Archive for June, 2012

Victory or not, fans still wild about Harry

So Harry Kewell has departed Melbourne, everyone knows the reason why his stay was short lived, but was his time at Melbourne Victory a success or failure?

On field the jury is still out, Victory had a disastrous year missing the finals for only the second time in their short history, never being in the finals race at any stage throughout the year.  Victory finished a disappointing 8th in a year, many predicted silverware for the biggest club in Australia.

Kewell found himself a media target early in the season taking almost 2 months to find the back of the net against lowly (and now defunct) Gold Coast United, and not scoring his first goal in play until round 13.  Kewell was proving the doubters wrong about his fitness, but results and a lack of goals were taking their toll on the marquee player.

To Kewell’s credit he never appeared to give up, attack his teammates or the Victory fans, he kept working hard on the training track and was a consummate professional.  By the end of the season Kewell’s numbers were impressive scoring 8 goals from 25 appearances.  If Victory scraped through to a playoff spot anything was possible with Kewell on the pitch, but failing to claim a spot and finishing below cross town rivals Melbourne Heart points to a failed year for Harry on the pitch.

Off the pitch Kewell was an amazing success, he was a rock star by A-League standards, and a band of followers travelled around the Country to see him play.  From his first day in town it was a breath of fresh air not to see the little paper in Melbourne covered in Aussie Rules coverage.  Kewell bought many football fans through the gates to attend their first A-League game, and basically gave Football a much needed face in the media.  Everything from attending the spring racing carnival, to playing exclusive golf courses with teammate Archie Thompson the media had it covered.

The atmosphere of the first derby was something to behold (yes it was Etihad), throughout the week the entire town was buzzing.  Victory fans were hailing a true champion of Australian football, while the red part of Melbourne made Harry’s Melbourne welcome, a little less welcoming.  I still remember some fans were outraged that Heart fans were booing Kewell, but I can reassure you it was all part of the theatre, and the Heart/Victory rivalry.

I still remember watching Harry run around in front of 90,000 screaming fans in Tehran.  I watched that game through black & white (and fuzzy) SBS reception, but knew that day Harry Kewell had arrived on the Australian sporting landscape.  Fans around the country gave Kewell a mixed reaction around the Country, but it would be fair to assume those fans had nothing but respect for the former Leeds/Liverpool champion.

So what next for Harry? Currently we are hearing rumours all over the Championship (England) about where Kewell will play next season.  Personally I would love to see him sign for Middlesbrough for two reasons, they have an Aussie contingent of players at the club, and Tony Mowbray is a great manager.  Mowbray plays attractive football which would suit Kewell.  The championship is a physically demanding league, so hopefully Kewell is not burnt out for Brazil 2014.

The future of Kewell is now uncertain, but he has made the only decision, to spend time with wife Sheree Murphy, and her mother in their time of need.  Good luck to Harry, hopefully we will see you in the A-League again someday.

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MUST WATCH games for Season 2012/13

Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar (Sunday, October 7th, 2012)

A grand final replay played in Perth ensures plenty of passion from the livid Glory fans after Berisha’s antics last year.  Fans have long memories and the stage is set for a cracking opener.

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory (Saturday, October 13th 2012)

Coming fresh off a first up derby, Ange Postecoglu will quickly point his attention toward his former club.  Expect a ferocious crowd reaction, with back to back championships a distant memory for the Brisbane fans.

Sydney v Western Sydney (Saturday 20th October 2012)

The first ever Sydney derby.  Sydney fans get their first taste of intercity derby football with the new clubs arrival.  This game should be a great advertisement for the A-League, and I wouldn’t expect the established SydneyFC to take the newcomers lightly, we all remember what happened in the first Melbourne derby.

Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix (Monday 5th November 2012)

It won’t be the ‘game that stops a nation’ but expect plenty of hype as the league trial a Melbourne Cup eve game Wellington.  New Zealand horses have won plenty of cups over the years, and will be looking for take another Australian scalp over the spring racing carnival.

