In A League Of Its Own

Tom’s weekly outlook on the A-League

A new season, a new team, and a new defending champion. This upcoming A-league season (“Version 6”) is shaping up to be the most exciting and competitive yet. Sydney FC are the defending champions, and will be looking to become the first team to win back-to-back championships. In a pre-season friendly with Greek giants AEK Athens, Sydney scored three goals, but did concede five. If they can play this kind of soccer though, then the Football Federation of Australia might just get the attendances they need to keep the game prospering. Sydney could well challenge for the title again this year, getting a helping hand by signing Nicky Carle, who has won a few caps for the Socceroos. He was poached from English Coca-Cola Championship side Crystal Palace in mid-June and will probably get to choose where in the front half he plays.

But standing in Sydney’s way, will be new team Melbourne Heart, who have an all-star line-up by A-league standards. This side will be serious contenders for the championship in their first ever season, and will inherit the new AAMI Park for their home games. Managing the team, will be capped Dutchman John van’t Schip and alongside him as assistant is former Manchester United star Jesper Olsen. They haven’t mucked around with the players either, mixing both Australian and international, with experienced and youthful. Their defence looks solid if not brilliant, with last year’s grand final penalty shootout hero Clint Bolton between the sticks. In front of him, (all have played for the Socceroos) Dean Heffernan, Simon Colosimo  and Michael Beauchamp. Throw in one of their young full backs and there could be a good case put forward that it is the best defence in the nation. In the centre of the park, they have the likes of Josip Skoko, Kristian Sarkies, AIS product Brendan Hamill and Kliment Taseski. Up forward is Uruguayan enemy John Aloisi and starlet Kamal Ibrahim.

But you shouldn’t be handing Heart the championship just yet. Remember how Gold Coast went on their “unbeaten season” last year and didn’t even end up in the top four? I’ve already mentioned Sydney, but the other Melbourne team, Victory are the most successful ever in the A-league. Perth, Newcastle and Gold Coast are on the way up and have strong beliefs that they can go all the way. Brisbane, Adelaide and Central Coast have recently been stumblers late in a season, but have quality squads. North Queensland won’t win a game and will be kicked out at the end of this season. But for me, third place finishers last year Wellington Phoenix will win the A-league. They were a delight to watch last season and have the squad and mentality to take out the championship in Version 6.

You make up your own mind though, and let the football begin.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in year 11 at Brunswick Secondary College. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne Victory, Chelsea Football Club and is anti-Sydney in every sport.

Comments

  1. Ian Syson says:

    I reckon you might be on the money in a few predictions there Tom.

    Did you see Heart against Everton? I thought they looked the goods (though there might have been an extent to which Everton let them play well). Everton seemed to be able to turn it on at will.

    Wellington? Yes they will do well and Ricky will still be buzzing — but winning the A League will be difficult. I like Sydney to go back to back.

    As a North Queenslander I take umbrage at your prediction about the Fury — but you may be more prescient than I would prefer.

    Oh, and Victory to finish out of the finals!

    For some reason that I haven’t quite put my finger on I expect his season to be the best yet.

  2. Who is in goal for Victory this season? They have an incredible record for producing keepers…must have a good coach down there.

  3. John Butler says:

    After the Kiwis outshone us at the World Cup, could Football Australia’s psyche stand a Wellington win?

  4. Sue Anderton says:

    Well done Tom!! Look forward to reading more over the season.

  5. Ian Syson says:

    Crio, they spot keepers; the don’t develop them. Langerak comes from Bundaberg and was a no-brainer once identified. He played half a season with South Melbourne in the VPL (on loan from Victory) so I got to see him play close up. He simply caught the ball in his first warm up drill and I thought “this kid’s got it”. I said to Dan at that moment, “he’ll play for Australia”. Theo and Galekovic were NSL keepers. Theo played for South as well. I can’t remember if Euegene did.

  6. So, Ian, you were right..good spotting. It is hard to believe they chased Moss with young Mitch in the wings. As frustrating as it is for fans,the fate of Victory’s keepers is just how the League can function…a good conduit from local leagues to a European opportunity. Mix that with players returning whilst they still have some kms on the clock and it can be a good comp. Last year was disappointing. Whilst your despised Muscy can still be integral to a top side, standards can’t have raised. He limped out of Second Div 5 years ago!

  7. Martin Reeves says:

    Good work Tom, looking forward to the upcoming Version 6.

    I’m not minding Wellington at this stage and think they should do well.

    Still scratching my head as to how SFC won the double last year. Aloisi’s late winner against Perth late in the season kept SFC alive and cost Melbourne the title.

    Having said that, they’re well managed and will be hard to beat.

    Both Melbourne teams should do ok, though Victory need some signings pronto. No Thompson or Langerak will hurt. Hoping Ernie can bring some youth through this year.

