Thursday, 22 August 2019

Drama Queens - South Melbourne 2 Altona Magic 0

The scene was set for an all-time classic snooze-fest. Two teams winding down into the close of the season, nothing to aim for either up or down. It was raining, and no-one had bothered to put up the sponsor boards, which would had annoyed the sponsors if we had any that weren't board members. And the crowd was muted in interest, given the whole thing had a bit of a pre-season feeling (albeit with a bit less passion)

During this game (or after it) you may have seen an overly dramatic tweet describing the utter destitution of Clarendon Corner on Sunday afternoon.
Let me assure everyone that it was not all quite like that. There were other Clarendon Corner people within the general vicinity of that photo - they were just sitting a few rows further back, in the dry areas covered by the roof.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.

When it stopped raining, a few people gradually moved down towards the famous Row H, which for those not in the know, is the row claimed by those of us in Clarendon Corner who do not wish to associate with the nonce brigade which tends to gather in the rows immediately in front of Row H.

And while it's not like no-one turned up, but the low turnout overall, and especially in the areas quasi-traditionally inhabited (since 2012) by Clarendon Corner, created the perfect opportunity for me to enact a performance of despondent human misery.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
But don't be concerned for me - it wasn't raining that hard, when it was raining. And don't be sad for those that were there and treated this game like the dead rubber it most surely was - there was nothing to play for, and nothing to get particularly excited about, even though the game did produce a number of chances for both teams. And don't even blame those that didn't turn up, because people do have other and/or better things to do; and besides which, didn't I tell people not to come to games if it no longer made them happy, and especially if attending games actually made them seriously unhappy?

Performative, self-preservationist, and self-conscious proto-martyr creating misery works for me, but it's not for everyone. And it's not like there's still not plenty of other naturally miserable looking people at South - especially these days - if you're into that kind of thing.

Some of the players didn't even bother turning up. Peter Skapetis was not present, as he's apparently in Greece. Who knows how long he'd had that planned, but it's good thing we're not in a relegation scrap.

Having said that, some of our injured players did make appearances in and around the ground. Luke Adams was on the South bench, not on the team sheet, but still present to offer support. Brad Norton was apparently seen trying to calm down the very upset Pep Marafioti in the tunnel outside the change rooms. And injured keeper Josh Dorron was seen tucking into a burger in the grandstand, helping put some coin back into the club and advertising the food on offer in the social club.

And can I just say, the quality of the burgers has been steadily improving week by week, even if last week's patty was almost too big too comfortably fit within the bun provided. Now let's have a round of applause for the players that did turn up, and in general put in a solid shift.

Sadly there was a moment of too much pride and passion, which has likely seen the end of one player's time at South. Having created several good opportunities early in the game and not taken them, the team won a penalty, it's second of those in two games. Hey, when it rains, it pours. Credit to Perry "the Pez Dispenser" Lambropoulos for winning the spot kick with some nifty play; I have been one of the people who was less than enthused about his being signed at all, and after that unimpressed with what he offered in the first half of the season; but I am willing to admit that I was perhaps hasty to judge his capabilities, as in general he has been one of our better players in the second half of the season (even getting forward on occasion), and I would not be completely averse to him being at the club next season.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Now back to the penalty. One would have assumed that some people's probably nonsense generic superstitious bias against left footers taking penalties aside, having the person who scored our only penalty for the season just a couple of weeks ago take this one as well would just be (and I am loathe to use this term) common sense. Pep Marafioti however for who knows what reason did not see it that way, and attempted to take the ball off acting-skipper Marcus Schroen, which almost saw the two come to blows right there in front of everyone.

(and when I say "everyone" here, I mean the small crowd in attendance, as well as the audience watching either from home or from some decrepit gambling den in the Caucasus, Indochina, or Arabian Peninsula.)

They tell me that team morale is good, despite everything that has gone on this year, and certainly light years ahead of last year's mess. And yet only Nick Krousoratis bothered or had the good sense to intervene and try and defuse the situation between his teammates which was threatening to get even further out of hand. He's had a rough season has Nick, but that's the kind of level-headed person I'd want on my team. And for whatever it's worth, I still think he's a very talented player who could still do a lot of damage for our club (rather than against, like some others have done) next season.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
As for why Pep thought he ought to have taken the penalty, I do not know. Someone on a thankfully very dusty and forgotten corner of the internet suggested that there was an extant arrangement - possibly originating from preseason - to alternate penalty takers. If this is the case, that is the dumbest thing I've heard for quite some time, especially when for almost the entire season we'd earned just one penalty before last Sunday's. Now since Pep was nowhere near the league golden-boot running, and considering that Marcus had scored the only other penalty we'd earned this season, and considering that Marcus was wearing the captain's armband, I don't know what Pep was trying to achieve.

Marcus probably could have handled the situation better, but I suppose he was caught off-guard not having a taser or can of pepper spray on hand to diffuse the man trying to accost him. Maybe he was just as shocked and surprised at the rest of us at the playground antics taking place out on the hallowed turf of Lakeside Stadium. Or maybe this is an argument to go to the practice of netball or basketball, and have whoever was fouled in the penalty area take the penalty?

(at some point around here while typing up this post, whose segments were not compiled in order anyway, I got up to go to a local bakery to get some lunch)

The worst thing that could have happened after all that was for Schroen to miss the penalty, so thankfully he did manage to score the goal and put us up 1-0. I shudder to think what would have happened had he missed or had his shot saved.

As awful as that part of Sunday's spectacle was, I suppose it did at least offer the live-stream commentary team something to talk about in this dead rubber, though I'm slightly miffed now that I wasn't on special commentary for the day, the number of my guest commentary appearances having stalled at "two". Slightly more problematic was the task of the South Melbourne highlights editor, who had to try and edit out as much as possible of the nonsense between Schroen and Marafioti, an impossible task to complete to 100% levels of erasure of important moments of South Melbourne history.

It may have been unprofessional to do it the way I'm about to suggest, but I feel like my video editor friend missed an opportunity to augment the experience with the addition of an obvious yet also classic Simpsons gag.

Anyway, as expected Pep was not out on the field for the second half (replaced by Billy Konstantinidis), and I fancy that's the last time we've seen him in a South shirt. It's a pity that it's ended up this way - for all his character and playing foibles, he was one of our better players this year (though some cruel persons might say that was a problem in itself). But two brothers gone in the one season, what are the odds? And both of them ex-South juniors, which will make the board's aim of a title with 60% of our squad being South juniors a bit of a harder task.

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
The continued being a free-flowing affair, with both sides squandering chances. Magic - who have apparently just had a major backer of theirs announces his resignation from the presidency, though who knows how it will affect them next year - had a goal ruled out for offside. Eventually Konstantinidis tapped home a late goal to finish this game off as a contest

Next week
Heidelberg at home on Sunday afternoon. This will be the final game of the season for the men's team, and I don't think it could come any sooner. Unfortunately, the game also doubles up as an important fixture for what I'm still calling the minor premiership, which Heidelberg are in best place to secure.

After largely going unnoticed in 2019, apparently the club is going to make the final game a bit of a showcase of sorts for the club's 60th anniversary celebrations, so there's that to look forward to I suppose.

Cripes, it'll be the last time some of us will see each other for months! And it'll be the last time we see some or many of these players in a South shirt. I'm getting all misty-eyed. If only we knew who we were planning to turf now, we could have the Streisand backed montage ready to go.

