Friday, 30 May 2014

Autumn and Winter - NPL match previews, round 11, 2014

Friday 30th May, 8:30PM, Port Melbourne Sharks vs Bentleigh Greens, SS Anderson Reserve
Port were never going to be championship material this year, and after copping a rough draw in the cup - they got bundled out by Northcote at the first hurdle - there's little for them to play for in the rest of the season except pride. Or so one would think, except after last week's loss to Melbourne Knights, Port find themselves well and truly stuck in the relegation dogfight, just three points above the drop zone.

Within the space of four weeks, Bentleigh have turned from championship challengers to mid-table muddlers, after a disastrous run which has seen them take just one point from a possible twelve - and that was against Goulburn Valley. Last year's runners up are still in the cup for now - they have a tricky tie against Bulleen next week - but their league ambitions are probably done like a dinner, game in hand or not.

Though it's only round 11, owing to the anomalies of the fixture this will be Port's seventh home game - they've only picked up three points (all draws) from the previous six home games. Expect the Greens to finally pull their finger out and get a win.

Saturday 31st May, 3:00PM, Green Gully vs Melbourne Knights, Green Gully Reserve
Has Green Gully finally settled down after a tumultuous start to the year? Even if one didn't quite expect Gully to be up near the top, probably no one expected them to be fighting their way out of relegation - at least not with the quality, albeit somewhat aged, players in their squad.

Knights ran all over the top of Port last week to finally break a run of six or so consecutive league losses, but still find themselves outside the relegation zone only by goal difference at the moment.

The two sides meet again next week in the Dockerty Cup, for the right to play South in the quarter finals, and a spot in the FFA Cup. Quite where the sides will put their priorities for both matches is anyone's guess, but  with their injury crisis it's not like Knights have much of a choice either way.

Saturday 31st May, 3:00PM, Ballarat Red Devils vs Hume City, Morshead Park
Ballarat are just one point above the relegation zone. Sure, they have their perennial game in hand against Bentleigh, and have the advantage of not having to play South again this season, but if they don't start picking up points soon, things will start getting dicey, even though we're not even halfway through the season.

The difference between Hume's best and worst is probably the biggest in the competition. Their league title chase is gone; their cup run is still alive - and they have a favourable draw in th next round to boot; yet they also find themselves just four points above the relegation zone, which is a pretty crap place to be in for a team that is clearly not short of talented players.

All things considered, a draw is actually a rare occurrence in soccer, but this is where this one's heading. Prove me wrong.

Saturday 31st May, 6:30PM, Goulburn Valley Suns vs Pascoe Vale, McEwan Reserve
Goulburn Valley keep plugging away, but for the most part are clearly off even mid-table NPL pace. Lose this one against Pascoe Vale, and they'll be pretty much sure to join fellow regional teams FC Bendigo, North Geelong and the newly minted Murray United in NPL1 next year.

For their part, Pascoe Vale are this close to being a lower mid-table plodder as opposed to staring relegation in the face. Apart from one caning at the start of the year, they've been competitive in pretty much every game, and even managed to take Oakleigh's scalp last week.

A draw won't be much good for either team, and I think that's what's going to happen.

Saturday 31st May, 7:30PM, Oakleigh Cannons vs Werribee City, Jack Edwards Reserve
Oakleigh were dealt a major blow last week with their first loss of the league season to Pascoe Vale, and now find themselves nine points behind South, and level on points with Heidelberg.

Despite being the only team to have lost to Goulburn Valley this season, Werribee somehow find themselves a smidgen higher up the ladder than many of their struggler counterparts, and now that they're out of the cup, they can focus entirely on staying out of the relegation zone.

Oakleigh lost to this opponent, at this venue, in the cup a month or two ago - after not realising that it doubled up as FFA Cup qualification - but they won't lose this one. This week and next will be as good a chance as Oaks will get to close the gap on South, and a stuff up here

Sunday 1st June, 5:00PM, South Melbourne vs Dandenong Thunder, Lakeside Stadium
South has looked flat for the best part of a month now - the second half against Bentleigh excepted - but just keep on getting the points. Even being swamped for the better part of 90 minutes against Thunder in the cup midweek didn't see them lose.

