Tuesday, April 14, 2009

 

The Song Remains the Same - another update

The belittling of the A-League continues apace at SBS, with their blogger-in-chief now essaying an apologia on behalf of Pim Verbeek, interspersed with various digs at the national competition. It's becoming distinctly tiresome.

Perhaps Peter Turnbull's comments - coming in the wake of the Mariners' lamentable collapse against Kawasaki last week - were on the harsh side. But Verbeek's constant message that a move back to the A-League will leave you languishing in the international wilderness has already had its effect: Sasa Ognenovski would have been a shoe-in for most home-based Socceroo squads, and although John Hutchinson's decision to throw in his lot with Malta is hardly a devastating loss, it is a straw in the wind nonetheless.

Fink has some curious ideas about Verbeek's priorities:

It is certainly in Verbeek’s remit as men’s national coach to say what he thinks about footballing standards in this country...

I would have thought that part of his remit would be to improve the footballing standards in Australia, certainly. But to exercise zero tact when referring to the national league from which he will be regularly drawing troops, whether he likes it or not? Hardly.

And in the following paragraph:

He’s worked in Europe and Asia at some big clubs and with big managers. He knows what he’s talking about. So let’s collectively listen up and take away some knowledge in the process...

We are treated to cultural cringe writ large, combined with a much-inflated impression of Verbeek's level of experience.

And so to the obligatory derision of the A-League:

Right now – and that’s an important caveat – the A-League simply isn’t good enough. We’ve seen it in the ACL on a fairly consistent basis...

This would be the same Asian Champions League in which an Australian club, whose resources were dwarfed by those of almost all its opponents, reached the final last season?

...while the infrequent hit-outs of our Diet Socceroos (the A-Leaguers) have been underwhelming to say the least.

The classic SBS paradox.

When it's an Australian (or British) coach, it's all the coach's fault. When the coach hails from elsewhere, it must be those darn players.

Comments:
'Cultural cringe' is spot on. It's shameful that it pervades Australian football at such a high level. And it marginalises those of us that believe in the potential of our domestic league and players.

I was in Brisbane for Easter and I watched Man U v Sunderland at a pub. There were some 18-year-old kids there in Man U shirts, who went nuts when Macheda put away the winner. I asked them whether they supported the Roar. The answer: 'No, the A-League is shit, why bother?'

It's a pity that these guys feel more connected to a club on the other side of the world than to their home town team. That isn't going to change as long as we have the football establishment telling us how second-rate our domestic game is.
 
Mike

I always enjoy reading your blog.

Jesse Fink's pieces are fairly easy targets. They're ill considered at best, probably mischevious at worst (malicious when he writes about Fox).

Is there really a SBS position on Verbeek? Foster seems to be on a one made crusade to get someone else in for the world cup, and Fink clearly says that he should stay.
 
Your position (correct me if I'm wrong) is that Verbeek can have his own opinion on the A-League, but that it would be prudent of him to keep this to himself.

I'm not sure how this is possible. He is asked why there are no/few A-League players in a socceroos squad. He says they are not good enough or theer are better players elsewehere.

The next question he will always be asked is what's his position on the standard of the A-League. What does he do? lie? spin? avoid the question? no comment?

the topic has since become a bit of a running joke between him and the media - the media contingent small enough in this country for him to become cosy with them
 
...Is there really a SBS position on Verbeek? Foster seems to be on a one made crusade to get someone else in for the world cup, and Fink clearly says that he should stay....

Yep, the SBS position on PV has become a bit problematic now that he has Oz playing such dour stuff most of the time, which obviously jars with their (quite genuine, I'm sure) desire for the NT to play good football. Credit to Foster for at least being honest and accurate in his recent criticisms.

Their position on the A-League, however, is unmistakable...and lends itself to misrepresentations by the bucketload.
 
...Your position (correct me if I'm wrong) is that Verbeek can have his own opinion on the A-League, but that it would be prudent of him to keep this to himself...

Basically, yes, as far as possible.

...I'm not sure how this is possible. He is asked why there are no/few A-League players in a socceroos squad. He says they are not good enough or theer are better players elsewehere....

That's fine. It's common sense: the players who are playing for big money in Europe (or in Europe generally) are likely to be better options, ceteris paribus, than the local guys.

...The next question he will always be asked is what's his position on the standard of the A-League. What does he do? lie? spin? avoid the question? no comment?...

If he were professional about it, he would either keep his comments to a minimum or say something honest and dignified such as "It's a young competition, and obviously they don't have the resources to match the European leagues, so it's difficult for them to step up to international level. But they can be useful to us when the European guys are unavailable, or when the squad needs reinforcement," or something to that effect.

The point is that PV has gone out of his way to make the A-League look rubbish, often for his own personal benefit (e.g. to give himself a ready-made excuse prior to the Indonesia and Kuwait games, which he knew some of the press would happily swallow).

He has been unprofessional and undignified about it, and he has done some damage to the standing of the competition, in my view, if not quite to the degree that Turnbull suggests.
 
And is Verbeek wrong? The A-League is weak and will need to improve.

I say this as a Sydney FC ticket holder who goes to watch a particularly crappy team week in and week out.