  8. CreativeType says:

    Great stuff Tom, but if only you could put this much effort into your homework!!!

  9. Tim Ivins says:

    Great stuff. Sydney v Wellington in the final for me with Perth third.

  10. Tommy,
    What about Perth? Haven’t they poached successfully, or are they perennial losers?
    And are Adelaide finally stuffed having lost probably their best asset in Gareth Southgate lookalike Aurelio Vidmar?
    And, when does the season start?

  11. Ian Syson says:

    Tom

    I hope you don’t mind. This is my preview of Heart’s season to be published in Goal Weekly.

    Heart season preview

    And so the latest bright and shiny A League club is ready to roll off the production line. Melbourne Heart, the team with a name that initially inspired guffaws and yet already seems to be taken seriously, will play its first competitive game against the Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Stadium on the 5th of August. Heart will have the honour of hosting the first A-League game at the ‘Bubbledome’, Melbourne’s newest stadium.

    Heart’s introduction to the competition has generated a deal of anticipation. They have developed the kind of off-field presence and impact in Melbourne and country Victoria that Victory has yet to achieve even after its 5-year head-start.

    Heart’s advertising, marketing and community engagement is very good and probably shows the value of the competition generated by opening up a second franchise in Melbourne. It also shows how important it is for clubs to be run by soccer people and not by revenue-focused blow-ins from other codes.

    The mini-coup of persuading Jon Bon Jovi to buy several high-end tickets and donate them back to the club to allow disadvantaged supporters to get to a game was impressive. Even Victory supporters have been full of begrudging admiration.

    Predictably, talk of terrace chants has already started to emerge among Victory supporters. On the unofficial Melbourne Victory web forum, in a strangely obsessive 6000-post long Heart FC thread, a number of chants have been penned. Inspired by Bon Jovi, the one below is clever and deserves to be heard at the first Derby on the 2nd of October:

    Shot through the Heart,
    And you’re to blame,
    You give Melbourne
    a bad name

    The Heart name is a gold mine for puns and it’s not hard to imagine sub-editors rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of the cringeworthy headlines they will produce: Heart Attack Stuns Opposition; Half-Hearted Melbourne Fails to get the Blood Pumping; Heart Bypass Midfield in search of Equaliser, Penalty Shoot-out Heartbreak, and so on.

    On the field: it’s hard to gauge how well Heart will go because there is so little form through which to draw a line. A narrow loss against Newcastle, a fair performance against an albeit relaxed Everton and a 9-1 hammering of Loddon Mallee Lightning don’t tell us all that much. As Robbie Slater suggests, the team list looks like a fantasy football team; can they combine on the field; do they have the necessary depth?

    The Everton game did provide clues however. Coach John van ‘t Schip had them playing a nicely structured possession game where flowing passing moves were the order of the day. Clint Bolton is still one of the best keepers in Australia. Deep in midfield, Josip Skoko was clearly the organising force for the team. Colosimo and Beauchamp did a solid job at the back marking a couple of highly credentialed forwards.

    Against Everton, Heart’s problems were up front. Without Aloisi they seemed a little toothless – though it remains to be seen if Aloisi is the force he once was. Sibon, a big, strong forward, worked hard and looked to impose himself but didn’t seem to come close to scoring. And while they have a number of dynamic smaller players playing into the front third their chances were meagre and poorly executed. In fact one of Heart’s best chances on the night was a well-saved Skoko shot reminiscent of the goal he scored for the Socceroos against Greece at the MCG.

    There’s little doubt that Heart will see a lot of possession this season; the bottom line is how well they convert that possession into goals. Indeed, van ‘t Schip will be hoping a few cobwebs were blown out in the nine goals thumped in against the Lightning.

    A major overarching worry for the Heart is the depth of the squad. Should a number of the relatively big names lose form or become sidelined through injury, the club will be tested.

    It seems likely that Heart will have an inconsistent season, playing some of the best football in the league at times while being hopelessly outclassed at others. A number of pundits, Tim Cahill included, predict that Heart will be challenging for the title. However, I think a mid-table finish is probable – fifth at the highest (just above Victory).

  12. Heartfelt Ian…it is going to be a subbies dream this season!
    My last one – your summation “Hearts of Mid-table”

  13. Crio & Ian, I’ve noticed that not only has Mitch Langerak walked the MVFC exit, but so has other keeper Glen Moss, who has left for Gold Coast. So yes, the Victory will need to do very good poaching if they want to not concede many this campaign

  14. It is very good in this age of texting, acronyms etc. to see a high school student writing literate articles. Keep up the good work, Thomas. From an Adelaide perspective, all Melbourne football crowds are awful (except Carlton’s). Keep up the coverage in what some see as a make or break season for the A-League.

Add Comment Register

Leave a Comment

*