Thunder have been the most inconsistent team in the league - one week brilliant, the next week horrendous. Sometimes they even decide to switch halfway through a match.

When will South lose? Will this be the week where their winning streak bubble finally bursts? Which team will have the legs to run out the game, backing up after 120 minutes of classic midweek cup action? Buggered if I know.

Sunday 1st June, 5:00PM, Heidelberg United vs Northcote City, Olympic Village
Heidelberg have won something like six in a row, and their two losses early in the season - to South and Oaks - now look like if not quite an aberration, than at least understandable, considering that those two sides take up first and second on the ladder ten weeks in.

Northcote are not the team they were last year. The reigning champs have stumbled their way through the season, but on their day can still push the leading teams. They're also still in the cup, having eliminated Werribee midweek.

This is a local derby which has picked up some relevance and cachet in recent years, so it's a pity that it's on at the same time as South vs Dandy. Heidelberg's run has to end sometime, and Northcote is as good as candidate as any to do it.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

South hold on grimly for cup win - Dandenong Thunder 0 South Melbourne 1 AET

This entry was very nearly going to be titled 'Cup football blows'. Dandenong Thunder dominated the entirety of normal time in this match, but went on to spurn chance after chance, before a sucker punch goal early in extra time to Kobbie Boaheme saw them turfed out of the Dockerty Cup (and FFA Cup) for 2014. 

South meanwhile are now into the quarter finals of the Dockerty Cup, and just one win away from qualification for the FFA Cup. Including both league and cup matches, it was South's 13th consecutive win in 2014, a remarkable run in anyone's language. 

South made a few changes from the line-up which took on Werribee City on Sunday in the league. Nick Epifano came back into the starting line up replacing Leigh Minopoulos, Michael Eagar slotted back into the side replacing James Musa who is on All Whites duty, and Slaven Vranesevic came in for the unavailable Matthew Theodore.

For their part, I believe Dandenong Thunder may have also had one or two out, but still managed to field a good young team with a few familiar ex-South faces - midfielder Alan Kearney, goalkeeper Zaim Zeneli and defender Ramazan Tavsancioglu - which has been providing real Jekyll and Hyde performances throughout 2014.

Unfortunately for us, we got the fired up Dandenong Thunder who, already off the league leaders' pace, had pretty much only this to play for for the rest of the season - never mind the return of several ex-Thunder personnel to George Andrews Reserves for the first time since they moved across to South last year.

Apart from an early series of five consecutive corners, and a Jamie Reed shot which was blasted high and wide from outside the box - and he had so much more time than he realised - it was pretty much all Dandenong in the first half.

They should have scored within the first minute or so when we coughed up the ball cheaply in defence, but Saldaris made the first of a series of three or four killer saves in this match - including one where he was bundled into the net, but thankfully awarded the foul, unlike Gavalas last year in the preliminary final against Northcote.

My obviously educated opinion is that we were also out-coached, or at the very least played into Dandy's hands. While George Andrews Reserve is a bigger ground than many in the NPL, quite why we sat so deep for almost the entire match baffled me.

So many of our goals this season have been scored from getting the opposition to cough up possession in midfield, and then playing the ball either to Reed or Milos Lujic up front. Yet Lujic was stranded up front by himself, as Reed was played closer to midfield, and the lack of pressure on the Thunder back four allowed them to play the ball of the back with ease. Thunder were thus able to repeatedly make their way up both wings without the threat of turning the ball over.

Meanwhile, when we did get the ball and the chance to go forward, we often resorted to bombing it long to Lujic, or steadfast refused to play the ball wide to a loose man - on at least a couple of occasions Iqi Jawadi, who otherwise toiled hard in midfield, refused to pass it to Vranesevic, preferring to take on the Thunder defence himself. 

While we improved in the second half, it still took us a whole 80 minutes to get even a timid shot on target. Leigh Minopoulos certainly added some spark - and class - when he came on for Reed (and playing up front as opposed to out wide, probably for the first time since he started against the Georgies in the cup), taking advantage of the tiring Thunder.

