On to this week's games. I initially felt good doing some of these again, but only ended up liking two of them. Such is life.
Bentleigh have almost secured a finals spot. They could even manage to snare the double chance. But first things first. The Bergers are done and dusted for 2012. Even their cup run was ended by Dandenong Thunder on Tuesday night, so there's literally nothing to play for any more. Pride? Money? Love of the game? Bah, humbug. The one shining light as far as I can gather has been the form of Kristian Sarkies. Somehow he's defied all expectations - well my uneducated ones at least - of cementing his hard earned reputation of being the most over-hyped player this side of, let's say Travis Cloke for want of a better example, and actually did a pretty decent job in his half season stint there. He's scored goals, including some from free kicks! A bit late perhaps to restore his former (and bizarre) reputation as some sort of set piece specialist, but perhaps just in time for when the A-League unleashes its next wave of expansion with Back of Bourke United, FC Beyond the Black Stump, and East Altona PAOKARAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like their fellow northern suburbs brethren in Preston, the Bergers have had a habit of just not going away, even when everyone else wants them to. Year after year, season after season, their immediate and deserved demotion to the lower leagues was deemed inevitable. But they defied the odds at every turn, not just avoiding relegation and making finals, but also proving to be a real pain in the arse for South in particular (though hilariously, they've switched their attention to the Knights this season). But not this year. So desperate did the Bergers get, that they even recalled George Katsakis back to the coaching helm, but that didn't work. And the less said about Katsakis coaching two clubs at once the better (he also took control of the big talking, but done nothing Clifton Hill in state league two. Having said all of that, this is one of those times you want them to win, because South's remarkably still alive finals aspirations depend on it. But Bentleigh, though a rather unremarkable unit overall (come one, their squad includes Nic Curtis and Johnny is the gaffer!), play half decent football - and while often that in itself can be a death sentence for a club in this league, they've made it work, and according to the paid boffins at the FFV, have scarcely been out of the five all season. Add to that the Bergers' just god damn awful defence, and the miracle result (among many in the rubric) needed for South to make finals just ain't happening. Bentleigh 3 Heidelberg 1.
8:30 PM Friday 24 August, Hume City (6th) vs Richmond (7th) - Epping Stadium
The rise and fall of the Victorian Premier League resembles that of the Ottoman Empire. Discuss. But seriously, has there ever been a club in which descriptions of its activities and even raison d'être include the word 'allegedly' as much as Hume City? And especially when you consider that the word 'allegedly' is not thrown in for fear of legal action but due to fear of (removed due to legal advice)
7:00 PM Saturday 25 August, Dandenong Thunder (1st) vs Oakleigh Cannons (2nd) - George Andrews Reserve
Top of the table clash, possible precursor to the grand final. Oakleigh haven't impressed me pretty much at all this season, with the exception of Ricky Diaco. If there was justice in this world, Dandenong would have been crowned champions back in 2009 when they dominated the league, and would need just a point in their last three games to be awarded the same honour. But it doesn't work like that. Ask Port Melbourne, St Albans, Port Melbourne again, Oakleigh, Fawkner, Preston, even Green Gully, all teams who failed to win the title from first place. Unless someone gets a lengthy suspension or injury, or the FFV wields a massive point deduction for who knows what reason, this game doesn't really matter. Thunder 4 Oakleigh 2.
