1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend of A-League action. With just the two fixtures we include a word on the major off-field dramas for a one-time A-League title winner.
Jetting in and out of trouble
Before getting to the two remaining games of round 15 I thought it apt to touch on the fluid situation of the Newcastle Jets.
That in five sacking players, but no going about this through the proper processes of advising the players officially, says everything about how abject the club management is at Newcastle Jets. Without having an in-depth knowledge of the current licence scenario, I am convinced there is a simple solution such as asking the club to present their business plan. This puts footballing aspects, which are actually largely irrelevant in this situation, aside given financial viability and meeting employment legislation are key factors given both have the capacity to hamstring whoever owns the club into the future. The last thing any new owner wants is to be paying off a disgruntled employee after a lengthy/costly court battle.
Surely having a reasonable business plan with sponsorship targets and the like, as well as relevant key performance indicators, is a requirement of retaining an A-League club licences on an ongoing basis.
Looking at coaching staff aspect, Phil Stubbins has marked his card in siding with Nathan Tinkler. He is guilty by association for anything which further drags the club’s name through the mud. It’s not a great career move in a league with limited opportunities where people like Mike Mulvey are still unemployed. I would expect most of the ‘sacked’ players to return under any interim ownership model and I’d not be surprised to see Clayton Zane given a further opportunity as head coach.
The FFA buying the club and selling it on even if it takes 2-3 years is the sensible short-term solution. With a possible look at big local businesses such as Wests Newcastle (licensed club) as partner organisations with a view to a long-term sale to them.
If it doesn’t work out they could relocate the side south west of the city, have the Squadron run them and re-name the franchise the Fassifern Flying Seaman FC as suggested by a one-time Newcastle Breakers fan who was suggesting a merger with the Mariners!
On to the games, only two this weekend:
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Western Sydney Wanderers, Sunday – Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
The changes at the Wanderers continued on Tuesday with confirmation Brazilian Vitor Saba has left the club. Much like the departures of Mensur Kurtishi (Brisbane), Johnny Steele (Newcastle), and Malick Mane (Central Coast) to name just a few, this season proves just how important getting overseas signings right are. Even more so than local signings, the cost involved in acquiring them and the extra expense of settling international players here is Australia (or Wellington) increases the investment, and the risk. This cost becomes more important if the player who we are talking about is a designated marquee player.
The Victorian outfit don’t really have those problems as the fake signing deals of their parent clubs and shady ‘loan’ deals mean international players are out the door before they have time to get a local sim card, or (in the case of Frank Lampard in Manchester) never leave their home country for their ‘new’ club. But we digress, as John Van’t Schip’s side on the other had have recruited an overseas player in the form of Safuwan Baharudin of Singapore. The 23 year-old defender impressed during their mid-season training camp in the United Arab Emirates so it will be interesting to see he adapts to the A-League. Having accumulated 43 caps for the 157th ranked Singaporean side he is clearly experienced, but there hasn’t been a large amount of ‘young’ international defenders join A-League clubs with any deal of success. If not for the ongoing Jets debacle and the Asian Cup, the majority of the focus would be on the winless Wanderers who need a result as they attempt to make a run for the finals and endeavour to find some sort of form before their defence of the Asian Champions League commences next month.
Big game for: The Wanderers forwards. The absence of Socceroo Tomi Juric, who at this point remains a WSW player, will be keenly felt though the addition of Japanese interntional Yojiro Takahagi in midfield, who has now been upgraded to join the full A-League squad, will be of use.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: How a ‘match fit’ home side perform. Opposed sessions and some local games, plus a week off seemed to be the formula in the A-League ‘summer-break’ for most sides, but Van’t Schip took a different tack with his side giving them a break by playing two games overseas in Abu Dhabi as part of a ten-day training camp. It’s a completely different approach to Western Sydney, who were looking to alleviate injury issues during the Asian Cup, and may suit Melbourne but I wonder if fatigue will be a factor late in the game on Sunday.
Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoneix, Monday – Milton Sandpit
A new year a new overseas striker! Andrija Kaluderovic via Swiss side FC Thun looks set to join the Roar with the 27 year-old striker replacing the afore-mentioned Kurtishi, who had failed to live up to expectations under both title-winning coach Mike Mulvey and his replacement Frans Thijssen.
With multiple title-winners Michael Theo and Thomas Broich to return on Monday, plus possibly the new addition, it could be crucial for the Roar, who only sit four points behind the sixth-placed light blue Melbourne. Considering Wellington have netted 28 times this season to Brisbane’s 14 (the Phoenix have played one more game) the possible inclusion of Kaluderovic could be of significant impact and take some pressure of players like Henrique. Wellington have been engaging in alternative warm weather training by wearing tracksuits at sessions ahead of the game in Queensland but, despite the silliness of how that sounds, one would think two-time A-League title-winning coach Ernie Merrick has a fair idea how to win at this time of the year.
Big game for: Wellington’s travelling form. It’s now expected and not hoped Wellington would win a match like this but, coaching change aside, given who they have to return, are Brisbane the ‘nobody believes in us side’ of this year’s A-League? If Kaluderovic is the business and meets replacement Berisha level, a playoff surge is in the offing.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The pitch. After a beating during the Asian Cup, will the Suncorp Stadium surface be any better upon it’s return from a ten-day rest period? It’s worth noting the pitch will have to start coping with the rigours of Rugby Union from February 21, Rugby League from March 5, and with the Roar also embarking on an Asian Champions League campaign from February, it’s unlikely the state of the ground will improve significantly. So really I’m not looking forward to the ground.
The betting bit, one serious one not
Having already seen off Brisbane this season and with fringe players pushing for spots in the Asian Cup break by featuring in the New Zealand domestic top flight competition Wellington to win ($2.75 @ TAB) but like last week first game back scares me.
Profit: 58 units (based on ten unit investment)
Record: 9/14, Adelaide was good but in hindsight Sydney would’ve been better value, however as it was coming off a break it was hard to trust a side that hadn’t won in some time.