Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hellas get the win - South Hobart 0 South Melbourne 1

Maybe it was due to my crook eye, all puffed up and sore - though I prefer to think that it was because of sense of anticipation of the day ahead - I woke up several times in the middle of the night, and upon waking up, proceeded to head to Spencer Street Station even earlier than I had planned, ending up waiting for Gains outside the Bourke Street Hungry Jack's next to some crazy motherfucker with a Balkan accent, who was going off at some taxi driver as Port Adelaide Power supporters trickled into town for their team's preliminary final.

By the time I got to Tullamarine, those South fans due to depart on earlier flights had gone, but there were still plenty of us waiting for the 9:45 flight. The guy at the screening area asked me to take my beanie off, but otherwise there were no issues clearing that barrier, other than him mistaking us for North Melbourne fans.

The flight itself was rather dull, as cloud cover blocked out most of what was worth looking at, and besides, I was in the middle seat and having to look past a sleeping woman's head to see outside the window. I amused myself with the in-flight magazine, and suffered an OCD moment when I had to ask Gains for a pen so I could complete the unfinished crossword. I can understand maybe missing out on Isaac ASIMOV, because you don't know science fiction or the three laws of robotics. I can even understand missing out on Margaret POMERANZ, because you don't know how to spell her surname. But missing out on the name of AC/DC's second album, when the answer's only three letters long and already has the 'N' in the middle filled in?

Upon landing, it's straight from the airport to the pub around the corner from the Darcy Street ground, a trip made cheaper by the fact that someone had planned ahead and hired a maxi cab, so give that bloke a medal. The Hellas faithful had already commandeered the Cascade Hotel's beer garden, the banners up along the fence, and the chanting in full swing. There was even a chant for my arrival, and one for the super beef schnitzel on the menu. I also got to catch up with former South Hobart players Shae Hickey and Dan Brown, as well as local soccer journo Callan Paske, who thanked me for doing up the Hellas write up for Walter Pless' site because it helped. If only I'd bothered doing as much research on South Hobart, my readers would have known what to look out for.

Now last week I had a go at Brad Norton and our taking of short corners, to which one of our readers, Neil, left a comment on the general uselessness of corners, short or long. While an interesting study, I think it still more or less supports my position from last week, which is not that I believe that we will score from any given corner ipso facto, but that the act of getting the ball into a dangerous position, with the possibility of either scoring or at least regaining possession from a defensive clearance - as opposed to hitting it into the first defender on the edge of the box after a botched short corner - is a better option.

That the article in question says that short corners should be considered because of the greater chance of maintaining possession, is not applicable in the case of South Melbourne as we have come to know and love them, because we have not used short corners as a way of maintaining possession - rather, we have used them as a means of supposedly opening up an angle and/or drawing out defenders towards the ball and away from their own goal area in preparation from an a semi-delayed cross. The problem here is that we either fuck up the initial short pass from the corner, fuck up the pass back to the corner taker, or if we somehow manage not to cock up those two passes, we cock up the cross that's meant to come from that contrived trickery.

On a related matter, when people ask me do people from the club read this blog, here's the proof of the pudding. While waiting at Hobart's airport to go back to Melbourne, our lovable larrikin president Leo Athanasakis pulled me up to have a bit of chat about one particular event of this game, which happened very early on in the piece. Brad Norton had taken an early corner, sent it deep, and saw the South Hobart defence at sixes and sevens trying to deal with it. The subsequent corner, which followed immediately on from the first one, was played short and sunk without a trace. The president felt inclined to point out to me that when that happened, he looked towards my direction to see my reaction of utter disbelief.

Anyway, before the game, the one thing that I was worried most about - apart from Brayden Mann and Andy Brennan up front for South Hobart - was whether we would take the home team seriously, and not rock up thinking that a Hellas win would be a fait accompli. Thankfully we started off like a house on fire, and duly opened the scoring off a Jamie Reed overhead kick.

Note to all South Melbourne players: that goal came from a corner sent deep, which caused all sorts of mayhem. You know, like the first one we put in. What's that line that Dr 'not registered in California - this show is for entertainment, informational or educational purposes only' Phil likes to say? That the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour? And what was it that old drunk WC Fields is alleged to have said? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again? Then quit - no use being a damn fool about it.

Walter Pless' brilliant photo, capturing the moment after Jamied Reed connected with his
 overhead kick, but before it sailed past South Hobart goalkeeper Kane Pierce.

At that point I thought, here we go, but then for whatever reason things started to go a bit pear shaped. South Hobart starting winning more of the ball, but the biggest problem was that the complacency I thought we'd left back at the hotel had turned up, and we started doing things that we pretty much hadn't done all season. We spent so much time knocking the ball around, which would have been OK had we actually done it properly, and were we not playing a pitch with a wicked slant down which made what would have been normal passes into a variation of trick pool, such was the swerve and spin that was on display.

It didn't help that some of our players had all of a sudden discovered their inner Garrincha and tried to dribble through and around everyone. James Musa in particular seemed to become manifest as a reincarnated Steven Topalovic, which is strange because Topa's not dead yet. And while often enough the skills our players were looking to pull off actually managed to be completed, too often it was just looking for trouble.

Should South Hobart have had a penalty? I don't know. Unlike other crucial moments in the game, I haven't gone and looked back on the video. I'm going to stick with 'no', just for the sake of it. Regardless, we managed to go into the break 1-0 up, and came out looking better in the second half. Sure, there were still mistakes being made, and openings there for South Hobart, but if they're going to blaze their shots wildly into the backyards behind the goals, whose fault is that?

Steve Hatzikostas' knee injury was a concern, though apparently he's been cleared of serious damage - whether he'll play in the next game though is doubtful. Had he not gone off, I would have taken Iqi Jawadi off, who unfortunately had an awful game. As it was, the bloke I would have replaced Iqi with, Tyson Holmes, came on and did an OK job.

The critical moment of the second half was when Lujic, having been released into space and having also beaten the offside trap, went to go around Pierce on the edge of the box, only to be clattered into cynically by the South Hobart keeper. Somehow Pierce escaped with only a yellow card for his efforts. Looking at the video, I'm still mot quite sure how he managed to escape a red. Still, we ground out the result despite putting in ordinary performance.

I'd said in my preview for Walter Pless' blog that our vulnerabilities were in our lack of pace at the back, and in our tendency to be a grinding out team suited to league rather than cup or playoff successes. On the latter front, our unconvincing Dockerty Cup wins at Sunshine George Cross and Dandenong Thunder seemed to suggest that when it comes to one off games, as the team likely to go into them as favourite, opposition teams see us as a likely scalp. Certainly, I think South Hobart lifted and perhaps played at a level they perhaps wouldn't be able to sustain over the course of an entire NPL Victoria season, if they were involved in such a thing. All these things are hypotheticals of course, but that's the nature of knockout football, and something we have to deal with.

I can't say much for most of the team, who battled hard, but put together a very disjointed performance, one of our worst this season. Too often our defenders were exposed by the speed of the opposition forwards and our own poor decision making further up the field which gifted them the ball back. Milos Lujic was relatively starved of chances, though he could have done better with those that he had - credit to Kane Pierce for making some good saves. Jamie Reed held the ball up well and caused a lot of problems for his direct opponents.

However the man of the match was our skipper Michael Eagar, who when everyone else was still trying to find their bearings, sorted out the danger time and time again. Added to that, despite whatever looks on goal South Hobart managed to eke out, they barely if ever (Walter Pless counted one) forced Chris Maynard into making a save - a point I made when speaking briefly with South Hobart coach Ken Morton after the match, who rued his side's inability to take their chances.

How can you have a trip to Hobart without a visit to the Hellenic Club? 
Because apparently they were hosting a wedding reception instead. Now that I think about it, we probably should have crashed that party. Instead a few of us ended up back at the pub, and I ended up drinking with Joe Gorman, Australia's second best soccer writer, discussing Leopold Method's upcoming print edition, the Macedonian issue, Ian Syson's romanticism, my bitterness, and how Joe had never picked up on Kimon Taliadoros' South African accent.

Meanwhile those of us South fans at the pub had more or less resigned ourselves to playing either Western Australia's Bayswater or South Australia's MetroStars away. An expensive trip on short notice to Perth, or a cheaper, easier one to Adelaide - and sure I've got a mate in Perth who's offered to put me up should I ever end up on that side of the country, but it's not worth it for a fly in fly out deal. Making matters worse, we'd arguably been dealt the easier part of the deal - go to the weaker opponent, score three or four goals, don't do anything stupid. Well, the stupidity was limited to James Musa's yellow card for a rash challenge, and we managed to win in regular time, but the lone goal meant that in likelihood we'd have to travel.

What could have been had Pierce been sent off? Or had Lujic managed to find the back of the net instead of the cross bar? Bayswater got a man sent off early, and as that game dragged out into extra time, and then penalties, it turned out to be MetroStars, and what's more we'd play them at home. Sometimes things fall into place, even when you try hard to screw it up.

Next game
South Australia's North Eastern MetroStars (what a terrible name) at Lakeside. Date and time to be confirmed. The Transplant Games are apparently on Sunday from 7am to 3pm - does that allow us to have our game afterwards? Would we dare to host the game on a Saturday night? Is Friday night even a possibility?

Former South players Scott Tunbridge and Adam Van Dommele to return to Lakeside. This world just gets a little crazier.

