Wednesday, 13 March 2019

FFA Cup draw and impromptu friendly news

FFA Cup draw news
For those that missed the round four draw earlier today, we were drawn at home against Essendon Royals. The Royals are currently in State League 1 North-West. From what I can gather, they are not considered among the front-runners for that competition, which is predicted by armchair pundits as being a two-horse race between Preston and North Sunshine.

Nevertheless, you wouldn't want to take any opponent lightly, would you? No idea on venue and date yet, but I assume from looking at Football Victoria's calendar that it'll be a mid-April game at Lakeside.

Friendly tonight
We're apparently playing a friendly tonight against Malvern City at Warner Reserve in Springvale. Kickoff 7pm.

I guess Tanga wants to get some more run in the legs for some players?

Outside of A-League teams playing pre-season matches against NPL teams, in-season friendlies for NPL sides is an unusual thing, but not unheard of - though the last time I can recall us playing in one was all the way back in 2008 when we played such a game against Northcote.

There might have been another one against Altona Magic one year as well, but who can remember all the details?

Monday, 11 March 2019

Holding off on panicking for now - Avondale 4 South Melbourne 0

On the one hand, this is the kind of result that was on the cards on a number of fronts. First, because Avondale is a pretty good team, one of the best in this competition, and we are at best in the very early stages of trying to build a team that can reach that level. Second, because we are new and young team, there are going to be games where we get flattened. Third, because we were pretty ordinary through large chunks of the win against Port the other week.

Such was Saturday's game, where we fell behind early, pulled our finger out for about twenty minutes after that, but having failed to take advantage of the two or three half-chances that we had, proceeded to fall apart at an alarming rate. Roganovic standing flat-footed for the second goal was almost as alarming as the fact that Stefan Zinni's goal was the third match in a row he'd scored against us since leaving us, putting him in the Joseph Youssef class of ex-players doing us over.

And it's not like we weren't trying - we were - but we just weren't good enough on the ball, off the ball, and even just in general fitness which is a really big concern. Getting sucked into fights in the tunnel doesn't help either, and not starting Sylaidos seemed to backfire, because by the time he did get brought on the game was already cooked.

For all of Schroen's heroics against Port, he wasn't much chop against Avondale, but I suppose in a losing cause it was good to at least get some run in his legs. Playing two defensive mids looks like a dead-end tactic once we fall behind, and so either Gage or Bereveskos is probably to going have to make way for Schroen as a full-time mid.

George Howard continues to work hard as a makeshift forward, but it's not working. You'd be better off playing Pep Marafioti as a forward or even Manny Aguek, who'd all be killing time until Builly Konstantinidis gets fit enough.

Now seeing as how we all probably had the Bentleigh game and this one as losses before the season started, and that there's little to be gained from trawling through that muck, we may as well pad out the rest of this piece by talking about what an awful experience everything outside the result itself was on Saturday.

Considering there was some sort of signage at the Reggio Calabria last year about how Avondale were going to build some sort of stand, I was disappointed not to see anything even started. Not that I expected them to have finished, but here we were on a warm day, and almost zero shelter for spectators. The limited shelter choices were a small tarp canopy, a small and rapidly diminishing patch of shade in the south-east corner of the stadium, and some shaded area in the shadow of the Reggio Calabria Club.

Oh, and I suppose the Reggio Calabria Club itself, assuming they would let guests sit on their balcony on a match day without a two or three drink minimum.

Speaking of drinks, Avondale had three alcoholic drinks on tap; a cider, a Belgian pale ale, and their own signature beer, something called 'Avenger Ale'. The bloke working the bar at least had the honesty to admit that the Avenger Ale was actually just the pale ale under a different name, just in case an opposition supporter didn't feel comfortable ordering it. No word on whether the cider also came from the same tap.

As for opposition supporters, well this week that would be us, but going off the live streams and highlights packages of Avondale games, I'm not sure that'd be such a problem most weeks. One bike-riding #sokkahtwitter identity who was there as a neutral openly speculated that 90% of the crowd was South fans; an observation which, as I noted to him at the time, would be no surprise to any South fan who has spent any time following the club in this competition.

That's not to cast aspersions on the validity of a team like Avondale or Bentleigh or Hume and their two men a dog supporter bases being in this competition and having success despite the low turnouts. And anyone who is a supporter of the meritocracy of promotion-relegation, as I famously am, must allow for teams who have earned their way up the league pyramid by winning championship or being promoted through conventional means to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

And we must also make the allowance that income from crowds is not even close to being the main income source for any club at this level and that, if anything, actually having supporters in this league is a liability, not just for the mischief they might get up to that could cost you points and fines, but also just their rank, desperate neediness.

That absence of fans does mean that vocal and visual support has to come from somewhere else, and that means the only people left to do it at supporter-less clubs are either committee members of the players and coaching staff themselves. And when players decide to take that mantle upon themselves, it usually just ends up in them being outrageously and tastelessly obnoxious to their opponents or opposition supporters, as was the case on Saturday.

You're up 4-0 against what is at best a middling team, and you still want to act like knobs? That's the nature of life choices I suppose, and you can choose to please yourself first I guess. There were plaudits for the general good humour of Chris Oldfield in goal in dealing with the supporters behind his end, but my riposte to that is it's easy to be good humoured and genial when you're up 4-0.

Next game
Monday night away to Kingston City.

On the couch
Why would you even want to leave the house anymore?
Now that every NPL Victoria game is streamed live, why would you dare risk the demonstrating the ignominy of your status as a dateless wonder to all and sundry by actually leaving the house and attending an NPL game? Stay home instead, keep the gate money, avoid the stadium music, drink your own beer, eat your own food. It's like having a cut-rate pay tv subscription. And really, what would you miss from attending? The c-grade surliness of the security guards? Overhearing the ressies - those few that have stayed back after their game to watch the seniors - talking about chick on Tinder? The inane ranting of the competing coaches, which carries across the whole stadium (and I use that term loosely), because there's no crowd or competing atmosphere to drown it out?

The last of these you can still get on the stream anyway of the coaches are near the broadcast side, if you're still one of those people who is entertained by that kind of carry-on. For the rest of us, we can just sit at home, flick between whatever game happens to take our fancy, or just ignore them all and do something else. Where I would normally have gone out to Knights Stadium even though it's less fun now that Knights look like a competitive side again, I got home late from some other business and watched the final ten minutes of the first half of their game against Bentleigh. Tyson Holmes coughed up a very poor turnover in his own half which led to Bentleigh falling behind. Soon enough it was halftime, and the opportunity presented itself to switch to the other game.

Paco vs Port was irritating for the fact that there was no atmosphere except for the coaches yelling, and a game that was kinda meh. But at least when I turned it on it was still 0-0, and thus 'competitive' by default. Paco had more of the ball, more territory, more corners, but since they only have one avenue to goal and he was being triple teamed, nothing meaningful was being created on their front. Port looked ordinary, and struggled to get the ball for good portions of the first half, but still missed the best chance of the first half when their West Ham youth team striker who scored against us the week before missed an open goal. These things happen.

At half-time of the Pace game, I switched back to the Knights game, where I saw Knights double their lead, at which point I switched it to something else because who wants to see Knights fans happy? Answer, no one. The Paco game resumed, they kept winning corners but did nothing with them, and eventually Port used slightly underhanded play - a short corner played to a substitute, who played it to the back post where an unmarked Michael Eagar received the ball in part because two Paco defender took each other out. But Eags' control and finish were class, and that pretty much decided the game.

The next day after an overly greasy chicken katsu and rice dinner, on the train I watched only bits and pieces of Hume vs Heidelberg, and Dandy Thunder vs Magic. The next day I watch Nortchote vs Murray United until the former close out the game, and then the last five minutes of St Albans vs Moreland Zebras filmed from the opposite side to which they usually do, which is disorienting I have to tell you, and it must have affected Zebras too because they just stopped and spent the last five minutes giving the ball back to Dinamo who did the right thing and took advantage of that generosity.

