Sunday, 27 February 2011

About four years ago - reminiscence of Langerak's brief VPL stint

Dean Anastasiadis got injured in round four against Green Gully. On came a skinny kid by the name of Mladen Tosic who, try as he might, was never able to convince the coaches, the fans or even his fellow defenders that he was the right man for the spot between the sticks.

So for the second half of the season, in came a young lad by the name of Mitch Langerak, a Queenslander on loan from Melbourne Victory. He made mistakes, to be sure - the worst of which was letting a harmless grubber of a cross by Henry Fa'arodo go through his legs for a tap in and the win for Richmond on a dispiriting Friday night. But he also showed enough in his aerial exploits, dubbed by Ian Syson at the time as either 'solid as a rock' or 'safe as houses' - I can't remember which, but it's the sentiment not the wording which matters - that even I was making uncharacteristically bold predictions like 'future Socceroo keeper'.

The years and keepers have come and gone at South in our VPL era. Deano came back after his injury and apocryphally kept Neil Young out of a job; Nick Jelic filled in for a game or two, as did Andy Sfetkopoulos; Tommi Tommich was awesome on short notice at the tail end of 2008, and then fell in a heap the year after; and the still young Stefaan Sardelic has pinch hit over the past few years without being able to nail down the starting keeper's spot.

The Agitator leaves his mark on the scoreboard
But for whatever intangible reason none of these guys excited me like Mitch did on a cold and rainy Sunday in June at Chaplin Reserve, against a dogged Sunshine George Cross outfit. It was a hard fought 2-0 win, well earned in the mud by the players, as the South fans huddled together under umbrellas not always their own on the hill at the Anderson Road end, and scoreboard shenanigans by one of our stalwart fans kept us amused as we fought off the onset of frostbite.

But just one of the enduring memories of that game was our old foe John Markovski, who was coaching George Cross at the time, doing his by that stage almost compulsory act of subbing himself on against us. When the home side won a free kick within Markovski's range, there was just that moment of dread. Loathe his as we do, he still had a phenomenal left foot shot - he hit a volley as sweetly as he would have done in his prime, but Langerak made the save, and was re-christened 'Mitso' by the faithful.

Billy Natsioulas fights for the ball.
It was a glorious day all round, back in the day when there was still a sort of VPL  camaraderie amongst South fans before we divided ourselves into innumerable factions; when Gate 1/HFC faction splitting was the height of our worries; when some people still thought we were a shoe-in for the second Melbourne A-League spot when it opened up; when a few wins against some of that season's strugglers, which included the aforementioned game, had us run into a bit of form halfway through the year before the Victory game and the subsequent collapse into an inconsistent heap, whose misery was only occasionally punctuated by moments such as this.

This morning Mitch 'Mitso' Langerak made his Bundesliga debut for the ladder leading Borussia Dortmund away at Bayern Munich. Dortmund won 3-1, their first win away at Bayern in 20 years. From all reports, Langerak had a good game, including making one great reflex save against Mario Gomez. Four years on from what for most football fans would rightly be viewed as a game between two also-rans of Australian football, a young man brought in almost as a last resort to try and solve a goalkeeping crisis at Lakeside is one step closer to achieving his potential. Now, as then, I have every confidence that he will fulfill his promise.

1 comment:

  1. Shame about the result, but congrats to Mitch on making his Socceroos debut. Many more, hopefully happier, games to come.

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