The view from the other side
Some fascinating reading over on Walter's initial summing up of the game, mostly in the comments section. It's all over the shop to be honest, as the occasional Hellas fan chimed in with positive words, surrounded by those locals talking up South Hobart's performance and talking it up, those inexplicably (to my mind) talking us up, and the internal conflict between supporting an interstate interloper over a local team, and whether such brotherhoods as may exist in the case of one Greek Australian club and another can supersede those state loyalties, whether that shouldn't even matter, because South Hobart represent themselves first and their state second, and is the nature of such things, a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The best local view of the game, at least in terms of matching whatever biases may exist in this blog, is from Richard's Rant Blog. Passionate, provocative, but not without praise when he feels it's due - though a lot of that praise seems to be reserved for the supporters who made the trip down for providing a rambunctious atmosphere. Considering the flak South fans cop on occasion for supporting their team a bit more vigorously than a lot of the smaller clubs here in Melbourne, it's a nice bit of respite from the hate - though I suppose it's easier to appreciate what we do when the chants about inbreds were quickly howled down, and instead replaced with 'Scenic ground, some fans'.

Baby take off your dress/Self-diagnosis spectacular
I would have thought that wearing a Shoot Farken t-shirt would have had me singled out immediately, but it was the overly precious metal detectors at Hobart airport that kept pushing me back, rather than whatever stray coins I thought my have been left in my pocket, and thus off came the belt.  It also turns out I probably suffer from airplane sinus headaches or some such affliction, a stabbing, jabbing pain over one side of temple. Makes flying a less than pleasant experience. At least we the Hobart flight left early, and the SkyBus and train connections synched up beautifully.

Final thought
Shaun Kelly buys Nesquik cereal. Make of that what you will.

Monday, 15 September 2014

South eases to the finish line - Goulburn Valley Suns 1 South Melbourne 4

What's the point of Sunday trading, and how can you really call yourselves the world's most liveable city, when one can't even organise to have regular trams running before 10am? Never mind, I got to the Lakeside car park on time anyway, so good on me. Mind you, the bus did not leave at 10:30 am sharp as advertised, not that I'm complaining. Bloody Greeks and their sense of punctuality.

Apart from fielding text messages from one nincompoop who asked that we stop by the Hume Highway near his house - which I fobbed off as brusquely as possible - the trip up was uneventful apart from pulling the curtains open and shut fifteen million times because of the sun. Also we stopped in Nagambie for lunch, and got to the ground in Shepparton in time to watch the second half of the under 20s (including one unfamiliar spindly Bambi-esque specimen playing for us).

Being 160 kilometres closer to the equator and/or hell, Shepparton was a lot warmer than what Melbourne was when I left, and thus rather uncomfortable but that's also my fault because I should have known that'd be the case following my one and only other trip up there back in 1999, a short stopover while on a bus to the Gold Coast for a school trip, where I had lunch at Maccas while our bus drivers perved on my female classmates, back in the days when a term like jailbait had yet to cross over from internet geek lexicon into daily real world usage.

The senior game itself had all the intensity of a pre-season friendly, and what's more I barely even saw the first goal go in after just a couple of minutes because I was still trying to figure out where the best place to stand or sit was - note to everyone who visits John McEwan Reserve, there are no really good spots - before Matthew Theodore's terrific effort in just the second minute (never mind folks, I saw the video while it was being edited on the bus on the way home) made it 1-0 and we could have gone home right there. Nick Epifano made it 2-0 not that long after, a detail I'm adding for the sake of that I actually saw that one go in.

When Brad Norton took an early corner and proceeded to play it short (and badly), an entire year's (and then some) frustration came out and I threatened to jump the fence if they ever took a short corner again, to which he replied 'why don't you take it then' to which I said no problem, or words to that effect. Now whether I would actually take the corner with any sort of competency, let alone managing to avoid pulling a hammy is not the point - the point is that my intention would be to actually put in a decent corner, something nice and deep (giggity). Norton's subsequent corner was sent nice and deep, causing all sorts of chaos in the Suns' penalty area, thus more than proving my point, but in the hours since the incident I've wavered between cocksure defiance and abject shame about my actions yesterday, before finally settling on defiance because SHORT CORNERS SUCK, THEY DON'T WORK FOR US AND WE ALMOST NEVER SCORE FROM THEM APART FROM BY COMPLETE ACCIDENT AND EVEN THEN STILL LOSE GAMES WHEN WE DO SCORE FROM THEM and LEST WE FORGET THE ATTEMPT TO GO FOR A SHORT CORNER LAST YEAR AGAINST GULLY WHEN WE WERE 1-0 DOWN IN THE DOCKERTY CUP SEMI, PURE FUCKING GENIUS THAT WAS. SO HOW ABOUT JUST STICKING TO TRYING TO SCORE GOALS DELIBERATELY, BY SENDING IN CORNERS WHICH GET THE DEFENCE SCRAMBLING AND THE GOALKEEPER FLAPPING, INSTEAD OF FUCKING AROUND TRYING TO BE TOO CLEVER BY HALF, ORRIGHT? ORRIGHT.

Anyway, 2-0 up the break we were on cruise control, but then the home team decided to make it 2-1 when some very slack defending from our end, letting those orange freaks pull one back. Thankfully we got it back to 3-1 pretty much straight away, with Milos Lujic equalising from the penalty spot to equal the Jimmy Armstrong and Dougie Brown record of 22 goals in a league season, though of course if Lujic would occasionally pull the trigger just a little earlier he may have had some more this season, but what do I know? I just thump these keys and scowl at the fact that I will never be able to run a lap of the ground without throwing up my lunch, let alone slot one on ones past fast approaching and maybe even competent goalkeepers.

But speaking of orange freaks, there was this one Suns player in the second half whose face almost turned the colour of his jersey. It was a bit warm out there, but it was nothing akin to the heat of the bake that referee Perry Mur gave to one of the home team's players after said Suns player went down a bit easy and Mur told him to stop whingeing or else he'd send him packing. Or words to that effect, which one would hope were captured by the camera microphones because it was about as close as one could reasonably get.

We gave Andy Kecojevic his debut yesterday, which I'm not against (if you're reading this, hi Andy, nice through ball you played yesterday), but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, because if we were still in a situation where we needed to win this game instead of just turning up because we've already had one forfeit too many in these past 54 years, he would not have played, nor would Dion Kirk have started the game. I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that I still miss Nicky Jacobs.

Aside from a Jamie Reed goal to make it 4-1, that was it. The game over, we sauntered over to the sheltered area where the folks from Shepparton South Soccer Club put on a free barbecue, which was a nice gesture since it wasn't their home game (even if it was their home ground), and was better than whatever efforts the Goulburn Valley people put forward to anyone that wasn't a visiting dignitary. We kept in touch with the results from the rest of the day's games, notably Port's 96th minute equaliser against Werribee to stave off relegation (whatever that means) and send Ballarat down in their place (also whatever that may means, and I don't care how much otherwise respected people say that Ballarat won't be coming back and nor will Goulburn Valley BECAUSE STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED and just try claiming otherwise, go on do it, I once saw Glen Trifiro play a ball forward instead of sideways, so there's your proof). The trip back was spent watching the NSW grand final and Dimi Hatzimouratis' Sydney Olympic go down 2-1 after extra time via someone's phone. A mandatory stop in Wallan was the only break on the way home through the increasingly impenetrable darkness before reaching the outskirts of civilisation.

Next game - National Premier League national playoff series
The Victorian season now done and dusted, we move on to the National Premier League national series, which is being sponsored by someone or other, but since I didn't get any free gifts from said sponsor, they ain't getting a plug on here. Of course for some time it's been known that the Victorian winner (which is of course us, just in case you missed the news) would be playing the Tasmanian winner, and wouldn't you know it it's South Hobart again from the Apple Isle, a team we are quite familiar with, even if we haven't come face to face to face with for a couple of years.

South Hobart were last year's runners up in this competition, going down 2-0 to a Trifiro (who cares which one, it was Glen by the way) led Sydney United on their home turf at D'Arcy or Darcy Street, whatever it's called. It's a great little ground with a massive slope of some sort, and that's where we'll be playing this week also, rather than  on the Federation's ground at KGV Park with the synthetic pitch.

South Hobart's strength is in its two forwards, Andy Brennan and Brayden Mann. Not only did they score a massive 57 goals between them this season (in 21 matches), they also finished in the top two of the league best and fairest (ex-South player Jake Vandermey finished third). If South Hobart has a weakness, it's in defense, because they do seem to cop at least one goal a game. And while Sam Kruijver is a good goalkeeper, goalkeepers in general don't enjoy a stellar reputation in Tasmania, it often being difficult to find a good one. (lame correction - Kruijver no longer plays for South Hobart - it's Kane Pierce in goals for them now, with thanks to Walter Pless).

As for the midfield, it'd be industrious and effective at the level they're playing at, but quite how it copes with a team of our calibre remains to be seen. When we were last down in Hobart back in 2011, with a team that was not as accomplished and battle hardened as this one is, South Hobart put up a good fight and probably should have score at least a goal or two, but nevertheless went down 5-0. That day they probably gave us too much time on the ball, and tried too  much to play their own passing oriented game instead of perhaps trying to press

Of course this is mostly from stuff gleaned from Walter Pless' blog and memories of the times I've seen South Hobart play both on their visits here (also here and here), and our one trip there. They still have players that played for them in that 2011 fixture, while we've probably gone through about two entirely different squads since then, including Carl Recchia about 15 times by himself. (some folk looking at that match programme will also notice the names of Cameron Williams, who was attached to our under 20 squad for a little bit this year, and Kosta Kanakaris who played for Heidelberg's seniors this year on and off the bench).

