Thursday, March 12, 2009


The Song Remains the Same - update

It was inevitable, in the wake of the "Canberra calamity", that the representatives of a certain media organisation would fall over themselves to condemn the quality of football in the A-League (conveniently ignoring, or downplaying, the various other factors in last Thursday's train wreck which I outlined in last week's piece).

Messrs. Foster and Murray were, naturally, the first cabs off the rank. No mention, of course, of eternal SBS punchbag Graham Arnold's earlier success with an A-League Socceroos side against Kuwait in 2006. That would complicate things, wouldn't it?

Now there's this.

Phil Micallef has been a regular in the Sydney Football Stadium press box during the last two seasons of the A-League, and I have always found him very pleasant company...which is why it pains me to write that the above contribution to the SBS party line is, quite frankly, a contemptible cheap shot.

The very title suggests that the A-League has been paraded as a competition of world-class quality, which is misleading to say the least. Everyone is aware of the limitations of the league (not least in terms of its recruiting power, given the salary cap restrictions), and the construction of a straw man of puffed-up A-League pride does no-one any favours...except those who are always looking to belittle the competition.

A few other small points:

Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners, Australia’s ambassadors in this year’s AFC Champions League, enter the competition with this backdrop and it will be interesting to see if they can emulate Adelaide United who reached last year’s final against Gamba Osaka.

This season's ACL should tell us if the Reds’ surge was purely accidental or a true reflection of the A-League’s standard.

Predictably, the screamingly obvious point that Newcastle and the Central Coast were not the best teams in the league (or anything like it) this past year, and that consequently their performances can hardly be used as a barometer of the strength of the league's "best", is swept under the carpet.

This is not the first time that a Socceroos match involving A-League players has received an unflattering report card. Remember China who gave the domestic Socceroos a football lesson in Sydney in their last match of the previous phase of World Cup qualifying?

In a dead rubber for both sides? Yes, Phil, we remember. Incidentally, we also remember who the coach was that evening, in what was probably the second-worst performance by an Australian side at home in recent memory. Do we see a pattern emerging here?

Adelaide’s run to the 2008 ACL final was a case in point. The Reds fought bravely against all odds, showing true Aussie grit and producing a magical half an hour in the semi-final against Bunyodkor that will go down in football folklore. But in the competition's decisive match they were outclassed by Gamba essentially because the Japanese play a much better and more refined type of game.

Of course, none of it had anything remotely to do with the fact that Gamba's player budget is something like five times Adelaide's. Can we use the same argument when Sporting Lisbon are thumped by Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League?

Had it been Graham Arnold (or Frank Farina, or any other Australian coach for that matter) rather than Pim Verbeek in charge on Thursday night, does anyone seriously believe he would have escaped the wrath of the SBS brains trust?

Well said.

When SBS look for applicants in any vacant football journalism positions, I often wonder what the selection criteria is. Something like this maybe:

"In no more than 250 words, describle a situation in your life when you completely agreed with Les Murray's editorial line, despite evidence that indicated this may not have been true?

Do you have a pathological hatred of Australian coaches?

Can you ignore/bury contradictory evidence to suit the SBS agenda?

Do you agree that all continental coaches bar none are footballing Oracles, regardless of CVs?

In 25,000 words or less, provide reasons why Graham Arnold's style of football is a 'cowering shame' while Pim Verbeek's is easy on the eye."

When they give the successful applicant the keys, the re-education programmes begin.

"Australians = long balls, physical strength, hard work, never give up, technically poor.

Everyone else (bar England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) = high skill levels, technical excellenece, flair, vision, tactical supremacy.

That's all you need to know comrades, and learning any more about the intricacies of international football will only complicate things!"

BTW, I'm giving up my day job for a new career in writing FIFA technical reports. Got it down pat already.

PS - You'll never get a job at SBS Mike. Never.
Mike, do you think that maybe you're on the other (anti-Pim) extreme?

There can be no doubt that the quality of the players in the China/Indonesia/Kuwait games were a significant factor in our performances in those games.

I'm undecided about Pim's contribution. You gloss over his touchline ban, but I'm not so sure that can be readily dismissed.

Some of our WCQ matches have been dire, but I think a lot of this is down to the palyers adjusting to Asia. It's going to be a slow adjustment, but will take when the products of our junior teams filter into the Socceroos.

As for the ACQ, I'm not sure what you expect from a coach of such a wholly inexperienced (and frankly ordinary) side. those A-League players who managed to step up previously (I'm thinking of Milligan, Beauchamp and Carney) did so surrounded by a lot of more experienced and skilled players.

