Friday, 31 August 2007

Patafta & No.13 on my Victory shirt

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A sad day for football

Today is a very sad day for football with the confirmation of the death of Sevilla and Spanish international player, Antonio Puerta at the age of 22. He collapsed on the pitch during the weekend game against Getafe and though he was able to walk off, suffered a relapse in the dressing room and required cardiac resuscitation.

A statement from Dr Murillo of the Hospital Virgen del Rocio confirmed the death. It read: "We regret to announce that the patient Antonio Puerta died at 14.30 (local time) as a consequence of postpanoxic encephalopathy and multiorganic dysfunction provoked by the cardiac arrest." Puerta's body will now be taken to the Sánchez Pizjuán, where fans will be able to pay their respects before he is buried on Thursday.

Puerta was a product of Sevilla's impressive youth system (he had been with the club for a total of 14 years) breaking into the side in the 2004-5 season, before becoming a regular the following year as a versatile left sided player who could play as a wing back or midfielder. He was fondly remembered by Sevilla fans for the spectacular goal he scored against Schalke 04 that put them in the UEFA Cup final for the first time in April 2006. He also recently made his first appearance for the national team in an Euro 2008 qualifier against Sweden. Even sadder is the news that Puerta's girlfriend is pregnant with their first child.

Rest In Peace Antonio José Puerta Pérez, a man cut down in his prime playing the game he loved. Here is his most memorable goal for Sevilla vs Schalke 04 in the 2006 UEFA Cup semi-final.

Antonio José Puerta Pérez Factfile:
Born: November 26, 1984
Died: August 28, 2007
Birthplace: Seville, Spain
Height: 1.83m
Weight: 74 kg
Position: Midfield
Games: 53 (Sevilla 52, Spain 1)
Goals: 8 (all for Sevilla)

Football Honours:
2002 - Joins Sevilla 'B' Team
2004 - Makes Primera Liga debut vs. Levante
2006 - Wins UEFA Cup vs Middlesbrough
2006 - Wins UEFA Super Cup vs Barcelona
2007 - Wins UEFA Cup vs Espanyol
2007 - Wins Copa del Rey vs Getafe
2007 - Wins Spanish Super Cup vs Real Madrid

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Two year deal for Ryall

Melbourne have today confirmed that they have signed Young Socceroo captain, Sebastian Ryall on a two year deal. Ryall is basically a replacement for Adrian Leijer who left earlier in the month for Fulham. Ryall currently plays for the AIS in the Foxtel Cup and has also played with the Olyroos. The signing couldn't come at a more crucial time for the Victory as one of the big signings of the off season, Ljubo Milicevic is expected to miss about for at least six weeks after damaged knee ligaments in the first couple of minutes of the game against Wellington and our defence was looking a little thin. For more info see my previous post.

Welcome to the Victory, Sebastian.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Luck plays its part

In the end, the Melbourne boys were lucky to come away with the point from an entertaining match in Wellington today. After leading most of the game, the Phoenix came storming back in the last 12 minutes to come within a whisker of taking all three points and along the way they hit the goal frame twice - one of those from the penalty spot. I can't make too much comment on the first half as I only saw the final five minutes - due to the fact that it took me three hours to play nine holes of golf* as we got stuck behind a couple of the slowest groups that I ever seen.

It was difficult to gauge the influence of Hernandez and from the brief highlights that I saw of the first half it looked like he was starting to link well with Allsopp and Thompson. If anyone else can let me know their thoughts on his first half it would be most welcome. To my thoughts on the second half. Apart from the final fifteen minutes the game looked evenly matched with Keenan's great solo effort and final pass to Allsopp, which was finished off in style being one of the highlights. Wellington's fortunes picked up with introduction of their third Brazilian, Felipe who had an immediate impact on the game and dominated the midfield. We looked a little uncertain at long set pieces and corners and we missed the influence of Milicevic in the aerial duels, who went off earlier in the game due to a knee injury. Our midfield didn't appear to run out the game and when they dropped off the pace and that's when the Phoenix started to really dominate. But when they were on the pace there was some nice interplay. In the end we were probably lucky to come away with the single point. Credit must be given to the Phoenix, who played really well in front of an impressive crowd of over 14,00 people - they will cause a lot of problems for teams this season. I am looking forward to the game next week and a continued improvement from the team. The first home game of the new season - hopefully we get a great crowd.