Was any of that as enjoyable as actually being at a game. We'll never know.

At the desk
Through gritted teeth
Watching Kingston grind their way to a draw with Oakleigh doesn't fill me with confidence for next week, because they couldn't be that ordinary two weeks in a row.

Final thought
I can't tell you about the quality of the food at Avondale, because I stopped by the Vic Market and bought a weisswurst before the game, but Dave had some very strong opinions about one of the offerings at Avenger Park.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Fanatic of the Week no. 6 - James Belias

Last time I posted one of these back in 2017, I said that it was the last one that I'd found on the Wayback Machine that was still in working order... but I was wrong! I've found another one, and bless, it's from someone who still goes to games!

NAME:
James Belias

AGE:
21

SUBURB:
Buxton (home of the ‘Buxton Burger’). Actually, I live in South Clayton.

INTERESTS: 
Becoming the world’s greatest DJ and being the music editor of Lots Wife, the Monash Uni newspaper.

FAVOURITE SOCCER CLUBS:
Racing Genk, Torquay United, AEK Athens, Hamburg and Oubasi Goldfields and Border Security. But South Melbourne are the number one priority and interest.

ARE YOU A MEMBER?
Yep.

WHAT AGE DID YOU EXPERIENCE YOUR FIRST MATCH? 
No idea, but I think I was going to the soccer before I could walk and my first words were probably a chant of some sort. Seriously, dad used to take myself and my two brothers to Middle Park as a weekly outing. Fanatasicm grew steadily…

FAVOURITE SOUTH MELBOURNE MEMORY? 
I remember going to the Grand Final in 90/91 and going bananas as a little kid, and repeating the process against Carlton in 97/98 and Sydney United in 98/99. Surely that is the pinnacle of supporting a club? Another great memory is seeing Paul Trimboli and Micky P at Chadstone Shopping Centre

Also, the World Club Championships was incredible too. Wish I went, but I went nuts at the TV. I’ll never forget the Vasco supporters before kick off against South. Amazing scenes.

MOST MEMORABLE GAME WATCHED? 
When we played Perth Glory at Lakeside on a Wednesday night. I forget which season, but it was a battle for top spot and we scored 2 goals in a couple of minutes to take the lead and finally win 2-1. A great night, and Jimoin the comedian was there going nuts for South!!

Another favourite game was against Marconi at Middle Park years ago. No idea which season, but Tsolakis scored a penalty and Awaratife added a corker seconds later to seal an impossible victory. (The Clash of the Titans – Season 1992/93).

BEST SOUTH MELBOURNE PLAYER EVER? 
I can only speak of who I have seen actually play and all I need to say is that there’s only one Paul Trimboli.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SOUTH MELBOURNE? 
There are too many things to list, but I like the way South caters for soccer fans in Melbourne and competes, I believe, quite well for the very competitive Melbourne sporting dollar. I think there are some great supporters doing great things for the club too.

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT SOUTH MELBOURNE? 
I get annoyed at the way certain parties at South (both internal and external) cling to the Greek heritage of South. Sure the club has an ethnic history, and we should never forget that, but still referring to the team as ‘Hellas’, which means Greece, has been played for too long.

I also dislike the seats opposite the grandstand. They encroach upon the remaining standing area too quickly for my liking. I hate sitting and watching the football.

WOULD YOU EVER SUPPORT ANOTHER NSL TEAM? 
I won’t dignify that with a response.

WHY? 
Coz South Melbourne are the pride of Victoria and the most famous Australian sporting club in the world! GO SOUTH!!!


THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME JAMES. 

Monday, 4 March 2019

Take the points and run - Port Melbourne 1 South Melbourne 2

I can't tell you about wet bulb temperatures, but I can tell you about when it is too hot to wear a pompom beanie, and Saturday afternoon/evening it was too hot to wear a pompom beanie. That in itself proves nothing, but it does make you think; if Port Melbourne has lights - and it does - why did they not change the kickoff time of this game to an hour or two later?

Knowing well in advance that the temperature was going to be very hot, I am told that during the week South suggested to Port that the game be pushed back an hour or two, only for Port to refuse the request. I cannot understand why, if not for the comfort of the spectators, than at least for the comfort and safety of the players, especially the under 20s who would have to cop the brunt of the heat.

And goodness knows what was going on with the thinking out at Keilor, where the women's teams were playing even earlier in the day, and two players from the under 19s game collapsed during the match. This in a week where the Tasmanian soccer authorities pre-emptively postponed a triple header at KGV Park on the opening week of their season, because of anticipated extreme weather conditions.

That the worst of the heat had fallen away by about 7:00pm - or half-time of the senior game - only served to further emphasise the fact that the senior game and its curtain raiser could have been pushed back an hour or two and we'd all have been the better for it.

Anyway, enough complaining about irrational approaches to dealing with playing in predictably hot conditions. An unchanged starting line-up, with the only change being Alastair Bray listed on the bench. The game started off with the teams swapping ends after the pleasantries were done, catching the crew behind the Plummer Street goals out, and necessitating a trip to the Williamstown Road end of the ground.

But which way to travel? 30-40 people going en masse through the pavilion side of the ground doesn't seem convenient. Going around the back of the pavilion means we'll miss a ton of action. So, on through the famed forbidden zone we go, which just goes to show the insanity of the forbidden zone, because all you to prevent anyone coming into the area was a security guard, Port Melbourne Jesus, and a couple of pieces of string.

Anyway, we eventually camped at our attacking end, trying to find what little shade there was, as well as trying to see through two or three nets. From what I could tell, we were doing pretty in the first 25 minutes or so. We even got a goal, with Pep Marafioti finishing off some good work by Brad Norton and Nick Krousouratis.

Just on Krousouratis, I know it's only been three games, but I cannot for the life of me remember any player of ours in recent history who has slipped over so much in attack. Maybe just an unnatural sequence of events

Then came the drinks break, and then after that for who knows what reason or how, we slowly lost the initiative that we'd show up until that point. Now it's not like Port utterly dominated the remainder of the first half - and I do admit I probably exaggerated their overall dominance of the game on social media - but their equaliser felt to me like at least like something approximating a just moral outcome

Then when the second half started, we just disappeared. There was no midfield. Every clearance up the field was just walked back by Port. There was no player of ours seemingly able to take control of the game, or adjust the tempo, or even properly waste time. The goal which would see us fall behind seemed inevitable, and all that was keeping us in the game was Nikola Roganovic and Port's sloppy finishing. But as good as Roganovic was in terms of keeping the scores level, his distribution often invited Port to launch another attack with us having barely touched the ball.

Another thing which compounded the problem was that we looked gassed earlier than usual. We haven't exactly looked like the fittest team early on in the season, but the heat compounded the issue on Saturday.

Taking Gerrie Sylaidos off was a good decision. He was struggling even when we had our ascendancy early on, and Marcus Schroen's introduction at least offered fresh legs, a bigger body, and the kind of player who specialises on turning games on their head. A couple of other changes - Lamproboulos off Konstantinidis, and Howard off for the other Konstantinidis - also helped, not just because of the fresher legs, but because the team looked closer to full strength. What our eventually proper, fully-fit starting eleven looks like still remains a mystery.

We managed to slowly work our way back into the game, with Krousouratis having a rocket of shot hit the bar, but still it was almost out of nowhere that we got what would be the winning goal. Our corner was cleared, poorly, and Norton began the process of recycling the ball into an attacking area with a terrible, tired, shin-height pass to Schroen, Schroen passed it back to Norton, and Norton put in a great cross to SS Anderson Reserve goalscoring specialist Luke Adams who controlled the ball on his chest then volleyed it home.

Then the sickness of waiting for the goal that we see us fall behind turned into the sickness of waiting to see the goal that would turn our three points into one. But it, too, never came, and we somehow came away with our second win of the season. A bit like last week, we didn't play our best, but we got the points. We played better against Bentleigh, and got squat from that game.