Pim didn't have much to work with.

And GA was on the sideline like an albatross around the neck of the Socceroos ;-)

That said, I haven't seen much to make me think that Pim's a super coach, other than encouraging performances against Holland and Qatar, and his WCQ results.

I really appreciate his honesty. he keeps football in teh headlines, and he's pretty much spot-on in what he says.
Any national team that does not select Travis Dodd in an A-Leagues quad at the present moment is quite frankly not worth the over inflated paper his contract is written on. No mention from Micaleff that many of the faults he attributes to the A-league being no good can be remidied by players from within the A-League that Pim has seen fit to overlook.
To be fair on Fozzy, he did say in your link article "Serious doubts remain over whether Pim Verbeek is able to coach a local side to produce good, attacking football"

It ain't Pim bashing and certainly more restraint then the Arnold criticism which is fair enough as the problem with Arnie was the ability to coach the senior team not the a-league team.

Yeah I agree Phil micallef article was disapointing. However a few contestable points from you.

The difference in finance as pointed out by Mike Tuckerman and Scott Mcintyre by J-League clubs are mostly used for youth development, scouting networks and player retention and not buying foreign superstars. Majority of the foreigners in Japan were bought in cheap by japanese clubs as youngster. They then developed into J-league stars and only after they become stars do they then command high salary. THe success of J-league clubs is due to smart recruitment and good youth development rather then EPL style buying well establish superstars to play in the league. At most the salary difference is used to prevent player exodus to foreign leagues rather then buying superstars of Asia (unlike the middle eastern leagues).
...Mike, do you think that maybe you're on the other (anti-Pim) extreme?...

If I were, I'd feel like a right pillock by now, given that I suggested Verbeek for the job when Advocaat fell through (though not on the ludicrous salary he's getting).

I've given him the benefit of the doubt for a long time, but IMO the verdict has gone against him after Thursday. He made a spectacle of himself in the media when anyone with any sense would have known to keep his trap shut, prior to a qualifier. He failed to pick probably the best Oz player in the league. And he abetted (at the very least) that farcical business of the shirts, which was a disgraceful insult to the players.

...You gloss over his touchline ban, but I'm not so sure that can be readily dismissed....

Selection, tactics, Plan B (if there was one) - all his.

...I really appreciate his honesty....

There's a limit though. You don't slag off the HAL and its players in public just before they are heading into a live qualifier under your direction. It was extremely foolish (not to mention undignified and self-serving).

...The difference in finance as pointed out by Mike Tuckerman and Scott Mcintyre by J-League clubs are mostly used for youth development, scouting networks and player retention and not buying foreign superstars....

Exactly. The J-League has been around long enough that they can afford to support good youth development setups like this. The A-League clubs, as yet, cannot.
The 'domestic' Socceroos that got a lesson from China had 7 of the starting 11 playing overseas at the time and 3 others who have since joined them. Onya Pim.

Michael Petkovic
Nikolai Topor-Stanley
Matthew Spiranovic
Jade North
Ruben Zadkovich
Mile Jedinak
Carl Valeri
James Troisi
James Holland
Harry Kewell
Bruce Djite
I don't believe Pim's comments before Kuwait were disgraceful (the infamous hopeless comment). Instead I believe it was a naive and showed a lack of media understanding but it was hardly any malice.

It was more of a media beat up instead of Pim slagging off his own players (which I never liked coaches to do).

"I have to be honest, they were absolutely hopeless in Indonesia but the last games I have seen (in the A-League) they were very good. Maybe it was because it was Indonesia and it was a long trip. They are doing very well in their club and that’s the most important thing.”

Does that sound like a nasty derogatively comment to you? Why didn't the headlines say "Pim believes Archie and Danny were very good in the A-League"
Those "hopeless" comments were by no means the only statements he made re the A-League and its players during the week or two prior to the game, dasilva.
sbs has to be taken with a big old grain of salt nowadays. are they really promoting the game in oz, or do they want to knock it down?

sorry, but i still remember one particular foster clanger during the champs league a while back ... "barcelona was the better footballing side, but man u was more dangerous".

just gotta make your own opinion of whatever you hear i guess. whether its from les murray, mike cockerill, or anybody.

...just gotta make your own opinion of whatever you hear i guess. whether its from les murray, mike cockerill, or anybody....

Yup. As I've been saying for years, one of the really unfortunate things about the Oz football opinion-making process is that there's basically the Fox line and the SBS line, and not very much in between.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?