Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Friendly vs Kingston tonight

As per the club's notice, our senior men will be playing a friendly tonight against Kingston, at The Grange Reserve, 7pm kickoff.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Friendly this Saturday vs Goulburn Valley Suns

Great news everyone, finally some open doors, South Melbourne pre-season friendly action. The catch though, is that you'll have to be in Shepparton by 11:00AM.

So, um, yeah, that's me out. 

But if you're really keen, as part of its week in Shepparton, South Melbourne is playing Goulburn Valley Suns at the Shepparton Sports Precinct at 11:00 this Saturday.


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Remembering Tommy Docherty, someone I don't remember

Former South Melbourne Hellas coach Tommy Docherty died on the last day of 2020, and while I don't usually do any sort of deep-dives (or even shallow dives) on the passing of former South people, Docherty's tenure at South has always intrigued me, as does that time in South's history.

I mean, even putting aside the decline of our collective Hellas and general soccer memory, that whole late 1970s and especially early 1980s period - at least the bit prior to Len McKendry turning up and sorting things out - seems to be glossed over by our supporters.

And that's understandable. because unlike our dominant 1970s state league performances, South's first few years in the NSL were hardly a runway success. After all, we did finish last in 1979, and only avoided relegation because of a certain degree of administrative shiftiness, for which Sydney Olympic has never forgiven us.

That loss of collective memory isn't helped by the acute lack of footage from those early NSL years, but that doesn't completely explain why that South era doesn't get remembered as well as other similarly unsuccessful eras. It's not helped either by 95% of our supporter base (give or take one or two percentage points) disappearing into the aether.  

Oh, sure, there are moments and players from that era that people like to bring up, like Malcolm 'Supermac' Macdonald's guest stint, and the extended presence up front of former Liverpool star Alun Evans. 

But in general it seems to have been a period of time when the club chased a lot of big name players, paid very big transfer fees, and got little reward for these endeavours. When that approach failed, the club continued to repeat the same process while wondering why the team wasn't improving. Stop me if you've heard this story before.

That's certainly a simplistic retelling from someone who wasn't even alive then. Nevertheless, from what I can tell, the signing of Tommy Docherty as South coach midway through 1982 was typical of the club's thinking at the time. Instead of pausing and perhaps trying to figure out the root problem, the committee would invariably try and throw more cash at the problem in the hope that money alone would solve the club's unbefitting lack of success.

Enter Tommy Docherty. The Scotsman was a former player of some accomplishment, and had coached a variety of teams in England, most notably Manchester United - whom he had gotten relegated, then promoted; then won the FA Cup with them in 1977, upsetting Liverpool; and then found himself sacked soon after, when his affair with the wife of United's physiotherapist came to light. 

After a couple of short stints at Derby County and Queens Park Rangers, Docherty coached Sydney Olympic in 1981, though he soon returned to the UK to help his former club Preston North End - for whom he had played over 300 games - get out of a relegation scrap. For whatever reason Docherty's coaching stint at Deepdale didn't last, and so he hit the road again looking for new opportunities. 

And that's how he ended up back in Australia. Docherty was in the country in May of 1982 to promote a soccer skills program or some such over a five week period. During this time, South approached him to take over the club for those five weeks in his spare time, with an option to coach out the rest of the year. 

Despite big spending on numerous "name" players, under incumbent coach John Margaritis, South had played disjointed, inconsistent football, was apparently suffering from poor player morale, and was entrenched in the bottom half of the table midway through the season.

Docherty took over the coaching reigns from round 14 onward, with Margaritis stepping aside from the position of head coach while remaining within the coaching structure; that was an arrangement that would last little more than a few hours, with Margaritis quitting soon after introducing the players to their new coach. 

It's a little bit odd to think that a well-credentialed senior coach like Margaritis would agree to such an arrangement in the first place, and sure enough the man himself must have realised quite quickly that it made no sense. Certainly several pundits at the time, including Rale Rasic (who in just a few months' time  would succeed Docherty as South coach), agreed with the unusualness of the affair.

With training at the time only three days a week, Docherty was able to live large to a certain degree, supplementing his soccer income with radio and television appearances, and one also assumes his regular newspaper columns. One report from The Guardian in 2000 suggests he was making more in Australia from his combined coaching and pundit work than he would've made as a manager at a top English club at the time.

Being an affable and gregarious walking quote-machine, Docherty was good for publicity, but it's arguable that he was much good for South on field. Some players, like Charlie Egan, seemed to relish his fellow Scots' style, but other veteran players soon found themselves on the transfer list. And it's not like the team's results improved all that much, although Docherty's preference for attacking football at least probably made things more interesting.

After five weeks of mixed results, Docherty returned to England to take care of pressing legal and financial matters - namely the matter of a court summons over maintenance arrears due to his first wife, Agnes. During that time, Mick Watson acted as caretaker coach. On his return, Docherty coached out the rest of the season, made tentative plans for 1983, but his contract was either not extended or was bought out by Olympic.