Two weeks in a row, the goal comes from a poorly cleared corner. It's not exactly thrilling build up play, but bread and butter stuff is just as good. And there have been moments where the side looks like it can thrill as well as do the simple stuff. Right now though every win - especially against teams around about our level - counts for double. And in a season which is as much about rebuilding a shattered playing and club culture as it is about surviving and hopefully thriving, every point we earn now is one less we have to scrounge out later on.

Next game
Avondale away at the Reggio Calabria Club on Saturday afternoon.

On the couch
Bizarro Hellas
Friday night was spent on the couch, with the option of three games. These were the "one of the these teams has to wear their away strip" derby, the ongoing saga of "will someone other than Davey van 't Schip score for Pascoe Vale", and "let's see how many ex-South players can fit into the Oakleigh Cannons clown car". I decided to go with the last of these, and spotted the following at various times on the night: Milos Lujic, Nick Epifano, Matthew Foschini, Luke Pavlou, legacy characters like Ramazan Tavsancioglu and Tom Matthews, as well Goran Zoric making an appearance off the bench, and Rory Brian listed as substitute keeper. One also can't help but think that not being able to get Matt Millar, that Oakleigh settled on one of the brothers leftover in the Millar family mini-van. Of course the other point of interest was seeing if Oakleigh could somehow fail to pick up a win, giving them three losses to start the season. It seemed unlikely, what with the quality Oakleigh has at its disposal, but half an hour in and Oaks were 3-0 down, even with Thunder missing a penalty due to the unbridled greed of Peter Skapetis.

It wasn't that Oaks were that bad - the ball could have fallen their way on a few occasions, but didn't - it was how familiar some of the deficiencies in their play looked: the exaggerated slacker vibe of Lujic, the sometimes clumsy defensive midfield play of Foschini, and Epifano still trying to recreate that goal against the Knights from the 2015 FFA Cup. To be fair to the last of these three players, his efforts in the second half were the main reason Oakleigh even got close to getting back in this game - that, and Milos getting benched - but it was a bit like the Kingston-Thunder game from a few days earlier, with one side being (mostly) ruthlessly efficient in front of goal, and the other squandering opportunities at will. So Oaks remain pointless, which is not a situation I expect to last long, but which for the time being does provide its own degree of prurient interest.

Final thought
It's meant to be a winter sport, so can winter hurry up and get here already?

Monday, 25 February 2019

Gerrie! Gerrie! Gerrie! - South Melbourne 1 Dandenong City 0

Someone not familiar with soccer might think it strange how one goal can make all the difference between throwing the club into the emotional abyss or writing off a match with the cliché "not a great performance, but it was good to grind out a win and on to the next game".

Such people may also find it strange how creating three or four clearcut chances and failing to take any of them means less when someone scores off a half chance, slotting a ball through traffic from the edge of the box.

Before that, most of what we had was increasing frustration and the fear that we would cop a goal on the counter. Dandy City came to Lakeside with a plan, and that plan was to sit back and try and hit us on the break.

It was in stark contrast to last week's game against Bentleigh, where the Greens sought to take the game on, and we were able to attack promisingly on the counter in the spaces left behind by the Greens' aggression. In contrast, last Friday we were thrust into the role of the more active team, and the evidence was that we still have some work to do on that front.

On the one hand, I suppose we should be flattered that an opponent thought enough of our potential to try and curtail our attacking threat in this way. On the other hand, you wonder if other teams will also employ this tactic, hoping - possibly correctly - that we aren't as effective when we're asked to dictate play with the ball.

Most of what we were able to produce in the first half came through the work of Gerrie Sylaidos, who in lieu of adequate connections in midfield, worked cross-field passes to the right-hand side where Nick Krousouratis was operating. This combination - although not the precise tactic - led to our best chance of the game, with a Sylaidos pass opening up the City defence for Krousouratis' shot which somehow hit the post and come straight back out. I thought it had gone in, and so did a good chunk of the home crowd, but it was not so.

When added to makeshift centre-forward George Howard's shot straight at the opposition goalkeeper (who was not Chris Maynard, as some in the crowd believed) early in the game, there was palpable frustration in the crowd, mixed with wanting to show patience with the young squad. The red card to City's James Kelly for an off-the-ball attack on Dean Bereveskos only served to solidify the tactical trajectory of the game.

Outside Gate 2 at Lakeside Stadium/ Photo: Luke Radziminski
And as the game wore on, it seemed to be heading for one of two outcomes; a tepid 0-0 draw, or a loss to us courtesy of a goal pinched by the visitors. They sent in some dangerous balls across the box, but their only real chance came from a Dean Piemonte strike from the edge of the area - the kind of sucker-punch that Piemonte specialises in, not least against us - which sailed high and wide.

Otherwise our defence held up reasonably well, and much praise has been sent in the direction of Luke Adams and Jake Marshall, who did enough good work to see that Nikola Roganovic didn't have to make a save all night. But further up the field things were less cohesive, and the end result perhaps meant that what looked like a team afraid or unsure of how to take the game on against a conservative opponent, can be construed as - for now - a team playing patiently and to instruction.

For example, I'm not sure what George Howard's natural position is, but it ain't centre-forward. Pep Marafioti struggled against Steven Topalovic out wide, but I would have preferred Pep at centre-forward rather than Howard, because at least Pep has a striker's instincts, as shown by his flick-on attempt on from a low Sylaidos cross - an attempt which would have broken the deadlock if not for a superb reflex save by Kennedy in the Dandy City goal.

We did eventually get the lead thanks to Sylaidos' shimmy and toe-poke from the edge of the box through a maze of bodies, and it was not an undeserved lead. The rest was about holding on, and seeing a glimpse of what prize recruit Billy Konstantinidis can do. Though helped by the fact that the now trailing Dandy City had to come out and get a goal, Konstantinidis' mere presence was that of an old-fashioned footy full-forward, someone who immediately straightens up a side and gives it a sense of directional clarity.

We played better the week before, and came away with nothing but a small replenishment of the pride and belief we threw away last year. We played not so well on Friday night, but came away with three points and the knowledge that we can win when playing less than thrilling or inspired football. Now what would you rather have?

Next game
Port Melbourne away on Saturday night, beginning our customary stretch of early season away matches. It's another one of hose theoretical must-win matches. Port are currently on one point from two games, haven't scored yet this season, and yet are also probably not quite as bad as that form-line suggests.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Saturday is set to be a scorcher - 38 degrees - so hopefully it gets a bit cooler by kickoff time. Pity for the under 20s though. Remember to be sun smart this week.

Observations on match day operations
There was no minute's silence for the passing of Brian Edgley last week. Granted, Edgley was only our coach for about two thirds of the 1976 season - and his legacy at other clubs like Mooroolbark, Preston, and Balgownie Rangers was much more substantial - but it seems remiss not to have at least paid some tribute to him.

The game started ten minutes late for who knows what reason, which is not a great thing when Friday night games already start so late. I suppose it worked in favour of the habitually late.

Food service in the social club was slow. Since we have seen it happen with every operator of the social club's kitchen since the social club re-opened in 2017, one must assume that the kitchen is ill-designed for match day operations as opposed to normal bistro operations. Here's hoping that it's just teething issues with the new operator, and that when the glut of home games arrives later in the year that these issues are ameliorated to a degree.

I can understand waiting for things like burgers and steak sandwiches, but having to wait for things like dim sims and potato cakes, which should in theory easily sit ready in a bain marie, is a worry.
The menu has been simplified for match days, and most things seem to be of reasonable value. The burger I had was not nearly as good as the one I had at the members' night a few weeks ago, but one reader wanted me to note for the record that his steak sandwich was excellent.

Away from the kitchen, there was new and old merch available, and the promise has been made of a variety of heritage themed merchandise becoming available during the year. People seemed to like the commemorative postcards which voting rights members received, though I almost can't bear to look at them because of the rampant superfluous apostrophes. One member who did like the postcards was moderately disappointed that the cards were double-sided, as that meant that he couldn't frame any of them without needing to get another set of cards.

