2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Return of the Prodigal Wanderer

Fark, did I ever lose the plot trying to write a blog last season!

There I was thinking “Okay, I am a nutter for the red and black, for the Wanderers in the A-League and the ACL, for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course I can put my verbal diarrhea on the ephemeral pages of the interweb and posit some provocative or pun-filled articles about my club, my preferred sport and all things inbetween , around and over.”

It started off nicely too. I had some good times (and no death threats or legal suits) writing up op.ed. pieces on Dino, the smurfs, the 1974 Socceroos, security at Penrith etc etc. I got into the habit of composing at least two articles a week, with at least a preview and then post-mortem on the week’s round of A-League games. Some kind folk commented with words of appreciation, and I had my own forum to pontificate in ways that didn’t get in the way of other folk’s opinions (as has been known to happen at the West Sydney Forum).

Then, as the last few weeks of the 2013/14 A-league season came around I lost the drive, the energy, the focus. What had started as an indulgent, self-serving pleasure, an exercise in practicing my supposed literary attributes, became too burdensome, too demanding, too much.

In other words I turned into a lazy sloth who expended all his energy watching games, talking about them on the forum, drinking at the Bavarian Bier Cafe and  generally given this place as wide a berth as Rebecca Wilson does Wanderland.

However whilst the will was weak, the spirit diminished and the corpulent flesh far too comfy being fed schweinhaxen and supping on Hofbrau Dunkel, deep down in my mind was the nagging need to come back. To return from the self-imposed lackadaisical ennui of saying fark all to the power of nought over the square root of bugger all about Ange, Spira, the FFA, Popa, Guangzhou Evergrande, the farewells to Shinji and Jerome, grand final disappointment etc etc. Like Frank Lowy looking at the hole in the A-League’s structure after the demise of Clive Palmer’s unlamented Gold Coast United, I felt that the job was not done, I have to try again, be better, take another ride on the turntable of football fandom.

So dear reader, with scarcely two sleeps till the start of the tenth A-League season and the third for the Western Sydney Wanderers, let it be known…

I have returned.

(P.S. I promise I won’t write anywhere near the amount of guff I did last season. Well, maybe not as much in the previews and post-mortem side of things).

A-League 2013/14: Round Thirteen Review

Western Sydney Wanderers vs Wellington Phoenix (1-3 Phoenix Win)

The machine that has been the Western Sydney Wanderers over the last 12 months effectively blew a gasket on New Year’s Day, losing their first home game since January 2013, plus their first 3 goal loss at home against a hungry and determined Wellington Phoenix. In what was a very disappointing performance the home team seemed to forget how to play it purpose and structure for the last 30 minutes of the game, after taking a well deserved lead through Mark Bridge. The Kiwi team benefited from some simply inadequate ball control and defensive efforts from Aaron Mooy and Adam D’Apuzzo, whilst the surprisingly capable Phoenix defence kept Tomi Juric very quiet. Whilst no one had a great game for the Wanderers everyone lifted for the Phoenix, with Stein Husyegems demonstrating more quality than anyone else on the pitch. Young forward Tyler Boyd also had a great game, whilst Glen Moss was steady in goal. Of a very ordinary effort only Shinji Ono and Jerome Polenz showed enough quality to merit some praise. Again the officials had some problems, with the most marked being an early offside call against Juric that was certainly not offside, and should’ve led to a 1 on 1 opportunity for the striker. Whilst Ernie Merrick has got everything right against the Wanderers this season Tony Popovic must be considering how to get better results out of the likes of D’Apuzzo, Mooy and Hersi.