And it's his second stint at Olympic which is perhaps his most notable legacy in Australian soccer, as some of their fans tend to give him the credit for building the squad that would go on be a regular competitor for titles in the 1980s. 

As for South, even if we don't seem to remember his time here too much, he certainly remembered us. Interviewed on the eve of the South Melbourne vs Manchester United Club World Championship match, Docherty remembered his time at South as requiring more diplomacy in the changerooms than he was accustomed to; he also noted of South's fans that "they were the best winners in the world, and the worst losers"; and that when some supporters threw apples and oranges at him, Docherty would goad those fans by eating the apples and peeling the oranges.

Even a cursory look through the papers of the time (both the mainstream outlets and specialist soccer press like Soccer Action), reveal that Docherty loved football, and was happy to entertain the press and public. In the long-run, South probably would've been better off if he'd taken the job a bit more seriously; still, there's something to be said of his not taking the game and himself too seriously. After all, soccer is a game, and games are meant to be enjoyed, or so I'm told.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

New year, new signings

A new year is here, and a little more progress has been made on the playing personnel front.

Two areas of concern seem to have been addressed with these signings, one being the back up goalkeeper situation, and the other, the desire for another forward.

The goalkeeper is one James Burgess, a 21 year old former South junior, who's been plying his trade Langwarrin and Springvale White Eagles. Insert some of joke about once a upon a time having a coach who would recruit from those places, or banish players to them.

I know nothing about Burgess apart from what comes out of the official press release, but one does wonder - surely a 21 year old isn't moving from (I assume) a starter's role lower down the leagues to sit on the bench here?

Burgess' arrival at Lakeside surely means that Josh Dorron's time is officially up, even if nothing is actually officially announced. He was on the fringiest of fringes in 2020, when he was "loaned" to some club lower down the food-chain, so it always seemed unlikely that he was going to get a game ahead of Clark and Nikola Roganovic last year. 

That it turned out that no one would play a game after March probably just made it even easier to let him go. But we'll always have the night that South plucked him from obscurity - that is, recruiting him because the football department actually saw him - and one of the worst chants ever performed by South fans that wasn't racist, homophobic, sexist, sweary, or offensive in some other way.

The other signing is a bit more pivotal. The player in question is one Henry Hore, another Queenslander making the move to what one Bananabender has referred to as the Queensland Development League - that is, NPL Victoria.

Again, I know very little about Hore, except that he was in a championship winning team up there last year, including being teammates with fellow South signing Marco Jankovic. Who knows if Hore can make it happen down in Melbounre, but you'd rather winners than losers, yes? Maybe.

Scrabbling around on the internet suggests that Hore is a forward/attacking midfielder, who apparently only weighs 67kgs. I don't know who's been weighing him and posting his details online, but if that weight class is true, it does seem a bit on the lean side.

Nevertheless, asking around social media for comments on Hore's quality, and the Queenslanders seemed universal in their praise and assessment. They say that Hore is a technically sound, versatile player, who can play across any of the attacking positions; tyat we can expect plenty of goals and assists; that he has a bag of tricks and a good deal of pace, and covers a lot of ground, and that he loves to play a 1-2.

All of which sounds very promising, but there's always a potential catch, and in this case it's one of South of the Border's all time favourites: if he's actually that good, why is he playing for us, in this competition? It's a valid question when you consider that Hore has played for Perth Glory in the National Youth League, and apparently "killed it" there, and that he was also apparently close to getting signed by Brisbane Roar as recently as last month.

It makes you wonder what those two teams know that no one else is telling us, especially Roar, who you assume would have been Hore from up close for the past couple of years. Is it because he's too little? Too old at 21? A-League scouts too dumb or cowardly, or merely distrustful of the standard of the NYL or NPL Queensland to take a punt on home grown talent right in front of their eyes?

Whatever the case may be, in time we will hopefully see plenty of Henry Hore, or at least enough to judge for ourselves whether his admirers were right in their assessments. 

We'll also see whether or not we got the right Hore, with Henry's older brother Mitch signing for Bentleigh. 

South senior men's squad as of 3/1/2021

  • Luke Adams (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games)
  • Zac Bates (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games))
  • Daniel Clark (yes, back from Queensland)
  • Pierce Clark ((yes, also back from Queensland)
  • Ben Djiba (could yet become the right-sided fullback or winger of our NPL dreams)
  • Lirim Elmazi (was wished a happy birthday, distinctive head spotted in other social media content)
  • Chris Irwin
  • Perry Lambropoulos (was wished a happy birthday)
  • Mathew Loutrakis (interviewed post friendly)
  • Jake Marshall (played in pre-season friendly
  • Brad Norton (scored goal in pre-season friendly)
  • Luke Pavlou (some sort of mention in a social media gimmick video or something)
  • Harrison Sawyer (yes, also back from Queensland)
  • Marcus Schroen (was interviewed in that video about South Melbourne;s new blind football team)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (scored goal in pre-season friendly, also easily recognisable thanks to trademark bandana)
Youth team players named as part of social media guff from a recent friendly played with a "youthful side", and/or, 20s players that might still be around next season:
  • Sasha Murphy
  • Yianni Panakos
  • Esad Saglam
  • Giorgi Zarbos (unclear if he will stay or seek greener senior football pastures)