There did still seem to be some problems with people not being on the database despite having paid for their memberships. On the plus side, the bloke who complimented the quality of the steak sandwich also wanted me to note that the sturdy reusable sealed plastic bags were a nice touch.

No cheesecake
It wasn't in the membership brochure, but I'm still shattered.

Pines' under 12s runners-up pennant from 1966, from the South Yarra
Junior Soccer Federation. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.  
Women
The South Melbourne women kicked off their 2019 campaign last week against Southern United at Monterey Reserve. Normally I wouldn't dare head out that far for anything other than a South senior men's game, but the senior women play away from Lakeside in the early part of the season for as long as the men do, and every time they play at Keilor - the only away NPLW venue close to me - there's always some damn clash with the men's team or some other event.

Besides, long public transport trips allow me to clear my head, and get into a faux-Zen state of mind, pondering koans like:
"where is the amenity in delivering all-day ten minute train frequencies if adjacent bus routes only operate at hourly intervals?"
Southern United are a struggling outfit who were reputedly close to folding last year, but they've sorted themselves out enough for another go in 2019. Their existence and struggles do seem to suggest that the late Tony Dunkerley's dream of composite representative franchise teams from the south-eastern suburbs and Mornington Peninsula are not as straightforward as he would have liked.

Having smashed them 14-0 last season, it was no surprise that we ran out 11-0 winners here, even without several W-League players in the team, and notable absentees such as Tiff Eliadis who has retired. Southern struggled to even get the ball up the field; the only chance they had for the game was when a South defender hit a stray back pass to the keeper. So, no stress on this occasion, just a relaxed day out in Frankston North.

Families
Thanks to the Marafioti brothers, last week we got into a discussion in the comments section about player-family connections at South, and we came up with the following.

Brothers
  • Anastasiadis (John and Dean)
  • Goutzioulis (Ange and George)
  • Tavsancioglou (Rama and Adem)
  • Trifiro (Jason and Glen)
  • Marafioti (Pep and Gio)
Father-son
  • Tsolakis (Manny and Peter)
  • Salapasidis (Savvas and Kosta)
  • Maclaren (Bruce and Fraser)
Cousins
  • Fraser Maclaren - Alastair Bray
  • Steve Tasios - Steve Panopoulos
But there must be more. So hit us up in the comments section for the obvious (and not so obvious) ones we've missed.

Match programs
We put out the call for more South Melbourne Hellas match programs, and Luke Patitsas (of the Sour Grapes blog, a South blog with someone who pays attention to the games) answered the call.

Thanks to Luke's efforts, we've been able to add one program from 1985 (Brunswick away); five home programs from 1987; a home program from 1989; two from 1989-90; one from 1990-91, a really great George Cross program; one from the opening day of the 1991-92 season; and two from home games (rounds 18 +20) from 2005.

For these and every other program we've managed to source, check out our match programs section. And if you have something that South of the Border is missing - and I know that some of you do - please get in touch with me.

FFA Summit Series
FFA is doing a roadshow gathering people in cities across Australia to talk about the issues the game faces. They're in Melbourne on Thursday May 2nd, a training night, but if you'd like to go anyway, head to this link and register your interest.

Personally I think this is a really dumb idea, but that's never stopped any of you before
So this week FV announced it had entered into some sort of arrangement with some sort of group to broadcast - live - every NPL men's match, every NPL under 20s match, every NPL women's match, and a minimum of two NPL 2 games a week.

Now having seen this kind of thing happen before, albeit on a much smaller scale - I'm thinking of circa the 2010 or 2011 seasons when some Harvey Silver related company filmed one live game a week - I was not in favour of this at all. I'm happy for highlights packages to be produced, and I'm happy for the odd radio game and full-blown live stream for important games - but this is too much.

And surely the aim should be to get people to go to games? But then I remembered that whatever you do, no one's going to turn to up to any game after whenever someone decides summer's ended, so sure, why not stream every single game? And as Matthew Galea has noted, it will at least provide some sort of quantifiable data on the interest in NPL competitions for proponents (and opponents) of the second division and promotion-relegation debate to manipulate to their liking.

The NPL Victoria games are available on YouTube and Facebook, and the consensus seems to be that the video quality is better on the YouTube streams. The graphics are basic but mostly clean, and they're updated regularly with stats and promos for various Football Victoria events. There's no replays - yet - which means if you stop paying attention you have to scroll back on the video to see a goal again. They seem to occasionally have commentators, and occasionally not.

By the way, if you're interested in doing commentary, analysis, etc for this, hit up Teo Pellizzeri with an expression of interest.
I'd put my name down but I don't know the players and I can't see good and I don't even know anything about soccer; and while that's part of this blog's charm, it probably wouldn't translate to something requiring a certain degree of competence. But you people, you know what's going on, you can see better than I, and you just might want to give amateur broadcasting a stab.

Personally, I'd rather be at a game, with the true fans, knee deep in mud, beer and blood. But that's not for everybody.

On the couch
Oh, what the heck; you only live once. Give me a white wine spritzer, spritzer, spritzer...
So I was coming home on the train from Frankston late Saturday afternoon, and while the waiting times on the Franga line might be lower these days - thank you Sky Rail - the actual train trip itself through suburbs where you wouldn't want to live and suburbs where you couldn't afford to live is just as long as it ever was. How to pass the time? Well, it just so happens that Football Victoria signed up some ridiculous deal to broadcast close to a bazillion of its NPL games probably mostly to indigent gamblers, and it's just my luck that there's one on right at the time I'm travelling. It's Manningham United Blues against Springvale White Eagles, from the Veneto Club for some reason. Manningham is up 1-0, there's half an hour left and no commentary. Springvale find a way to overturn the deficit and win the game, and thus begins my bender.

Even early in the season, the Somers Street pitch isn't in great shape.
Something done in and around watching Gerrie's goal about twenty to thirty times on YouTube
Knowing the score beforehand, but being impatient for someone to upload the condensed highlights, I settled in on the couch on Sunday morning to watch the replay of Knights vs Magic in its entirety, in whatever gap my brothers left open in between another Titan Quest campaign. And I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Granted, that may just be me - not someone who watches full-length soccer matches on television except during the World Cup, nor as someone who ever watches replays these days of matches where they already know the outcome. But this was a 4-3 game, with an implied shifting of momentum, a red card, and reputed great atmosphere. But it felt kind of... flat? Credit to Knights I suppose for not being so honking in the first two weeks of this season as they've been for the past few years, but I'm not quite sure how they scored four times; I do understand how they didn't cop six or seven, what with Magic being wasteful in a way they won't be whenever it is they're due to play us. You'd like to think these kinds of things even themselves out in the end, but they don't.

Scene missing
Sunday afternoon, too hot to go outside, so I park myself in an armchair with my dad taking the couch, and him belittling the quality of the players in the St Albans vs Moreland game, comparing it unfavourably to the players in his village team playing back in early 1960s Greece, back when villages like his still had children and young men. But that's my old man in a nutshell; like many people of his vintage who have fallen off the local soccer bandwagon, they live with misty eyed memories of Ulysses Kokkinos and his ψαράκι headers or Gary Cole cracking shots with enough power to kill someone. Me, I have to be subservient to my probably ill-considered and often downright inconvenient principles and take what I can get in this day and age, and not some fast-receding memory of a corrupt idyll of yesteryear. This is another not great game. St Albans have a halftime lead they probably don't deserve. The second half is ordinary if not quite dire - I cut the teams some slack because of the heat - and it is actually improved by the stream cutting out for a good ten minutes or so. The stream returns and the game is going nowhere, until everything gets turned on its head when Moreland score two goals in as many minutes. St Albans manage to level things up by the end, but since my old man has long since left to do something else, did it really matter that the two teams saved up the excitement until the end?

Final thought
They must only come out after midnight. Two weeks in a row at Sunshine station at about 12:30 in the morning, a random starts talking to me about South. This time, not very contemporary discussion, just a bloke who saw my beanie and went "South Melbourne Hellas, that's going way back, Trimmers" etc, etc.