They say that the winner of this mini-tournament will end up securing a place in the FFA Cup next year, as well befuddlement about who would host a possible semi-final in this playoff series and against who (check here for something vaguely official) but I'm more concerned with taking it one week at a time. But as Steve from Broady said to me the other day, Paul Mavroudis and sensible got together like a souv and tzatziki; and though my thoughts on the matter are if that the gyros meat has enough flavour you shouldn't need to drench it in garlic and yoghurt, I still get the point he was trying to make, his ability to construct metaphors and similes far exceeding mine

If you haven't booked your flights yet, well, I don't know what to say. No one can make you go, and you certainly shouldn't be forced to go down there if you have work, not enough or other commitments. That's just the deal life hands you sometimes. As for myself, I fancy I'll be seeing a fair few South fans at the Jetstar terminal on Saturday morning.
 1

Just over a year left of Channel 31?
You may recall that not too long ago I mentioned that Channel 31 was in danger of not having its broadcasting license extended? Well, it turns out that Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister for Communications, has made the rather moronic decision to extend Channel 31's license to the end of 2015, before booting them off the spectrum so telecommunications companies can use that spectrum. According to Turnbull, community TV will end up on the internet, as if that's nearly the same thing as being part of what's available on broadcast television. So once again, I ask that you visit Commit to Community TV and add your name to the petition, or write to the minister personally.

Around the grounds
Under the skysigns they who have no arms
Have cleanest hands, and, as the heartless ghost
Alone's unhurt, so the blind man sees best.
(Dylan Thomas)

Paisley Park and its collection of old men and magpies on a Saturday afternoon; Altona East down but not quite out, playing Sydenham Park who have been neither quite here nor there in 2014, and are now stuck in the middle waiting until next season. I watched the game from the far side, trying to catch whatever warmth I could, as dust clouds sprouted from where the balls bounced and players fell, staring out into the open field and wondering whether I've snookered myself into a never ending cycle of decrepit spectatorship, and also whether this stray golf ball nestled in the grass in front of me could double as an egg from some long lost species of bird. The home side starts brightly enough but is 1-0 and then 2-0 down, and there is no way out. What's worse is that the bread rolls on this last home game of the season are halfway to being half stale, and if that doesn't indicate some sort of impending doom than I don't know what does. Sydenham add one more for good measure, and Altona East are one wrong result from their end or from Sunbury's from going down a division. Maybe it'd be a good thing, a chance to reassess priorities, to reorganise and maybe somehow come back stronger. Maybe it'll be another nail in the club's coffin. Lot of maybes in that.

Final thought
Sure, there were a lot of laughs. You probably couldn't hear them, the acoustics were so bad.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Bureaucrats and Bohemians - South Melbourne 2 Oakleigh Cannons 2

Lots of things happened yesterday, some of them were even football related. It was great to be able to mingle with all sorts of different South fans, in a relaxed atmosphere before an end of season dead rubber, not because the team was poor, but because they were good. One of the older gentlemen had even brought along a large container full of lollies to share, and I decided to side with Homer as opposed to Marge:

Marge: And don't take candy from strangers.
Homer Simpson: Marge, they're only human!

But now to the rest of the day's events.

Formeroos! Copperoos!
Rather than have the under 20s play as the curtain raisers, the pre-game entertainment was a friendly match between a selection of former Socceroos (including among others, Dean Anastasiadis, Kimon Taliadaros and Fausto De Amicis) playing against the Victorian Police soccer club. The Formeroos won the game quite comfortably, the final score being apparently 8-3 (though whether anyone as actually keeping proper score is doubtful), but the highlight was De Amicis coming down to the fence at half time and doing a bit of meet and greet with the early bird South fans, even saying that it was good to see us still supporting the club, without it coming across as patronising. A fair effort.

After the conclusion of that game, the crowd was presented with several surviving members of the 1964 and 1974 state champion teams, as well as the 1984 national champion team, which was great to see.

Here come the fun police
Of all days for whoever the manager of Lakeside Stadium is to get his knickers in a knot about Clarendon Corner, he had to pick yesterday. Now I don't know the bloke's name, so for ease of use and to give him some semblance of anonymity, let's just call him Hermes Conrad. Old mate Hermes, reportedly in the job for about three months, decided that today he was not going to let the drum be played. Never mind that the drum has been used all season long, nor the fact that, as one supporter put it, 'it's not a fucken funeral', Hermes pointed to his little piece of paper and said that drums were not allowed. Credit to the fans who negotiated with Hermes, who tried to reason with him rather than get fired up, even as some of those a few metres away hurled abuse.

Credit also to the bloke with the annoying air horn device, who decided to sacrifice it for the sake of keeping the drum. He also brought along a giant cardboard champagne bottle, decorated with South motifs (and which made it into several photos), which I'm surprised was considered acceptable by Hermes, though I'm not sure what Hermes could have done about the newspaper confetti and the streamers. The most stinging comment anyone said to him was, 'we're here for another forty years, so get used to it'. Like the shenanigans various A-League supporter groups have had to deal with though, this probably won't be the last we hear about this. That's the problems with no longer being the venue manger I guess.

Eventually Hermes went back to his little hidey hole and I don't think I remember seeing him for the rest of the game. Newly installed FFV CEO (and former interim CEO) Peter Gome hung around Clarendon Corner a bit in the second half, and didn't seem to have much of an issue with what was going on.

Bohemians on tour
The leather blown they now pursue
And deftly through goal-posts guide
Who taught the world the way to woo
In songs that vibrant passion sighed.
The revelries in which they vied
To give the graver lands a shocker
Merely as memories abide
Now Czecho-Slovaks shine at Socker.
from 'The Modern Bohemian' (1927), by Thomas the Rhymer (pseudonym of Charles Hayward, editor of The Bulletin).

One of the most bizarre things I've ever seen at South Melbourne was the arrival of a dozen or so people in green and white, carrying banners and a Czech flag, and end up near Clarendon Corner. Turns out they were supporters of the Czech club Bohemians 1905, apparently on tour to commemorate the club's 1927 tour to Australia. Looking at the dates of their tour, it seems as if Hayward's poem is about that tour specifically, which is a nice thing to know.

Bohemians are of course famous for having a kangaroo in their logo, courtesy of apparently receiving two kangaroos as a gift on the tour, and which were taken back to Prague Zoo. The took a lot of photos and videos, and seemed to be having a great time, but the most bizarre moment was when the supporter known as 'Stevie' or 'Kev' (who has an intellectual disability), objected to the Bohemians fans being in Clarendon Corner, and tried to barrel through several supporters holding him back (and he's a strong, low centre of gravity kind of bloke) while being told that they were our friends and that it was OK. He must have thought they were Gully fans or something. The good news is that the one person he pretty much always listens to when he gets fired up about something managed to calm him down, and nothing serious actually happened. It was certainly all smiles when they filmed the celebrations following Milos Lujic's equaliser late in the contest.

Chants
The chanting varied from the very good, to the absurd. The very good was the changing of certain lyrics to fit the situation (Already won the league! Fuck off Oakleigh!), and the inclusion of Bohemians into some chants. The absurd was going back to the rank lower class chants ('Everywhere we go' "Let's go Hellas, let's go', but that was more of an indication

There was a game on?
I can't remember much about the game to be honest. We scored first, they replied instantly, they took the lead, and we equalised late, probably should have pinched it. John Honos made some good saves for them, but he also seemed to milk every slight bit of contact for all it was worth. No matter.

The mating call of the loser
As Buzz Aldrin will tell you, second comes right after first.
Not that we want to harp too much on it, because we've harped on about it enough during this season as it is, but Oakleigh must be some of the biggest sooks in Australian soccer (and that's coming from someone's who majored in sooking, with a minor in communications). Now, admittedly throwing more money down the toilet for no silverware must hurt, as would not bothering to take the Dockerty Cup seriously, because it's not like it has anything to do with the FFA Cup (oh, wait...), but Miron Bleiberg's comments following their loss against Melbourne Knights, about how Oakleigh have scored more and conceded fewer goals than South was classic straw clutching, even if he begrudgingly admitted that we were the more consistent team over the course of the season

Not one to be left behind on the coulda/woulda/shoulda bandwagon (to which South of the Border has a lifetime pass) was Oakleigh defender John Black, who said after yesterday's match:
"At the end of the day they haven’t beaten us all year and congratulations to them for winning the title but we haven’t lost to them and I think that if we brushed up our performances in lesser games we could’ve been the champions, but that’s the way it goes.”
On that front, we didn't beat Oakleigh in 2006 either, but we won that title as well. Different rules back then, what with there being a finals series, but in the end the same glorious result - South winning a title, and Oakleigh being able to crow about the fact that they didn't lose to us. Whatever helps them sleep at night, I guess.

Having said all of that, the fact that at least one person was disappointed that Oakleigh didn't form a guard of honour for us is a bit silly, because it's just not necessary, and we had the kids from our own club there to do it. What next, are we going to parade them in chains in a triumphal march down Clarendon Street (well actually...)? Neither was I annoyed that they didn't stick around for the award ceremony - I mean, would you want to be there in that situation? Frankly, I didn't want them there anyway, because the day wasn't about them, it was about us. Best to leave them go off so they can add another star to their logo for goodness knows what reason.

