Monday, July 23, 2007


Local Faith - update

It's the traditional time for post-mortems, recriminations and knee-jerk suggestions for improvement (most of them involving that favourite football fan chorus, Sack The Coach). In a few months' time we will probably all have realized that it was simply a sub-par performance in difficult conditions, in a new competition, under a coach who made some poor decisions under pressure. But right now, it's headless chook time.

One of the more coherent and interesting articles of recent days has been this from Mike Cockerill (whose desperate exculpations of Graham Arnold are, admittedly, becoming somewhat tiresome). Pointing to the prowess of the A-Leaguers at the Asian Cup, he has suggested drawing the squads for future qualifiers in Asia from the local brigade.

It's a tempting suggestion. I don't agree.

Let's look at the last time Australia played an away game in Asia with a largely home-based squad. It was the so-called AFC-OFC Challenge Cup against Japan in 2001 (scroll about half-way down this page for the details).

Australia got crushed. And trust me, I watched the game and remember it well, 3-0 was flattering for the Socceroos.

Now, the A-League is not the NSL; it is a more professional operation (especially when compared to the NSL in its final days). But a good few dozen of Australia's top players would be missing were the squads for Asian qualifiers to be limited to just the locals. It's worth remembering, yet again, that there are plenty of second-tier players based in Europe who seem to have dropped off the radar since the move to Asia.

The A-League season is still very short. It is a summer competition, which, although it perhaps prepares the players better for some Asian assignments, does militate against the pace of the game to some extent. A further point, which I've mentioned before, is that many of the away matches in Asia are actually far closer to Europe than Australia.

Europe is still the testing ground, and building a squad around the A-League would be unwise, in my opinion.

The comparison to the home-based squads of the other Asian nations is illusory. For reasons of language and culture more than anything, Australian players are more readily accepted in the European leagues, and therefore they head to Europe in far greater numbers. Even the Koreans and the Japanese have only a handful of players who have successfully made the jump.

With Mark Bresciano's "roster" comments in mind, there is clearly a role for A-Leaguers to play in the run-up to 2010 (personally, I would be inclined to omit from the squad anyone who mentioned the word "roster", but that's another issue). However, parochialism should have its limits.

This piece, which I wrote nearly a year ago, still reflects my views.

I can't help but think that the European based players' experience and pedigree counted for precious little in this competition. When interrupting a short off-season, which also limits preparation, and played mostly in front of tiny crowds, is it any wonder that many of the big-names looked uninspired?
while babies and bathwater hold relevance, i think the a-league is more than justified in being a valued resource rather than a begrudged alternative. a look at kisnorbo vs milligan (admittedly, a small sample pool) shows how domestic-leaguers shouldn't feel a knee-jerk inferiority.
I think an “a-league only” squad could definitely struggle in Asia in place of the established guys. I think its definitely time to cast the net a bit wider and try some of the players who have been off the radar in smaller European leagues. Steffanutto, Wehrman, Ryan Griffiths, Steve Laybutt are all worth another shot. Perhaps also callups for the Olyroo guys who have stood out, or have been hard to get released for Olyroo duty but would be easier to get for a full international. David Williams and the like.
I like Rob Baan's approach to his Olyroo squad selections (you've blogged on this before so I won't add anything further).

Speaking of Aussies based in smaller Euro leagues, there are a couple of others possibly worth a looksie - I've long wanted to see Wayne Shroj (a certain Covite can confirm the spelling!).

Interestingly, I've read some good reviews of Josh Rose (I think that's his Christian name) in the Romanian league. He played as a striker for NZ Knights, but apparently plays as a utility for his current club, including LEFT BACK. Definitely worth a thought, but I have no idea of his quality TBH, especially when you look at the relatively uninspiring performances of Aussies from that league in the G&G.

What Asia has shown us (if we didn't already know) is that a player's place of trade means virtually zilch, so I'd look at any player if he was capable of fitting a role. The A-Leaguers have generally taken their chances when given a go, so it would be interesting to see the likes of Vukovic (still disappointed he wasn't in the squad), Theoklitos, Sarkies, Burns et al.

However, they must be chosen purely on merit.
I agree with your article mate.. we cannot rely SOLELY on A-league players

Let us do what Japan did, mix J-league players with a few European stars.. infact we can even look at some of our lesser European players. What about Joshua Rose?? He is rated as one of the top players in the Romanian league, this guy can basically play anywhere.. how come he isnt tried?

Furthermore going back to this article, Cockeril's comments about "When Australia beat Kuwait in Sydney last August - with a team of A-League players - Arnold asked his employers if he could keep the squad together and take it to the Asian Cup. The European-based players would need a rest before the tournament, and be playing in unfamiliar conditions, while an A-League squad could be acclimatised, and managed better, during the long break between the end of the domestic season and the tournament. His request fell on deaf ears"

i dont think this is true, it is up to ARnold as to who he picks in the squad not the FFA, what the hell does he mean it fell on deaf ears? If anything this article(if ture) proves that Arnold has no power in coaching the Socceroos if he cant even decide who he wants to take to the Asian Cup.
In all honesty, I'm very doubtful about that claim in Cockerill's article. Not that I think Mike C. is lying, but it sounds very much like wisdom after the event from Arnie.
Josh Rose is doing quite well in Romania. I remember him reasonably well during his days for the Brisbane Strikers at both NSL and BPL level and I dont ever remember thinking he'd one day be national team material. He was solid if unspectacular. Remember, Michael Baird is doing reasonably well in Romania and he's struggled at A-League and BPL level before.
chalk and cheese.
A-League is much better than the old NSL.

Compare the side which played Bahrain in Bahrain where it was mostly A-league players with some O/S fringe players.

This WILL happen again in next Asian qualifiers because they will be played in Non- FIFA allotted days.

IF we can keep younger players here and only leave to decent leagues ( Premier, Primera, seriesA , bundesliga) plus some veterans returning then you have a good back-up which we will need.

If only we get some decent coaches here instead of rubbish like Butcher and we see possession football!!
...chalk and cheese.
A-League is much better than the old NSL....

Matter of opinion I guess, but I still think the difference is moderate (if quite discernible, especially with regard to the last few years of the NSL).

...This WILL happen again in next Asian qualifiers because they will be played in Non- FIFA allotted days....

This is a myth perpetuated by panic merchants in the media.

The majority of the games will be on FIFA dates, believe me.
that isn't the point two or three games wil lnot be there and it is a good way to blood potential talent and we have to do it.

A decent coach who is into possession football can do it.
...that isn't the point two or three games will not be there and it is a good way to blood potential talent and we have to do it....

With respect, it is the point, because many of those backing the "A-League solution" are doing so largely in the belief that most of the games won't be on FIFA dates (which is untrue). I'm all for blooding new talent when members of the first team are unavailable or underperforming, I just don't believe we'd be best served by basing our whole qualification plan around it/them.

To correct something in one of your earlier comments BTW: the team for that Bahrain game you mentioned earlier was not mostly A-League with a few of the Euro second string: other way around.

Again, I can't stress the importance of this second tier Euro bunch enough. I have a feeling they are likely to get left behind in future NT considerations, and they shouldn't be.
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