Monday, 18 February 2019

So this is how it's going to be - Bentleigh Greens 3 South Melbourne 1

Another seasons starts, and another half brilliant (express trains and quick bus connections) and half awful (25 minute bus wait, stop all stations train, missed connection to Sunbury by two minutes) public transport situation. So it goes, we're all used to this by now, me  doing it, and you hearing about it from me.

Got to Kingston Heath early enough to catch the 20s game, a solid come from behind win. Orford, Mesourouni, Djiba, and Aguek all played in that game, with Aguek putting away a nice volley.

I don't think any of us are expecting miracles this season. We expect the side to be a mid-to-lower ranked team. We want them to do better, but we're right in the middle of a rebuild that's partly been done out of necessity, and partly self-inflicted. If we can avoid a relegation scrap, that would be great, but we have to be realistic. There's a lot of new players, a lot of young players, and we're in a league where the spending is out of control.

Going to Bentleigh in round 1 was probably the worst thing that could happen to us - unless we could've somehow pinched a point or three - but it was unlikely that we had any luck left over from last year's heroics. So, I guess most of us were expecting to lose, but I think most of us are pleased with how the team performed in general.

Going forward we looked pretty good - a little too dependent on counter-attacks perhaps, but that's probably where our strength is going to be - the key there being not to fall behind too often, because then conservative opponents - of which Bentleigh is not one - will have the luxury of sitting back.

Keeping Gerrie Sylaidos at attacking mid instead of shifting him to the wing seems the thing to do. Yes, he's probably more likely to get beat up and bruised in the middle, but so much is going to depend on his talent this season. Keep him in the middle and keep opposition defences guessing whether he's going to go left, right, or through the middle. And hopefully our forwards get on to the same page as him.

Nick Krousouratis looks like a great get - here's hoping for consistency on his part. Pep Marafioti looks OK to me, but I'm more sympathetic to him than others might be. George Howard did OK as a makeshift centre forward, but we lacked height and strength in that centre-forward role, and unless Pep gets shifted there, we're going to need Billy Konstantinidis sooner rather than later.

Gio Marafioti didn't have a great game coming off the bench; he looked a little lost, and ran around like a little dog chasing hard, but not smart. He's a better player than that, and hopefully we get a chance to see that. It was disappointing not to see Leigh Minopoulos out there on Friday, but apparently he got a broken nose in Adelaide. Marcus Schroen needs to get his fitness up quickly.

Defensively, I was at the other end of the ground so I can't say with much authority what went wrong or right at that end of the ground, but the second goal we conceded had three players who went to ground. Granted, one of them was the keeper, but even there Roganovic more or less took an air swing with his sliding/diving challenge.

3-1 was probably a fair scoreline. I don't think we did enough right at either end to warrant the win, but a draw would not have an unjust result. But we didn't make the most of our opportunities when we had the ascendancy in the first, and we look likely to cop soft goals this year, if pre-season form is anything to go by.

Seeing as how this game seemed to conform to our pre-season form, and the expectations people had around what the squad's strengths and weaknesses were likely to be, there's one question that remains for me at least. That is, if that it what our mean/median/mode/average performance is going to look like, what are we going to produce for the rest of the season?

One real game is a small sample size from which to extrapolate, but apart from a very few Negative Nancies, I think we all know where this team sits: hopefully just good enough to avoid relegation, and if we somehow made the finals, that would be a huge bonus. We were told that the team would be competitive; again, it's too early to draw much meaning from a single game, but we were competitive on Friday night against a likely title contender.

I don't normally do call to arms nonsense, but I hope that our supporters in general don't get on the backs of the coach or players too quickly. They need our support, and I think if we can get through what will probably a difficult season, then the benefits will repay themselves in the coming seasons.

Of course this team could surprise us all and do extra-well - here's hoping for that.

So what do we need to achieve to survive? (nobody panic)
Let's assume for argument's sake that we're a relegation battler. If that's the case, we need to get at least a certain amount of points to keep us safe. Last season we survived thanks to eking out 28 points and somehow getting a decent goal difference (thanks Dandy Thunder). Now in your typical 26 game season, 28 points is usually enough to get you through, but it almost wasn't enough last season.

30 points however, notwithstanding some catastrophic turn of events, should be enough to get you over the relegation line. Our old mate Psile agrees on this, so the question then becomes, where are we going to get those 30 points? We're probably not going to get ten wins, zero draws, and sixteen losses; so that leaves us either aiming for eight wins and six draws, or seven wins and nine draws.

I'm not going to cast reckless aspersions on the teams I think we should beat - I'll leave that to the comments section - but the sooner we get to 30 points, the better. Judging by the performance on Friday night, I think we can do it, but you'd like to get at least a decent chunk out of the way while we're on the road these first few weeks.

Next game
Dandenong City at home, on Friday night. Dandy City got crunched 4-1 and copped a red card at home against Avondale, and considering that no one is really expecting anything from us this season, it's possible to already see this as a relegation six pointer.

Obviously that's a tad melodramatic, because there'd still be 24 games after this one even if we lose it - or even if we win it - but it does kinda feel like a pretty damn massive game. Billy Konstantinidis, the Australian striker signed from Greece, arrived in Melbourne last week, but who knows how quickly he'll be added to the starting eleven.

Apart from collecting your membership and/or membership pack, Friday is a good chance for those who out of habit boycott away games or who have decided to boycott away games this year, to see the South men's senior team for the only time in the first month and a bit of the season. It'll also be interesting to see how the social club and food services handle a crowd.

2019 squad announced
The other week the club announced its official senior men's squad for 2019. It's pretty damn young.

NPLW or WNPL... one of those two
The senior women start their league campaign this Saturday afternoon, away at Southern United at Monterey Reserve.

One blog... two blogs.. but he... but you can't... oh, my medication!
A new blog has been started by Luke Radziminski, one of the club's media interns. I didn't realise that people were still starting blogs. I mean, I was late on to the blog fad when I started this thing so many years ago. Fans of South of the Border should rest assured that as I have crushed all previously competing South Melbourne Hellas blogs - OK, just the one, which was done by Cliff before I got him to here - I will also crush this one.

But more seriously, if there's genuine longevity in this project, it could be really good. In Luke's own words:
This is a long-term project proposed by a media intern from the club to create a database and archive photos for South Melbourne. The aim is to create a library of photos at every possible game for fans to look back on over the years. I try to capture the environment of the venue and any engagement with the fans and what story has unfolded. There will be photos borrowed and provided from other media personnel who have photographed at the event as well.
I might actually have to have a chat with this bloke.

Contribute to South of the Border
I'm always on the lookout for new contributors, so if you want to do something on a regular or irregular basis, do get in touch, even if it;s just to send me a bit of history for an artefact segment.

Match programs
Just a reminder also that South of the Border is always on the lookout for South Melbourne related match programs. If you've got something that will help fill in one of the gaps here. Hit me up via email or see me at a game.

Final thought
Coming into Sunshine station after a two hour Friday night public transport hike from Cheltenham, a bloke who'd been at the Oakleigh game started chatting with me - because of my South beanie, I assume - and among his observations was that Nick Epifano looked weak. True story.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

"it came out of the closet" - artefact Wednesday - junior Marathon Foods top

Many years ago, but not quite as many as I initially thought - just a tick over four years ago, so roughly some time in 2014 - Ned Negus, the son of broadcaster and former soccer administrator George, was giving away a whole bunch of jerseys he'd found at an old holiday house.

He made that announcement on Twitter, and I jumped in as quickly as I could hoping there would be something to do with South Melbourne. Now usually I'm quite late on these things whenever they become available, and someone has already snaffled up the good stuff - but on this occasion I was lucky - there was a South shirt amid Ned's collection.

The seeming catch was did I want to wear it or just own it, because the shirt was a small size - extra small in fact. Well, I didn't mind either way, and after sending Ned the due postage - he didn't ask for any payment above that - the shirt arrived at what was then Casa South of the Border, along with a kids size Newcastle Breakers jersey of a similar vintage to the South jersey. 