Women stumbling in quest for finals
I was going to go to the senior women's game against Box Hill at Lakeside last Saturday, but got roped into another game instead - see the "around the grounds" section for that story. Anyway, the women lost 3-1 to Box Hill, and made things more difficult for themselves in terms of trying to secure the final spot in the finals. Again, not that any of the three teams (ourselves, the Bergers, or Box Hill) vying for fourth are likely to do any damage in the finals - especially as they'll have to play Calder first up - but it would be nice to at least make it. So the loss against Box Hill was a pretty important one, but not quite the season-ending game it could've been

That probably came yesterday, with the side playing out a 1-1 draw vs the NTC at Knox. I didn't get out there, of course, but I manage to watch the game (or at least most of it) on the stream. It was not one of our better performances, something I could tell from the stream despite it being filmed at ground level, having no commentary or graphics, and with the placement of portable goals all around the perimeter giving poor depth perception having me even bigger problems than usual trying to figure out what was going on.

Skip Fulton graciously let us know that at half time we were 1-0 up, thanks to a Nat Martineau goal, scored before confusion about the stream - which was originally tagged as Southern vs Heidelberg - was cleared up. I did see our late-season replacement keeper save a penalty during the first half, adding to her short-term reputation as being something more than a short-term fix.

The second half was just as confusing to me as the first (not least in part because I was switching back and forth between the stream and another project), because I thought we'd scored a goal from a Leia Varley free kick but then a comment online asked why it was disallowed. When NTC scored, I wasn't sure then if it was an equaliser or just a goal clawed back, and the initial social media response from the club at the conclusion of the game was that we'd won the game 2-1.

That was later corrected (with an apology) to 1-1, with Varley's goal being disallowed at it came from an indirect free kick; a result which sees us sit a point behind Heidelberg, who have a game in hand against Southern United. We play the Bergers in the last round, and the Bergers also have a game against Box Hill whee they could drop points, but at this stage it appears that even if we beat Bayside this Saturday afternoon at Lakeside and the Bergers in the last round at home, it's the Bergers with the best shot of making finals. It's been that kind of year.

More videos uploaded
I've uploaded a couple more hour long compilations of South Melbourne highlights from circa 1988-1992. These come from Banger's collection, and you can check them out on my channel here, along with other South videos. I've tagged/timestamped the individual games in the description sections, but there's often little snippets of other stuff which I haven't bothered to tag - consider them bonus material.

Puskas film update
A few months ago, some readers showed some concern about whether this film was actually still being made. I did not have a definitive answer then. I can say now that 'yes', the film is still in production. Work related and other commitments slowed down the process, but it is still going. I don't have much directly to do with the film's production, but I will do what I can to keep the ball rolling. I'd give you an estimated time of completion, but it's really up to the guys making the film to get the film to a stage where it can be finished and shown to the public.

Around the grounds
Please make this season end
Trundled out to Quarries Park or whatever it's called for Clifton Hill vs Yarraville. You want a game that meant nothing? Here it was. Two teams so bad they deserved to be relegated, but thanks to a mass restructure of the league system coming soon, they've been left to spin their wheels for most of the season, like so many clubs in a similar position. It's half the reason I've barely been to an Altona East game this year. Maybe because it meant nothing, there was hardly anybody there. I was there to watch a friend's son make his senior starting debut as goalkeeper for Clifton Hill. He did OK, but his team still lost 2-1.

Operation Italian White Whale
I've started the idiotic process of trying to update the infamous Victorian Italian club merger chart. It will take a very long time, will probably kill me, and end up being heinously incorrect if I ever do finish it. That being said, if you or someone you know actually knows the dates of Italian club mergers hitherto unrepresented in the current flowchart, please get in contact with me.

I've already had several good leads and prompts, with Anstey Roma's 1970 merger with Triestina, the Cobram split and re-merger, and the Mildura split in 1979/80.

Final thought
Το καλό πράγμα αργή να γίνει as my old man likes to say.


Forgive the lateness of my reply.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Brief secondhand notes from SMFC members forum on 15/08/19

I wasn't there - I was here - this is just stuff that I've absorbed through a mystical aether. 

In some respects much of the following material seems to resemble stuff that would get mentioned at an AGM, just without the detailed financial reports. President Nick Maikousis and club secretary Mario Vinaccia did most of the talking, in front of an attendance of about 30 odd members.

One of the taekwondo practitioners who use the social club for their training dislocated their shoulder on the futsal court just before the members forum started. So, you know, promising start, heinous omen and all that. A speedy recovery to our Olympic hopeful.

The board claimed that the club's external debts would be gone next season, but that director repayments would still be there. Despite the external debt being lifted, money would not be reinvested toward the playing budget. This suggests not only a desire to pursue the club's recently announced and youth product oriented "Baby Blues" program as well as a desire to attract players from other clubs that wish to participate within that ethos - it also suggests a reluctance to get involved in the player wage arms race which is taking place in this league.

In terms of of rumours of players being owed money, the club cited that they use a different payment system to many (if not most) other clubs, with wages being paid monthly even during the off-season. This results in a better (more balanced?) cash flow for the club. The board noted the difficulty of attracting players from other clubs, with the reason being players accepting more lucrative offers from other clubs. I suppose though that no matter what the club says and regardless of whatever the truth may be), rumours of us falling behind in player payments will continue to circulate.

There was a rumour published in Neos Kosmos that Andrew Mesorouni (who was not present at this members forum) was putting the most money into the club and thus controlling the club. This rumour was rejected by the board.

With regards to the stadium, it was noted that at state government level, if AAMI Park is unavailable, Lakeside is the backup. There was concern from members on how our football veto works in this situation, possibly with regards to the arrival of Western United on the scene. There was mention of ongoing issues with the State Sport Centres Trust, some of which related to simple bureaucracy, as it relates as government people coming and going, and (I assume again) relationships (and understandings) having to be built and re-built on a frequent basis. All in all, nothing particularly new here - these are questions which regularly brought up at club sanctioned member gatherings. Still, it's good to see these matters get a run, because they will remain relevant to our well-being for hopefully the next four decades.

There was also some discussion on how to retain young players and parents, miniroos and junior sub-committee which include parents. With regards to the turnover in technical directors, at least in the most recent case it's simply a matter of the hiring of the previous guy not really working out.

It was noted that the league's live-streaming this season had had a noticeable effect on attendances (and gate money) for the negative - this is, to be fair, a league-wide issue. The only saving grace from NPL Victoria's live-streaming was the chance for the club to save some money on our media team costs (even though some of those costs will be lost next season when Football Victoria institute their $5,000 media levy). It was noted also that promised income from the streaming had not eventuated; it's unclear if this is solely a South Melbourne issue, or once again a league-wide issue.

On the matter of bringing back the name "Hellas" now that the National Cub Identity Policy is no longer in operation, the board noted that the name has not been used for decades, and that it was not a pressing issue for the club/board, and not something they were looking to initiate - however, the club's members would ultimately have a say in the matter.

There was the odd (to me at least) situation that there are currently 13-14 (depending on who/how you count) active board members (see right) which exceed's the limitations set by the club's constitution. The board responded that some of these people are observers and/or volunteers, and not decision makers.

There was some discussion about the second division/Championship model, which included the hope (from the board at least; I'm not sure if anyone else agreed) that our latent/dormant/in occultation fan-base would return to the club if it played in a proper second tier. However, as there are still many details to be settled with regards to the second division, it's not really worth discussing it in  much depth.

It was promised that the next AGM would be held this year.

For some reason the old news that Chris Taylor knocked back Nelly Yoa way back when was brought up.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Members forum this Thursday

A members forum has been announced for August 15th (this Thursday) in the social club, with a starting time of 7:00PM.

Unfortunately, due to my Thursday evening radio commitments, I won't be able to attend this meeting. If someone wants to volunteer to act as the people's scribe in my place so we can post something up on South of the Border after the fact, that would be really good. Otherwise I'm going tio have to cobble together stuff from internet babblings.

I'm posting the contest of President Nick Maikousis' email below, because not every member seems to receive emails.