Here's your prize, don't break it now... 
The awards ceremony went off pretty much without a hitch, The right people were booed, and they teed up FFV president Nick Monteleone to appear alongside the one day to be beatified South legend Jimmy Armstrong in order to avoid getting Monteleone booed, in much the same way that Tony Abbott was paired up with a sick kid at Manly. Like the 1998 trophy before it (at least I think it was 1998), the base of the trophy decided that it wanted a divorce from the top half of the trophy.

The official (and Liberal Party heavy - poor local member Martin Foley has been thrown on the relevance scrapheap, at least for the time being) part of the celebrations done and dusted, the celebrations moved into the changerooms, where Kosta of Blue Thunder Security made sure that not everyone could get in, and while it's easy and and fun to take a big whack at him for doing so, realistically the place was that full that no one else could get in. Your correspondent was therefore happy to stay outside until the place emptied out a bit, and I got to mingle a little and soak up what was left of the atmosphere.

Afterwards a few people kicked on at Beachcomber (oh wherefore art thou social club?), where even I was photographed with the trophy (thanks to Chris Maynard's dad Richard for taking the photos). After dinner the players debated going out to Ljubo's one time favourite hang out Love Machine, which long time readers are well aware, I draw the line. Nightclubs aren't my thing, and besides, it was way past my bedtime.

Next game
Goulburn Valley Suns away for the final round of the season. The club will be organising a bus up to Shepparton. Cost is $35, and the bus will leave from Lakeside 'at 10:30am sharp'.

South Hobart NPL playoffs trip
The date was already known - Saturday September 20th -, but now the kickoff time has also been confirmed - 1:30pm - at South Hobart's ground at D'Arcy Street.

The scheduling is ideal for both a weekend stint or a day trip. Since I'm only making a day trip out of it, I've booked my ticket for the 9:45 flight from Tullamarine, and returning on the 21:40 out of Hobart, which a few fans are also reportedly doing, but there are also people who will be getting in on earlier flights, as well as those doing the weekend thing - so I think we'll have decent numbers.

The fly in, fly out option has become significantly more expensive as the computer algorithms of the airlines have cottoned on to the fact that people want to get in and out for this trip on that date - my $49 flight out of Hobart is now selling for an absurd $149. Hopefully there'll be at least be an internet radio option provided for those who can't make the trip down.

Play Off The Park podcast
Last Monday I was a guest along with Dr Ian Syson on SYN 90.7FM's 'Play off the Park' show, talking about soccer history, heritage and politics. Due to technical issues, the first 34 minutes of the show are separate from the rest of the show. It was a lot of fun, even if Pave Jusup reckons I sound more ethnic than he does.

Victoria University's Worlds of Football conference seeking abstracts
If you're in academia, or have an academic inclination, check out this flyer for details of the upcoming Worlds of Football conference being hosted by Victoria University. The conference will be in mid-January 2015, and abstracts need to be in by mid October 2014. Or you can just check out my reviews of the 2010 and 2012 conferences.

Around the grounds
Up the hill and down again
I had been invited by Box Hill United's Nicholas Tsiaras to come down to Wembley Park at some point in the season, and finally made there on Saturday for their game against the ladder leading Avondale Heights. A win for the visitors would almost guarantee them the championships while the home needed to nwin to keep their promotion chances alive. Wembley Park has a severe slope to one end (though good luck to those with shocking depth perception trying to figure out which way it goes). Anyway, Avondale Heights were kicking to the down sloping end in the first end, and probably should have gone into half time a couple of goals up. Box Hill played better in the second half, but really only had one good chance, which they botched. A better result for the visitors than the home side.

Final thought
I laugh at one joke about herpes and people start killing each other because of it.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Time to gloat - Kiss of Death returns!

After a long hiatus, I’m back for more. Apologies to my faithful apostles for this absence. Not that I need to apologise considering I am your liege.

I will only be commenting on South Melbourne, so if you don’t want to read about it, close this tab in your browser and continue your search for gay porn.

South Melbourne this week faces the Oakleigh Cannons. That pain in the arse suburban club, who think they’re some kind of power club. Please, spare us the bullshit. You guys can continue having those ‘washed up’ Greek singer nights, pretend you raised $150,000 at your jersey presentation nights, and have functions at Crown for $1,000 per head, yet people need to pay for spirits. If anything, you’re a village club, you don’t even qualify for suburban club status! Even the Bergers are no longer a village club!

You will be facing South Melbourne. The Oceania Team of the Century! A true national powerhouse. Even if some people like to discount that status, we are still the same South Melbourne as before. Forget what the Greek papers say, forget what the Greek radio says, listen to me, so it is written.

South Melbourne has had a stellar season. Chris Taylor has done a splendid job. He has assembled a team we can all be proud of. A team of Champions. Yes, we shall lose one or two to those wretched A-League clubs at the end of the season, but we will regroup and attack the 2015 NPL with vigour, determination and as usual, professionalism. We will go back to back. KOD 3:9 for all you bible scholars.

We have had nothing but ups this season on and off the field. We had those morons calling for the board's head over the stadium deal. Class act. Didn’t they cop it sweet. We had experts asking me after games, “why does Oakleigh hammer teams, yet we only win 1 or 2-0”. To those experts, Oakleigh’s only scored 4 goals more than us. It’s not as if they’ve been wiping the floor with the opposition you dipshits. Some people just don’t get it. Oakleigh is chasing, they need to win games. We are looking down at them, just collecting the points we need. Simple fucken maths. Defensively, we have conceded two goals more than Oakleigh. two of these being Jason Saldaris’ brain fades at Bentleigh. No dramas.

At the end of the day, thanks to the work of the Melbourne Knights, South Melbourne are the champions of the NPLV 2014. I was invited to the game on Wednesday night, and decided to accept the invitation. What I witnessed was a very poor as expected Oakleigh. They played with no purpose. A team who was spent, after weeks of chasing South. Eventually, the mind gives way. The mental toll is sometimes harsher than the physical one, and it was obvious from the outset.

Forget what all the articles say about the game, that Oakleigh was clearly attacking, the Knights hit them on the counter, etc., etc. They are wrong. The Knights were attacking, and Oakleigh was intent on hitting them on the counter and stealing the game. The Knights were playing with purpose. Oakleigh's weaknesses were exposed time and time again by the attacking Knights. Wave after wave of attack lead by Stipo Andrijasevic, was eventually going to crack the Oakleigh ten man defence. The only thing between Stipo and the goal was that little cunt Honos in goals for Oakleigh. We have not forgotten you κωλόπαιδο. You were telling us, “How many goals is that now? Three”, when you beat us at Jack Edwards. Well guess what cocksucker, “we can count, and we know that Oakleigh still has ZERO championships!”.

Sunday at Lakeside will be a fiesta. We’re gonna party like its 1999! I was hoping the trophy presentation happened before kickoff, so the Oakleigh wankers can burn. However, to my dismay, South Melbourne will be presented with their trophy at the end of the game. Not that Oakleigh has any fans, but I want their players to burn.

Either way, well done to Chris Taylor, the playing squad and staff at SMFC. Also a big congratulations to the ever so hard working board. From the cocksucker who mans the merchandise booth, to the chardonnay sipping suits in the corporate boxes.

I would like to thank the Melbourne Knights for their hospitality on Wednesday night. It’s always a pleasure visiting this club.

See you all in Tassie!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

South champions for 2014! Time to celebrate!

Oakleigh suffer shock 1-0 loss to youthful Knights side, concede title race.

Rocking up to Knights Stadium last night, my expectation were low. After the horror of Bentleigh's defensive effort against Oakleigh just a week and a half ago, I did not expect a Knights side both tired after a grueling extra time Dockerty Cup win on Sunday, and with just half a dozen or so senior players on the park, to be able to get a draw let alone all three points.

Along with a handful of South fans in the crowd - though not nearly the numbers that went to the Bentleigh-Oakleigh game - I wondered if we were here only to waste our time, our attendance an insurance policy of sorts to make sure we didn't miss the title being secured on location in North Sunshine should the unlikely correct result fall our way.

The situation for Oakleigh was fairly straightforward. Keep winning, and hope South drop enough points in the final round to allow Oakleigh to overtake us. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for us, the Cannons could not get over even the first hurdle of their final three games.

It was not for lack of opportunities or effort though. Playing measured football, the Cannons passed and probed their way into dangerous areas, only for the repeated heroics of the Knights goalkeeper Michael O'Farrell and the occasional desperate bit of defending preventing them from opening the scoring. One particular bit of farcical play, a goalmouth scramble which seemed to last for a good 30 seconds, including what seemed like several goal line clearances. Strangely, rather than alleviate the sense of doom for me, it only seemed to heighten the feeling that Oakleigh would surely break the deadlock soon.

For their part the Knights defended deep and in numbers, and relied heavily upon the counter. While they managed quite a few promising forays forward in the opening half, their final ball or touch let them down so often that it seemed unlikely they would get close enough to score.

The second half started with Oakleigh taking control of the game, with the Knights being unable to get much meaningful possession over the halfway line. There was no obvious sign of urgency from Oakleigh, and they had several more close calls. Eventually though they were forced to push numbers forward, knowing that a draw would put them an in even worse position which would see South needing only a point from its remaining two games rather than a win to secure the title.