*For anyone that cares I scored a 53 for my 9 holes.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Everyone else is doing it

It is now less than 24 hours to the kick-off in the new season of the A-League (not going to call it Version 3, its time to move on from that "version" moniker) and Melbourne Victory's 6-0 thrashing of Adelaide United is just a distant memory (although one that can be remember rather quickly by pulling out the DVD of the match). A lot of the other bloggers and pundits have been putting down their thoughts of how they think the league will finish this season, so I have decided to join in the fun and give you my very brief thoughts. For a more detailed analysis check out The Round Ball Analyst for his very comprehensive round up of the teams.

And now for my thoughts, this is how I think the ladder will look like at the end of the season:

1. Melbourne
2. Adelaide
3. Central Coast
4. Queensland
5. Sydney FC
6. Wellington Phoenix
7. Newcastle Jets
8. Perth Glory

I think Melbourne will go back to back (there is a little bias here) but they have the depth and quality of squad to make it through the campaign on top of the table, although it wouldn't surprise me to see them start the season of a bit sedately as the whole squad gets used to each other. A lot of people have been writing Adelaide off for this season, but again I think they will challenge strongly for the championship with a lot of good signings and a different style of play. Central Coast have been the silent movers over the off season and with the inclusion of Petrovski, the return of Heffernan and Mrdja (from injury) they should be a strong contender. Queensland, hopefully will shake off the tag of 'underachiever' and make a finals appearance. The signings of both Moore and Tiatto will add strength and bite to the squad with my only concern being that their under performing squad has changed little over the last two years. Even with the signing of Juninho, I think Sydney will struggle to make the finals this season due to the lack of depth within the squad. They have a very good starting XI or XIII, but may struggle to perform if injuries and suspensions kick in. Also, a good source of goals may be hard to find. With the remaining three teams, they could be placed in any order but I think all three of them will miss finals action. Wellington, under Ricky Herbert and his quartet of Brazilians will be a much tougher challenge than the New Zealand Knights ever were. Newcastle, will struggle without the influence of Nicky Carle and Milton Rodriguez, but will hopefully continue that exciting brand of football from last year but it will be interesting to see how their South American imports fare. And finally to Perth, who have been impressive during the pre-season may have it tough as they don't appear to have that many options up front with no real proven goalscorers.

Overall I think this upcoming season of A-League football will be the closest and toughest by far as all teams (except for Wellington as it is a new club) have learnt the lessons of the past two seasons and have improved the quality of their squads. Heres hoping that my beloved Victory can go back to back in '07/08.

Biggest City ≠ Biggest Club

I have a lot of respect for Branko Cullina as a coach but to call or even suggest that Sydney FC is the "Manchester United" of the A-League as reported in today's Daily Telegraph is a bit of joke. Sydney seemed to be obsessed with giving themselves titles, -ie calling themselves the "glamour club". You don't see any of the other seven teams labelling themselves. By insinuating that they are the "Manchester United" of the league, is Branko Cullina suggesting that they are the biggest team in the league? Branko, being in the biggest city does not equal biggest club. To call yourself the biggest club, that means you would have to have at least have a decent membership base and average attendance to games. And to the best of my knowledge, Sydney FC doesn't meet any of these criteria. They barely averaged 16,000 people to a game in a 40,000 seater stadium (which is third behind both Melbourne and Queensland) and even struggled to get good turnouts for their Asian Champions League matches. Also, when it comes down to style of play from last year, both Melbourne and Newcastle can claim the mantle of having the most attractive game to watch.