Monday August 12th, 2019 
Dear Members, 
As we near the end of the 2019 NPL Victoria season, I want to take this opportunity to update you on some key issues at our club. Subsequently, I will be holding a members-only forum in our social club on Thursday 15th August starting at 7pm. We will be scheduling regular quarterly member forums so that we can better communicate with our members. 
SMFC is a proud and decorated club in Australian football, with four National League titles, ten State League titles and numerous other honours throughout the last 60 years. However, the hard work has only just begun as we begin setting ourselves up for the next phase in the Australian football landscape. 
As part of this, it is the vision of the board and our fan base to aim at restoring our reputation as a major football club in Australia and broader Asia. By doing so, we will always aim to be playing at the highest levels of the game in this country. As such, we believe that we are currently undertaking important steps to make this happen. 
The club has performed exceptionally in the digital space over a long time by growing our online channels and fan base through mediums such as social media. However, we must build on this and aim at increasing our supporter and member base to ensure that every game SMFC participates in can be seen as a fixture of interest. 
We are also well aware that on-field performances at both senior and junior level need to improve. With this in mind, the Football Department is making positive steps towards this objective. Non-performance is simply not part of the SMFC DNA and is something that we cannot accept. 
The board’s 2019 immediate focus was predominantly to generate additional revenue to assist with reducing club debt and to complete a comprehensive board restructure, which includes implementing a robust marketing and football department. With additional resources and an increase in our volunteer numbers, we envisage that our social club debt will be fully settled by the end of next year. We strongly believe that all these changes and plans will enable us to move forward at lightning speed. 
The 2020/2021 season will bring new challenges, encompassing changes to our game with a new NPL structure and the introduction of a new National League. We are committed to embracing these huge changes to our game and are planning to work closely with the AAFC, Football Victoria and Football Federation Australia to ensure that we are able to hit the ground running in these competitions. 
Finally, I wish to thank you, the South family, for your continued support in what has been a tough year. We have always been proud of being a members-based club and we will remain as such moving into this new era. The Board and Directors of this club are here to represent the membership and we assure you that we will continue to reflect the views outlined by our members. 
An overview of what work has been done at the club can be found below. I look forward to seeing you all at the membership forum on Thursday and during our remaining two matches of the season.
Senior Men 
Despite our inconsistent and at times frustrating performances during the 2019 season, we must take some positive moments away that could see vast improvements on the pitch for the 2020 season. 
We are well aware that our senior team’s performance affects various parts of the business, including support in the stands, membership and the support of our corporate partners. As such, the performance of our senior team has historically been critical at our club and nothing has changed, not even in this era. 
The club has appointed Andre Meyer to the role of Technical Director for next season. With the recent restructure and clear focus on resourcing the football department, we believe we will be ready to make an impact from the opening round in 2020. 
It is also our aim to strengthen our young squad by actively targeting senior and experienced players to compliment the youth coming through our ranks. 
Football Development and Restructured Youth Program
As announced late last year, Michael Valkanis took on the role of Football Ambassador. New Technical Director Andre Meyer will join Michael in driving our football development program in 2020. 
One main focus is to build a strong and welcoming club culture across all our youth teams, whilst at the same time concentrating on the development of individuals as footballers. We have also added additional resources to our MiniRoos and Junior programs, including new community sides in line with the recent Football Victoria changes. 
With added personnel, increases in volunteers and a new direction, we believe these changes will further assist our growth in this area. 
The Baby Blues Program
Some thirty years ago under Brian Garvey, the club had a vision to develop its own youth players and have them experience success at senior level wearing the famous blue and white. We have begun implementing this very strategy this season and will continue doing so in 2020. 
As such, it is our five-year vision to win a senior team championship with at least 60% home-grown players. In the past 18 months, ten players have been promoted from our Under 20s to play senior NPL football for our club. This includes the likes of Will Orford, Manny Aguek, Ben Djiba, Giuseppe and Giordano Marafioti, Zac Bates and George Gerondaras, whilst victorious Under 20s captain Giorgi Zarbos and goalkeepers Amir Jashari and Angelo Rigogiannis have been unused substitutes. 
Senior Women
2019 has seen several changes within our senior women’s team. With numerous championship winning players either moving overseas or relocating interstate for opportunities in the Australian team setup, it left coach Mick Gallo and his staff with a relatively new and very young squad from the early stages of this season. It has resulted in a great opportunity to give many Under 19s youth players an opportunity to test themselves at senior level, as well as the squad to gain experience in a tough NPLW Victoria competition. 
With just a few rounds remaining of the NPLW Victoria regular season, our senior women are still very much in contention for yet another finals appearance and we encourage as many of our supporters to attend their matches to support them in their quest for another championship. 
Corporate Growth
Commerical & General has been the club’s Major Partner in 2019 as well as strategic supporters and a part of the Australian football fabric for over two decades. They are considered to be one of Australia’s leading property development and investment management organisations, boasting major projects across the country. We recently confirmed that Commercial & General has extended its relationship with the club as Major Partner for the next two seasons. 
We are also excited to welcome Pelligra as a Principal Partner for the next two seasons, following Ross Pelligra’s full support during our A-League bid last year. 
It is the aim of the Board and Commercial Operations to grow our corporate base in 2020, including a focus on a return on investment in being associated with SMFC’s strong brand. Our focus on growing and servicing our corporate base is integral in the growth of the club, so we urge all our members and supporters to support the organisations that support our club. 
Finally, we are working towards building long-term passive income streams.
60th Year Club Anniversary 
We proudly celebrate our 60th year anniversary this year. As we all know, in 1959 the Hellenic and Yarra Park clubs merged to form Hellas Soccer Club and a further merger with South Melbourne United formed South Melbourne Hellas. Since then, our club has gone from strength to strength and evolved into the modern-day South Melbourne Football Club. 
Over six decades, we have been at forefront of Australian football and have experienced some incredible and glorious moments. Another consistency throughout our 60 years has been the involvement of volunteers and committed individuals that have driven the passion of our club. Along with the high expectations of our large and passionate fanbase, the existence of volunteers has been a key to our long-term success. 
As a sign of respect and gratitude to all that have helped the club since 1959, we will be recognising and celebrating our anniversary in numerous ways. We have already introduced a heritage anniversary logo created and implemented across club marketing, digital mediums and selected merchandise. We thank our media team for all their hard work in creating this for us. 
We will celebrate our 60th anniversary milestone at numerous events, including at our final game of the NPL Victoria season on Sunday 25 August against Heidelberg United at Lakeside Stadium (kick-off at 3pm). We have invited former players, coaches and officials to join us that day as we farewell the 2019 season and begin looking forward towards 2020. I would love to see as many people from all six decades of our club attend Lakeside Stadium in what promises to be a memorable occasion. 
Back to Back NSL Grand Final Reunion
We will also be recognising the 20-year anniversary of our amazing back-to-back National League Championship teams. 
We will be hosting a special reunion event later in the year at Lakeside Stadium, where we will welcome all players, coaches, staff and key volunteers that were involved in that special achievement. Details are currently being finalised and will be released closer to the day. 
Board Restructure and Update
There has been significant change at board level, with Ross Pelligra, Dennis Durant and Erik Zimmerman joining the board in the past month. They join Peter Kokotis and Tass Roufos, who both joined the board at the last Annual General Meeting, as fresh faces in the new structure. 
Each one of the new additions have joined to strengthen specific areas of our club, including our Commercial and Strategy Sub-Committees. 
We have also taken the strategic initiative to form an Executive Leadership Team for the Youth Development Program and welcome those new members and volunteers to the SMFC family.