Adelaide United v Perth Glory & Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast (Sunday 11th November 2012)

Not quite Anzac day at the ‘G’ but Remembrance Day marks a significant date in both nations history.  Hopefully the A-League will follow the lead from the Premier League and contain poppies on players strips and auction them off for our hard working RSL’s.

Melbourne Heart v Melbourne Victory (Saturday 22nd December 2012)

The second derby for the year, but the one to be played at the true football venue in Melbourne; AAMI Park.  Heart officials want the Christmas derby to be a regular fixture of the season, and fans seem to agree.  Don’t forget your Christmas hats.

Melbourne Victory v Sydney (Saturday 26th January 2013)

Australia’s two biggest cities playing on our national day, well done A-League.  This was a well received fixture last season, and will continue to build.  Smart thinking on the league’s behalf and a well needed permanent fixture of the season colander.  If one game isn’t enough, Western Sydney play host to Heart in another instalment for Melbourne/Sydney superiority.

Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney (Friday March 29th 2013)

A bold move from the league, but one that will pay off.  Football on Good Friday is a new adventure for the league and one that will be successful.  The work Nathan Tinkler and his team have put into getting families involved in sport will be clearly evident with a bumper crowd.

First Rule – You do not talk about ‘New Sydney Club’…

Sometimes silence is golden, like when you’re surrounded by toddlers at a busy Westfield shopping centre, or when you have committed a criminal offence and witnesses are talking to police.  I would have thought when trying to get a new sporting club off the ground from scratch, you would make as much noise as possible, hey you might even consider trawling eBay for some 2nd hand vuvuzela’s.

Tomorrow morning the A-League release the fixture for the 2012/13 season, one team doesn’t have a name, location, or club colours.  Either the A-League is going to make some noise in the next 24 hours or TBA will appear continually on the fixture.

You cannot expect people to support a club that doesn’t seem to exist; community engagement is a vital factor in the sporting landscape when trying to break into a new community.  The Western Sydney market will be a very tough one to break into, just ask AFL CEO Andrew Demitriou.  The AFL has ploughed millions of dollars, and hundreds of man hours into their expansion to the ‘football heartland’ and have received a poultry attendance figures (7,358 vs. Richmond on the weekend) in return.

The FFA started off on the right foot, hosting fan forums in surrounding areas of West Sydney, football commentators were excited by the prospect of a Sydney derby and social media world was abuzz with the club fully interacting with fans on facebook and twitter.  Over time it’s felt like the club has been put on the backburner at FFA headquarters, with no communication regarding the new club.  I am sure the FFA are full speed ahead in regards to the new club, but appearances are everything in the 21st century and it appears the people of Western Sydney have been treated with contempt.

Over the last few weeks potential signing Scott Chipperfield looks to be heading back to Switzerland, Chippers would have been the perfect signing for the club, and if the clubs rumoured stance on player wages and contracts affected this signing the club is already heading down the wrong track.  Lucas Neill is my other concern, currently a free agent the Socceroos captain would create publicity and hype that money couldn’t buy.  The FFA have the opportunity for the national captain to be the front man of the clubs new campaign, this chance cannot be missed.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the club, but some noise has to come out of the club soon.  The only New Sydney Club news on twitter at the moment was @ed_trinh with his ‘Unicorn kit’.  Hopefully I will be surprised over the next few weeks with some important announcements regarding the new club, as I believe we now have the correct 10 clubs, and six very exciting Sydney/Melbourne derbies.

Hopefully this new Sydney club will have a happier ending than the one it currently portrays.

Munn – “Looking to go all the way”

The new membership campaign is clear to all fans, ‘It’s time to play your part’ an aggressive, but positive campaign, but what can the club offer us in return? Losing our golden boot from last season, Eli Babalj has left a huge void up front for the club but he leaves with the blessing of everyone involved at the club.

Scott Munn gave me the opportunity for a quick chat this morning regarding the upcoming season, from  the enthusiasm of the discussion I cannot stress that 2012/13 is the season for all Heart followers to be involved in what could be a very successful year for the red & white part of Melbourne.

The club is aiming to build on their debut finals campaign.  Heart CEO Munn told me the club is “looking to go all the way” and to do this would have to challenge back to back champions Brisbane along with last year’s league leader Central Coast Mariners.