Adelaide United vs Sydney FC (2-2 Draw)

In an entertaining game that arguably could’ve gone either way, a combination of poor finishing and injuries crueled the Reds’ chances of winning this home match, whilst for the visitors their defensive cohesion, some excellent goal poaching and dare I say spirit after going down a man kept them well in with a chance of an unlikely victory. Serb striker Ranko Despotovitch started the goals scoring for Sydney FC, who were warnly welcomed with the appearance of Alessandro del Piero exciting local Juventus fans. For Adelaide injury woes hurt them badly, with recent key player Bruce Djite and Spanish import Cirio both having to be substituted before teh second half. However in the interim Steve Lustica gave a wondrously targeted cross into the range of Ferreira, who snapped a very sweet goal, to draw the scores level. The second half was a story of problematic officialdom, with an offside, a second yellow for Nick Carle and most damaging a penalty awarded against Sydney FC. With Barker-Deish scoring off the penalty spot it looked as if Gombau’s team would continue their ascent up the ladder. However thanks to a well taken free from Petkovic young striker Corey Gambiero finally put himself into the SFC score book, getting his angled header into the net. Galekovic was troubled again at the death by Gambiero however he saved that shot, leaving the final score 2-2.

Newcastle United vs Perth Glory (0-1 Glory Win)

The Jets are arguably the most frustrating team in the A-League for the fans as yet again they demonstrated the combination of failure to make good on many opportunities to score plus giving their opposition a gift in putting a goal on a platter through bad play. However in some respects this assessment takes away from the effort of a Glory team still trying to come to grips with the fall-out of Ally Edwards’ sacking and major injury and suspension problems. With both teams fielding several young players it was Chris Harrold of the visitors who made the most of his opportunity when a sloppy back passing effort from Craig Goodwin gave the Glory striker a chance to score, which he took with great aplomb. From thereon it was an ‘all hands to the pumps’ effort from the Glory as they were assailed again and again by the Jets. Danny Vukovic had his best game in goal all season for Perth, with the highlight being his amazing diving effort to stop a Burns free kick. Having said that there is reason for the home team and fans to be pissed off by yet another controversial referee’s decision, with an earlier Emile Heskey snatch that looked to have crossed the goal line being waved away. Heskey was excellent in this match and whilst he received able support in terms of shots on goal from Hoole and Taggart neither one of them could wrest the score back in their favour. Jacob Burns was also a strong performer for the Glory, and if they are able to get Gallas and Nagai back for some decent game time in the second half of the season then they may challenge for a final six place. Gary Van Egmond must be wondering how to get sustained performances from his players whilst Kenny Lowe would be grateful for such a solid effort and good away win.

Melbourne Victory vs Brisbane Roar (0-3 Roar Win)

Whilst it is still way too early to call the race for the championship over, the way in which the Roar put the home team to the sword at AAMI Park was the strongest indication yet that the 2013/14 season table topping award will go north of the Tweed River. Even without Besart Berisha the visitors made what should’ve been an even game into all one-way traffic, and their second goal from Matt McKay was one of the best ever in the A-League. Thomas Broich is back to his devastating best as a creative influence for the Roar, whilst the likes of Miller, McKay, Petratos and Theo easily outpointed their opposite numbers. Kevin Muscat does have some problems, aside from the rather strange decision to substitute Nichols at half-time, with his key goal scorers in Barbarouses, Pain, Nichols, Troisi and the absent Thompson having barely any positivie influence on their last few games. Finkler failed to do for the home team what he did last round against the Wanderers, though his first half free was very well taken. Geria is not doing all he needs in his defensive role whilst Leijer’s red card was unwelcome. The A-League is not quite yet a one horse race but right now teams like the Victory and all below them are looking at the Roar and wondering how can they be caught.

Central Coast Mariners vs Melbourne Heart (0-0 Draw)

In what was a very lacklustre and ordinary game for the neutrals, and a frustrating one for partisans of either side, neither the Mariners nor the Heart showed enough skill and simple accuracy in front of goal to score. The visitors started their first game of the season after the sacking of John Aloisi and for a team that has no longer got a striker for a coach they also don;t seem to have a striker for a striker. Michael Mifsud had a glorious opportunity in the 13th minute however he hit the post with his shot. To make things worse his positional awareness re the offside trap is simply rubbish. On the other side of the coin McBreen is hardly setting the world on fire for the Mariners, and Josh Rose butchered a similarly easy chance for a goal when he shot on Redmayne’s goal, clearing the bar with a sprayed hit. Harry Kewell again showed he has plenty to contribute to the Heart however all around him are hardly the stuff of match-winners. Phil Moss would have been happy to take a point and see the home team rise to third on the 2013/14 ladder, yet neither he not Van ‘t Schip would think their players were at their best.