Here in the A-League we shouldn't have to resort to labelling ourselves the "Manchester United" or "Liverpool" of the league. We are simply the "Melbourne Victory" or the "Central Coast Mariners" of the league. To compare ourselves to other large clubs is to belittle ourselves in order to make ourselves feel better and is not paying enough respect to the players and supporters involved. Branko, worry about Sydney FC putting in a better performance on the pitch this season and building a quality club - one that has a good membership base and gets good crowd attendances.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Futsal debut

It was a futsal debut of some sorts (even though I filled in for a friend's whilst on holiday in Brisbane) for myself last night as played in a friend's team in Richmond. It wasn't a great debut for me personally as I struggled to keep pace with the speed of the game. For the first couple of minutes I don't think I even got a touch. I haven't played football of any kind for about six months and it showed and I only played about ten minutes of a thirty-six minute game. Also I usually play as a keeper for another outdoor five-a-side team, so running to position and tracking back in defence (something that I always yell at my teammates to do when between the posts) was something to get used to. Fitting into a team that knows each other quite well was also something that probably hindered my performance, remembering their names was hard enough. Hopefully, the team will have me back for future games. For the record the team I played for won 6-3, with an outstanding performance from our goalkeeper.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Stadiums I have been to: Santa Laura

Over recent years since I started watching Melbourne Victory I have come to appreciate watching the game of football live and a big part of that being the stadium in which the game is being watched. I have been to a few stadiums in Australia and South America so I have decided to write some thoughts about them with the first one being Santa Laura.

Santa Laura, is the home ground of Union Española in Santiago, Chile. I paid a visit to this stadium on a cold autumn night in March 2006 during a trip to South America. On this night Union Española were playing Universidad de Concepcion in a Chilean football league match and up until this time were struggling to pick up a win. Santa Laura, is the oldest stadium in Chile, being constructed in 1922 and it is certainly starting to show its age. There is a main stand that houses the dressing rooms and all the associated rooms for officials. The remaining three stands are made up of timber seats that sit on a steel framework. Both the timber and plastics seats are in a combination of black, yellow, white and red that makes up a distinctive pattern and gives the impression of a large mural, that was quite evident on the night in question due to the lack of supporters. I’m not exactly sure of the stadium’s capacity but I think it is around 20,000. In order to get our seats that were located in one of the stands you had to walk underneath the stand through steel framework that held it up. It was like walking through a forest of steelwork. Once seated in the stand you wouldn’t have wanted to drop anything as a trip back down the steps to the ground below would have been the result. Barely 2000 people had turned out for the game and we managed to get a park pretty much right outside the front gate. There wasn’t too much atmosphere for the game due to the small number of fans, but the supporters behind the goals were in full voice. I was glad that they decided not to let off a flare when the only goal for the game went in because the stands might have gone up in smoke as well. Although I am sure many a flare has been set off in this stadium without any problems. There was a small smattering of away supporters in their own section of the ground that it is fenced off the home supporters, as is the tradition at all South American football stadiums. After seeing this game, I decided to follow the fortunes of Union Española. Santa Laura, is a distinctly old fashioned stadium, one that doesn’t exist much any more.Santa Laura, is a distinctly old fashioned stadium, one that doesn’t exist much any more and may not for much longer. For a number of years now there has been talk of Union Española replacing Santa Laura with a new stadium but the main sticking point is lack of finances within the club to undertake the project. So it looks like for the time being that Santa Laura will continue to be the oldest stadium in Chile.

Friday, 17 August 2007

I demand a challenge!

Which football blogger really knows their stuff about the A-League? Are they all talk and no substance? I have created a Fox Sports Fantasy A-League 07/08 League called "Blogger Cup" in order to find out. So all you football bloggers out there if you need to find out more or register go to

Once you have logged in and entered your team, click on the 'Leagues' link you can find at the top of the page and enter the code 11302-1649 to join the private league.

Game on.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Diego on Diego

I have just finished reading "El Diego", the autobiography of Diego Maradona. The autobiography is totally about his footballing exploits right from a young age to his last game with other aspects of his life only touched on briefly. My first encounter with Maradona was watching fuzzy images of the 1986 World Cup on SBS and to be perfectly honest as an eight year old I wasn't that impressed. The main reason being was for that World Cup and the following one in 1990 , the team I supported was West Germany. But over time I have come to appreciate the genius of Maradona on the field and tried to ignore his off field exploits. My attitude had changed to the fact that whilst in Buenos Aires last year I had to buy one of those t-shirts that are sold everywhere that detail "that goal" against England in the '86 finals.