In:
  • James Burgess
  • Henry Hore
  • Marco Jankovic
  • Josh Wallen
Neither here nor there as far as I can tell:
  • Josh Meaker
Out:
  • Melvin Becket
  • Josh Dorron
  • Stephen Folan (returned to Ireland in mid-2020)
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Nick Krousoratis
  • Nikola Roganovic (retired, again)
  • Peter Skapetis (Kingston City)

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Expert Opinion: Three seconds of fame (previously unpublished)

A little gift to close out the year.

In February 2016, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers fans acted like twats at a game at Docklands, ripping out seats, and letting off flares and fire crackers and such. I was interviewed on the matter for ABC TV in my guise as a soccer academic, by their reporter Ben Lisson. Being my first television interview, I found the experience by turns exciting, nerve wracking, alienating, and bizarre. 


I wrote up a piece about the experience, but because it took me a little longer to finish than I otherwise would have liked, I didn't send it to my usual outlet of Shoot Farken, instead sending it to an irregularly produced magazine called Thin White Line; partly because I wanted something in print (even though they didn't have an ISBN), but also because I wanted to share the love around.

For whatever reason, the edition that the piece was meant to be published in never materialised. So here I am publishing it for the first time almost five years after I appeared on television. I don't think it's one of my better pieces by a long shot, but that's not the point,

Expert Opinion 
During an away game in Melbourne early in 2016, members of the Red and Black Bloc, the active supporter group for A-League franchise the Western Sydney Wanderers, lit a barrage of flares, as well as launched detonators which in the context of recent world events sounded not unlike the bombs let off in and around European football stadiums. Cue the expected reactions and outrage from all corners, including but not limited to: tabloid media hysteria; the pettiness of inter-codal rivalries; the self-flagellation of soccer fans; the rejection of any responsibility by members of active support groups; the obligatory conspiracy theories that ‘outsiders’ had caused the incident; and the eventual imposition of a fine and suspended point deduction penalty on the Wanderers themselves.

Now normally in these situations, I couldn't care less. Being what is described in Australian soccer parlance as a ‘bitter’ – that is, someone who displays near abject antipathy to the changes wrought to the game after government reviews and the return to the local soccer scene of billionaire Frank Lowy in 2004, which included the establishment of the franchise based A-League, which excludes clubs such as the one I follow from participating – I was content to just sit back and watch the carnage unfold.

On the following Friday morning though, the day before another potentially volatile fixture – depending on your definition of volatile of course - I received a phone call from a private phone number. It was sports reporter Ben Lisson, of ABC TV news, who said he’d been passed along my details from Dr. Ian Syson, a local soccer academic and my doctoral thesis supervisor. ‘Would I mind having a bit of a chat about the flare situation?’ he asked.

‘Not at all’, I must have said, or words to that effect, as we chatted for a few minutes about the flares and the media reaction to the incident. And so after going over some of the key issues, then came the invitation to speak on camera about these matters. ‘When?’, I asked. ‘Tomorrow’, said Lisson. ‘We’ll also be following a family with children that support Melbourne Victory to see what they think’.

So, with plans made for Lisson and his crew to visit my house in Melbourne’s western suburbs, I was already wondering what I’d got myself into. What did I know about flares? I’d never lit a flare. Apart from proximity to certain former notorious Australian soccer hooligans, I had no hooligan, ultra, or active supporter street cred worth speaking of. And while I am an Australian soccer historian and cultural observer, my main academic specialty is soccer as it appears in Australian literature. What’s more, while I don’t like flares, it’s not necessarily on the grounds of law and order, which seems to be one of the main objections to their use in Australian soccer; no, my dislike for flares is more to do with aesthetics.

Yes, there is the awful smell, and the smoke which stings eyes, nose and throat – and on a windy day, the obscuring of the playing field. But as one friend noted on the matter, they also come across as an attempt at a ‘cheap pop’, to borrow a phrase from professional wrestling. And rather than being a demonstration of a spontaneous emotional release, the premeditated launching of a flare after a goal has been scored comes across as creatively moribund almost from the get-go; rather than losing oneself in the jubilant post-goal moment, the person lighting the flare has taken the time out to perform pre-prepared material; rather than becoming one with the exultant crowd, they set themselves both apart from and outside of it.

Nevertheless, I assumed that that line of inquiry would not be at the top of Lisson’s list of questions. So instead I spent the day wondering about the mechanics of the whole thing. Where in my house would they film? Would I have to do a walking to the camera shot, or better still, pretend to be doing serious academic work on my computer or rifling through the contents of a bookshelf? What should I wear? Who should I tell? How would I be introduced to the world? And as a ‘bitter’ with a moderate online reputation, would whatever I have to say be inevitably consumed along partisan lines?