This increased offensive effort almost backfired, when a pinpoint cross found the 2014 Dockerty Cup winning goal scorer Tomi Uskok (who I think I sat next to and chatted with along with Mark Boric during the Knights' heavy loss at Oakleigh earlier in the season) unmarked in the six yard box, with an empty net to aim at, but managing only to hit the bar. At that point I didn't think Knights would get a better chance to win the game, so it was only going to be a case of seeing if Oakleigh would break the deadlock.

Still, the numbers pushed forward by Oakleigh left gaping holes at the back, and when Stipo Andrijasevic found himself with just a defender to beat, he neatly cut inside his opponent and slotted the ball past Oakleigh keeper John Honos, to the rapturous of the home crowd, but more importantly the barely unrestrained delight of the South fans in the crowd. For their part the Oakleigh hierarchy just one bay across could only look om forlornly, and with the odd death stare towards the South fans, as the title slipped further out of reach with ten minutes to play in the game.

What looked like a second goal for Knights soon after was ruled for alleged contact on the goalkeeper from the corner, so Oakleigh were still in with a chance of getting at least a point out of this game, but despite their best efforts they could not get on the scoreboard.

The game ended with jubilant scenes for the South fans in attendance at Somers Street, as well as for those who were otherwise occupied whether at home, out on Chapel Street, or even overseas - as in a sign of the times - Facebook, Twitter and the forums went into a mini meltdown (did we manage to get South Melbourne/@smfc trending at one point?), while others rushed off to book their flights to Hobart.

It's a ninth state championship for us, putting us equal with Green Gully. It's the first time we've finished on top of the table since 2001, and the first time we've won a league title in a first past the post season since 1976, albeit there were only a handful of seasons - 1977-1983, and 1987 - where we could have achieved that in the intervening period. By securing the title, we avoided going beyond our longest title drought of eight years, the only other time we've done that being 1976-1984.

More importantly, aside from the loss to the Dockerty Cup quarter final/FFA Cup qualifier loss to the Knights in mid-season, it caps off what has been a wonderful season for South on and off the park. The securing of the Lakeside lease, accompanied by the championship win, is a welcome respite from the negativity that can easily subsume those who follow the club - though of course the championship win is worth it for its own sake - after all, it's what we're here for, right? Isn't it what makes all the trying worthwhile, and the down times more bearable?

Congratulations therefore to the players, no matter how small or large their role this season, and to the coaching staff, especially Chris Taylor, whose ability to get the team to grind out results (although it was not as ugly as some have made out) secured the title ahead of an arguably better team both attacking wise and style wise in Oakleigh; huge thanks to the staff and volunteers, whether they're the suits or the blokes doing marshalling duties on match days; and thank you to the loyal supporters who I watch the games with every week, and even those in far flung places like Mildura Vasili.

So, what's next?
Two games of the regular season to go, with the pressure of needing results now released. First up Oakleigh on Sunday, and then the week after a trip to Shepparton to play Goulburn Valley. What plans the club has both for celebrations on Sunday and for a possible supporters bus to Shepparton I don't know - however I'm pretty certain that the trophy will be presented on Sunday, so of course I would recommend that all South supporters come to witness that event if nothing else, and to also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 championship team, and the 30th anniversary of the 1984 NSL championship team (why the 1974 side has been left out of that I don't know, but I'm sure Jimmy Armstrong's presence will more than make up for it).

After all of that we'll be off to Tasmania, to take part in the first stage of the NPL national championships, in a playoff against Tasmanian champions South Hobart. They have confirmed that that fixture will be on Saturday September 20th at their home ground at Darcy Street, though the kickoff time has not yet been confirmed - one should expect something around 1:30 to 2:00, in other words and afternoon kickoff. More information will be provided once it's confirmed by the relevant parties.

In the meantime though, let's all bask in the afterglow of a championship win, and I'll see all of you on Sunday so we can celebrate this title together.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Social club artefact Wednesday - 1964 championship poster

The players, clockwise from bottom left, are: George Kosmopoulos,
John Anderson, Boulis Kambouropoulos, Steve Kalogeros,
Andreas Roussis, Takis Xanthopoulos, Panayotis Tsitsos, Sam Kagioglou,
Harry Vamvakas, Takis Mantarakis, George Papadopoulos,
Mike Mandalis, Ernie Ackerley, Jim Pyrgolios, Leo Damianakos
The Greek words at the top say 'Hellas, Victorian Champions 1964'
The Greek words at the bottom say 'The Hellas Football Club wishes
 you happy holidays and good fortune in the new year'.
Conveniently situated in a week where we could secure our ninth state league title, this Friday also happens to mark the 50th anniversary of South's second state league title, which would also be the first of three consecutive titles.

Coming in to the final round of the 1964 state league season, South Melbourne Hellas was just one point ahead of George Cross and JUST, with a significantly inferior goal difference, and also one point ahead of Juventus who were a longshot to overtake all three of the sides ahead of them.

Apart from the Juventus-Polonia game, which was played on the Sunday, the rest of the matches were played on the Saturday. JUST smacked Hakoah 5-0 at Middle Park, while George Cross beat Lions 3-1 away at Montogomery Park.

South was matched up against Melbourne Hungaria at Olympic Park, and took the lead, and though Hungaria equalised, Hellas went into halftime ahead 2-1. Extending that lead to 3-1, the title looked secure, until Hungaria pulled one back and probably sent the Hellas fans into a bit of a panic. Thankfully the scores remained as they were, and South secured its second Victorian league title.

With a short, 22 game season being the norm, and the use of the two points for a win system, title races were always likely to be closer than the norm, but even so, the top six teams ended up being separated by just four points, the equivalent at that time of two games. After the season was completed, JUST would apparently lodge a protest, claiming that its round 20 match against the relegation bound Alexander - a game it lost 2-0 - was moved without enough notice, and that therefore the game should be replayed. This would have meant that the Greek import players that Alexander used for that game would not be available, what with their having returned to Greece.

What's interesting about this poster, is that it leaves out several players of the 1964 squad while including players that would play for the club in 1965. There is also one player that I can't identify, which if you read the caption I've included for the photo is the third last player. Any help with answering that question

Update
Thanks to the person who runs the official South Twitter account, who posted that the unknown player was Ernie Ackerley, coincidentally one of the players who was not part of the 1964 team, but who had joined South in time for this late year friendly match against Pan-Hellenic.

Monday, 1 September 2014

I will be on radio tonight

Unless it gets cancelled, at 9:00pm tonight, along with Dr Ian Syson I will be a guest on the Play Off The Park programme on SYN 90.7FM. The themes will include (or so I've been lead to believe) stuff to do with the history of football (I assume the host means soccer) in Australia, why the game does not belong, and maybe even some stuff about my PhD thesis. It'll be my first appearance on radio since I spruiked for Offset back in 2009 on Triple R in my role as managing editor. So, if you've never met me and want all your suspicions of what my voice sounds like confirmed (and consequently react like this), tune in, or wait for the podcast to come out.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Social club artefact Wednesday - Steve Blair caricature, by Jerry Davies

You know, while pondering what to add next for this series, I did a search on the blog and found just one reference to Steve Blair, a throwaway comment in an article about some old Neos Kosmos English Weekly articles I uploaded early last year. Well it was surely time to start rectifying that discrepancy by uploading this photo I took of a caricature of Blair from 1992 by an artist named Jerry Davies, of whom I know nothing. It lead me to do a general search to see what Blair has been up in recent times, and found that he is now in player management. His website isn't very good, but the photo section is just incredible A lot of great photos from his lengthy South Melbourne career (sadly none that I could see from his stint as general manager), but also from his Socceroos and Victorian junior team stints, but perhaps rarest of all, photos from his early days playing soccer in the western suburbs with the old Albion Rovers. Best of all, a lot of the photos are in colour. You can check out the collection here.

Monday, 25 August 2014

One hand on the title - South Melbourne 2 Northcote City 1

After the kick in the teeth that was the Bentleigh Greens - Oakleigh game on Friday night (more detail in 'around the grounds' below), the tension was heightened for our game against Northcote. Northcote, the team that would assuredly not just roll over and take this as just another match with nothing on the line; a club that has caused us almost no end of grief since they were promoted into the Victoria top flight, us having beaten them just once in the league (and once in the cup), while we've been the end of some hideous spankings, not least the 5-0 preliminary final loss from last year. How much that history matters is anyone's guess, but with two lynchpins of Northcote's 2013 championship - Michael Eagar and Milos Lujic - now playing for us, there'll always be someone looking to bring it up

The opening goal though came early enough so as to settle the nerves somewhat. Iqi Jawadi, who has apparently caught the eye of A-League scouts - he played in the second half for Melbourne Heart in their midweek friendly against Hume, and is also rumoured to be on the Newcastle Jets radar - eluded two Northcote players on the sideline, and found Tyson Holmes in space whose cross ended up reaching Milos Lujic perefectly at the back post.

Northcote though would not go down lightly, and at first worked their back into the game, and then became the dominant side as South sat back. The problem with this approach is that I'm not sure that this South side is as comfortable shutting down games once they have the lead as when they decide instead to drive home their advantage. The results may show otherwise, but it's always a difficult decision to make. A good thing then that generally we defended well, though our retreat into relying onto longballs (the last refuge of the scoundrel?) was incredibly frustrating to watch.

Marinos Gasparis' freekick was in a way both inevitable - in that Northcote had being getting closer and had had the general run of play - and telling, in the sense that if South has lacked one thing this year it's been a set piece specialist, someone who could be relied not only to score 3-4 goals a year at crucial points in a match or season (say, when there appears to be no other way to break down a disciplined defence, or you need that sealer to put a stake in the opposition's heart), or even just to force a corner or desperate save.

