track record with coaches and "marquee players". I can't imagine many football people being interested in making the trek to Sydney anymore to help out in this new league.

I guess if there will be a new coach it should be a local - we gave one coach a year of experience in Australia and the sacked him, now we have more "growing pains" with an overseas coach (that equals one season and a third of a coach being in a brand new country and footballing style) we can not afford that anymore.
As someone from the FFA said, there are only 8 teams and 4 are going to miss the finals. The way its is shaping up, if you're a coach of a sub 4 team - you face the chop and the fans stay away.

I believe you have to look at the ground gate take to see the drivers for keeping/replacing coaches. In this light, the Newcastle change can be viewed as a CFO act - ie get at least the same performance with one less on the payroll and promote the assistant. The rumours that Sydney's assistant will get the nod also point to finances winning the day in the face of relatively poor gate take. I suspect that Sydney ned the biggest crowd to cover their ground fees.

I thought that Carbone would lead to a guest player arms race. Romaino and Adelaide hinted at this. But Sydney now seem keener to keep their dollars.
...As someone from the FFA said, there are only 8 teams and 4 are going to miss the finals. The way its is shaping up, if you're a coach of a sub 4 team - you face the chop and the fans stay away....

It's largely for this reason that I believe, in the fullness of time (don't let be misunderstood, as they say), some form of promotion and relegation will become necessary for the A-League, possibly involving some sort of conference tournament between the champions of the various state leagues (there would obviously be financial and other management criteria to be met by the applicant clubs as well).

Only because, once the competition expands (as it's sure to do), interest is bound to drop off once it becomes clear that a team isn't in the running for the finals. And the supporter base is not likely to be strong enough, even in 4-5 years' time, to survive that sort of general apathy...clubs could find themselves in real trouble if they're still relying mainly on the gate to break even.
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