Interesting article on The Roar today regarding the viability of having the A-League on Free To Air (FTA) TV. It has generated a substantial amount of discussion amongst the readers and got me thinking about where I stand on the topic.
Although author Adrian Musolino makes some good points I cannot help but think he has missed a critical one. There is an old saying in the media, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. With a FTA deal comes a much greater exposure to the general public and although this raises other concerns the good outweighs the bad.
Growing up my heroes were AFL stars. As kids running around the playground we pretended to Geoff Raines, Greg Williams, Leigh Matthews and a range of other stars of the egg ball game. We did this because we all knew who they were. They were in the paper, on the radio, on TV. They were in fact an indelible part of life within the country. This saturation is what the A-League is missing and only a FTA deal can begin the process of making it happen.
Although I loved watching Football I rarely got to see it, there wasn’t much of a league back then in my home town and the only time I got to see the best in world was when they were playing in the FA Cup final, most likely where my support for Tottenham came from.
Don’t get me wrong I am not against FOXTEL, they stood up and stumped up the cash when the sport needed it. The only ones willing to take a $120 Million punt on Frank Lowy’s dream. But the A-league needs more exposure to grow. Kids need to be able to walk into school on a Monday morning and be able to say, “Did you see that cracker of a free kick Carlos slotted home on the weekend” and have all of their mates nod along. At the moment the young boy would more likely get blank looks or maybe even a question of Carlos who?
Junior Football in this country is huge but who are these young kids heros? You are more likely to see a Manchester shirt than a Victory on the backs of young boys and girls throughout the training pitches of Melbourne. Some would argue there is nothing wrong with this as the EPL would arguably be considered the pinnacle of our sport but how many of these youngsters have seen a Manchester game on TV let along live.
We need all this kids to have the opportunity to watch their teams on TV not just the 25% who can afford the Foxtel subscriptions, it is only then that they start to build a connection to the game. Sure it can be achieved in other ways via the internet, newspapers and radio? Yes it can but the TV is still the driver of mass media.
The fact is it doesn’t matter if the quality isn’t world standard, as Melbourne and Brisbane showed two weeks ago the League does produce some cracking games and as a whole human nature means we tend to remember the positives rather than the negatives. We all have a tendency to create our own highlights package in our mind.
So in answer to Adrian’s question, “Is the A-League product good enough for free to air?” is yes it is and the sooner the better.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Interesting article on The Roar today regarding the viability of having the A-League on Free To Air (FTA) TV. It has generated a substantial amount of discussion amongst the readers and got me thinking about where I stand on the topic.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 9:06 PM
Friday, August 21, 2009
Great news overnight with FIFA confirming that Kofi Danning will be granted exemption from their recent rule change that tightens international eligibility for Under 18 players.
The rule in question states “for any player who refers to art. 15 par. 1 of the Regulations to assume a new nationality and who has not played international football in accordance with art. 15 par. 2 of the Regulations shall be eligible to play for the new representative team, inter alia, only if he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 an the territory of the relevant Association”. The rule was approved in attempt to curtail some of the activities of certain middle east countries that were actively recruiting children as young as 12-13 in Africa and offering them citizenship in exchange for football. This was a cynical attempt to improve the quality of their national teams.
Unfortunately though the rule does impact countries like Australia quite considerably due to the numbers of genuine refugees and immigrants that we take in. Kofi Danning is not the only potential young socceroo to be impacted by this rule. In this current crop the FFA is still waiting for confirmation on midfielder Luke Bratten and goalkeeper Alex Cisak on whether they also will be granted exemption from the rule.
The FFA are arguing that legitimate immigrants and refugees should not be disadvantaged from the rule and so far FIFA does seem inclined to agree. However it appears that FIFA will maintain the view that all players captured under the rule will be ineligible unless a exemption is granted so it appears that this waiting game is set to repeat itself every year as there always appear to be a few who fall under it for Australia.
In the meantime Australia is now free to select Danning for the Under 20 World Cup, to be held in September this year. With Danning off to a flying start for Sydney this season there is little doubt that he will be included in the squad. Before the season started he was my tip to win the NAB Young Player of the Year award and nothing I have seen so far has altered that view.
Danning’s ability to hold the ball and dribble with pace combined with a natural instinct for goal is a dangerous combination and already at 18 he would be one of the first on the team sheet in a quality Sydney line-up. I will repeat my warning though, enjoy the spectacle of him now as I am sure an overseas club is going to snap him up much sooner than later. Holland would seem a logical destination for the youngster.