National Second Division “The Championship”
In the past twelve months, we undertook a great deal of work regarding the strategic development and business planning as part of the A-League bid. Whilst the result didn’t go our way, the planning undertaken in that particular phase has strengthened the club off the pitch and has positioned us well for the implementation of the Championship.
We have also continued to work hard behind the scenes to ensure that we are ready to participate in this newly formed league. Whilst we were the only operating football club to reach the final stages of the recent A-League expansion process, we are in no way assuming that a place in the Championship will be handed to us. 
Subsequently, we will continue to be involved with the formulation and structure of the Championship via our unequivocal support of the AAFC. For those unaware, the AAFC is playing a hugely critical role with numerous federations and other key stakeholders to make this concept work for Australian Football. We would like to congratulate our former long-standing Chairman Nick Galatas in his recent appointment as new AAFC Chairman. 
Recently, I attended an open meeting with FFA Chairman Chris Nikou, who was fully supportive of a more conventional football system which included the introduction of the Championship. 
NCIP Changes
Like many other clubs, we are of the view that this has been a significant step forward for Australian Football and support the broader views of the football community regarding this change. 
All clubs will be provided with a simple set of guidelines moving forward with the removal of the NCIP, but it remains critical that no other community is offended, insulted or discriminated. 
Personally, I envisage little change in terms of the operations of our club position and branding. 
From a club perspective, most understand our long and rich heritage and they certainly understand the strong ties between South Melbourne and the huge Greek Community throughout the nation. 
The reality is that that it has been three decades since we have actively used the Hellas brand in our daily operations and at this stage we are not looking to make any sudden changes to the club’s identity. However, we must also remember that we’re a members-based club and the views of the membership will be heard and ultimately determine our destiny.

Yours in football, 
Nicholas Maikousis

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Circus - Oakleigh Cannons 4 South Melbourne 1

I managed to overcome the ordeal of a dodgy public information system on the train to get off at the right station - though the confusion interrupted my reading of Steve Kilbey's autobiography, though I have little in The Church - head to Jack Edwards early enough to watch not much of the under 20s game, even though I could've watched most of it. Instead the time was spent having deep and meaningful discussions about life and all that it entails.

That, and having a customary pre-game chat with former South and now Oakleigh assistant coach Chris Marshall, discussing football of all things, and what had transpired over the past couple of seasons.

As for the game itself, the big question was which South would turn up to the game? The good one, the mediocre one, or the terrible one? All three as it turned out. You can read about that in appropriate depth on Luke's blog. Or you can do a google search and try and find his poem about schnitzel.

But let's be fair - the way Oakleigh has been performing for the past three and a half months, no matter how well we played, we probably wouldn't have been able to match them. Three months and a half months... think back to that time - a time when both ourselves and Oakleigh were playing abysmal football, and Oaks managed to win what was pound-for-pound one of the worst games of football I've ever seen.

At any level. In any code.

We started with Josh Dorron in goals, because Nikola Roganovic had accrued five yellows. Pretty soon Dorron was being forced to make save after save - sometimes in the same sequence of play - and the signs looked ominous for us. That we actually sort of settled and won a a maybe dubious penalty - our first for the season, and which we scored from! - didn't really make things any less ominous.

Credit to Bates though. Despite his dodgy hamstrings, which are always on the verge of snapping into oblivion, probably no one else could've run fast enough to get to that ball and win that penalty.

Oh, and credit to Marcus Schroen for putting away the penalty. We'll remember it fondly, if only because who knows when we'll get our next spot kick, let alone score from one?

But the good times weren't going to last forever, with Oakleigh equalising from a sequence of play involving a shot off the crossbar and an easy tuck away that I won't be revisiting on the highlights package. Apologies to George who compiles the highlights, and desperately needs views on the club's youtube channel so the club can hypothetically promote its metrics to sponsors, but this year I'm in mid-1990s Paul Mavroudis the Collingwood fan mode, where I avoid Saturday replays if the Pies had lost. And back then, it happened too often.

If memory serves me correct, Oakleigh had an offside goal disallowed, and forced several more good saves from Dorron in the first half. For our part, we still looked lively, at least on the counter. Once we got to the dangerous areas of the ground, things tended to fall apart, but it was nice to get that far.

And if Pep Marafioti's well-guided header had gotten past John Honos late in the first half, well, it provided a case of what might have been.

Nah. We probably still would've lost.

In the end, the what-ifs and might-have-beens were settled the old-fashioned way - by what actually happened on the field. And the second half from our lads was not good, while Oakleigh maintained their relatively (proportionally?) high standard of play.

It finished 4-1 - and not 5-1 as someone in the nearby in the crowd had thought, but I forgive them - but it could've been so many more for them, and maybe one more for us. Two of the goals we conceded were carbon copies (or at least rough ad libbed short term memory copies) of each other, crosses headed down and slammed home. The fourth goal was some dodgy keeping from Josh Dorron, who probably scuppered any chance he had of ever being considered a permanent first choice keeper in NPL Victoria from 2020 onward.

That's a slightly harsh call, since he'd pulled out a number of excellent saves on the night, but why should Josh avoid being made a scapegoat? Pretty much everyone else of even half note had copped it. Perry Lambropoulos, Marcus Schroen, Pep and Gio Marafioti, Nick Krousoratis, Jake Marshall, Kristian Konstantinidis, Billy Konstantinidis, even Josh's main rival for the goalkeeping spot, Nikola Roganovic.

The presence of Milos Lujic made the final 15 minutes of a game that
 was cooked, slightly amusing for a gaggle of fools, this reporter included.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Speaking of scapegoats, former champion of the club and scapegoat for some of what happened last year (for the five people at the club who don't put the entire blame on the board and Sasa Kolman) Milos Lujic made an appearance off the bench for Oaks, after which he was cheered out of respect for being a South legend, and then absurdly cheered upon by a section of Clarendon Corner encouraging him to score, and mock abusing our defenders for denying him a goal.

Well, some found it funny. Others saw it as a more of a last straw, seeing nothing noble or amusing in the self-loathing on display. They probably prefer their self-loathing to be directed inward perhaps, or maybe even just want straight up loathing directed toward them by others. Hey, it takes all sorts.

Some people are saying there's a lot of difficult decisions to be made during the off-season, but is it really so? As long as we're comparatively skint (either because we're broke or saving pennies for the alleged second division), the kind of player we'll be able to attract is not likely to be a game changing player. With the instability on the coaching front over the past two years, it's unlikely as well that we'll be able to get a "name" coach, or even a promising up and comer, so chances are we'll probably end up with Esteban Quintas for another season not because he's the best candidate for the job, but only because

That instability goes for the backroom machinations as well - a new technical director, a shuffling of the deck chairs in terms of who's responsible for the football department. The board promised us a competitive team, and at times - even plenty of times, if I'm being fair - the team was competitive. Just not often enough, and certainly not for long enough in most games. The board also said that the aim was finals, and from a finals perspective, the last two games are now officially a wash for us. Already a long shot, our loss on Friday night put paid to our chances of making an unrealistic and frankly undeserved tilt at the title. What's more, other results over the weekend meant that the top six is locked in - no one can get in or out, with only final positions up for grabs.

All we've got left is some experimenting with youngsters, and denying the Bergers what I still calln the minor premiership.

Next game
This week is a Dockerty Cup and designated catch up weekend, and thus there is no senior men's fixture on this week. We're back at home not this Sunday, but the one after, against fellow 2019 also-ran Altona Magic.

In the meantime, our senior women have an important game against Heidelberg away this Sunday afternoon at Olympic Village.

As for me, I'm going to spend the week - or portions of it - at the film festival.

So, er, what now for the juniors?
A little while back, we engaged the services of former South player Michael Valkanis - who was an assistant to John Van ’t Schip at PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands - as a sort of distance education coach for our junior program. Now Van ’t Schip is the Greek national men's team coach, and it appears as if Valkanis will follow him there. I don't know if part of the club's arrangements with Valkanis was meant to see us access some of the know-how at Zwolle or not, and if, whether that was actually followed through with.