And while Jamie Reed hasn't been completely awful in that department, neither has he reached the heights of the 2006 vintage Fernando De Moraes, who when all else failed, managed to find a way through via a freekick (I'm thinking the opening goal late in the elimination final against Gully especially). Thank goodness then that we have Milos Lujic, who has become the first South player in probably 29 years - I'm thinking Charlie Egan in 1985 was probably the last player to get there - to score 20 goals for South in a single season.

That he got the ball from a player I've been critical of recently in Matthew Theodore says volumes about our depth, and the ability of Taylor to pick the right player for the right situation, which is why he's potentially the championship winning coach and I'm just some chump on with a keyboard. Still, once we had that lead we had to keep Northcote out for the remainder of the game, and full credit to them they didn't give up. On that note, special mention must go to Chris Maynard in goal, who pulled out some fine saves, and whose kicking was generally excellent. Maynard had not been tested almost at all in the previous two games since replacing the out of favour Jason Saldaris, but he was usually on top of whatever came at him yesterday.

If this post - and probably even the last match report for that matter - comes across as a little weary, it's perhaps because it's been an exhausting season; a longer home and away season than we've been recently accustomed to, a Dockerty Cup campaign in the middle of that, the Lakeside situation, and hell, even attending pre-season games from back in December. The saving grace is that we're this close to securing the title. It must have been hell for the supporters of those teams who weren't going to get relegated or win the title. That's their cross to bear though - meanwhile we've got a title to win, which we're in the box seat to take out.

Next game
A week off for the Dockerty Cup final and assorted catch up games, before we take on Oakleigh at home. We may have already won the title by then if Oakleigh lose to the Knights in their catch up game in 10 days time, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it.

Doing the sums
Well, here's how it stands. South is on 62 points, with two games left. Oakleigh's on 55 points, with three games left. So, in other words:
  • A win for South in either of our two remaining games, and we take the title.
  • A loss for Oakleigh in any of its three remaining games, and we take the title.
  • A draw between ourselves and Oakleigh in round 25, and we take the title.
In any other season it probably wouldn't have come to this. For one, in Victoria a finals series would have taken the edge off the race to what would have been the minor premiership, in much the same way that Oakleigh's clear dominance of the 2006 season was all for nothing once they went out of the finals in straight sets. On the other hand, it's been a weird season for the simple reason that, in any other year, either team with such a record would have clinched the title already, having lost just four games between them. So it goes.

And yes, I'll probably be at the Knights - Oakleigh game, just in case we end up winning the title at that game.
They've been watching us
Around the grounds
Urge to kill, rising
I was just one member of a healthy contingent of South fans who turned up to watch Bentleigh host Oakleigh, hoping first for an Oakleigh loss and secondly for a good game of football. Well, on the latter front there was excitement of a sort, but sadly on the former matter Oakleigh took advantage of relentlessly shithouse defending from the Greens to be up 4-0 during the first half. At least three of the goals looked majorly dodgy, as the Greens gave their opponents far too much space (seriously, who stands 3-4 metres off Nate Foster and dares him to run past you?) and insisted on playing the ball out of the back for no discernible gain. The fourth goal was perhaps the most absurd, as a botched and harmless short corner (and pretty much all short corners at this level fall into that category) was somehow parried by Alastair Bray back into the path of the Oakleigh attackers who eventually finished it off. To make matters worse, the Greens squandered several good chances in the first part of the second half, but whether they were a real chance of a comeback is unlikely. My blistering public transport run to the ground aside - one hour, fifteen minutes from Newport station - this was game was a letdown on several fronts.

Eight dollars for a Clifton Hill souvlaki is highway robbery
Headed out to Quarries Park on Saturday to see Clifton Hill play Southern Stars. Clifton Hill were third last, but in no danger of relegation. Southern Stars, starting from scratch after last year's betting scandal, started the year on -8 points, and were still in minus territory coming into this game. Nevertheless, they did win their first game of the season last week against South Springvale, so maybe there'd be evidence of further improvement here? Sadly, no. Clifton Hill took a little while to break the deadlock, but once they did this game was as good as done. Only poor finishing theoretically kept Stars in it, but they eventually fell 3-0 behind and even a late own goal to get it back to 3-1 never saw the home team threatened. Stars aren't the first team to have to rebuild after exiting the Victorian topflight, but there's seems an altogether more difficult task. Realistically though, Clifton Hill aren't in a much better position. The Hillmen increasingly appear to be a subsidiary of Heidelberg United Alexander (the 'HUFC' sponsorship on the back of the shirt seems very awkward), which may not be a very palatable thing to have said about a club which would like to assert that it is still an independent entity, but it's not like there were that many home fans there anyway to argue the point.

Quiet time
This blog will be very low key over the next week and a half or so. While we'll still have the Wednesday artefact segment, unless something super drastic happens, don't expect any significant posting from our angle. Enjoy the week off, and I'll see you all on the other side.

Final thought
As Gains I exited via the back gate in between our stand and the 1926 stand, a little kid saw us and said to his dad, 'they're so shifty'. Further reinforcement of my dislike for children.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Social Club Artefact Wednesday - Scandinavian Junior Cup 1966

A trophy of unknown provenance: the 1966 Scandinavian Junior Cup, probably won
by South Melbourne Hellas. Behind it, a Victorian Womens Soccer Association
award, and a Club World Championship licence plate. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
Can someone, anyone, tell us about the provenance of this trophy? I mean, yes we can ascertain that it says 'Scandinavian Junior Cup', and yes we can see that there's a year on it, that being 1966, and yes we can see that our name is on there. Is it safe to assume that we won? From the limited asking around that I've been able to do - and unfortunately, most of the people I've asked from that era have no idea about this trophy - it was not an overseas junket (how cool would that have been?), but rather some sort of local tournament, probably organised by a local club. But to what does the 'Scandinavian' part of the trophy actually refer to? At the present time, there are no answers, but if anyone has information, we'd love to hear it. it does make me think though, that when we eventually get around to building the new museum area for the social club, the least we could is to give some of these old trophies a good polish, because a few of them looked a little bit worse for wear at the time of packing them away.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Seven points ahead, still - Dandenong Thunder 0 South Melbourne 1

Apologies, but this entry is mostly obsessed with a sports forum I attended on Thursday and Friday.

Frankly, there isn't much to report on from this game. On an uneven pitch, in front of what looked like a South dominated crowd - which is kinda scary considering there weren't that many more of us than usual there - we played well in fits and starts, stood our ground in defense, rode our luck just a smidge, and ground out another win, and got three points closer to winning the title.

The thing that was most striking about the match though, was how few Thunder supporters seemed to be in attendance. The collapse in their home support following the grand final rocket flare fiasco, and the attendant punishments from FFV have really knocked the stuffing out of the Thunder. It's a pity to see. It's a long way from the heady days of that first meeting between our sides at this venue in 2009, and the very large crowd that was in attendance. It all seems like ancient history now.

We started off both halves with the (relative) momentum of a runaway freight train, before Thunder were able to work their way into the game and even fire a couple of shots on goal. During our spells of dominance - where Thunder struggled to get out of their own half - we unfortunately didn't trouble Zaim Zeneli in goals very much. He made one terrific save with his legs when it looked for all money that we were going to open the scoring.

Thank goodness for Jamie Reed then, who managed to get the goal that won the game. Zeneli got his hands on it, but couldn't keep it out, and then we had to hold on for a nerve wracking finish as Thunder tried to get a point out of this match, which would not have been totally unjustified. There were handball calls at either end which weren't called by the referee, and the odd long bit of scrambling defence

Quite what the deal was with the person at the freeway end sitting in their car with their headlights on during the second half, I'm not sure. It made it very hard to see what was going on at that end whenever the ball ended up in the headlight glare, and it took what seemed like forever to actually get that situation sorted out. Security seemed more interested in Clarendon Corner's swearing than actually dealing with a patron who was being a genuine nuisance.

The support behind the goals in the second half was good, even making Zeneli laugh at one moment when someone said something to the effect, we never hated you, it's Gus Tsolakis who fucked you over. The players came over after the match and thanked those supporters, and the vibe seemed very positive. Still I can't be the only one who's still not confident enough to call it, to actually embrace the seven point lead we have and the diminishing amount of time Oakleigh in chasing it down. Eight years of mostly mediocre results has eroded the trademark Hellas cockiness that even I used to subscribe to.

Doing the sums
So the maths as they stand are like this. We're on 59 points, and Oakleigh's on 52. The maximum number of points we can get is 68, and the maximum Oakleigh can get is 64. Therefore, if we win two more games out of our remaining three, we'll reach the magic number of 65, reaching the point where Oakleigh can't catch us.

However, if we beat Oakleigh in our round 25 game, the maximum number of points they'll be able to get is 61, and three points from that game would take us to 62 points. Of course, I'd rather we somehow sorted it all out before that.