While still pondering these questions, that evening I found myself with a few hundred other souls at the Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, deep in Melbourne’s middle class south-eastern suburban nightmare, watching my club South Melbourne field no recognisable strikers in a 3-0 Community Shield loss to Bentleigh Greens. The smoke of the lamb gyros billowing across the field from the pavilion – and a short break when the ground’s sprinklers came on - was about as close as such as a game could come to being disrupted.

Despite the wonders of the internet age being able to turn anyone into a self-published viral star, there is still something to be said about being interviewed by the traditional broadcast media. And thus while I had decided to be very low-key about the whole thing, I did relent and tell a smattering of my fellow South fans about my impending interview to be broadcast on state-wide television, perhaps even national television – the common reaction being incredulity and confusion about why I’d be chosen to talk about such an issue. Still, one had to be cautious – the interview could have been cancelled, or I could have been interviewed and the entire segment discarded. Probably best not to get too much into a self-promotional state of mind then.

The next day, as the appointed time for the interview drew closer, I started to run through all the things I’d like to say. That despite claims to the contrary from some Australian soccer fans, there is actually a long-standing culture of lighting flares at Australian soccer matches. That active supporters by and large actually like flares, and can’t come out and claim otherwise when the Facebook accounts of active supporters are littered with photographs of flare shows from both local and overseas soccer matches. That flares are impossible to ban, and that all you can hope to achieve is a sort of containment, which would include the use of social ostracism. That whatever measures you attempt to take, there’ll always be one or two people who will disregard the social norms and do what they please, but the most important thing is that the third, fourth and fifth person don’t join in.

Furthermore, that there is the continuing issue of Australia and soccer having an uneasy relationship with each other, the latter often being tarred with the brush of novelty, foreignness and violence, just three items from a long list of historical criticisms of the sport. That the unsolicited advice regarding soccer’s internal cultural discussions from people with a vested interest in other sports is beyond worthless. That instead of listening to those hostile commentators, Australian soccer needs to acknowledge, understand and address the problem on its own terms and for its own sake, with no regard for the opinions of those who despise the game.

Perhaps I could put forward the idea that Australia still has a problem with multiculturalism, interpreting the word to mean the policy of gentle rather than forced assimilation into an imagined middle, instead of a pluralist model allowing many cultures to exist parallel to each other, with no privileged culture at the centre. That what mainstream Australia sees when they see the kind of active support typical to soccer, is interpreted as both a freak-show and as a vague cultural threat, challenging the notions put forward by other Australian sports that the only way to behave in an Australian sporting crowd is to sit down, shut up, and clap politely; and as an extension of that, active support as it manifests itself in Australia is also perhaps too Continental in style, even too Catholic for a nation with a more than residual Protestant fear of reckless displays of self-expression.

Ten minutes or so after receiving a text message from Lisson telling me he’s on his way, a familiar face from network TV strolled through my front gate, with his cameraman in tow. I was slightly unnerved by the fact that Lisson was wearing shorts and thongs (flip-flops for the international reader), but quickly surmised that since his job is mostly to be filmed from the waist up, that it really didn't matter what he wore below the belt.

While the cameraman went about setting up his equipment, Lisson asked me what I specialised in, and seemed disappointed that my officially designated speciality was in literature; my attempts to add my long-standing interest and credentials in Australian soccer history and culture came across as a lame attempt to prove to him that I was worth having made the journey out to Sunshine West. Having decided to film in my front garden, I was instructed to focus on Lisson and not at the camera.

During the interview, I became aware almost from the start that I was not providing the sought for answers, let alone providing them in the preferred format. Instead of clear, direct and definitive statements, the interview saw me play out all the usual academic tropes – that of the kinds of mumbled complexities which would make sense in a long form discussion, lecture theatre, or published academic paper. I thought that the most erudite thing that I’d said was that there was nothing new to see here, and that the situation as it was playing itself out had only served to repeat the standard tropes of the debate. In its own way a cynical reaction to the affair, but perhaps the most obvious one that too often gets ignored when this issue comes up.

After a few minutes the interview is over, and once the framing shots are done Lisson thanks me for my time, telling me that the segment will be on tomorrow evening. On the evening the segment was due to be played, the two televisions in my household were strategically set to everything but the 7PM ABC News bulletin. My parents, who had rightfully commandeered one of the televisions, were watching probably illegally streamed Greek channels. My brothers and I, on the other television, set about watching the rather mediocre repeat Futurama episode where Bender ends up on an island full of obsolete robots.

At some point during the evening’s syndicated viewing, I received a text message from Pamela, a friend and colleague from university who had seen the segment. There were also a couple of tweets from those who had been implored by others to look out for it, but it seemed that by and large my debut television appearance had gone unnoticed. Mustering my courage the day after the segment went to air, I decided to watch it on the ABC’s online catch up service, enduring the vox pops with the Victory supporting families, waiting for my moment of fame, and finally, there I was: ‘Paul Mavroudis: soccer academic’, complete with ruddy face, blotchy skin, and mumbling something – re-imagined as ‘an aporia in the intercodal discursive relativities’ by one online wit - which seemed to have little connection to the rest of the story.