Still, you'd like to think that a national team job would generally incorporate a lower day-to-day workload, so would this mean Mike could do more work with our kids? I don't know.

Media news
Since the resignation of previous Football Victoria media and communications guy Teo Pellizerri earlier this year, FV has outsourced its media to a company run by Michael Zappone and some other bloke, with news yet to come about what FV has planned for next year on whether the outsourcing will continue.

But one part of next year's local media landscape has been revealed, with Football Victoria sending out a memo to all NPL clubs informing them that they'll be charged a $5,000 levy for marketing and promotion in 2020. For that cost, clubs will receive:
  • a pre-season photo-shoot (team and individual players), for clubs to use in their own marketing.
  • access to Football Victoria's media studio for podcast and content production.
  • access to a central club portal for video footage.
  • the chance for clubs to include their own advertising on live streaming (up to 10% of allocated advertising banners).
  • match day photography for each club, at least once per season.
  • written match reports and previews.
In and of itself, such a move is not necessarily a bad thing. What it is, however, is a realignment of the nature of what is expected of NPL clubs. Previously, there was a degree of autonomy and self-reliance expected of teams - it's your club, and if you don't promote it to the fullest extent of your capabilities, that was on you. Thus the quality of what clubs were able to produce varied significantly, not just because of cost, but because of the lack of will and organisation.

Teams that wanted to spend more, or who had the organisational and/or volunteer capacity to do so, tended to do better work. Those that didn't, often did nothing at all. I suppose then, that the problem with this initiative - even though I would say its intent is good - is how much value will the clubs get back? For clubs who have already invested in equipment and people over a number of years to do this stuff for them, the benefits seem likely to be modest at best.

For those clubs who have struggled with getting volunteers to do this stuff, or who have rarely bothered to make an effort, will they all of a sudden become more likely to become media players? I'm not optimistic, especially as it concerns being able to make a return on this forced investment. As long time South media volunteer Skip Fulton notes:
Being in a competition where crowds are low for all sorts of reasons, and where most club income comes from junior fees and the largesse of wealthy club patrons - the latter of whom will never see a monetary return on their investment - it's almost like misreading the room on why someone sponsors a club in the first place.

As far as I'm concerned, more media and more coverage of Victorian soccer is not a bad thing. But the expectations around that - especially the implied notion that such increased media will increase sponsorship - is misguided. More media content under our current situation is good for historical and record keeping purposes, good for providing training and opportunities for young media hopefuls, and good for engaging (up to a point) extant audiences.

But revenue? Crowds are too small and too fragmented to be useful to potential non-traditional sponsors. Live streams do not have the commercial credibility of free-to-air broadcasts, especially when the quality of play is poor, the crowds low, and the atmosphere non-existent.

Other questions remain up in the air. Will NPL 2 and 3 (or whatever those league are going to be called) teams going to be slugged this levy as well, even though they will get less value? Will people providing services to FV - such as the live stream commentators - actually get paid for their efforts?

Skipping ahead to the fights
My interest in the rest of this league and pretty much all competitions below it, is cactus for 2019. The notable exception is the relegation battle that thank Christ we're not involved in anymore.

But even that relegation battle is barely engaging my interest. I tried watching moments of the Dandenong Thunder vs Pascoe Vale game, and got bored pretty quickly. Turns out that I would have been less bored had I popped in the approximately 74th minute mark, where a run of the mill foul and then a Pascoe Vale player kicking the ball - hard - into a prone opponent kicked off an on-field scuffle, which got on to the fence, and even made the cinematic leap into avant-garde film-making when the live stream camera was filming the Paco cameraman filming the violence; a cameraman by the way who had gone all Arnie Pie and wanted to make the news. At least he had the good grace to later apologise for getting involved.

Compared to that, the scuffle near the players' race - with pitch invader - at the Port vs Bergers game seemed almost telescopically quaint.

Final thought
Thanks to Johnny for the lift back to the city on Friday. You've been a champ on that front this year.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Safe (again) - South Melbourne 3 Dandenong Thunder 0

George Gerondaras did an admirable job at right-back.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The most blessed thing about this win is not only the fact that it secures our Victorian top-flight tenure for another year, but that it does so with a nice, clean, and unambiguous three games to spare. Say what you want about the squad's calibre, its erratic performances, and its baffling inability to score goals at regular intervals - when comparing 2019's team to last year's, this year's side is officially at least three points better than what was dished up last year.

That's no claim to fame for a club like ours, which will almost certainly miss the finals for a second year running, but you've got to acknowledge even incremental improvement where you can find it.

We looked sharp from the start - Gerrie Sylaidos launching a looping shot which the Thunder keeper was just awake enough for - and took the lead about ten minutes in after a (let's call it a) right-footed cross from Pep Marafioti was bunted in - just - by Billy Konstantinidis. There was confusion in the stands about whether the goal had crossed the line, but there were no complaints from the opposition defenders, even though one of our marshals behind that goal later claimed online that the ball had not crossed the line.

Apart from a ten minute patch in the first half - predictably arriving after about 25 minutes - Thunder didn't really cause us too many problems in the opening 45 minutes, while we wasted more chances. Pep Marafioti hit a right foot(!) shot off a turn on the edge of the box that cannoned off the crossbar, and that was just one of the chances we didn't get full value for.

The second half was pretty good from us, but without having yet put away the second goal, and with Thunder's season on the line, there were bound to be some nervous moments. We got two or three big ones, and somehow managed to dodge all of them. A long-range shot which drifted wide; a goal called back late (albeit correctly) for offside; and a soft header from a tight angle which should've been harmless, but Roganovic had slipped, managing to at least palm the ball away for a corner.

What would've happened had we conceded an equaliser with 15 or so to play? Who knows, but I wouldn't have been thinking good thoughts. Luckily for us, Kosta Stratomitros headed home a Sylaidos corner for the second week running, and that killed off the Thunder resistance on and off the pitch. There had been a reasonable and quite sweary presence of Thunder fans in the stands, but perhaps not as many would've been had Preston not been playing North Sunshine in a championship decider. Once the second goal left, those fans started to leave, and missed Marcus Schroen's close range goal for 3-0.

The man of the match probably went to George Gerondaras, who played a good game at right-back in place of Ben Djiba for some reason or other. Gerondaras put in some very timely tackles during the first half, as well as one poor one which got him a yellow. Ironically, it was probably that yellow which saved him from getting a yellow later on after he attempted a very blatant form of time-wasting and slowing down of the play; either that, or the referee took pity on George's youth and inexperience. Still, it was an impressive performance, give or take the odd nervous and rushed moment.

But the thinking person's man of the match though probably goes to Jake Marshall, who kept Brandon Barnes very quiet. Shut down Barnes, who's been single-handedly keeping Thunder's season alive, and you're halfway to getting a result over his team.

Finals prognostication (status: enjoy it while it lasts)
I bet a few you didn't think this was at likely to be a possibility before last Sunday afternoon. Probably most of you still don't think we're a chance, and that's fair enough too.

Some of you may not even want a finals appearance, thinking perhaps that we'd be ripe for humiliation should be make it - or maybe you're a club financier who would hate to make a late run to the finals, which would only result in several win bonuses and a finals game (or heaven forbid, two) where we wouldn't get the gate.

The sums are pretty straightforward: barring some colossal screw up by Gully and/or Hume in their remaining three games, the best we could possibly manage in 2019 is sixth. To do that, we'd need to "run the table" to borrow a phrase from American football parlance - that is, we'd need to win every game.

That's not going to happen, especially when you consider our erratic form up to this point, our poor goal difference, and the fact that sixth placed Oakleigh has a game in hand.

Just be happy (or less unhappy) that I can omit the bottom three teams from this screen-cap.

Next game
Oakleigh away on Friday night. They're undefeated in the league for like, forever at the moment. Quite possible that a few more South people than usual will be streaming this one.