For some reason I don't have a photo of that Breakers top, but no matter - I sent it away recently to Todd Giles, the amateur historian collecting Newcastle soccer history, who has been kind enough to share Newcastle vs South Melbourne related match programs with South of the Border, and thus also with this blog's audience. All part of an attempt at preserving soccer history, and keeping local soccer history local - well, at least more local than is often the case.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Take me out to the ball game (reprise)

Well, interesting news courtesy of the Herald Sun (and courtesy of the clever duck on Twitter who took a photo of the relevant article so we don't have to deal with News Corp paywalls).



It appears that the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League are considering shifting the at least some or possibly even the majority of their home matches to Lakeside Stadium.

Now for those who need a quick refresher of baseball in Australia. It's been around in Australia for a long, long time; it had a national league that was televised to a degree in the 1990s which eventually tanked; another national comp which tanked even faster than the previous; and it is now on to its third national league, which was initially funded by Major League Baseball but is now in the hands of independent investors since MLB divested itself of most (all?) of its responsibility.

Melbourne's current national league representatives, the Aces, play their home games out of the Melbourne Ballpark out in the back blocks of Altona/Laverton, a facility perfectly suited to baseball despite its age (built circa late 19080s), but which is also seen as a white elephant by Melbourne's baseball community, for the simple reason it seems of its location.

Now I'm biased, because I live a ten minute drive from Melbourne Ballpark, but even aside from that, it doesn't seem like that hard of a venue to get to - it's right off the Princes Freeway, and not that much of a walk from Laverton station. But that's eastern suburbs people for ya, no sense of geographic perspective. Or maybe baseball is a predominately eastern suburbs based sport in this city

(Incidentally, while I've seen the quip made by at least one South supporter that this is some sort of proof that FFA selecting a team to be based out of Tarneit is madness, the ideas behind Melbourne Aces and Western Melbourne Group are fundamentally different; more to the point, they also exist within fundamentally different sporting and business environments, with their current suburban proximity - assuming WMG even end up in Tarneit - a mere coincidence rather than anything we can draw causation based conclusions from).

Anyway, the Aces struggle to pull a crowd, and their soon to be owner reckons there isn't much point in sticking it out at the costly ballpark which won't pay its own way, because people won't go. This is not a new problem for the Aces, as originally they played out of the Melbourne Showgrounds, a ridiculous situation due to the small size of the field.

The solution to the Aces' problem - or at least a big part of the solution - is to play baseball out of Lakeside Stadium. Yes, that Lakeside Stadium, the one that is currently used by athletics and soccer. I can't get my head around how that would even look, and I'll leave that to the boffins behind this scheme to work out - but they reckon it'll be easy to move in and out without undue disruption to the stadium.

At the moment, the ABL runs a 40 game regular season with an additional playoff series from November to early February. Typically, each team plays 20 games at home, bundled into series of four matches. These are usually played on a Friday night, Saturday afternoon/evening double header, and Sunday afternoon, with Thursday games sometimes taking a game off the Saturday double-header.

Ignoring for a moment the new Aces owner's desire for overseas teams and such to visit - which is a long way from happening considering the crowds the Aces pull now - the Aces are looking to spend part of December and perhaps most (if not all) of January at Lakeside.

There do however appear to be contradictory statements when looking at the article in question and some of the commentary on social media around this matter. In the article, the claim is that there would be only 6-8 matches played At Lakeside (equivalent of about 1.5/2 home series), but a commentator on Twitter claims all but the equivalent of two home Aces' series will be played at Lakeside, with probably one at Altona, another at a regional facility.

(Peter Rolfe, the article's writer, also appears to be under the impression that Lakeside Stadium seats 7,400 patrons; as we have established before here on South of the Border, the stadium only seats 5338 patrons, unless they bring back the temporary stands that were used for the Nitro series.)

Whatever the specifics of this plan, should it go ahead it will prove disruptive to South Melbourne Hellas (I can't speak for athletics on this matter), because we do spend a fair bit of January training and playing practice games (albeit this year the latter behind closed doors).

(though I fancy some of you will be happy with the thought that such a plan would also mean fewer opportunities for Melbourne Victory's affiliated teams to play out of the venue.)

We already lose access to the ground for a good chunk of the early part of the season (for good and bad reasons), and now this? More running around searching for grounds to train on? If we were able to capitalise on the Aces playing out of the venue by getting people to come into the social club, I'd be less instinctively against the idea, but I just can't see that happening. Fat chance, too, of getting  cut from the rent that the Aces would be paying.

Of course we'll ll be keeping an eye on developments on this front. I do wonder if the South Melbourne board were aware of this plan.

Friendly Result - West Adelaide 0 South Melbourne 2

So, everyone happy now? A first clean sheet during this pre-season since our very first hit out against Moreland City late last year.

Look, I don't know anything about what happened last night except for what few snippets have been reported, which is basically, 0-0 at halftime, 2-0 to us at full time, and Manny Aguek scored both goals late. No details about starting elevens, quality of the opposition, etc.

So, on to round 1 this Friday at Kingston Heath, against a Bentleigh Greens side which a few days ago in the Community Shield reportedly easily took care of an overweight and unfit Heidelberg side seemingly still recovering from its championship.

If you want to talk about brushing off the cobwebs, take a look at that long, unwieldy sentence, bloody hell.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Friendly result - South Melbourne 3 Manningham United Blues 3

Rain to the left...
A smooth trip into the city from the western suburbs and outwards again towards Albert Park on the tram, albeit not the first packed tram, but one arriving soon after that was a bit roomier. I hear that some people had hassles coming in via Punt Road, but that's another story.

Inside the social club, a small gathering of South members and members-to-be gathered to collect and pay for memberships. Some of us also try the food on offer in the social club, which now that I've sampled a couple of things on the menu, can justifiably say that the offerings are certainly more than a mere a cut above what was on offer last year. Whether the crew operating the social club space can adjust to the different demands of a match day - where punters will demand speed and probably a lower price line - remains to be seen; but as a more traditional bistro space, I haven't got any complaints yet.

... and rain to the right. Photos: Paul Mavroudis.
Outside, fortune of fortune, there was a friendly on. What magnificent serendipity. And soon the good guys were 2-0 up, and looking sharp, well, at least sharpish. Then our esteemed merged, de-merged, and merged guests, who have been through at least three of the four stomachs of the ruminant and much famed Victorian Italian club merger flowchart, pulled a goal back, thanks to some sloppy marking.

So it has been from what little I have from this pre-season, where whatever adequate play has been manufactured going forward, just as much inadequacy has been found going toward the other, less desirable direction. Manningham pulled it back to 2-2, Will Orford scored a belter of a goal to make it 3-2 - he dispossessed an opponent in midfield, and curled a shot in from distance over an out of position goalkeeper - before the visitors made it 3-3, after which the scoring ended.

The members of the crowd who were there to support Manningham - recently promoted from State League 1 to NPL2 - got very excited with their goalscoring exploits, perhaps unduly so for pre-season; but since I spontaneously rose from my seat in excitement after Orford scored his goal, I guess there's limits to how much I can chide them for their enthusiasm.

The rain bucketed down, the ground became sloshed, players lost their footing and their positioning, and made frequent errors in passing the ball. I'm not sure what anyone would have learned from the exercise to be honest, and well before the end of the contest, the benches of both sides were cleared, and those still playing were left to duke it out in the pouring rain.

Need More Greeks! / 2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 7/02/2019
You People™ asked for an unapologetically big, gnarly, traditional centre-forward, and you've got your wish. And bonus points, he's Greek, which fits in with one of the themes of our off-season recruitment strategy, that being "need more Greeks" - not that there's anything wrong with that.

As the official site's blurb says, Billy Konstantinidis is a Melbourne centre-forward (no visa spot required) who has spent the better part of the last decade and a bit playing for several lower league teams in Greece. Though if you trust Wikipedia, and who doesn't, Billy hasn't been playing or scoring much in recent seasons.