I look forward to seeing him streaming forward in a Gold shirt for many years to come.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 5:31 PM
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
What a game on Saturday night! Probably the most exciting A-league match I have attended in terms of goals and attacking play. Of course both managers will need to ask some serious questions of their defences that allowed so much freedom and space to the opposition midfields.
Gary Cole will be madly scouring overseas leagues this week after Victory’s defence failed miserably on Saturday night. The experiment with Matthew Kemp as a central defender was exposed as the folly that many were suggesting and now Ernie has a nightmare of his own making.
After commenting in the press pre-season that there was no need to sign an additional central defender Ernie seems alreadyb back tracking to a degree. With Daniel Vasilevski being released by mutual consent yesterday and young Matthew Foschini signed to a two year contract today it would seem that Ernie's is preparing to give Foschini a chance at the problem centre back position.
Matthew Kemp was never a logical person to partner Vargas. It left the Melbourne defence ridiculous short at the back. Although very mobile and a good tackler Kemp is only 1.75m tall and doesn’t make much of a threat in the air. Melbourne looked so much better when Kemp was moved back to his preferred full back role.
Merrick does have Stephen Pace in the squad and may be another option this week against Fury. At 1.85m Pace does strengthen the defence by providing some height but there is a question surrounding his speed and ability to deal with quality strikers. What he does add is the ability to man mark the main striker and free up Vargas to play his normal free role.
For all its lack of defence though you could not fault Melbourne’s attacking play. When Billy Celeski was introduced to the game on Saturday night, it looked a different Victory side out there to the ones that sputtered along in the first half. Suddenly we had a player on the field who was able to build up the attack from the back and allowed Hernendez much more freedom to roam forward and create havoc in the Roar defence. The additional of Fabiano 10 minutes into the second half also gave Melbourne further options when going forward.
So influential is Fabiano that many Victory fans are calling for a 4-3-3 and Ernie Merrick may be tempted to give them what they desire. I think the only thing stopping it him switching to it right now is the fitness of Celeski. With Fabiano playing as a Centre forward both Allsopp and Thompson push up further and generally take the ball higher up the field. I actually prefer this as both Allsopp and Thompson are much more confirmable when running at defenders than when they have their back to goal.
With two long away trips in the next two weeks (Townsville then Perth) Melbourne need at least one win to stay in touch with Gold Coast who already are showing signs of how dangerous they can be.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 5:29 PM
Thursday, August 13, 2009
How nice to sit through a Socceroos match with a smile the entire 90 minutes. Pim Verbeek couldn’t have asked for a more emphatic performance this morning and should satisfy even the most ardent of his knockers.
Right from the opening whistle Australia dominated this match and even though Ireland were unlucky not to score at least 1 goal the end result was well deserve. What was especially satisfying was the way we moved the ball from defence to attack, using short sharp passing to control the tempo.
The joke during the commentary was that when Superman goes to bed he wears Tim Cahill pyjamas and who can argue with another outstanding half of football from Super Tim. His ability to find the back of the net is uncanny and he has a knack of being at the right place at the right time.
But what would Pim have gotten from the match and who has elevated themselves in contention for South Africa (which was the point of the match for us). I am not going to go threw the whole squad but there were a couple of stand out performances for me.
Firstly Rhys Williams backed up he excellent debut with an even better performance this morning. Although he was beaten on several occasions by the tricky McGeady and in the second half by Hunt it didn’t deter him from pushing up and backing himself. His ability to get forward and cause headaches for defences and the pressure he applies in the midfield are a real asset and he would be close to stamping his passport to SA already but I look forward to seeing him a few more times, hope he gets a start again against Korea.
Carney also had a good game at left back that was capped off with a truly world class goal. Like Williams I loved the way he is always thinking attack and thought him pushing up high and pressuring the Irish midfield was a major reason we dominated possession. There is no doubt that Carney is the backup at left back but if he can find a starting spot at a decent club he should be pushing for number 1 spot ahead of Chipperfield.
To me the biggest surprise this morning was how well Wilkshire and Jedinak played in the Culina/Grella roles. Wilkshire has really grown over the past two years and his box-to-box running this morning was a major part in our success. With Culina back in Australia could Wilkshire steal the box-to-box role from him? It is possible but doubtful, I am sure Wilkshire will revert to the right back role when Culina is available. Jedinak played the screening role perfectly but I think Grella is always going to be first choice. Jedinak will be competing with Valeri for the backup role.