No names were discussed, but Munn told me that our staff had been working hard on securing some International signings for the club; if they are anything like the calibre of Jonatan Germano we have the ability to be a top A-League club.  Until then the current squad have now settled into preseason training under the watchful eye of new head coach John Aloisi.

Aloisi has settled in nicely, and may soon be joined by former Socceroos team mate Hayden Foxe.  Munn said that Foxe would bring great experience from playing abroad in England and Japan.  Munn said the former defender would complement the fact that Aloisi, and former head coach John Van’t Schip were both strikers.  Foxe would also be ideal when working with promising youngsters Curtis Good and Brendan Hamill.

An aggressive target has been set at 9,000 by those at the front office at the club, and although a steep increase in last season’s figures, I think through hard work and quality signings this can be achieved.  An attendance target has been set at 10,500 which would also be a sharp increase on the majority of matches held at home last season.

Over the past two seasons Heart fans have experienced the luxury of hosting two out of the three Melbourne derbies, but when the A-League fixture comes out shortly, you might find Heart only hosting one.  Whilst I wish we could host two per year, it should be Melbourne Victory’s chance to host the majority of derbies next season.  This could mean that AAMI Park only hosts one derby next season, and is a in itself a reason to join up as a Heart member.  All football fans know what a superior venue AAMI Park is in comparison to Etihad when hosting football, and will assure the Heart host the most exciting fixture of the season.

So until then keep your ear close to the ground for any transfer talk, and wait for Scott Munn & John Aloisi to announce the new signings over the next few weeks.

Here’s how to ‘Play your part in Season 2012/13

http://www.footballaustralia.com.au/melbourneheart/news-display/201213-Memberships-Now-Open/47667

In Asia football, J comes before A

So it’s going to be harder than we thought, but it’s the final stage of a World cup qualification campaign.  Brazil 2014 is a tough challenge for the Socceroos, and now a nation realises how tough it can be.

We are not the same talented squad that saw an easier path to Germany or South Africa, we have youth coming through but our talent stocks are somewhat lower than our FIFA ranking would have us believe.  We have recently dropped three spots to 24, but it’s my belief that that the ranking system is floored, and we are still reaping the benefits from our more talented squads in the past.  A ranking in the mid 30’s would be more comparable to our current squad.

The oppressive heat in Oman was another factor in the result.  Playing at 42c, kicking off at 5pm doesn’t make sense for any sport in the World, let alone football.  FIFA have to address this issue, but have now set a very dangerous precedent.  Whilst it’s a dangerous environment to play is extreme heat, the group stage has started, and games should be played under similar conditions.

Tuesday night will be a key moment of our campaign.  Japan has started in a blaze of glory, winning both games convincingly and having a +9 goal difference.  The blue samurai come to Brisbane full of confidence, and knowing that a victory against the Socceroos could almost assure them of a plane ticket to Brazil.

So why does it appear that Japan are light years in front of the Socceroos at the moment, only one spot separates them in the FIFA rankings, but on current form Japan are looking the goods.  Japan is firing on all cylinders, and the Socceroos are barely getting out of second gear.  You only have to look at the domestic structure of football in each country.  The J-League is a very successful, financial league, and is the giant of Asian football.  Patrons are filing through the turnstiles, clubs are financially viable, and the standard of football is very impressive.

Have a look over your shoulder at the A-League and currently the rest of Asia doesn’t have to be too concerned.  Poor management, club infighting, new clubs and licence hand backs affect every level of football in Australia.  I have the feeling that we have the 10 team structure that will currently have will be around for years to come, and is a must for our 2018 qualification.

I am confident we will be on the plane with Japan to Brazil.  A shaky start from our Socceroos heroes but even if we lose against Japan on Tuesday night, we are still on track.  Our squad isn’t our strongest, but is far greater than Iraq, Jordan and Oman and that is what matters.  For all the people saying our squad is too old, show me a better option than Schwarzer, Ognenovski or Kewell.

We must qualify for the future of the game at a domestic level in Australia

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Our next three games

June 12 v JAPAN (home)

September 11 v JORDAN (away)

October 16 v IRAQ (away)