And here's some bonus trivia - Billy, who turns 33 in April, played in East Richmond's last season of senior football in 2004, which is a hell of a long time ago on a number of fronts.

Now I don't know how fit Billy is and whether he's ready to go from round 1. Much the same however can be said about some of other players who have had injuries, but especially Marcus Schroen who has missed a good chunk of this pre-season with trips to Cambodia (late last year), and apparently now Sri Lanka.

Combined with that, there has been that much rotation of squads during the practice games that I honestly have no idea what Con Tangalakis' best starting eleven is. Chances are that whatever lineup Tangalakis chooses to field against West Adelaide on Saturday will probably be close to the starting eleven which will take the field against Bentleigh in round 1.

But back to Billy Konstantinidis, who has been touted by the club as the team's last signing before the start of the season. That statement means the categories I've used to keep track of who's in, who's out, and who's been hanging around, have had to be reshuffled. One wants to trust the announcements about players signed, and players gone, but the great mass of those in the middle remain problematic. So I've decided to sort them into two groups one being players who were at Lakeside last year and at pre-season this year and thus likely signed up, and a handful of others whose status is more tenuous.

There's more than 20 players in the list, so I'm assuming at least a few will end up in the 20s.

Signed
  • Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles) 
  • Ethan Gage (Bentleigh Greens)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne) 
  • Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Kostas Stratomitros (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote) 
  • Billy Konstantinidis 
Seen hanging around pre-season training and I assume signed for us because they played for us last year
  • Luke Adams 
  • Manny Aguek 
  • Ben Djiba
  • George Howard 
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giordano Marafioti 
  • Giuseppe Marafioti 
  • Jake Marshall
  • Andrew Mesorouni
  • Leigh Minopoulos 
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Marcus Schroen 
  • Giorgi Zarbos
Seen hanging around pre-season training and buggered if I know what their signing status is.
  • Melbourne Heart Ball Hog
  • Zack/ch Bates?
  • "Calvin"
Injured
  • Alastair Bray 
Out
  • Rory Brian (Oakleigh) 
  • Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh) 
  • Josh Hodes (Oakleigh?) 
  • Christos Intzidis (FK Palanka, Lithuania) 
  • Milos Lujic (Oakleigh) 
  • Oliver Minatel (Canada) 
  • Ndumba Makeche (Penang FA) 
  • Tim Mala (North Sunshine)

At last, my love has come along / My lonely days are over / etc
I'm not going to say that I don't even care if we get relegated now, but let us all appreciate this moment.
For years I have argued that we need these as opposed to the bland, pompom-less beanies, and finally after many years of griping, it's happened. Kids will love 'em, they look good, and they have character goddammit. Why other tinpot local clubs could have these things and we couldn't I never found out, and now I don't even want to find out. They cost $25, and five of those dollarydoos end up going to the South Melbourne Powerchair team. It's several levels of win.

Don't you know who I am? 2019 edition
Yet another marker of a season that's almost here.
It's all standard procedure these days, a long way from the days of being told that what I did was entertaining, but not important enough to have a media pass. I never take it for granted though.

Public Transport guide
I added details for Paisley Park and Frank Holohan Soccer Complex to the guide, not that anyone cares, and not that anyone will bother, possibly not even me for Frank Holohan because it is such an insane trip.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Notes from the 2018 AGM

Another year, another overdue AGM.

Held in the social club on Thursday night, this one kicked off to a poor-to-middling turnout, depending on your point of view of 30-40 attendees. But since our quorum is apparently a mere 20 members for a meeting to be valid, we were in no danger of not having it go ahead.

This was president Leo Athanasakis' last AGM as president. During the meeting, he officially handed over the reigns over to Nick Maikousis. Gabrielle Giuliano is the new vice-president, and there were some new board members who will join the board following the AGM.

Bill Papastergiadis is chairman now, and unlike previous board members holding that role in recent years, he attempted and largely succeeded in ruling the evening with an iron fist. More on that later.

Of the two AGMs to be held on the night. the South Melbourne Hellas AGM was first, as is customary; and is also custom for these AGM reports, I will not report on everything as it happened, but rather group the varying matters by theme.

Financials
Taking into account that the data presented is now seven months out of date, our financial position seemed reasonably steady, but keep in mind that I'm no accountant. The club had a turnover of over $2 million, up from $1.8 million from the previous financial year. It was the first time the club's financial turnover has gone over $2 million since the NSL.

The club made a small surplus of about $10,000. The club claims that its debts have been reduced, and that it is making an effort to eradicate those debts as quickly as possible. Although there was an overall reduction in our debt levels, there was an increase in director loans. When it was asked from the floor whether these director loans would attract interest, the answer was 'no'. When I asked, only half-jokingly, whether there were actual paper contracts to make sure of this - to avoid a repeat of the Toumbourou affair from a few years ago - the answer was 'yes'.

The club earned about $110,000 from the Sydney FC FFA Cup game from 2017. It was noted that our former major sponsor, Luvarc - whose current operating state seems a bit iffy to this observer - does owe us money, and that we are seeking to recoup the owed monies.

The club's ongoing enterprise as a provider of school programs is providing what seems like a steady stream of income; in effect, we are diversifying the business, functioning in part as an education and training provider.

There was little discussion that I can recall - or at any rate, discussion that ended up in my notes - about other sources of income, including the use of the social club and futsal court. This was a bit strange, considering the outsourcing of the social and futsal court to an outside operator who was there on the night, as well as the hiring of the futsal court to the taekwondo people who've been using it for their elite training purposes, and who were again there later in the evening. Perhaps this will count for more in the next AGM.

In terms of our ongoing government stipend, there are eleven years left of the current funding arrangement, with approximately $2.5 million due to us at the present rate - keep in mind though, that the stipend is attached to CPI, and thus it will increase over the remainder of that time. It is worth noting - as was clarified by the board in response to a question from the floor -  that our Lakeside lease period is separate from our government income period. The stipend is counted as having begun before the lease agreement was put in place.

When the funding agreement comes to an end in eleven years, there will be the opportunity to renegotiate a new funding agreement, or to seek alternative pathways which were a little unclear to me in how they would operate - something about going to market. The fact that there was the possibility of this funding arrangement continuing was news to me, as I'd assumed that once the initial funding period was over, that would be it.

Governance
As noted earlier, this was Leo Athanasakis' last AGM as president before stepping down. There had been some suggestion among members of the hoi polloi that Athanasakis may have sought to remain on the board, but this is apparently not the case.

Tass Roufos and Peter Kokotis have joined the board. Roufos' company, Commercial and General, will be the club's major sponsor this season. It was also noted that Roufos' strength will be in networking and government liaison work. Peter Kokotis, a former general manager of the club, will be the (senior men's?) football director. In seeking clarification on an earlier press release on the matter, it was made clear that Kokotis is a director, and not an employee of the club.

Even if it was not explicitly stated on the night, much of what happened with regards to the relevant board changes seemed to be an attempt to show that an orderly transition of power had occurred between Leo and his successor. Even more subtly, there was an attempt to emphasise matters of culture and professionalism.

To that end, it was admitted that while on this occasion a late AGM was unavoidable - though why it was unavoidable was not explained - the board will be renewing efforts to hold AGMs in a more timely fashion. This was just one of a range of procedural matters of concern to some members; communication with members was another one, especially with regards to the lengths to which the club does (or doesn't) go in order to inform members of an AGM.

Now admittedly mass mail-outs are expensive, especially when you have ongoing issues with databases - another problem which is going to be solved, or so it has been claimed, again. And they are also problematic when long absent life members (of which we have many) have not updated their postal details, and thus much of the mail-out gets sent back return to sender".

There was some movement in terms of staff, with some old faces back in media and/or merchandise. The club has also hired a new full-time administrative kind of person. Technical director Strati Xynas is also moving on soon, so we will need to find someone for that role as well.

The next AGM will coincide with elections. As usual, it will be interesting to see if anything happens on this front; it usually doesn't.