And that was it - my supposed intellectual expertise and days’ worth of angst reduced to a three-second sound-bite. The truth of course, is that I could have backed out at any time, but chose not to out of the vain sense that I would have something important to say, and something which would be noticed and appreciated by the wider public. In that sense, my actions bore at least some similarity to the person who chooses to light a flare at an Australian soccer match; a chance for self-promotion, and a contribution to an unceasing and largely unchanging discussion about flares and Australian soccer. And thus the discursive tropes around flares and Australian soccer were repeated once more, with me fulfilling my obligation as abstract indirectly involved talking head.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Except for joyful but ignorant attempts at gardening, 2020 was rubbish

In keeping with the blog's low level of productivity in 2020, I was going to produce a very, very short piece thanking a handful of people, and then moving on. 

At best it would have been a box-ticking post, doing one's duty to increasingly vague ideas of the blog's continuities, and then forgetting about it.

But upon further reflection, it is worth making at least brief reference to the pile of crap that was 2020.

I doubt there will be many people who enjoyed this year. From my point of view it was an ordeal. Not an unmanageable ordeal, but an ordeal nonetheless. 

At least in previous years there was not, for me at least, this extended social isolation, partly a result of social distancing, and partly a result of things not related to the pandemic. At least in the past there was something to look forward to, and one of those things for me was attending South Melbourne Hellas matches.

Attending Hellas matches didn't solve any of my personal problems, and I wouldn't expect it to do so. But apart from watching the games live, there was also an entire procedure undertaken in order for me to watch South games. This procedure included the trips (usually by public transport) to and from whatever ground we were playing at; the getting to the ground early to make the most of the evening or afternoon; and of course writing the blog piece after a game, which gave me the chance to try and make sense of what I'd experienced, and to place it within a wider context.

My weekend was scheduled around South games - everything else in terms of leisure time was a bonus, and subject to negotiation with other duties. But apart from the certainty created by routine, the most important thing of all was that going to South games was a social experience. There were people I could speak to, whether briefly or at length. There were people who were glad to see me, and people who weren't. There were handshakes and eye contact. And there was a feeling of a common cause, no matter how absurd that cause is, and how marginal it has become. 

People shared their joys and frustrations together, in social proximity to each other. What the pandemic and the lockdown diminished then, on so many fronts, was that feeling of social proximity. We were all in it together we were told, and that was true to a large extent. But we were also mostly all in it together apart. We became remote from each other. No amount of online work - chats, forums, Zooms, or whatever other technological tools kept us connected - can replace that absence of social proximity. 

This year I continued to co-host a podcast on a weekly basis with my good friend Ian Syson, producing 36 episodes, mostly remotely via Zoom, and it was enjoyable, not least for giving me something to look forward to, a reliable signpost in the desert of social distancing; but what I most looked forward to by the end of the year was getting back into the studio. And it is to the resumption of engaging in the practice of social proximity that I look forward to most of all in 2021. 

I hope the team does well on the field and that it prospers off it, but I especially look forward to reconnecting with my fellow South fans, and maybe even some opposition fans. There were about 20 people at the members forum in the social club last week, and as low as that seems, it was wonderful to be in that room with those people, and to be chatting with them after the meeting had ended. 

I missed watching South play, but mostly I missed being near South people, and I look forward to getting back to Lakeside in 2021, reconnecting with the human side of the sport and the club, and once more making the abstract idea of supporting this club into something more tangible.

Fuck, just getting back into Row H will do me wonders; until we cop that first goal of course, and then I start wondering what I'm doing there.

Now that the verbose emotionality is out of the way, thank you to the following people and organisations in what was South of the Border's 13th year.

Thank you to Football Victoria for media accreditation, even if it only lasted five games.

Thanks to Football Nation Radio for continuing to give me and Ian a radio slot to talk Australian soccer history.

Thanks to everyone who offered their condolences after the death of my father, but especially to Greg Stock, Sam Barres, and Davy Raff for checking in on me regularly at the toughest time.

Thanks to those also who gave me and Gains a lift at some point during those memorable five games of 2020.

Thanks to Gains for being my public transport buddy.

I would like to think that I'll try harder next year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

2021 senior men's and women's fixtures released

Well, here's something to look forward to, maybe. The 2021 senior men's team fixture has been released, and there are a handful of points worth bringing up.

The first thing to note is that the senior men's running order is pretty much the 2020 fixture repurposed for 2021. There are a couple of minor changes in the early stages - our opening round fixture against Heidelberg will be at Olympic Village instead of at Lakeside; and our round six game against Thunder will be a Wednesday night fixture at Lakeside, as part of a league-wide midweek round.