Next game
Northcote at home.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, but if someone else pays for it, it's close enough
I managed to score a free ticket* to Victoria University's 'Sport in Victoria - Who's really winning?' forum, which is a good thing because the cost of a ticket to the entire thing would have set me back over $300. Movers and shakers from a range of sporting interests rocked up to discuss issues such is 'Melbourne the world's sporting capital?', 'Is it possible to win fair?', and 'Is hosting major sporting events worth the effort?'. The forum ran over Thursday night and Friday, and was run out of the MCC, which was a great thing to keep in mind when people tried to hint towards the egalitarian and communak nature of Australian sport and avoiding trickle down economic style solutions to our sporting problems.
Thursday night was a dinner thing, so lots of suits except for the odd western suburbs bum like me who rocked up in jeans and a hoodie. Entree was some fancy poached chicken, main was some sort of meat that was, by my standards, still mooing, and dessert was some sort of attempt at a custard tart, and I had two of those because frankly I was still hungry after the other two courses. Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, Kate Roffey, CEO of Committee for Melbourne, Mike Clayton, Principal, Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead (something to do with golf) and  John Jacoby, Race Director of Rapid Ascent (some endurance thing) were the panel for the dinner, discussing "Is Melbourne the sporting capital of the world? As the world’s most liveable city, does Melbourne promote recreation and active living enough? Is promoting professional sport and community health in conflict or complementary?"

Peter Gordon aside, who made tremendous sense as well as being affable and charming, the rest kinda put me to sleep as we somehow sauntered into discussion about whether Melbourne should bid to host another Olympic Games, and a debate from the floor with Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott about whether Formula 1 (and motorsport in general) was a sport or not. My thoughts turned more to this however.
I'm also sick of this idiotic obsession of being the world's most livable city, when those metrics seem inherently to apply to the experiences of the people who live within the confines of the inner city. And as for active participation, let's not forget this gem of an observation by yours truly:
Why were the panelists (across both days) so obsessed into getting people into sports or activities that could be leveraged commercially? While a rhetorical question, the opening session on Friday, "Major Events and The Economic Impact of Sport: Is this a key driver for the economy?" went some way to answering it. It was chaired by Radek Sali, Swisse CEO, who also put forward what sounded like a ten minute sales pitch on his company, frequently using the irritating and almost meaningless buzzword 'wellness' (and by frequently I mean enough times that I noticed and became irritated by it, so at at least twice). On the panel were Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, Brian Morris, CEO of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust and Professor John Madden of the Centre of Policy Studies, Victoria University.

Apart from Madden, I generally felt that the other three panelists tried to justify the existence of a major events oriented sporting direction. Madden went the other way, pointing out that realistically, hosting major sporting events (mostly referring to one off things like the Olympics) doesn't really boost economies - what it mostly does it redirect funding and investment into those areas necessary for hosting the relevant event, at the expense of other services and areas of the economy. Madden argued that theoretically there were ways exacting a profit from such events, cost cutting, having already existing infrastructure, something Melbourne would have an advantage in; but he also hedged his bets, by adding that people were willing to pay a certain amount for intangible benefits, such as the prestige of hosting the event, increased national pride etc. Quite why an economist was talking about the intangibles, without even providing a method for accurately measuring them (and who knows how you would even start with something like that), I don't know. But it did remind of the words of a panelist at a public transport forum I went to last year, a PhD student who argued that governments (in part due to the need to conform to the whims of the electoral cycle) the world over seemed to become entranced with building expensive, flashy, big ticket items at the expense of smaller, incremental and more cost effective improvements, a phenomenon noticed by at least on other person at this conference:
I suppose though, that if the electorate keeps falling in love with these leviathan projects, and get taken in by the associated hype, then what can those who object do?
After morning tea, the next session was "Can You Win Fair? - Sport, Drugs, Ethics and Science", with Richard Ings, former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, ASADA, David Grace QC, president of Athletics Australia, associate professor Dennis Hemphill, College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, and Caroline Wilson from The Age. Since prettuy much everyone in the room agreed that you can win fair, and that it's ideal to win fair, the discussion turned to what we could do to stop cheating, and some people pointed out that too much money was the cause. Thankfully somebody pointed out the bleeding obvious - that people in sport cheat all the time, at all levels, at all ages. Success is the key motivator; money is sometimes a reward for that success, but not always.

I was disappointed that the discussion never really went in hard as to what is and isn't classed as fair, and more importantly just who gets to decide. The closest it seemed to come was the idea that fairness was a construct, but there was little in the way of why we cared so much for sporting fairness, when fairness in the rest of society is getting such short shrift (my opinion, thought author and academic Michael Hyde wondered out loud to me, why wasn't anyone talking about class?), and why did we demand higher standards of fairness in sport than in other areas of public life? Why are sporting leagues allowed to, even encouraged to be run as cartels seeking evenness in competition, while the rhetoric about what kind of society we want as a whole goes the other way?

Because this session featured Caroline Wilson, it naturally threatened to turn into an Essendon saga special; unfortunately the fun police intervened, and thus the most interesting thing to happen at the conference got nipped in the bud - though you can read Samantha Lane's version of events on that and the wider panel discussion here.

The lunch session (chicken and potato, walnut and date poudding with salted caramel - whatever happened to unsalted caramel?) also had a panel discussion, "The Way Forward for Victoria – Cause and Effect: Elite Sport or Community Participation?" with Colin Carter, president of the Geelong Football Club, Professor Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health from The University of Melbourne, John Bertrand, president of Swimming Australia, Kate Palmer, CEO of Netball Australia, and chair of Victorian Institute of Sport. and John Wylie chair of Australian Sports Commission.

Though the discussion, when it turned to the issue of getting kids to be more active, the fact that there seemed to be obsession with getting Phys Ed and sport back into schools was worrying to me - the fact that the American example of playing school in sports as opposed to at clubs also annoyed me. I was worried because the former is a bureaucratic response to a deeper problem - why aren't kids being active in their own spare time, of their own volition? You know, doing the things kids used to do because they wanted to do them - run, cycle, skip, hop, jump, kick a footy with their mates. Why do all these solutions focus on supervised and structured forms of increasing activity? Annoyed, because in the latter, the ritual humiliation of the weak and puny along with the concurrent idolisation of the teenage sports star in America seems just as idiotic. What happened to be being active as a kid because it was fun? 'Where are the parents?' your correspondent shrilly cried.

Seeing as the next session was going to be about the Olympics again, this time about our diminishing medal returns, I finally cracked and left this parting shot (there was another Simpsons quoting one which you can dig out yourselves)
Checking the forum's Twitter feed later on, Nicole Livingston seemed to make some good points about the Victorian situation in particular, especially how the AFL's media dominance takes away any and all attention away from other sports (and not just women's sports). But by that time I was at Newport station and completely jaded by the general thrust of the discussions which rather than seeking to improve the sporting experience of Melburnians for the sake of it, was rather always on the lookout for a way to leverage it for a commercial gain of some sort - whether that was a corporate sponsor promoting their products, an event manager trying to explain why their event was really important for Melbourne (and worth the cost), or different sports trying to claim recreational participants as part of their own official fiefdom.

*the ticket was paid for by Victoria University, but the version of events as discussed above has nothing to do with them.

Commit to community TV
I've been a big fan of Channel 31 for years (even donated money to the crowd funding effort for the third season of the quiz show 31 Questions), but unfortunately the future of community TV is apparently up in the air because the federal government has not yet renewed Channel 31s broadcasting licence, which is due to expire at the end of the year. Therefore, if you can spare a moment, I recommend heading to Commit to Community TV to add your name to the petition. For those that are cynical about such internet campaigns, a similar grassroots effort helped reverse funding cuts to community radio a year or two ago.

Hopefully the club adds its support to this campaign as well, because being on Channel 31 has been something which has kept us in the broadcasting limelight, however marginal that might be compared to the past. It's also worth remembering that our present show is not the first time we've produced a show for Channel 31, with older heads no doubt remembering the old TVH produced South Melbourne Soccer Show, which was launched all the way back in in 2002.

By the way, there must be a way to get a hold of the tapes from those people, because chances are that it contains rare footage of not just the club, but of an era of Australian domestic top-flight football which got a serious lack of broadcast coverage. Make it happen SMFC media team.

Final thought
Who's up for a night out at Kingston Heath for the Bentleigh vs Oakleigh game on Friday?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ethnic past artefact - 1985 Knox City All Nations Cup Greek team book

Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the download link to the full document.

This is the front cover to the book. The back cover is the other
half of this photo, which I can't be bothered adding to this piece.
I shared this a few weeks ago on Twitter and a couple of forums, to a staggeringly muted response. These things happen, but I still would have liked a few more people to care not for my sake, but for my brother who doesn't even like soccer, but who scanned the whole thing and made it into a PDF as a favour to me (my tech skills are crap, and my Linux machine and scanner don't talk to each other).

Former Socceroo and 1960s South Melbourne Hellas player Ted Smith gave this book to me during an FFV history committee meeting. It's a 49 page book all about the Greek team that would play in the Knox City Soccer Club's world cup tournament, which is better known as the All Nations Cup.

Some twenty years after the Laidlaw Cup - a similar tournament which seemed reasonably popular for awhile until the early 1960s - the All Nations Cup saw local players play for teams allocated to their national/ethnic heritage. It's interesting to read in this book the different perspective of multicultural influence on Australian soccer by the chief organiser Tony Kennedy, which considered the different teams playing alongside each other as a strength, and not a weakness. The problems with this approach however are evident a little further down in his piece - that the VSF's attempt to take over and run the competition ran into trouble when they starting including nations that were at that time unrecognised.