In terms of the substitutes; Nikita Rukavytsya’s pace really added an interesting element late in the game and he made some excellent runs but I think he is competing with Brett Holman for the spot in South Africa, who seems to be a Pim favourite (though for the life of me I cannot see why as once again he murdered a golden opportunity to score). I also thought Nicky Carle was excellent in the last 15 minutes, two really quality passes into the box and really worked hard. Pim really needs to start him in one of the upcoming friendlies (maybe against Korea?).
Overall there was a lot to like but the Irish gave us a lot of room in midfield and let us play to our strengths. They didn’t use the wings that well and allowed our full backs to push up high. They also failed to convert the chances they did create, we were the better team but the score line flattered us.
It will interesting to see what side Pim send onto the park next month against Korea. Would especially like to see Williams start again and give Carle a full game. Maybe give Bresciano a rest and start Carle with Kewell and Cahill either side of him.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 3:22 PM
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Although it is only a friendly and the result itself will mean little, I am genuinely excited by the upcoming match against the Irish on Thursday morning (even if I am not looking forward to getting up at 4:30am to catch it live). Pim Verbeek has picked, whether by design or need, an extremely youthful side and hopefully some of these fringe players can get a starting run.
It is difficult to remember when an Australian squad had 50% of its players 25 years old or under. The question for Verbeek is how many of these players does he start.
In defence Matthew Spiranovic must be a real chance of starting alongside Lucas Neill. Spiranovic has been developing quite well with Nuremberg and is hoping to win a starting spot this year with the side in the Bundesliga. Ange Postecoglou has called in him to be given an extended run of games to prove his worth and I agree wholeheartly.
With no Grella or Valeri, Rhys Williams may also get a chance to start with a role at either Right Back (if Wilkshire is used in a more central holding role) or as a defensive midfielder. Williams has been in stellar preseason form for Middlesbrough with four goals in four preseason games and I am sure Verbeek wants to take another look at the 21 year old.
Carney is also likely to get the nod at Left Back. He still appears out of favour at Sheffield United and desperately needs a move. To be honest anywhere else that will give him some first team football would be better than the situation he currently has as Sheffield. I am not how much longer Verbeek can afford to carry him in the Australian Team if he is not part of a first team.
I doubt that Verbeek will start any of Holland, Bozanic and Vidosic but hopefully at least 1 of these outstanding young players gets a decent amount of time as a substitute. I think it likely that Verbeek will start Carle, Cahill and Kewell in the middle of the park.
Up front Scott Macdonald is an almost certain starter but if Verbeek did do something crazy like start with two strikers we might just get to also see Nikita Rukavytsya. Rukavytsya is getting game time with FC Twente in the Eredivisie, coming off the bench in their season opener, and provides some genuine pace.
All this youth is making me giddy and makes for an interesting match where the result is less important than the actual performances. We can only hope that Pim will be adventurous and allow some of these players the starting roles they need to showcase where they are at in terms of their development.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 7:15 PM
Friday, August 7, 2009
The wait is over, the first match played and a surprise result already. Season previews and bookie odds are in tatters after a team most tipped to finish in the bottom three up staged last years premiers (and bookies favourite) to take the points in the opening match.
To be honest Victory hardly looked interested in the first half. It certainly didn’t help with the line up Ernie Merrick sent out onto the field. With the lead up comments to the game it was certain that Broxham was going to start but to start both Brebner and Broxham is a recipe for disaster and again last night it was obvious that Victory loses a significant amount of drive in midfield when both are on the field at the same time.
At least one of them should have been replaced at half time with Celeski who provides a much more creative option from the back. Victory looked a different side in the second half once he was sent on. And with the addition of Ward they suddenly looked much more dangerous going forward. I can only hope that both Celeski and Ward will resume their starting roles next week against the Roar.
But the biggest issue for Melbourne last night was the injury to Kevin Muscat. It looks like the gamble to go into the season short of central defenders has failed within the first 90 minutes. With talk of Muscat being out for at least a month with his hamstring, the Victory are going to struggle to contain opposition attacks.
The rest of the round has some enticing matchups; here are some of my favourites.
1. Gold Coast vs Brisbane
I think every A-league fan will be looking forward to this match. Clive Palmer and Miron Beilberg have done an excellent job of embedding their team into the media and have already manufactured a derby that should contain plenty of heat. Certainly United are fast making their way onto everyone’s most hated list.