Everything else appears to be about the same, except for the allocation of South senior men's home match days. And if you like Sunday afternoon/early evening soccer at Lakeside, you're out of luck. In 2020 we were due to play just the one Sunday home game - the Eastern Lions game early in the season - this year, there will be no Sunday home games.

The club has committed to exclusively trying out Friday and Saturday nights, with a couple of exceptions - the aforementioned Wednesday night game against Thunder, and a Saturday 3:00PM kickoff against Hume, the latter of which is an accommodation for Orthodox Easter.

The only Sunday games are St Albans away (naturally), Eastern Lions away (unusually), and Bentleigh away (final round simultaneous kickoff). All up for home games, it's one Wednesday night, four Friday nights, one Saturday afternoon, and seven Saturday nights. 

The senior women's fixture has also been released, and the news on that front is that there will be six NPL-NPLW double-headers on those Saturday evening senior men's fixtures. The women will be relieved at not having to trudge out to Knox or Darebin for their home games.

Monday, 21 December 2020

South senior men's squad as of 21/12/2020

Since I put up my first such list for the pre-season on Saturday, I have come into some new information, or rather clarifications, on this matter. And since we've reached a little Christmas/New year break where there will be no more games, it was perhaps worth providing a perfunctory update. 

Named in official South Melbourne FC social media during what might be called the 2020 post-season/2021 pre-season, or noted to me during the members forum yesterday, and thus one might assume that they are on the senior men's roster for 2021:

  • Luke Adams (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games)
  • Zac Bates (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games))
  • Daniel Clark (yes, back from Queensland)
  • Pierce Clark ((yes, also back from Queensland)
  • Ben Djiba (could yet become the right-sided fullback or winger of our NPL dreams)
  • Lirim Elmazi (was wished a happy birthday, distinctive head spotted in other social media content)
  • Chris Irwin
  • Perry Lambropoulos (was wished a happy birthday)
  • Mathew Loutrakis (interviewed post friendly)
  • Jake Marshall (played in pre-season friendly
  • Brad Norton (scored goal in pre-season friendly)
  • Luke Pavlou (some sort of mention in a social media gimmick video or something)
  • Harrison Sawyer (yes, also back from Queensland)
  • Marcus Schroen (was interviewed in that video about South Melbourne;s new blind football team)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (scored goal in pre-season friendly, also easily recognisable thanks to trademark bandana)
Youth team players named as part of social media guff from a recent friendly played with a "youthful side", and/or, 20s players that might still be around next season:
  • Sasha Murphy
  • Yianni Panakos
  • Esad Saglam
  • Giorgi Zarbos (unclear if he will stay or seek greener senior football pastures)

In:
  • Marco Jankovic
  • Josh Wallen
Neither here nor there as far as I can tell:
  • Josh Meaker
Out:
  • Melvin Becket
  • Josh Dorron
  • Stephen Folan (returned to Ireland in mid-2020)
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Nick Krousoratis
  • Nikola Roganovic (retired, again)
  • Peter Skapetis (Kingston City)

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Notes from today's members forum

As usual, these notes are not the complete picture of what goes on at such meetings, but rather the version which results from my tasteful curation - just in case that wasn't clear to any long term readers. As for the new people - are there still new people?

I didn't really take any notes, except for about four compact notepad lines on my phone. If I missed something important, it was probably while I accidentally spilled about eight Eclipse mints across the table. 

Anyway, slightly smaller attendance than I'd anticipated, but what did I anticipate? It doesn't matter. I think there's still people who are COVID-shy, which is totally understandable, and hey - it's the week before Christmas, which is hardly the big ticket time for attracting people to non-AGM related South gatherings.

And maybe people had better or more important things to do. Having relocated what might be an apricot sapling from a pot to an empty space in my front yard, all my tasks for the day were done; and thus I was free to attend a South event for the first time since April.

Representation from the board on an official front was from president Nick Maikousis, and secretary and treasurer Mario Vinaccia. 

Speaking of the AGM, the club has received a COVID extension from ASIC, and thus the AGM will be held some time in February. One reason given for this is that the auditor needs to visit the club in person to see the books, something which has not been possible thus far because of the pandemic; or something like that. 

We are assured that unlike all the other times, this time it is genuinely all above board. And I believe them, not least because I'm too tired to argue, but also as an extension of goodwill on my part to people working hard under difficult circumstances to make the club better.

There was some discussion on the club's attempts at establishing its business coterie group, which has been hampered by the pandemic. The discussion from the floor seemed focused mostly on finding ways for the pleb South Melbourne member to be able to make use of the networking opportunities the coterie is designed to provide to its clientele.

On the matter of the composition of the senior men's team for next season, I would not expect too many more new faces. The club appears to believe that it has a strong contingent of youth prospects - even if it also appears that the club is not sure if it fluked this cohort, or actually somehow planned for them to become available all at once. 

There was talk, as there has been in previous seasons, that the club is cutting costs on its senior wage bill. If the club uses more youth team players to fill out the senior men's squad, there's every chance that this claim of cutting the senior men's team wage bill might actually be true this time; or at least more true.