3:00 PM Sunday 26 August, Moreland Zebras (11th) vs Southern Stars (10th) - Epping Stadium
Before the season started, Moreland talked big. Supercoach Dom Barba. Striker Vinnie Flaherty would tear the league apart. Griffin McMaster in goals. The big name signings of
People who don't know any better say that writing is easy. That all it takes is sitting your fat arse down in front of the computer and just banging away. Never mind that the majority of those people making such claims usually can't do much more than spell their own name, and if asked would quickly baulk at being asked to write anything requiring even the merest hint of comprehension and creativity. That being said, those people are actually half right. Any chimp can sit at a computer and type up all sorts of garbage, and if one or two people are amused by it, they can then convince themselves of being some sort of underground genius, on the cutting edge of satire. Unlike real writers however, those people of course almost never get paid for those kinds of efforts, and rightly so. We readily acknowledge that this blog sits firmly within that category. Then again, does merely being paid for your work make you a professional? Or do you have to adhere to some standards above what might be expected of a hobbyist? I ask this question because it's fair to say we have often not seen those elevated standards, or even attitudes, from South players this season. A recent discussion on soccer-forum.net posed the question about which players should be kept, and which ones should be turfed out. I had the bulk of my response up and ready to go, before reconsidering. For starters, the season is still not quite over. Neither are we officially out of the finals race. And what would happen if, hypothetically, I had demanded that only a third of the players in our squad were definitely worth keeping? How foolish would it be to berate everyone else for calling for another off-season squad pogrom while doing near enough to the exact same thing? And yet, I found I struggled to fill a starting eleven's worth of names... South has never beaten Northcote in the VPL. Northcote is also the only team to defeat South at John Cain. All of that means nothing, especially since it's likely that none of the original Northcote triumvirate of Trifiro, Rixon and Trifiro will start the game. One because he's suspended, one because he's representing caveman stone throwers in Sydney, and the other because his heart doesn't seem to be in it any more. Northcote 1 South 0.
3:00 PM Sunday 26 August, Melbourne Knights (9th) vs Green Gully Cavaliers (3rd) - Knights Stadium
Back in 1978, or 1983, this game would have attracted a decent crowd. Maybe as many as 3,000 Croatians and 30 Gully fans, sardined into Montgomery Park in Essendon before the local residents had had enough, or taking up a position on the hill at Green Gully Reserve. Now it will probably attract 300 Croatians and 30 Gully fans. Someone should investigate whether the make up of those 30 Gully fans has changed at all in the intervening 30 years. Back then, these two clubs, along with Preston, were the leading sides of the state league in the immediate post-NSL era. Gully are the only Victorian ex-NSL club to have properly settled into the long haul of VPL hell. Mooroolbark got stooged by the system and ended up in the provisional leagues. Morwell disintegrated once the irreplaceable driving force of Don Di Fabrizio departed the helm. Juventus cut up their carcass into a million tiny pieces and reused the meat several times when the meal kept getting sent back to the kitchen. Preston is in state league two, and may have finally steadied themselves, though they're still a real chance of getting relegated to state three. J.U.S.T. fell over more or less in tune with the Iron Curtain. South persisted with delusions of grandeur and relevance almost to oblivion, before offering the government and Collingwood a way out of their years of neglect of Olympic Park and Victoria Park respectively. The Bergers continue to blame South for their demotion from the NSL in 1995, despite having had a solid decade or so of being an absolute rabble before that. The Georgies subsist on a diet of Elvis impersonator gigs, seafood nights, and the hope that one day they will actually move out of Chaplin Reserve with a dump truck full of money, which they will then probably squander in the most unimaginative way possible - by trying to buy a VPL title in the belief that it will bring back people to the club. Chopper Read once said of spending time in prison, that those who wouldn't reconcile themselves to the fact that they were in prison, and the fact that prison life was entirely different to 'real' life, were inevitably the ones who suffered the most from the experience. Now, I don't really know how much like a prison the VPL and the state leagues are. After all, most people eventually get out of prison. It might take 20 years, but people do get out of refugee camps in Kenya. People have been released from Guantanamo Bay. And even though it required Stalin carking it, people even managed to get out of the gulags. No, the Victorian system is more like the Hotel California, in that you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. So credit must go to the Knights for becoming perhaps only the second ex-NSL club from Victoria to cotton on to the fact that they are here to stay, and that they should adapt to the situation. Still, this is the now traditional time of year where Gully ramps up their efforts to bore everyone to death on their way to another title. Knights' very slim chance of a finals appearance to be ended, regardless of more Jake Nakic heroics. Knights 0 Gully 2.