The book is a great read as it is full of drama and you learn a lot about the man and his version of events is very colourful as you would expect. It is a football fan's kind of book and it gave gives a great insight into his playing days at Argentinios Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's of which I had little knowledge . For me, I also would have liked to learn more about other matters in his life such as more about his relationship with his wife, Claudia and his battle with cocaine. These matters are only briefly touched upon and are important to his whole make up as a person and a player. One part of the book that I quite enjoyed was Maradona thoughts on 100 footballers, mostly South American, those who he has either watched, met, admired or played against. For any fan of football, this book is well worth checking out.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A replacement for Leijer?

According to reports today in the Sydney Morning Herald the Victory are set to replace recently departed Adrian Leijer with Australian Under 20 international, Sebastian Ryall. If this is the case it brings to four the number of Under 20 internationals that are in the Victory squad, with the others being Evan Berger, Kaz Patafta and Mitchell Langerak. Along with Adelaide it looks like Melbourne is really giving a good opportunity to young Australian internationals to play in a quality squad and gain invaluable experience and more importantly game time. Word is that Ryall is very comfortable on the ball (something that Ernie Merrick always looks for in a defender and can be seen in his previous signings of Vargas and Milicevic) and has a good technique and reads the play very well. Another aspect that probably grabbed Cole's and Merrick's eye is his versality as he can play at any position in the backline.

This possible signing coincides with the news that this week the football administrators in this country are set to discuss the establishment of either a reserves or youth league for players who are not gaining regular game time in their respective teams. This is an important area of discussion and one of these leagues is a must for the development of the game in this country. A model that this could be adopted is the one that is used in the USL (the leauge below the MLS in the USA) which has a first and second division competition as well as a Under 23 development league. We don't have the population at the moment to have two leagues and a youth league - but having the A-League and a Under 20 competition (our Under 23s are getting constant game time in teams now so this would be a waster of time) would be a step in the right direction. Our young players need more football time than they are currently getting and this would be a perfect opportunity for them.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Patafta & No.13 - That's what I'm going put on my new Victory shirt

Kaz Patafta has long been seen as the next big thing in Australia and last night in front of about 3500 people at a rain soaked Olympic Park, he demonstrated why this is the case. Coming on in the second half of Victory 1-0 loss to Sydney FC, he dominated the midfield with his clean crisp passing and attack on the ball. He also let fly with a shot from distance that had Clint Bolton flapping at air and only the cross bar saved Bolton's blushes. Even though he is only on one season loan from Benfica, I think I'll be putting his name and number on the back of my new Victory shirt (when I get around to buying it). He is one of the future stars of Australian football and we should be privileged to have him playing in the A-League.

Apart from Patafta's performance it was a much improved effort from the Victory - even though they came away with another loss. In fact, they dominated long sections of the game and were largely untroubled by Sydney apart from the goal, that came from a scrappy clearance. Muscat started to show glimpses of how he dominated in the midfield last season and Hernandez was more in the game than last week and he started to gel more with Thompson and Allsopp. Although at times the ball was given up a little cheaply in the midfield. Caceres, when brought on midway through the second half was also impressive with his direct running at the Sydney defence. It was disappointing to see them lose again, especially at home to Sydney but when the main game starts in two weeks against the Wellington Phoenix I am sure the result will go our way.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Happy Birthday El Capitan!

Birthday wishes go out to our fearless leader, Kevin Muscat who turns 34 today. Initially beginning his career at the Victory in the heart of our defence, he moved to a central midfield role in our championship winning team last season. This was a stroke of genius by Ernie Merrick as the move completely revitalised our midfield along with Grant Brebner, creating a fearsome combination, and was part of the driving force behind our campaign. Muscat, best known for his hard tackling ways, is our number one penalty taker and has never missed from the spot in an A-League game. Before playing with Victory, Muscat teams included South Melbourne, Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton, Glasgow Rangers and Millwall. Once labelled as "the most hated man in England" he now leads the Melbourne Victory with a fearless determination and always expects the best from his teamates. He has also won the Victory Medal in both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 season

Melbourne Victory stats:
Games: 37
Goals: 13 (11 Penalties)
Assists: 6
Yellow Cards: 11
Red Cards: 2

Happy Birthday El Capitan!