Match day revenue idea for the social club?
Flying off the production line (just don't ask where...)
Congratulations to the under 20s, who managed to secure their championship with a comfortable win over Thunder on Sunday. While I'm sure the boys would've wanted to go through the season undefeated, at least the previous week's loss to Hume allowed the team to win the championship on home turf.

I watched the first half of the curtain-raiser, as has become my late season mini-habit, from inside the scoreboard control room, and the second half from inside the social club - well, I watched the last portion of the second half in the social club once someone with authority and the requisite know-how put the stream on the screens inside the social club, while I enjoyed a burger (quite good, and also delivered quickly), and not-so-much-enjoyed a slice of galaktobouriko (too custardy and runny, instead of the proper firmer texture, courtesy of skimping on the semolina I'm guessing here; also deficient in syrup for my liking).

Speaking of the social club, what's going on in there? They've upped the prices of the souvlaki from $8 to $10 because of an increase in the cost of lamb (according to a notice at ye olde ordering station), but one food critic sitting at my table also noted that the souv had seemingly shrunk in size from the usual offering - and the large chips was also a much diminished serve compared to what was produced so far this season.

In addition to all that, one thing which came to my attention courtesy of, well, being told about it, was the periodic inability of people to buy booze at the bar because one of the main people manning the register and bar area was underage, and thus not licensed to serve alcohol to patrons. I mean, good on the kid for following the rules, but the social club operators have really got to sort this out by the start of next year.

South Melbourne, NPL under 20 champions for 2019. Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Anyway, back to the under 20s. They got a warm reception from the crowd during the early part of the second half of the senior game as they walked in front of the grandstand.

Of course while we're all very happy for the boys on their deserved title, quite a few people will be asking how many if any of them will end up playing senior football for the club in the near future.

My answer to that would be, well, who knows? It's very hard for any club to create teams made up mostly or even significantly of its youth products, and the higher up the divisions that team is, the harder it is. Perhaps with the lower senior men's wage budget, there may be more room for our youth products to come through.

Either that, or we'll do what we normally do - let them wander across the cursed earth of Victorian for a few years, before picking them up again down the track after they've played for Bentleigh or someone like that.

Final thought
Already with the rumours about who we're signing next year! Hold off until the season is officially over you ghouls!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Existential malaise - Hume City 3 South Melbourne 1

This post is late because I only just managed to get back home via public transport after to walk into the wind after the game back to the station.

If last season was a nightmarish, self-inflicted disaster of a season, it was still possible to view it as an aberration; an overdue or ahead-of-schedule correction to several pretty good years - good years which perhaps existed in spite of good club stewardship rather than because of it.

With four games to go in a second consecutive below mediocre season, we're now wondering at best where and when this meandering operation will end. Will it end in eventual relegation, if not this year or next, then in the year after? No one can really see a way out of this torpor at the moment, and it's a torpor which extends throughout the club. On field it has been an erratic shambles, and off-field there seems to be no energy, no drive, no purpose. That this has happened in a 60th anniversary year - which so far has been celebrated mostly via occasional commemorative merchandise - has some fans particularly concerned.

Worst of all, it seems as if a good portion of those most rusted on South fans have thrown in the towel, if not permanently, than at least for the remainder of this season. Our fan base post-NSL has been cleaved off, then chipped away, and now perhaps we're at the stage where those remaining are being weathered away.  I've long maintained that boasts about club loyalty are just that, and that everyone has a breaking point. Now we're seeing people who would seldom miss a game home or away finding better things to do. Even more concerning, a good deal of those still attending often do so with regret and a kind of self-loathing.

Anyway, from a superficial perspective, the fact that there were four goals in this game at least points towards an extant entertainment factor. The reality though is that the game was a mess. A gale force wind blowing straight down the ground made play extremely difficult. At least we got the nominal benefit of that wind during the first half, not that it actually did us any good. We created three or four pretty good chances, failed to take any of them, and for the rest of the time sent in a whole bunch of wayward crosses that sailed out of play. Of course all this was made worse by the fact that Hume scored into the breeze, with a free kick no less. That was pretty much the game right there, because if we couldn't keep the home team out when they were going against the wind, how were we going to do it when they were kicking with it?

The answer was that we couldn't. We conceded two more goals, which probably looked worse from the other end of the field where I was standing then closer to the action. I suppose it was nice of us to score a goal from a corner a - Gerrie Sylaidos corner - when the game was already done, and by which time most of the behind the goals crew had already left. And at least we fought the game out, which is more than can be said for the tail-end of last season. But the bigger problems remain, and we can only that we'll have a chance to solve them in NPL rather than in NPL 2 (or whatever they remain the the tier below us next season).

There's an old Dr Katz joke about the three most dangerous parts of flying being takeoff, landing, and the bit in the middle, and that's pretty much our situation at the moment. Neither the forwards, defenders, or midfielders are adequately doing their job, though I will be gentler on the defenders for having to put up with a rudderless central midfield operation. There has not been a settled lineup all season, only some of which can be put down to injury, and far more towards recruitment. We can't even keep the nerve of hanging on to the same goalkeeper during a recent undefeated streak, where even if Josh Dorron's performances have been a little iffy, than at least he has been no worse than Nikola Roganovic.

But anyway, that's short term stuff. Who's going to coach us next year? Who would stay? Who would even want to come to us in this state?

Next game / Relegation battle (status: sadly still in play)
Another week, another mixed bag of results for us on this front.

After leading 2-1 at one point during the first half, Kingston lost 5-2 to Gully. The day before, Pascoe Vale had lost 2-1 to Knights. That's the good news.

With four games to go, only a complete South Melbourne catastrophe and simultaneous turnaround in form from either of the bottom two would see us land in 13th or 14th.

Unfortunately for us, a finish in the relegation playoff spot still remains in play. That's thanks to our three game win-less streak, as well as Dandenong Thunder picking up a point at home to Avondale on the weekend.

It could've been worse - Thunder had an early lead, and late on in the piece Brandon Barnes missed what was by his standards a very gettable chance.

So this week's game against Thunder is obviously huge. This is especially the case for Thunder, who need to win the game in order to have any chance of getting out of the bottom three.

A draw for us should be enough to save us in 2019.

Women's team
Not much better news on this front, though at least our seniors are still in with a chance at finals. Last night they lost 3-1 to Bulleen, but considering our very young cohort and the fact that we had to use an outfielder and chief scorer as a goalkeeper as a starter, it could've been worse. First choice keeper was seriously injured last week, and our backup walked out during the week or before that. We even managed to take the lead yesterday and didn't look too bad in general play, in what was a turnover fest in the first half. Second half Bulleen managed to compose themselves and keep us at bay. Sofia Sakalis seems to have a lot on her shoulders, with almost everything useful having to go through her this year, but you hope she'll get a lot out of this season because of it.

Final thought
I haven't really been watching much other NPL this season, and certainly not Hume games, but has that chanting group of theirs been there all season? It seems unlikely to me. Didn't notice them at the earlier fixture between our sides this year. Maybe it's only a special occasion thing. If that's the case, it's nice to think that we still warrant that kind of respect and/or attention. Special props also to the gaggle of teenagers chanting "fuck South Melbourne" and thumping the lid of a bin. You the real deal, not like us who had to be pleaded with to chant by Hume goalkeeper Michael Weier.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Something which I only just became aware of

One really important thing to note about tomorrow's game against Hume - the senior match is on at 5:30, and that will be followed by the under 20s match at 7:45.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The season starts now - South Melbourne 1 Melbourne Knights 1

Everyone seemed fascinated by this pink-purple sky, with some of ours
 fans forgetting their troubles momentarily to take photos of the unreal sky.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Walking into the social club on Sunday, and seeing the trophy cabinets empty of all their trophies and associated paraphernalia, I was little bit concerned. Where was everything? Had we been robbed by people so careful so as to not break the glass cases? Did we melt down the silver - assuming there were any precious metals in the trophies - to pay off debt collectors?