Women's
Gabrielle Giuliano once again presented the women's report. Giuliano noted that while overall the women's wing of the club had done well in producing talent both for external sources and internally, the results of the various teams could've been better, and she set the very lofty ambition of wanting to win everything available in 2019. Giuliano also noted that the 'one club' process was still ongoing, as matters such as assets and such still had to be dealt with.

Perhaps most curiously, after a couple of years of taking a backseat during AGMs, Gabby put forward an unusually frank and forthright statement asking for respect for board members (and vice-versa), and that there needed to be a raising of behavioural standards across the board at the club; again, hinting towards the broader cultural change the board is seeking to implement. This statement was also coupled with a call-out for more volunteers from the members.

Youth
Andrew Mesourouni gave this presentation, which was just about his only contribution to the night's proceedings. This was unusual, as Andrew usually has a bit more to say on a variety of matters at an AGM.

The news that Mike Valkanis was working with us from overseas was a bit of a surprise when it was announced last year; at Thursday's meeting it was revealed that Valkanis approached us about working with him. There was some discussion about potentially facilitating the move of talented boys through Valkanis' Dutch connections. I wait to see what this will look like.

As usual, there was a reiteration of the standard desire and/or aim of having players coming through from our juniors to our the seniors, which we have historically not been good at.

Senior men's team
The board was upfront with the fact that it had chased John Anastasiadis hard for the senior men's coaching gig, and that Con Tangalakis was a gentleman in how he conducted himself during that time. Tangalakis will be on a three year deal with bonuses and renewal of his contract to be judged annually, based on predetermined KPIs.

Player wage costs will come down, but apparently that was not a priority when making our signings for 2019. Wage creep and bonuses had meant that the cost of the former squad crept up over a number of years; in some ways, this new squad is an attempt (again) at a refresh - new, younger talent, but also ridding ourselves of a player culture that had suffered significant deterioration. To emphasise again the attempt at a cultural change off field and on, it was noted that part of our recruitment was on players "of good character with good habits".

Another key word with regards to the senior squad was that it was going to be 'competitive'. When asked for a more explicit expectation - specifically whether the aim was to make finals - the answer was 'yes'.

Other observations
The two meetings went for about an hour and a half in total. The first meeting started only a little late, and the second meeting started before its listed start time of 8:00pm. We were more or less done by 7:45pm. I can't remember the last time that South Melbourne AGMs were over so quickly - there often even used to be an intermission for a smoke break, and the combined SMH and SMFC meetings could take three or more hours to complete.

Much of this was down to the control exerted over the meeting by chairman Bill Papastergiadis. Where in the past questions, comments, and comments posing as questions would fly freely from the floor, this time much of this phenomenon was nipped in the bud. This was done via calls to adhere to due process - in this case, there being no formal "other business of which due notice shall have been given".

While the chairman did acquiesce to a degree to allow some questioning, it's a signal to members of the club that they will need to be more organised and prepared to deal with a board that, at least on face-value, will seek to adhere more closely to "the rules". While woefully unprepared myself for such a shift in approach from the board, I was a bit surprised that members who were involved in off-site supporter meetings last year didn't have anything prepared for these AGMs.

That lack of preparation was reflective of a sort of defeated, lacklustre mood in the room on Thursday night. While some of the usual suspects did their thing, asking some good questions about governance, financials, and member communications, the feeling in the room was a largely subdued one. A disinterested and disillusioned membership is a not a good thing, and one of the key tasks for the revamped board will be to find ways to energise the membership base.

Things left largely unsaid
There was very little said about the A-League bid, except for two things. First, that the club would maintain a commitment to participation in a summer competition, whatever that means. Second, that Ross Pelligra - the would be major private investor of a South Melbourne A-League bid - had misspoken when he said in a recent interview that the club would be re-branded for acceptance into the A-League.

There was no discussion about plans for celebrating the club's 60th anniversary. There was little discussion about last year's issues with the senior men's team, apart from subtle references about culture. A question about what the difference was between a "director" and a "board member" - apparently everyone on the board is a director, when in the past that wasn't always the case - highlighted that even very basic elements of the club's organisation need to be clarified, especially if it has legal and regulatory ramifications.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Friendly result - Brunswick City 2 South Melbourne 5

I trundled out to Brunswick West today. Bloody hot. Not sure of the sensibleness of playing matches in the middle of the day with such heat. Anyway, defensively very messy again, but going forward we were a lot better. Brunswick City missed a ton of very gettable chances throughout the game.

I suspect that the teams being out on Wednesday nights are a little stronger than the ones on Saturday afternoons, if for no other reason than the fact that Nikola Roganovic is in goals in the midweek games. There's not a lot of time left for Con Tangalakis to sort out his preferred starting eleven and formation.

I was asked a few times today to put forward what my starting eleven would be, and I don't know if it's fair to do so based on me seeing so few games during this pre-season... but I'm thinking some variant of 
Roganovic / Norton - Adams - Marshall - Djiba / Gage, Schroen, Sylaidos / Pep Marafioti, Krousoratis, Gio Marafioti
might be we close to what we end up with. Minopoulos will be off the bench, and that's fine. Konstantindis hasn't been fully involved with this pre-season, I'm not sold on Lambropoulos, and who knows what the coaches will decide in terms of how they'll use Bereveskos and Stratomitros, let alone George Howard who played in central defence today.

Members night this Wednesday
This coming Wednesday it looks like there will be a members/membership night in the social club, where our supporters have been invited to come down to the club to purchase and collect memberships. Not sure if there will be any merch available, but here's hoping. 

Apart from coming down and collecting a membership before our first home game, it's also a good chance to road test the food on offer in the social club as well - I had a burger the other night, and while no world beater, it was more than passable, and a definite step up from last year's offering.

Keep an eye on the club's social media for more on this.

Everyone is off to Adelaide
Or so it seems - senior men, senior women, and all of our NPL junior teams are apparently travelling to Adelaide to play against various opponents as part of pre-season. The senior men will be taking on West Adelaide, the senior women I think Adelaide City and another team. This seems like a very interesting enterprise to send basically the whole club interstate, in some ways echoing the intent of AAFC's interstate junior tournament proposal from last year.

2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 2/02/2019
Thank you to my Twitter friends for letting me know where Christos Intzidis ended up. I've seen Iqi Jawadi's name attached to Dandy City in some form. Whoever the English striker was who trialled with us in late 2018, he's almost certainly gone.


So what we have then, barring some massive surprise in the next two weeks, is basically what you see below. with most if not all of the players listed under the "seen hanging around pre-season training" list likely to be made senior South players.

It is also possible that the injured Alastair Bray could be ready by round one based on stuff I heard today, but we'll have to see on that.

As to why the club hasn't announced official signings with a bit more frequency... I'm not too sure. Apparently we'll be well under our player points-cap, even without using points from Matthew Millar's move to Central Coast, so there's room to move if we do decide on a surprise late notice marquee type signing. 

Signed

  • Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles) 
  • Ethan Gage (Bentleigh Greens)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne) 
  • Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019) 
  • Kostas Stratomitros (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote) 
Seen hanging around pre-season training
  • Luke Adams 
  • Manny Aguek 
  • Ben Djiba
  • George Howard 
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giordano Marafioti 
  • Giuseppe Marafioti 
  • Jake Marshall
  • Andrew Mesorouni
  • Leigh Minopoulos 
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Marcus Schroen 
  • Melbourne Heart Ball Hog
  • Zack/ch Bates?
  • "Calvin"

Injured
  • Alastair Bray 
Out
  • Rory Brian (Preston) 
  • Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh) 
  • Josh Hodes (Oakleigh?) 
  • Christos Intzidis (FK Palanka, Lithuania) 
  • Milos Lujic (Oakleigh) 
  • Oliver Minatel (Canada) 
  • Ndumba Makeche (Penang FA) 
  • Tim Mala (North Sunshine)
Unknown / MIA / Assumed dead from 2018
  • Giorgi Zarbos