Best Game: Adelaide United Vs Sydney FC (Maybe not the highest in quality but there were plenty of goals, incident and a 10 man visiting team equalising the home team).

Best Goal: Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar, versus Melbourne Victory…an amazing example of positional awareness and a team goal facilitated by everyone knowing what to do)

Best Team: Brisbane Roar (Did to Melbourne more or less what they did the Sydney FC last round, without as many goals)

Worst Team: Melbourne Heart (no goals, boring effort and generally aimless…having said that the Wanderers and Victory both deserve some scorn for their efforts)

A-League 2013/14: Round Eleven Preview

Thursday 19th December: Central Coast Mariners vs Wellington Phoenix (North Sydney Oval – Round 6 Delayed Game)

The ghost of the NSL’s spectacular boom to bust club, the Northern Spirit will hang very heavy over their old home ground in this delayed game from Round Six. The Mariners have come down the M1 to what might be considered Sydney FC territory in an avowed move to appease northern Sydney fans of the yellow and blue, plus some cynics and conspiracy theorists would argue it is the first step in an abandoning of Blue Tongue and Gosford by owner Mike Charlesworth. To make matters even more murky CCM are coming into this game on the back of a thumping from Adelaide, uneven performances all season, the potential departure or Michael McGlinchey to follow old coach Graham Arnold to Japan. With only 5 days rest under the belt since the massacre at Coopers Stadium, if ever the Mariners were vulnerable to the Phoenix then this will be the game. However, considering the insipid and faulty performance of Wellington last round at home it is going to be most likely that the cracks in the Mariners’ make up will be papered over with a win.

My Prediction: 1-0 win Mariners

Friday 20th December: Brisbane Roar vs Newcastle United (Suncorp Stadium)

Last week’s game between the Jets and the Wanderers was perhaps a good indication of where this match at the Roar’s home will go, as the Newcastle team are again without Heskey and Burns, and to be honest the Roar are a grinding out their results just like the Wanderers have been. The defensive structures of the Roar may not be as efficient as the Wanderers in some respects however they should be enough to keep out Newcastle. The man who has been key to the recent run of good form for Gary Van Egmond, Adam Taggart, has been MIA in terms of goals over the last few rounds, and whilst this wasn’t felt so badly in their win against the Victory when Nathan Burns stepped up, without his cover Taggart may need to get his act together again if the Jets are to have a hope. The Roar on the other hand are getting great mileage out of Franjic, Berisha, Brattan and Mackay and they will challenge the visitors’ defence. Regan, Jalens and Pepper need to keep Birighitti protected from the best attack in the current A-League season so far.

My Prediction: 2-0 win Roar

Saturday 21st December: Melbourne Heart vs Melbourne Victory (AAMI Park)

Kevin Muscat’s charges showed last week against Perth that they can and will do the deed against an opposition that isn’t firing on all cylinders, and the Heart have all the hallmarks of just such an outfit. Harry Kewell is back in the starting line up for John Aloisi’s team, and he will be looking to atone for his abysmal penalty shot against Sydney FC. However he is not the cure all for a team that loses games through porous defenders going to sleep and strikers who can’t score goals. Kisnorbo is a key part of that faulty equation down the back whilst up front Michael Mifsud is the bane of everyone supporting the home team. In soe respects he reminds me of Dino Kresinger from last season’s Wanderers’ squad, in that his goals have been almost non-existent. However unlike the lumbering Croat Mifsud’s wayward shooting isn’t being supplanted by other players in the Heart line up plus he can’t perform the same pressing role for the Heart’s transition from defence to attack. Victory have a full complement and with several of the usual suspects ready to help out with shots on goal (i.e. Pain, Troisi, Thompson, Nichols, Barbarouses), or stay solid at the back (Traore, Leijer and in goal Coe) I can’t see them being beaten. Here’s hoping that the second big Victorian derby of  2013/14 is far more entertaining than that match which opened the 2013/14 season.