Well actually it was because everything had been taken out because the social club had been used to film some television show about WAGs. Still, nothing had been put back in by game day Sunday, so there's three or four us squinting at photos of what the cabinet layouts used to look like, arranging display boxes, putting the trophies back in, and worst of all, hopelessly trying to put the various pennants in.

Instead of having convenient hooks from which to hang the pennants, the pennants almost invariably required to be screwed into tiny-and-very-difficult-to-access-without-Olympic-gymnast-contortions  holes in the ceilings of the cabinets. And you'd thought the social club's kitchen layout was messed up! I would love to meet whoever was responsible for choosing tiny screw holes instead of well-placed hooks.

But at least we got most of the stuff back in there (on way or another) before most of the visiting Cros turned up to shame us for our empty trophy cabinets. Still, at least we have our NSL championship trophies, unlike another club - just don't ask me where our NSL Cup trophies are

Speaking of the social club kitchen, I know I get to the ground pretty early compared to most people, but the arrival of my hamburger was very fast this week regardless of this fact, and I'm sure we're all really happy for me. I sat down to enjoy my burger (and later washed it down with a tasty beverage), and then watched the women's game being played outside but watched by me on the big screen (when it was eventually put on), only to see that we were already 2-0 down to the mighty 2019 Calder side, and thus pretty much already cooked.

Credit to our girls - and they mostly are girls, age-wise - they put in a good fight, and even tried to cheat their way to an own goal via a handball (which was easily spotted by the referee), but they were outclassed and out-muscled. Worse, it looks like we may have lost our starting keeper Erin Hudson, who came off midway through the second half with what looked like a serious arm injury - she was replace by an outfielder in goal, which didn't really result in a shellacking any worse than I would've thought we'd have copped before the game.

It does help keep the scoreline somewhat respectable when your backpass(?) floats over the makeshift keeper's head, bounces onto the sodden yet still springy turf and somehow up into the crossbar, staying out. But that and the late goal we pinched were just about the only things that went right for our senior women on the day - it's been that kind of season, and yet they're still in with a shot at the finals.

The rain came down throughout the senior men's game, but managed to avoid hitting Row H, which is all I really cared about. Now some people said this was a terrible game, the worst ever derby between two sides, but I felt that was a bit harsh. The game was played in difficult conditions, by two fairly ordinary teams, but it was attacking and entertaining. I don't think anyone was bored by what was on display on Sunday. Unimpressed? Sure, why not, that's their right - people are overly cynical these days and just as prone to nostalgia as they've always been - but I don't expect miracles of skill from NPL players and teams (or maybe I've subconsciously lowered my standards since the end of the Chris Taylor glory days).

The players are there (for at least some of us) to entertain us as well as try and get points, and on Sunday they did that. Gerrie Sylaidos put us ahead after 16 seconds with a nice low drive from distance, and that was nice. Of course all one could think of after that was how long would it take for Knights to equalise, and the answer was ten minutes, with pretty much their first meaningful foray forward. The game ebbed and flowed after that - we had the better of the first half, Knights the better of the second, but neither side dominated an entire half, nor were they able to prevent their opponents from creating chances against the run of play.

Each team had a candidate for miss of the season in this match. For us, it was Billy Konstantinidis inexplicably refusing to stick a toe out to tap in a Brad Norton cut-back that was rolling right in front of him in the six yard box. For Knights, it was Gian Albano blasting a loose ball over the bar from from eight yards out directly in front, with the whole goal at his mercy. There were too many close calls to count apart from that, but thankfully we managed to walk away with a point, because we could've ended up with less.

Apart from surviving a nervous finish, the other highlight was getting to pig out on leftover Krispy Kreme doughnuts that the women's team hadn't finished, and getting called a fat bastard (or words to that effect) for my troubles. I regret nothing.

Next game
Hume away on Saturday night

Relegation battle (status: nearly safe)
Being typically bold in my prognoses and estimations of the future, I'm prepared to call it... almost. Look, it's no longer a question of misplaced optimism or even that chewed out phrase "mathematical possibility". We're pretty much safe. It would take a monumental disaster for us to fall into the bottom three even from this far out, and trhe chasing pack would have to climb over a couple of other sides to get there first in any regard.

Kingston's win over the Bergers on Monday night is irrelevant to us. They're still on the bottom of the table, twelve points behind us, with just 15 points up for grabs. More relevant to us, Pascoe Vale and Dandy Thunder both lost, and are eleven points behind us. While it's not beyond the realms of possibility that we could fail to take any points from our remaining games, it would still require either Paco or Thunder to go on the kind of run that their form thus far this season has suggested they will not.

Those two teams also play each other on the run home, so one or both will probably be knocked out by the result of that game by that stage, with their best hope likely being getting into the playoff spot and facing what could be a very weak NPL 2 team.

Of course from our point of view, such things are nothing to be proud of, especially for a second season in a row - but it could be worse.

Blessed technicalities 
On the terraces I was having a chat with everyone's second or third favourite viking (depending on whether you're a Hagar the Horrible fan or not), about whether a team had ever been relegated from this competition despite reaching the 28 point tally that we have already accrued this season. And the answer is, "short answer ‘yes’ with an ‘if,’ long answer ‘no’ with a ‘but.’”. In 2014, Werribee City finished in 12th place, in what would later become but was not in that season the playoff spot. It is also worth noting that while officially Werribee and Port finished on 28 points apiece, the video tape of the game they played against each other in the final round of that season went missing almost immediately, and thus one is tempted to not consider the resultant points tallies anything resembling a legitimate outcome.

Retro/commemorative jerseys
The club is close to releasing some retro style jerseys - see the details below if you're into that kind of thing.
Match programs
I have added a couple of programs from 1979, and several away programs from season 1999-2000. More stuff will be added as the weeks go by, I hope.

On the couch
Dead but alive, alive but dead
Tuned into the Kingston vs Bergers game on Monday night. Kingston scored a rank dodgy early goal through Chris Irwin, and managed to keep the Bergers to few meaningful chances for the rest of the game. That's about all I could really say of this game, which was neither a great nor poor spectacle, and had little influence on whatever it is that South is trying to accomplish this season.

Final thought
We didn't want him!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Mental health day - Green Gully 0 South Melbourne 0

If Football Victoria still had a prize for photo of the year, I'd submit this, but you
know the PC wowsers wouldn't allow a pic of a man having a durry to win any
 accolades, being obsessed with anodyne wholesomeness. Photo: Luke Radziminksi
Well it seems a good number of you took the advice I dished out last week and took a mental health day last Saturday, perhaps anticipating that we would be crunched by a superior team. Or maybe you were told by people at the club that it was in your best interests to stay away for a while. Or maybe you were tired from staying up all night watching the cricket world cup for some stupid reason.

Not that I have official data to back up the following claim, but this was the lowest crowd I can remember attending a fixture between these two sides at this ground since, like, I can remember attending. But then I remembered that most games this season have felt that way, especially as the season has wore on, and I was less alarmed and more placated that we actually just collectively continuing towards our ethnic senior soccer death spiral; although giving it the name of "death spiral" gives it too much balletic street-cred.

But those who did attend managed to at least see our side put in if not a remarkable than at least a creditable performance, of the sort that makes you upset with getting only a point where before the game you were contemplating sacrificing animals to petty ancient gods for us to get a mere point.

As to what caused us to put in what was for 2019 an above average performance.. I don't know. Was it the possible formation change? Was there even a formation change? I couldn't tell. There were some players not in their usual arrangement, and some players on the field with players they have usually not been on the field with this year, but that could go for a lot of games. Also the sun was in our eyes, and there was a pre-season warmth that kind of distracted a little from precise analysis of the action.