Apparently, rather than the wage bills of NPL Victoria senior men's teams taking a hit because of the pandemic, the suggestion seemed to be made that in fact more money was being spent on senior men's teams for the coming NPL season. If that's true, then I wish those players raking it in all the best. Take 'em for every last cent!

On the matter of memberships for next season, as promised the question was thrown open to the floor, with the board to take on - but not necessarily act upon - the advice offered. The main question is of course for 2020 financial members who were if not outright promised that their 2020 membership would rollover to 2021, than at least had that possibility offered as a suggestion earlier this year by Maikousis during one of his pre-recorded briefings to the members. 

Unsurprisingly, the board's starting and/or preferred position seemed to be that 2020 members should pay the regular rate of membership dues. The supporters in attendance tended to veer to the opposite view, but there was also the suggestion made by some supporters that 2020 members could pay a discounted rate of $50, which is analogous to the rate paid by active life members. It will of course be interesting to see what the board settles on, because I don't think they were all that thrilled with the $50 amount. 

At the same time, the pandemic has impacted people in a variety of ways, and of course the club should take that into consideration, not forgetting also that apart from the shortened season, we only got two home games in anyway. One member managed to articulate the question that seemed to have hitherto gone unspoken; that being the question of establishing goodwill from the board's part. I assume we'll find out what the board finally settle on in the new year.

But generating goodwill between the board and ordinary members, however difficult, needs to be a top priority. The relationship between the late Athanasakis-era board and the ordinary supporter got to a frankly poisonous stage. Goodwill takes a lot of time to build up, and mere seconds to destroy.

On to the matter of the National Second Division. There will be a white paper released (I think) next month. The club is of the position that it would prefer a 2022 start, but it seems we could end up with a 2023 start. Some people from the floor were less optimistic than even that. Assuming we get in to the NSD of course! So much yet remains to be made official that it is difficult to talk with any certainty about the future of promotion-relegation and a National Second Division. 

COVID has thrown its own spanner in the works, including creating realignments within the balance of power of Australian soccer, probably weakening almost everyone, but some groups more than others. Using my powers of discretion I won't elaborate too much on the thoughts of Maikousis on the scheme as a whole, except to say: 
  • that the goal remains for South to enter such a competition at the earliest opportunity.
  • that despite the high degree of interest from clubs around the country in participating in a National Second Division, that the cost of doing so may prove to be more prohibitive than people would like.
The NSD is not a favourite topic of mine, in part because I acknowledge that I am largely incapable of understanding and assessing the merits of what is being proposed as it relates to the scheme's practicality. I recognise my deficiencies in matters of finance, accounting, and logistics, and leave these matters to people who have more information than I do, and hopefully comprehend it to a suitable level.

Ah, there I go apologising for dodging the question again. One observation of mine from a cultural perspective, is that the goal of establishing an NSD along with promotion-relegation to all tiers, is that such a scheme is in a race against the desires of the extant A-League licence holders. Who will get to their promised land first, and will the imminent unbundling of the A-League from Football Australia bring riches or disaster upon the house of A-League?

And my goodness, until this pandemic business gets sorted out, and the top-flight's long-term broadcast deal with it, there's too many variables. But I digress. 
 
While it appears certain that our first game of the 2021 season will be played away at Heidelberg, the club seemed hopeful that it would still manage to get two home games within the first six rounds of the coming season. From what I understand from a sidebar conversation I had during the meeting, the 2021 fixture is more or less settled.

There has been a mutual and apparently amicable termination of the social club catering arrangement with the lease holder. The club is exploring its options on that front.

It appears that the taekwondo folk could end up hiring the futsal court space for some time yet, providing a welcome medium term revenue source to the club.

There were a brief mention of the improved relationship with the Trust, and the soon be signed deal for the pavillion down at Middle Park.

That about covers the main points of the meeting. 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Pre-season rolls along

Another senior men's pre-season friendly today, played behind closed doors at Lakeside. Another youthful South line-up, and another win, 3-2 over Eastern Lions. The appearance of winger Matthew Loutrakis in the post-match interview allows me to move him from the "existential limbo" status to "2021 senior roster" status, as per the edit to the previous post.

2021 SMFC senior men's squad roster as of 19/12/2020

In an attempt at serving my now even tinier audience - which is mostly my fault, because I have just about given up trying to do anything of value on this site - I have attempted to figure out the status of our senior men's squad as we come to the close of the calendar year.

A good chunk of this is wild guesswork on my part because I don't do facial recognition too good, which makes the following list even less useful than would normally be the case. All corrections and updates are thus quite welcome, via the comments section below.