Despite all the Greek language material in the book, the player profiles are all in English, and there are plenty of South players, former South players, and would be South players in the squad. There are so many that I can't fit all their names into the label facility on the blog because it only allows 200 characters to be used. Damn over long Greek names. There are also photos of South coaches Manny Poulakakis and John Margaritis, and even a couple of early era red V wearing South Melbourne Hellas photos.

A photo of an early 1960s South Melbourne Hellas team, as found in the book.
The Greek caption reads: The great 'Hellas' of the 1960s.
There are a heap of sponsors as well, and you have to wade through a fair portion of the book to get to the actual content. Still, these things are just as important for showing demographic changes in the Greek community in Melbourne, as it applied to employment, social interests, and even where the main commercial centres were at the time. The Lonsdale Street stereotype for example is nowhere to be found, but neither is the present Oakleigh dominance. It's majority inner city and inner northern suburbs.

Rather than having me upload each of the 49 pages individually, I recommend that you head to this link to get access to the entire document, which you can download to your own device.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Still seven points ahead - South Melbourne 4 Werribee City 0

This report was late due to a game of Pathfinder being played at my house (and in Singapore and London), and afterwards supposedly meeting people for coffee, neither of which I participated in directly; it's a long story.

The sun shines, but the rain falls down over Lakeside
prior to the under 20s match. Photo: Gains.
While watching the under 20s yesterday, I did have one eye on what was going at Oakleigh vs Pascoe Vale via Twitter, even as my phone battery rapidly declined. The 3-0 result to Oakleigh cut the margin between us back to four points, so as has been the case for most of the second half of the season, it was time for us to respond to whatever result Oakleigh threw up at us.

It was important though to also respond to the poor performance we put in midweek against Bentleigh, and Chris Taylor seemed to throw caution to the wind with some of his selections. Jamie Reed coming in for Leigh Minopoulos and Iqi Jawadi coming back from suspension for Matthew Theodore were kinda obvious; but the replacement of Jason Saldaris with Chris Maynard in goals was a daring move this late in the season.

Saldaris, who has recently been the recipient of a form of bronx chanting from Clarendon Corner, who have been applauding him for completing even regulation goalkeeper actions, seems to have finally lost the confidence of Taylor. Thus Maynard, who as far as I can remember has played just one match this season - the 4-1 Dockerty Cup win away to Berwick City - was starting his first league game in quite some time.

Would he be as alert as a keeper who'd played week in, week out? Would he stuff up his long awaited chance at the no. 1 spot? We'll have to wait at least another week for the answer to those questions, because he had very little to do in this match, as Werribee struggled to even get one shot on target during the game. While this made it easier for us on the day, it also had the effect of making me doubt that they could get a point against Oakleigh in the next round. And while those who say our destiny is in our hands are correct - three wins from our four remaining games will seal the title - it wouldn't hurt our cause if Oakleigh dropped some points along the way.

South came out of blocks looking pretty fired up creating, several chances and breaking apart Werribee's defence if not quite at will, then relatively comfortably, but in echoes of the midweek game there had been no goal in the opening half hour and my thoughts started to head towards the possibility of Werribee pinching a goal from somewhere. That turned out not to be the case however. First Reed scored from a penalty just after half an hour, after Nick Epifano had been felled, then Milos Lujic scored twice just before halftime as the visitors' defence crumbled. The game was as good as over.

A white curtain of rain pours down on Lakeside during the
second half of the senior match. Photo: Gains.
That we could only manage the one goal after halftime (by Epifano) was disappointing, because it just may come down to goal difference at the end of the campaign, and this was as good a chance as any to start closing the gap to Oakleigh's superior goal difference. Every little bit counts.

The crowd at the game was also poor, which can partly be blamed on the weather, but I think is also due to the late kickoff time. Where once I had no specific preference for one kickoff time over another on a Sunday, I'm kinda getting over the 5:00pm starts. Is it the general malaise affecting crowds across the board in the NPL, and even state leagues games (the Eastern Lions - Mornington game [see below] also got a lower attendance than I had anticipated)? Whatever the cause of the low attendance - and it's not like I'm expecting miraculous attendances ten years after the end of our NSL heyday - it's disappointing that we can't pull a few more people to games now that we're actually doing half well. It also means dinner gets eaten much later than I'd like now that I'm almost halfway to being a senior citizen, but it also means that I miss out on listening to one of our club representatives on 3XY, especially now that we're all friends again.

So, after all that, still seven points clear. Four games to go for us, five games to go for Oakleigh.

Next game
Dandenong Thunder away on Saturday night. After a good start to the season they've fallen down towards the bottom end of ladder, but they did manage to win away at Ballarat on the weekend to all but make sure they'll avoid relegation. Alan Kearney got red carded in that game though, so that will be a useful out as far as we're concerned, unless his replacement comes in plays a blinder.

Did you know?
That under 20s defender Sammy Kagioglou is apparently the grandson of 1960s championship goalkeeper Sam Kagioglou? That's pretty cool.

Looking forward to the final round
It's still over a month away, but people are already starting to look forward to our final round match against Goulburn Valley Suns in Shepparton, still very much a potential title decider. In particular, people are thinking about travel arrangements. Since the trains are a manifestly inconvenient option for this game, I've asked the club about whether they'll organise a bus - their initial response is that they're not sure at this stage, but will inform everyone closer to the date of any arrangements.

I am so precious, it hurts
At the Bentleigh game the other day, I had it out (in typically mild fashion) with the person behind the @smfcmike Twitter account, initially asking him to just ease off the caps lock as a starting point. I even half joked that I was *this* close to blocking him. But that's why they call it a half joke, because I actually followed through with it. It's meant that some Twitter discussions I follow are now distorted, but it's a price I'm willing to to pay for a little bit more sanity.

The actor leaves the stage, but the play continues
It's weird seeing Shoot Farken still going after my involvement. How can this be? What I mean to say is, that despite the Heavy Sleep world cup articles I'd written for them, I forgot to add their link on the side panel. So, there it is now. At the moment they're looking at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Around the grounds
Junk Dilemmas Round 22 (with apologies to Irvine Welsh)
I could sit at home and do nothing, just like most of the Friday nights of my life. Or, like the addict who can't stay away from their one vice, I could go to a lower league soccer match, again. The choice tonight is between Richmond hosting Avondale Heights, or going to Port and watching them take on the Knights. Informed by an irrational hatred of Avondale Heights, I choose the latter. The universe tries to conspire against me getting to the game on time. The parking at Newport station is packed, so I end up parking some distance away. The train I want to catch is delayed because of a VLine train. The myki gate at Flinders Street station reckons I haven't touched on, but there's no staff member at the Elizabeth St exit to help me exit the gate, and my lack of athletic ability and my acquiescence to effects of the implied panopticon prevents me from jumping the gate. After I circle around and exit via the platform 1 exit, I walk past the Elizabeth Street exit towards Banana Alley, and notice that the fat woman I saw walking up the stairs as I began doubling back was actually a staff member. Her black uniform, which I afterwards described thusly,
and her lack of urgency in climbing the stairs fools me into thinking that she's merely another pleb public transport user. Still, when everything else can go wrong, you can trust Port Melbourne's gate attendant crew to provide speedy and fuss free entrance to the venue for those like myself who possess the appropriate paperwork. The game itself is a bore. The most exciting to happen is watching a couple of blokes from MCF attempt to punch on with each other, with their mates in the middle copping collateral damage as they try to separate the pair. Security try to calm the situation, and it seems to do the trick. There are many possible lessons to take out of this situation. One is the slightly coarse, 'talk shit, get hit'. Another lesson might well be that if you keep pushing someone's buttons, they may eventually snap. Perhaps don't be involved in spreading pernicious rumours, which is all well and good except for the fact that I was doing much the same yesterday. Many other observations were also made about contemporary young male Croatian-Australian social identity, but I haven't gone through the Victoria University ethics department to get clearance for any of that. Knights won the game 1-0. The bus goes past five minutes earlier since the timetable reformat, so I miss it, and I get home at midnight instead of 11:30.

Burwood or Balwyn or Bentleigh or Boronia
Several weeks ago I agreed to go to Eastern Lions vs Mornington with Ian Syson, in anticipation that these two sides would be first first and second on the State League 1 South-East table. That's the way they came into this game, with the Lions being four points clear at the top. First time out at Gardiners Creek Reserve, and it's a nice set up with several grounds and nice seating in the shed, but they must have one of the largest budgets for match balls in the state with the creek being so close by. Now it must be noted that I was in a surly sort of mood, (though to be fair, I've been in a surly sort of mood for a while now), and I was therefore determined not to enjoy this game. The first half helped in that in ragard, in that it failed to live up to expectation with few if any chances, let alone quality passages of play. The visitors, who had edged proceedings in the opening 45 minutes, managed to jag a goal late to take lead at halftime. I got to meet Steven Gray of Football Chaos fame during the break, though of course he had to rush off to film the second half. The second half saw the Lions equalise early, though not without some controversy, with there being uncertainty about whether the ball had crossed the line. The game then continued in much the same way as the first half, but eventually Mornington got on top with the Lions barely being able to get out of their own half of the field - including from goalkicks - though it was almost all half chances. Then shock of shocks, the Lions managed to score a late winner - after having played for the draw, they managed to get the win. These things happen.

Final thought
A fellow supporter and I agreed yesterday that Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has completely gone down the toilet. I don't care about the detectives' personal lives, just give me 35 implausible twists, more 'can you enhance that' moments than you can poke a stick at, and the usual cavalcade of sickos that get their comeuppance while I shake my fist at the TV.