Saturday, February 03, 2007


Sydney FC - The Report Card, Part 1

No honest Sydney FC fan can have too many complaints after last night. Although Alex Brosque's dismissal and - a factor most have ignored - Terry McFlynn's absence had their inevitable effect, Newcastle were clearly the better side over the two legs, both individually and collectively.

Time, then, to assess the individual performances of Sydney FC's personnel over the course of the season. And it's probably simplest to go through the list by squad number rather than position, given the constant interchange that occurred during the season.

1. Clint Bolton

In 2005/06, the ex-Olympic and Brisbane Strikers gloveman was easily the best goalkeeper in the competition. In 2006/07, it wasn't quite so clear-cut. Although he made some fine saves and impressed with his handling and distribution once again, he was caught out in his positioning at times (most embarrassingly against Perth in Round 3), and just didn't quite cut as commanding a figure as he had in Sydney's first season.

It was rumoured that Bolton, along with Saso Petrovski and Alvin Ceccoli, formed the core of a group of (mainly senior) players dissatisfied with Terry Butcher's coaching and tactics. It must be said, though, that Bolton's form did not dip as badly as that of his two fellow recalcitrants.

Any A-League team would surely be overjoyed to have Bolton on their books. In pressure situations, he often lifts his game; witness the outstanding save he made from Damian Mori in the final regular season match, and the string of brave stops last night, when Sydney needed to keep the scoring to two if they were to have a chance of nicking a goal and taking the tie to extra time. Not to mention his sterling performance in Sydney's first game of the season, in which Bolton's efforts helped Sydney to begin the season with a morale-boosting win which they scarcely deserved. 7.5/10.

2. Iain Fyfe

Used as a right-back for most of the season by Terry Butcher, Iain Fyfe found the position hard to adapt to. Although he could never be faulted for effort, it was pretty clear even early in the piece that he was not a natural full-back; wily old Stewart Petrie, for one, had Fyfe for breakfast in the Round 8 game against the Central Coast, and other wingers tormented him in similar fashion.

His passing out of defence provided plenty of frustrating moments for Sydney FC's supporters throughout. From his right-back position, he would constantly attempt to send diagonal balls into the midfield; with monotonous regularity, they would be intercepted by quick-witted opponents. It was, indeed, Sydney's inability throughout the season to build their play through the full-backs that contributed more than anything else to their two-dimensional style.

Fyfe is at his best in central defence, and it was good to see him getting his chance there late in the season. Against Queensland in Round 21 he was outstanding, and in other games in which he was used in the middle, he looked far more comfortable. One of Sydney's personnel problems has been that they possess too many central defenders by inclination - Rudan, Fyfe, Timpano, Topor-Stanley, Milligan, possibly even Alvin Ceccoli - and no true full-backs.

Yet even at right-back, Fyfe had his moments. He nullified the dangerous Jason Spagnuolo surprisingly well in the crucial Round 13 encounter, and got to grips with the tricky Alessandro after experiencing some initial difficulties in Round 2. 6/10.

3. Alvin Ceccoli

One of the season's great disappointments. After a 2005/06 in which he had been combative, energetic and effective, Ceccoli was clearly angling for a move to Europe. It didn't eventuate, he fell out with Sydney FC's new coach early on, and disappointment surely played a major part in what was a hugely sub-par season for the burly left-back.

Because of Pierre Littbarski's contant refusal to play a naturally left-footed player on the left side of midfield last term, Ceccoli was often called upon to provide the width on that side, and this he did superbly well. Getting to the by-line on numerous occasions, drawing two men towards him to create space for the attackers, making sure opposition right-wingers had to think about defence as all happened in 2005/06.

None of the above in 2006/07. Ceccoli rarely got forward, and his delivery when he did so was often abysmal.

He continued to be a force defensively under Butcher, but the opportunities presented to an adventurous left-back by sides employing a more compact midfield were simply not exploited by Ceccoli to any great degree this season. 4.5/10.

Lots more to come later this week, folks.

Hi there

Next Wednesday sees Sydney visit Indonesia to play Persik Kediri in the Asian Champions League.

In their first game Kediri officials warmly welcomed Shanghai Shenhua to Solo before getting a lucky 1-0 victory over them on a rain sodden pitch. Kediri have had a stop start season, I saw them lose 2-1 at Jakarta last week, but they won 5-0 at the weekend at home to Malang with star striker Christian Gonzales getting a hat trick.

Today sees the Indonesian Champions host Pelita Jaya at Brawijaya Stadium. With Pelita pointless on their travels Kediri will be hoping for a confidence boosting win.

I will be watching the game live here in Jakarta and be posting regular updates on my blog Jakarta Casual ,the only English language website devoted to Indonesian football

Keep one step ahead and keep up to date with the progress of Sydney FC’s opposition ahead of the crucial tie next week!

Best regards

Jakarta Casual
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