I will say that part of what was responsible for the improvement compared to several recent weeks was Gully's performance. They looked very good against Avondale the week before, but were a bit less sharp on Saturday. It's also possible that Gully played right into our hands with their style of play, playing a high line and being willing to attack. In cases such as that, this season has shown us that as long as we don't concede, this kind of situation suits us just fine, as it allows us to counter-attack via the wings and in this case also up the middle with long balls over the top of the high line.

Melvin Becket sends the ball wide of the goal and wide of
 former South keeper Jerrad Tyson. Photo: Cindy Nitsos
Unfortunately, we were unable to score from any of the four or so pretty good chances created in the first half. Pep Marafioti delayed shooting, approached the keeper, did not pass the ball to an open Peter Skapetis, and then took a shot straight into former South custodian Jerrad Tyson. Skapetis himself was more unfortunate then incompetent when his initial shot was blocked by an almost stranded Tyson, before the quick follow-up shot from the save hit the one Gully player in the way of the goal. Ben Djiba made an enterprising run on the right, but was unable to get either a shot away nor pass the ball to a waiting striker. Finally, Melvin Becket did all the hard work dribbling his way to the six yard box, only to stumble over his own feet and place his off-balance shot wide.

Having witnessed all that, one assumed that our comeuppance was near, especially within the last four minutes of the first half; but that comeuppance did not arrive. Sure, we were not as good in the second, and certainly did not find the space behind Gully's defence that we did in the first. But for all Gully's improvement, they were seldom able to seriously threaten our back four. I think they only managed the one shot on target for the whole game, and thankfully Josh Dorron was able to keep it out - a long range free kick from Jay Davies curled towards the top right hand corner, but Dorron was able to extend his large frame and palm the ball away.

Not the first lemon tree to be spotted at an NPL ground.
Photo. Luke Radziminski. 
Some of our defensive efforts were a bit more acrobatic than perhaps necessary, bringing out calls from me and Dave of "I see you know your judo well, sir", which while funny (of course) didn't fit, because judo is about throws and not acrobatic kicking. We perhaps could've made a better stab at taking all three points if we made more than one substitution, but we didn't, even though there were players like Gerrie Sylaidos who were completely gassed with about ten to play. One hopes that the reluctance to make more than one change was due to tactical considerations and not we can't afford to pay the players this week considerations.

But we could've also made a better play at getting all three points if we were a little bit smarter in the second half, and not so much trying to second guess ourselves. I'm thinking here of the mess of a free kick concocted by Billy Konstantinidis and Marcus Schroen from a good position. True, the defensive wall was a bit close for my liking, and true again that free kick taking is a hard enough business, but elaborate games of misdirection are best left to people in better leagues; in the NPL, just let someone take the shot without too much showboating and get on with the game.

Anyway the refereeing was good, until such time as the ref needed to make difficult decisions, and then his performance went down the gurgler. For those who care about such things, it was our first scoreless draw since midway through 2017, and it also continued our unbeaten run at Green Gully Reserve, which has been going since we beat Gully in the first round in 2013. More importantly, we got a point out of the whole thing, and I got a match program because Gully is one of the two clubs still producing those things.

One more thing
It was interesting to see the lack of sponsor boards at Green Gully. Now we won't get into the ins and outs of who's a paid sponsor at Lakeside and who might only be there as decoration (or even if we have that many sponsors from outside the circle of the board); but knowing that these things happen at clubs lower down the food-chain, I always wondered how many sponsor boards at NPL clubs were actually from active sponsors.

Under such circumstances, one wonders if there's scope for putting in decorative/club themed boards instead, or at least keeping some redundant sponsor boards for a heritage role... Buddy's Mobile Disco at least deserves more than it's current fate of paint and rust decay with its face turned away from the ground and toward the north wind.

Next game
The Knights at home on Sunday afternoon. They'll be coming off a midweek Dockerty Cup game against Bulleen.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, gentlest of easing)
Not much changed on the relegation avoiding front this week - which is broadly good news for us, because it means that the teams in the bottom three who are trying to get out of the relegation and playoff spots are running out of time to do so.

Nearer to us, Port lost to Hume, the Dandy derby was a draw, and Pascoe Vale beat Kingston 2-0 to make it highly improbable that Kingston will be able to make it up to 11th. So we have a 10 point buffer to 12th (and 13th) with a maximum of 18 points up for grabs.

In our remaining games, it's the one against Dandy Thunder that'll likely be crucial. Let's hope we get some points on the board before then so that it's not crucial. Thunder are also due to play Pascoe Vale in the run home, so someone's going to have to take points off someone there.

Deckchairs on the Titanic
What is even this? I'm not going to pretend that I have any idea anymore how our football operations work, who does what, and what exactly it is they do. It's like people who work in offices - what do they do? So many buildings, so many offices, so many people in offices doing what, I don't know. Anyway back to the matter at hand. In summary, board member Andrew Mesourouni, previously in charge of junior football, is now in charge of the senior men's football department. Former general manager of the club Peter Kokotis, who was appointed football manager (senior men) last November, has now been put in charge of the juniors in conjunction with Mike Valkanis. Except that the latest article says "We welcome Peter back to the club." - so was Peter with us or wasn't he?

NCIP is gone
So it's gone. Now what? Will any major ethnic club officially revert to an older name? I can't really see that happening - especially those with a hankering to get into the mooted second division - but there's certainly more scope for blended branding incorporating old and new. I can also see some fans taking matters into their own hands, which will no doubt lead to some very mature outcomes. After all, freedom of expression for you is also freedom of expression for someone else; and has often been the case, it only take a minority of people to cause a fuss, and then for the rest of the club to either actively or passively condone the said fuss.

But I'm thinking of this stuff like it's current. Surely everyone has moved on, grown up, got a new hobby.

For our part, there's discussion about whether we should go back to South Melbourne Hellas, bring back the old logo, etc. I think most of our extant supporters are comfortable enough with the South Melbourne FC branding, and the possible use of 'Hellas' to augment that as a nickname or some such. I'd be in favour of an updated logo along the lines of the current commemorative badge, if for no other reason than that I've disliked the current one for a long time.

The most important thing though is that whatever the club and its members decide to do, it's now our choice, and not someone else's, which was one of the main points of my gripe about the NCIP in the first place.

What's happening with the Puskas film?
A few people asked about this a little while back, and I can't really provide a definitive answer. All that I know for sure is that quite a few interviews were done, that there seems to be a good story there, and after that... silence. Is money an issue? Is it competing projects? Have the boys fallen out among themselves?

If there's issues with getting the project going to the next stage - whatever that stage may be - I'm sure there's people that can help. Because as much as there's South fans wanting to know what's happening with the film, I'm guessing the people who've already been interviewed would also be asking what's going on with the film - and for them, it's not a just a movie, it's the story of an amazing moment in their lives.

You know, I actually got around to watching Rob, Cam and Tony's previous sports documentary The Galahs the other day, and I can see what they'd like to do with the Puskas film. Hopefully whatever's holding up production of the Puskas film is easy to enough to resolve, because it's a great story with much broader appeal than Harry Beitzel's Irish adventure, and a lot more archival footage to play with among other things.

On the couch
Not setting the couch on fire, yet
Watched Kingston at home to Pascoe Vale last night, in a real ordinary relegation six-pointer. It was good news for Pascoe Vale, but bad news for Kingston and people who inexplicably like Monday night football. Most frustrating of all was of course the fact that we've only been able to take three points off either team, but that assumes we're so much better than those teams and deserve to have taken more points off them. Thankfully there were also the last couple of SVU episodes with Dani Beck filling in for Olivia Benson to distract from the torpor of what was going on at The Grange.

Final thought