Named in official South Melbourne FC social media during what might be called the 2020 post-season/2021 pre-season, and thus one might assume that they are on the senior men's roster for 2021:

  • Luke Adams (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games)
  • Zac Bates (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games))
  • Lirim Elmazi (was wished a happy birthday, distinctive head spotted in other social media content)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (was wished a happy birthday)
  • Mathew Loutrakis (interviewed post friendly)
  • Jake Marshall (played in pre-season friendly
  • Brad Norton (scored goal in pre-season friendly)
  • Luke Pavlou (some sort of mention in a social media gimmick video or something)
  • Marcus Schroen (was interviewed in that video about South Melbourne;s new blind football team)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (scored goal in pre-season friendly, also easily recognisable thanks to trademark bandana)
Decamped to Queensland once it became clear that there wasn't going to be any more soccer played in Victoria in 2020, and we assume they'll be back but who knows?
  • Daniel Clark
  • Pierce Clark
  • Harrison Sawyer

Maybe they've been shot into the sun, or maybe they're still around, and just maybe they've been in photos but who can be bothered squinting at Facebook on a crappy laptop to make out the differences between one disposable NPL player and another, with no offence meant to anyone who might fall into this category:
  • Melvin Becket
  • Ben Djiba
  • Josh Dorron
  • Chris Irwin
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Nick Krousoratis
  • Josh Meaker
  • Esad Saglam
  • Giorgi Zarbos
Youth team players named as part of social media guff from a recent friendly played with a "youthful side":
  • Sasha Murphy

In:
  • Marco Jancovic
  • Josh Wallen
Out:
  • Stephen Folan (returned to Ireland in mid-2020)
  • Nikola Roganovic (retired, again)
  • Peter Skapetis (Kingston City)

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Friendly vs Dandenong Thunder tonight

Open doors, 7PM at George Andrews Reserve in South Dandenong.

I won't be there, but maybe some of you will be interested in reclaiming the sooth-eastern suburbs for South Melbourne Hellas.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Members forum on Sunday

Sunday at 11:00 at Lakeside, "under strict Covid Guidelines", with admittance only for people who were paid up members in 2020. Items to be discussed include National Second Division, membership arrangements for next year, and "all things relating to our club for season 2021". 

So is this the AGM you have when you're not having an AGM? It does seem like it a little bit. Does this also mean that when the AGM eventually does roll around, that it will be an in person affair? You'd like to think so.

What seems fairly clear is that there is an ongoing attempt being made to separate discussions on general club matters - the team, the supporter experience, and sundry matters that fall into what might be called "current affairs", from the non-negotiable elements of an AGM, such as the financial performance of the club.

Which to be fair, is not an altogether bad idea, as long it means that alongside holding AGMs that are both efficient and informative, that the club otherwise continues to hold more informal gatherings like this one in order to keep members abreast of other matters.

That's not something the club has been good at, but at least president Nick Maikousis seems to be holding firm to his goal of keeping in touch with member concerns outside a mandatory annual meeting.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Infer from this what you will

So last night while I was having a so-so dinner at some Vietnamese joint in Footscray, a "youthful" South senior men's team had another closed doors training match, this time against Hume City. Gerrie Sylaidos scored the only goal in a 1-0 "win".

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

It begins!

While we await news of memberships (hopefully this year) and the AGM (goodness knows when), the senior men's team has stepped up from mere jogging to starting their scratch match series; to wit, a 2-0 "win" against Manningham United last Saturday(?) at Lakeside. 

This is the bit where one would normally complain about not getting an invite to watch said practice match, which would lead to grumbling about the logical and yet still absurd situation where the Trust considers our activities at Lakeside as either practice or matches, but not both at once, and thus we choose the former to keep costs down, especially during our non-priority use period.

But COVID19| Coronavirus! Pandemic! And thus one does not grumble, but merely acquiesces to the peculiarities of the situation we find ourselevs in, and tries to glean what one can from the social media crumbs given to us - which in this case is not getting perturbed that the two goals we scored were by the two players who scored our most recent goals during the season, ahem, "proper".

Also, whatever other qualities Jake Marshall has, speaking to camera - or even managing to stay within the camera shot - is not one of them. Though it doesn't help when your teammates are piffing objects at you during your interview.

So that's the first hit-out out of the way, as everyone tries to return to something approaching normal. Speaking of which, I'm hearing - but which I mean I read on a forum - that the 2021 season is likely to begin in late February, with an away trip to the remodelled Olympic Village. After scoring two home games to start the 2020 season, could we be in line to be away from Lakeside for months on end to start next year?

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Don't press that button just yet

Like at least some of you, yesterday I received an email from the club noting that my membership had expired, and that it was time to renew for 2021. That's pretty standard fare under normal circumstances, but this not being a standard year, one does not immediately go hitting the renew button.

This is especially the case as the idea was floated a few months ago that the club might consider rolling over paid 2020 memberships into 2021, though I'm not sure that was an idea that was ever declared a certainty.

I am of the understanding that the club is still looking into the matter, and hopefully we will have an update soon. Considering the club's social media wing has sparked into life with regular news about senior men's pre-season and the exploits of our loaned players up north, it would be unwise to ignore the membership question for too long.

As for me, I'm happy to write-off my 2020 membership as a donation to the club and pay my dues again for 2021, though I understand that's not for everyone.