As a neutral I am hoping for open and flowing game but I am sure Frank is way too canny to allow that to happen. I am tipping the Roar to take a very cautious approach and plan on frustrating United with what I believe will be the best defence in the League.
Either way though it will be a fascinating game (and wouldn’t we all love for Gold Coast to come tumbling down to Earth in their very first match).
2. Fowler vs Sydney
I won’t even pretend that anybody will be tuning in the watch North Queensland. All eyes (and pressure) will be on the performance of Robbie Fowler. Can he lift and score for the occasion? I am sure all supporters bar Sydney fans will hope so (and I suspect a few Sydney fans would also love to see him knock one in).
Of course with all the media hype surrounding Sydney’s build up to the kickoff they also need to get off to a good start and if North Queensland and Fowler do get the best of them they are sure to come under immediate scrutiny.
Last season Sydney seem to shoot themselves in the foot more often than not and I am sure they will start favourites here. Will they be able to deliver? We shall see
3. Newcastle v Wellington
Just about every pundit has these two teams missing the finals. With that in mind a good start for one of these two teams may go a long way to erasing some of the doubts that may be bouncing around in the minds of the players.
Confidence is a funny thing and the winner here just might surprise a few teams if they can get that first win under their belt.
Of course it works in reverse as well. A loss here could just reinforce those nagging suspicions and make it difficult to come back from. We are a long way from last chance saloon but both of these teams have everything to play for and nobody will want to walk away from this match the loser.
Enjoy the first round
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 6:38 PM
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
In this third and last part to my preview of the upcoming season. Below is an examination of the teams that I believe will fill the top 3 places.
3rd – Brisbane Roar
There is a lot to like about Frank Farina’s team, it is beautifully balanced with a strong defence, a midfield full of talent and an attack that oozes class. His biggest issue it seems is keeping everyone fit.
Moore and DeVere are the best defensive pairing in the League. I have opted for Oar ahead of Zullo on the left wing, I am sure Zullo will start there (unless his shoulder injury doesn’t come up in time) but I think Oar is a special talent and I am tipping him to push Zullo aside this year.
Miller, if he can stay fit (which to be honest is unlikely), is a better choice than the talented Nicols. His ability to drift into the box is unmatched in the league and as we saw last season, even half fit he is a danger. McKay picks himself in that box to box role and newcomer Malcolm provides some quality in the shielding role.
Up front Van Dijk will play the lone striker and I would be expecting him to score a bucket load this year. As his second half demonstrated last season, if he gets into a rhythm he is just about unstoppable.
Watch out for : Clean sheets galore, Brisbane are going to be a tough team to score against let alone beat this year.
2nd – Melbourne Victory
Last years Premiers and Champions haven’t lost much over the break but nor have the recruited much either. It seems almost as if the re-signing of Carlos Hernandez was the priority and nothing else mattered.
Kemp will switch to right back with the loss of Ryall and new signing Sukha will slot into left. I would expect Moss to win the battle of the keepers as Langerak still appears to need a year or two. Celeski is still recovering from a hip operation but I expect him to be the starter of choice in the DM role once fully fit.
Beyond that though the team seems very settled. They have good coverage in nearly all positions except the defence. Muscat is in his twilight years now and an injury to himself or Vargas will expose a lack of coverage here. Likewise for right back, where an injury to Kemp would most likely force Ernie to use Broxham to fill the gap there.
Thompson and Allsopp have had a preseason free of injury, which is the first time in three years, that has both of them fully fit heading into the opening round. With their hard running, defences across the league are going to have problems containing them. Add Fabiano coming off the bench and Victory have one of the best attacks in the League.
But in the end Victory’s success this year will hinge on the performance of Hernandez. In full flight he is virtually unstoppable. If injured or down on form however Victory’s counter attacking game falls apart. He has looked good though in the preseason and I see no reason why Victory wouldn’t be right up there again.
Watch out for : Hernandez is the best player in tight spaces in the A-league. His ability to control the ball, beat opponents and provide that killer pass is exquisite. Melbourne will once again score the majority of their goals on the counter as teams again fail to learn that pushing up on them is a recipe for disaster.
1st – Gold Coast United
Clive Palmer is nothing if not large and his new A-league team is set to follow his lead. With Miron Beilberg spruiking the club, they have dominated headlines throughout the preseason and will look to take the form in the new season.