I don't think we will see real improvement for at least 5 years until our youth development is much more established. And even then I doubt we will be able to consistently compete with the J-League, and our best players will be playing in Europe (which will always be a marketing challenge for the A-League).

Players may well improve more playing (or even not playing) in Europe than if they were regular A-League players.

You might disagree with his insistence that Chipperfield and Sterjovski play for another year in Europe to prepare for the World Cup (I think Craig Moore's return from Europe has prolonged his international career - which is trite to say as he returned from retirement), but you can understand where he is coming from.
 
...And is Verbeek wrong?...

Firstly, it's not a case of "right or wrong", but of degree. Even I've stated before that some of his criticisms are, in fact, valid. Of course the A-League could be better. But is it as bad (or, shall we say, as backward) as he has tended to portray it?

Secondly, his position requires some tact and respect in certain circumstances, and this is one. Fink may go one about how there's "no crap" about Verbeek, but someone in his position isn't expected to be a Rotterdam loudmouth.

...I say this as a Sydney FC ticket holder who goes to watch a particularly crappy team week in and week out...

A case of abysmal off-field (and largely on-field) management for the last few years. Not typical of the league as a whole.

...I don't think we will see real improvement for at least 5 years until our youth development is much more established. And even then I doubt we will be able to consistently compete with the J-League, and our best players will be playing in Europe (which will always be a marketing challenge for the A-League)...

EXACTLY.

Hence my short fuse with those who routinely blather on about how the J-League is so much more sophisticated than the A-League. Well, duh! A 17-year history, proper youth schemes in place, astronomical salaries by comparison...would you expect otherwise FFS?!? It's the sort of thing that the A-League is aspiring to, and it's moving forward, step by step. But certain people expect it to all happen at once.
 
Just boycott SBS Football coverage and any articles by their agents. I have for quite a few years now and will continue to do so. Commercial considerations have shown that they will not be friends to football in this country unless it is in their interests.

Constructive criticism is fine, but they seem unable to do this in an intelligent manner.
 
so sing a different song. and sing it well.

clayton
 
Mike, I think you should re-name the title to "The Song will always be the same".
 
Although I do agree with your general argument that Pim should be more diplomatic about some of his comments and that he should keep his comments to private communique.

However I do believe there was one mitigating circumstances. A lot of his controversial comments happen when he was lecturing in the FFA Coaching Conference titled "The differences between Australian and European Football" where he went into details comparing Europe and Australia and offer suggestion to improve it. It's pretty hard to be diplomatic when you are educating coaches on that topic and it would be easy for media to get quotes out of context without seeing the whole message.

I sometimes wonder if the A-League clubs take his suggestion on boards. The only coach who has praise Pim was Aureilio Vidmar who has praised Pim on his help and advice in training as well as ACL campaign. All the other clubs seem to have a rather frosty relationship with Pim.
 
...A lot of his controversial comments happen when he was lecturing in the FFA Coaching Conference titled "The differences between Australian and European Football" where he went into details comparing Europe and Australia and offer suggestion to improve it...

The comments that really made the press were the "hopeless" digs at Archie and Danny and his subsequent "what I really meant was..." ramblings - the typical PR mistake of trying to clarify something that's come across badly (i.e. when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging).

...it would be easy for media to get quotes out of context without seeing the whole message....

It always is, hence the need to be careful and diplomatic.
 
Enjoy your comments Mike. Always rational, pragmatic, and sometimes a bit of a laugh. Clarify something for us though if you will please. My understanding is that Verbeek's brief is not to get us to the WC. This would imply that once we've qualified we make another appointment. I believe the situation is that he's got the job until we're no longer in it, ie until we're knocked out - in which case Foster saying that once we've qualified (when Pim's still appointed) we should look elsewhere, would seem pretty dumb.
Get the feeling Foz's really pushing for himself to have some sort of say in and for FFA.
 
Couple more points re Pim, A-League etc. I really believe the A-League's going to continue to go through tough times, in that the more exposure our sides get throughout Asia, the more the easier money's going to entice our marginally better players north. Ergo, as soon as someone starts shaping up, the offers'll come in, and off they go.
The older internationals coming back will always get a run in the national team, even if it's only for fixture's unable to be accommodated by our European based players (obvious example is Craig Moore, tho he realises he's got to find somewhere to play in that March-June period next year, or he's buggered for the WC).
Will be good when we get a few other older players coming back. A much better situation to be in, particularly for Asian Cup matches where we could field the old alongside the new, rather than rely almost entirely on A-Leaguers as we've had to do lately.

And I can't understand why the general football media aren't able to explain to all and sundry why Pim isn't a supporter of players not playing for three months prior to the WC - as is the case for the vats majority of A-Leaguers.
 
Cheers for the wrap, gerihatrick.

I can see where Foz is coming from on the Pim issue actually, in that the main factor in hiring him was that he'd had some experience in Asia. Once we get to SA, his argument seems to run, we might be better off with someone who can get the best out of the team objectively, with a proper lead-in and more or less ideal conditions.

As for the A-League off-season issue...I don't think people's gripe is so much that Pim will ignore A-Leaguers for the eventual WC squad (that's to be expected anyway), but that he's doing the ongoing growth of the competition damage by his public comments.

The greater length of the season with expansion will eventually serve to slow up the drain northwards, IMO.
 
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