My Prediction: 2-1 win Melbourne Victory

Sunday 22nd December: Wellington Phoenix vs Sydney FC (Westpac Stadium)

If ever two sides should be convicted for crimes against enjoyable football from last round it should be these two. The Kiwi team butchered chances on the Roar’s goal, earned a penalty through what most people would say was a dive, and have generally through this season failed to deliver. Sydney FC were effectively reliant on two players for about two minutes of decent football to get them the win last week against the Heart, and even their coach Frank Farina believed that the drab effort from his players was not in itself worthy of the win. Now in past rounds I’ve looked at the Phoenix and thought they had a fair fist of a win, particularly with a relatively full complement of their so-called ‘stars’ plus playing at home. However to be blunt Merrick has a team that only excels at disappointing, and their innocuous attack is only equaled by their generally porous defence. It says a lot about the Phoenix that their best player this season has probably been keeper Glen Moss. Sydney FC will have several of their best players available, including most importantly del Piero and Despotovic. Goalie Vedran Janjetovic is becoming the quiet achiever of this team so whilst his protective screen can and does fail on a regular basis he is very competent in keeping out most shots. The sky blues are riding their luck against all teams except those that are ahead of them on the ladder this season, so I can’t see this pattern of results not repeating in this round.

My Prediction: 1-0 win Sydney FC

Sunday 22nd December: Perth Glory vs Adelaide United (nib Stadium)

Well the last week has been one where the Perth Glory have decided that internal staff dysfunction and player mutinies are the way forward, and coach Ally Edwards has been given the arse as a result of a power-play between himself, Tony Sage and key senior players in the Glory squad (particularly Jacob Burns). Which leaves us in the strange situation of casting an eye over Gombau’s team and seeing them as a paradigm for unity, form and style. As they say, football is a funny old game and the Reds are extracting themselves out of a mire of criticism and negative press thanks to good football and a much welcome win against the Mariners. I would argue that this is effectively due to one man, and that isn;t the coach. Bruce Djite is the catalyst for the Reds reversal of bad results and bad football, and whilst Cirio, Isaias and Carrusca have all played their part if it wasn’t for the sometime Socceroo bringing clarity and drive to the Adelaide offensive structures then it may have been Gombau’s neck on the block. For the home team they may rally around Burns and other veterans who have led the anti-Edwards push, such as Vukovic and Thwaite, or they may collapse in a seething rabble of squabbling factions. The two Edwards boys must be considered lame duck members of the team and I can’t believe they will have any important future role with the squad. Gallas looks to be out again, making his signing look as valuable for the Glory as Heskey’s has been for the Jets this season, though at least he has got on the park (unlike Heart’s Engelaar). Sidnei is back for the home team and he could be the link between the cranky old bastards who facilitated Edwards’ sacking and the younger players like Jamie Maclaren who Edwards was brought in to develop. However I can’t see the funk of internal division and controversy parting enough to defy the visitors.

My Prediction: 2-0 win Adelaide United

Monday 23rd December: Western Sydney Wanderers vs Central Coast Mariners (Pirtek Stadium)

In the first meeting between the two grand finalists back at Wanderland since the last defeat for the Wanderers at home, the pressure will be on the Mariners to repeat the dose. With a short turnaround since their game on Thursday night against Wellington there is every expectation that the Mariners will find it hard to maintain their intensity over the full 90 minutes. Whilst they went on to win against the Phoenix they are still nowhere near the same quality of team that kept out the Wanderers from winning the premiership and grand final for 2012/13. Having said that the home team is also not without issues, with injuries to Mooy and Santalab nominally keeping them out of the squad. Tomi Juric may play although I don;t expect this to happen until late in the game if at all. The two major overseas players yet to secure new contracts with the red and black, i.e. Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi will need to do very well and whilst there may be some thought from Popa to return Michael Beauchamp I’m sure he will stick with Mat Spiranovic to partner Polenz, Topor-Stanley and D’Apuzzo at the back. For the visitors McBreen has been merely adequate this season and if they are to win they will need big games from him, McGlinchey and Flores. Reddy’s goal keeping has been up and down so if someone like Hersi, Haliti or Juric do threaten he will need to be at his best, whilst for the Wanderers I expect Covic to again keep better than his own exacting standards.

My Prediction: 2-0 win Wanderers