-Griffiths----Thwaite----Van den Brink----Tarore--
Its hard to put together a starting 11 for Gold Coast as there are so many unknowns at this stage. How good are Milson and Anderson, will Traore push Poirkowski out at left back. Is Caravella a better option than Griffths.
The one thing pre-season has shown for Gold Coast is that they have the depth. Their recruiting has been fantastic and they won’t overly rely on the imports for success. I am expecting Smeltz, Porter and Culina to get a bagful of goals and their defence is solid. They won’t go through the season undefeated but I still think they will win it.
How good their defence is will be the question though, Thwaite was less than convincing last year at Victory and they are relying a lot on him to stand up.
Watch out for : Everyone is tipping Smeltz to get a bagful but people seem to be forgetting about Porter. In my opinion Porter will outshine Smeltz, but either way they represent a very dangerous attacking pair.
So my ladder prediction
- Gold Coast United
- Melbourne Victory
- Brisbane Roar
- Sydney FC
- Perth Glory
- Adelaide United
- Newcastle Jets
- Wellington Phoenix
- North Queensland Fury
- Central Coast Mariners
2 Days to Season V
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 9:03 PM
Monday, August 3, 2009
In this second part to my season preview I examine the teams that will fill positions 4th – 6th.
6th – Adelaide United
It is sometimes amazing how a team’s unofficial nickname can evolve from just a few misplaced comments. The pissants have had a low profile build up this preseason.
The first thing that struck me when putting a team together for Adelaide is that Vidmar must play a 4-4-2. With Cristiano and Owusu on books surely Vidmar will finally move away from his favoured 4-2-3-1 and play two up front.
Adelaide look pretty set in terms of their attacking options, Cristiano and Owusu should provide a handful for all but the best defences and by all reports Shin looks like he may make quite an impact in the AM role.
However the loss of Ognenovski has really put a large dent in what last year was a very solid defence. Fyfe is nowhere near a like for like replacement and I am not convinced Cornthwaite can step up to fill the gap.
Watch out for : Adelaide will score more goals this year but they are also going to leak a lot more. Unfortunately I think they haven’t gain enough to recover from the loss of Ognenovski.
5th – Perth Glory
There is no team that has disappointed more in the first four seasons of the A-League than Perth, the once great club has really struggled with its recruiting. This year however they appear to recruited very well and should have a bit more success and see their first finals campaign.
---------J Coyne--C Coyne--Todd-----------
I know Mitchell has indicated that he would prefer Sterjovski as a striker but I think in the end he will want both Dadi and Jelic up forward and will opt for Sterjovski in the hole in front of them.
With the centre backs that he has at his disposal it makes a lot of sense for Mitchell to opt for a 3-5-2. Burns will run the midfield that would include pace in the form of Downing and Pellegrino and Class with Sterovski and Sikora.
The defence is still a worry, there has to be a question marks on how well Todd, Jamie Coyne and Chris Coyne will jell. There is also a question over whether Pellegrino and Downing could provide the defensive cover needed. The reason I have opted for the 3-5-2 is that I don’t think Glory has adequate full backs to play a back four.
Watch out for : With all of Perth’s signings this year Branko Jelic seems to have slipped under the radar a little. Watch all that change when he bangs in a few early goals.
4th – Sydney FC
My god they love a bit of media hype in Sydney. Every year they are wrapped up to be world beaters and more often than not the knives are out within a few weeks.
There is a lot of like about the Sydney lineup this year, the fact that I couldn’t fit Mark Bridge into their best 11, is a good indicator of their depth up forward.
Can John Aloisi have a poor a season as last year again, I doubt it and I would expect him to pick up at least 5-8 goals this season. This would take a huge amount of pressure off Brosque and allow him to play the second striker role.
The real danger for opposition teams however are the wide players. By all accounts Kisel has impressed in preseason and Danning is a star in waiting. If Musialik can put last years disaster behind him and provide the service these two demand, Sydney are going to score a lot of goals.
This is a very youthful side however and I am not sure they will be able to challenge the best teams in the league over a full year.
I have Corica in the best 11 but wouldn’t be surprised to see him play most of the year off the bench. Bridge is the logical second choice but Gan could play in the hole as well.
Watch out for : Kofi Danning is going to stamp his passport to Europe this year. This kid ticks all the boxes and with a year of senior development under his belt he is cherry ripe to break out and really show what a talent he is.
Next : The top 3
3 Days to Season V
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 10:49 PM