Tuesday, April 21, 2009


United Once More

The NSW Premier League is now seven rounds old, and the big story so far has been the blistering pace set by Croatian-backed club Sydney United. They have chalked up six wins out of seven, the most recent being a 6-1 demolition of a foundering APIA-Leichhardt at Edensor Park last Sunday.

Following their memorable 2006 title success, United underwhelmed in 2007 and 2008, showing only flashes of quality football, and the atmosphere at Edensor was nothing like what it used to be in NSL days. This season, they have been playing with confidence and class, and the crowd support at King Tom has been brilliant. And the United fans of my acquaintance have offered a simple explanation for the change: Ante Milicic.

Milicic is one of those Australian players who I always felt was capable of achieving more than he ultimately did in the game. In the 1993 World Youth Cup, held in Australia of course, he shone, combining strength and power with neat skills and a keen eye for goal. Genuine finishers are so rare in Australian football that Milicic may have ensured himself a long stay in the national side, had he tasted more success in Europe.

It was not to be, but "Tezza" returned to become perhaps the most prized striker (pace Damian Mori) in the local game, spearheading Sydney Olympic's title win in 2002 and Parramatta's run to the grand final in 2004, among other achievements. Although he failed to really fire in the A-League, his two well-taken goals against Indonesia in a Socceroo friendly in 2005 constituted a timely reminder of his pedigree.

Now he has returned to his old stamping ground as player-coach, and the fans have welcomed him with open arms. There have been some good additions to the playing stocks as well: David Zdrilic, away from the pressure and the boardroom chaos at Sydney FC, looks comfortable and effective operating in midfield, and the experienced Croatian journeyman Davor Bajsic has shown admirable nous and finesse in the early rounds. There are some good youngsters in the mix as well, notably the attacking right-back Dominic Rossi and Vedran Janjetovic, one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the country.

Luka Glavas, who has not really kicked on since his star turn in the 2006 final, has been amongst the goals this time around, and appears to have improved his back-to-goal play considerably...perhaps the tutelage of Milicic is having its effect here.

This weekend's game with promoted Bonnyrigg White Eagles will be the first encounter between the two since the lamentable events of 2005, and Football NSW has wisely decreed that the gates will only be open to Bonnyrigg season-ticket holders (and the usual corporate crew). Whether this will keep out determined trouble-makers is open to debate, but the crowd support at Edensor so far has been, by all accounts, exuberant rather than aggressive...I doubt that there will be any serious incidents (and I certainly hope not).

I should add, however, that articles such as this from Tom Smithies are hardly likely to help. Tarring all the fans of the two clubs with the same brush, as Smithies does in his final paragraph, is deeply unfair.

Tom Smithies - what a tool. Dare say he's never been to either ground.

Shocking writer.
thanks mikey, always good to see utd doing well...they've always tried to play good football and i've generally enjoyed watching it, so nice to see 'em doing well again..

how's the cevapi these days?
...how's the cevapi these days?...

Can you believe they'd run out of them by half-time at the Marconi game? The cevaps are one of the highlights of a trip to Edensor!! ;-)
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