Monday, 6 August 2007

Note to The World Game, there are eight teams in the A-League

The World Game is one of my favourite shows and for years it kept me informed of what was going on in the world of football. I am big fan of Les Murray and the work he has done to promote the game of football in this country and in particular his work on The World Game. However, of late its coverage of the local game has left a lot to be desired. When discussions take place about the local game, a large focus seems to be always about Sydney FC. Last season, when Melbourne was dominating the league, a large amount of time was spent focusing on Sydney's problems, and in particular Craig Foster's vendetta against Terry Butcher and not on the performance of the eventual premiers and champions.

Last weekend was another case in point. Whilst Sydney's signing of Juninho is great for A-League and for Sydney FC and was worth some detailed discussion. However, did we have to sit through the discussions that was the shambles that was the actions of Sydney FC with respect to David Carney and Mark Milligan. Only briefly was the signing of Adrian Leijer to Fulham mentioned, when Craig Foster noted that Melbourne's handling of the situation was much more professional when compared to that of Sydney. No mention that this is great step for a player, who is a regular in the Olyroos team, going straight from the A-League to the English Premier League. Only briefly were the other teams mentioned, and when in the case they were talking about Newcastle and the possibility of their signing of Mario Jardel, the Sydney logo still loomed large on the plasma screen that sits behind the presenters.

It is time that Les Murray and The World Game team shift their focus away from the goings on that happen at Sydney FC and give a bit more coverage and air time to the other seven teams that make up the A-League, otherwise when its time for them to talk about the local game, I will probably switch the channel.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Phoenix rise to down Victory

A cracking strike from Brazilian striker Daniel Cortes in the 86th minute saw the Wellington Pheonix down the Melbourne Victory 2-1 during a rain soaked night in front of 4100 people at Olympic Park and I was one of them. While too much can't be read into this performance by the Victory there are a few concerns going into the start of the new season. I think many of them are due to players not gelling together yet against quality opponents. With the inclusion of Keenan, Milicevic, Hernandez, Kemp, Leandro Love, Kaz Patafta and Berger into the squad it will take them a while to learn the ins and outs of the team. Positives for the team were the performances of both Kemp and Keenan, who both made a number of searching runs on the respective wings. They give good width to the team, something that was lacking in the team last year. The midfield of Brebner, Muscat and Hernandez struggled at times both in the conditions and against their opponents and Thompson looked short of game time. The game also saw the debut of the latest signing, Leandro Love, who made his debut in the 80th minute to as much applause as a crowd of 4000 can generate. The night also saw the last appearance of Adrian Leijer (although not as a player) as his move to Fulham on a three year deal was confirmed.

Credit must be given to the team from Wellington, who played well in the conditions. They look like a team made up of big strong players and they remind me a little of Central Coast teams of the past two seasons and match winner, Daniel Cortes looks like a good prospect. Former Adelaide skipper and now Wellington skipper, Ross Aloisi was back at his worst, constantly harassing Hernandez (who was unlucky not to see a few more fouls go his way) when he was on the ball, with a lot of shirt tugging and ankle tapping going on. Hopefully this kind of football is slowly stamped out of the A-League game.

Comment must be also made on the playing strip of the Wellington Phoenix. It is an absolute shocker, being totally black against for a splash of yellow across the upper chest and shoulders. There has been no imagination with this strip and some others within the A-League. It made be something to do with Reebok, not known for their great shirt design, being responsible for the shirts of all teams. I think the Wellington shirt would look much better as a black and yellow striped shirt.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

London Calling

According to reports, Melbourne Victory's very own Adrian Leijer is to be heading to English Premier League club, Fulham. Apparently the two teams are in negotiatons about the terms of the transfer. This is great news for a player who is a mainstay in the Olyroos and a rock in the defence for Victory. However, it is bad timing for the Victory with only 3 1/2 weeks until the season kicks off. The Victory should be able to cover the loss of such an important player with Daniel Piorkowski returning from injury and the signing of Ljubo Milicevic, who can both fill Leijer's central defensive position. He is not the only A-League team set to lose a player to England with David Carney expected to sign for Sheffield United in the coming days. This is also good for the A-League as it shows the quality of players that we have in our league are being sought after by teams in Europe. Hopefully, the move pays off for Leijer and we wish him well and thank him for the memories.