Nevertheless, we couldn't manage to get the win in normal time, as even as we worked ourselves into better positions and started winning the ball in 50/50s in the middle of the park, our crossing and decision making were invariably poor. 

Extra time at least brought the temporary relief that if we conceded early we would have time (compared to injury time after the regulation 90) of being able to pull a goal back, but it was us that started the brighter, with substitute Boaheme finding space inside the box. His shot at the near post was well saved by Zeneli, resulting in a corner - and from said corner, Thunder's inability to clear their lines presented Boaheme with the opportunity to make up for that chance when he managed to get the ball over the line.

South then had a good patch of play, its best of the match as it probably shaded the extra time period. However Thunder wouldn't go away, throwing everything at the South defence including keeper Zeneli from a corner, which almost paid dividends. In the end, Thunder's failure to score after having so many chances came back to haunt them - and as we all know, whatever stats you may have won on the night, there's only one that counts in the end.

It was the first time we had been held scoreless (in normal time) all season, and added to a recent series of underwhelming performances. While the defence is holding up, Saldaris' kicking is becoming a real worry. Reed's form also seems to have dropped off in the last few weeks, if not his endeavour, though I wish he would stop playing for free kicks so much.

Still, once again we got the chocolates, as we head into the next phase of a triumvirate of tough matches: we host Thunder on Sunday, followed by perhaps the most anticipated match of the season thus far, a trip to Oakleigh on Friday week. It's been an amazing run so far

Our next opponent in the cup has not been decided yet, with several Dockerty Cup games to be played next week, but among the winners from last night were Hume City (6-0 over Springvale White Eagles), Northcote (2-1 over Werribee City) and South Springvale (1-0 over Fawkner Blues).

Lastly, thanks to Johnny for giving me and Gains a lift home.

Around the grounds
NPL1 Match Review with Skip Fulton @Football_Vic
Sunshine George Cross vs Box Hill United
NPL1 Seniors, Saturday 24th May at Chaplin Reserve

The NPL1 Seniors ladder has Avondale Heights on top four points clear of Box Hill United with Sunshine George Cross a point behind. Therefore Chaplin Reserve played host to second versus third it what was expected to be a close match between two strong teams.

Box Hill were coming off a win over FC Bendigo last week whilst Sunshine had lost at Dandenong City. On paper Box Hill looked the stronger team having the better goal difference, scoring in every match this season and having four clean sheets from their eight games.

The encounter lived up to expectations of two top teams going at it. Box Hill had the upper hand with possession and scoring opportunities. Their ability to break along the right flank and get in behind exposed some weaknesses in the Sunshine defence. They weren’t able to convert their chances and the teams went in at half time with no goals.

The second half bought a resurgent Sunshine George Cross to the field. They held off a period of constant attack from Box Hill and had their own chances on the counter attack however a lack of speed resulted in them not being able to penetrate through the last line and get shots on target.

That changed in the eighty second minute however with a fast cross shooting in from the right flank coming just inside the six yard box. It sailed past an attacker, defender and keeper only to be picked up by an unmarked Sadik at the back post. A big celebration in front of the pavilion and home team supporters ensued with Sunshine hitting the front. An all-out and forceful defence from Sunshine meant Box Hill struggled to get it into the final third for the final ten minutes and they ran out the victors.

Sunshine George Cross climb into second place on the ladder and they travel to White Eagles Stadium on Saturday to take on Springvale. Box Hill United slip two places to fourth and remain on the road next week facing an invincible Avondale Heights on Saturday (Avondale Heights has not lost at home in three years).

Whittlesea Ranges vs North Geelong Warriors
NPL1 Seniors, Saturday 24th May at Epping Stadium

Whittlesea and North Geelong are both in the second half of the NPL1 ladder with two and three wins respectively. It has been a mixed season so far for both teams with no stand-out performances. Whittlesea are coming off a loss to Richmond last week and Geelong has had a bad run losing their last four straight before making the long drive out to Epping Stadium for tonight’s match.

The match started and it was Whittlesea who came out of the blocks firing. They controlled possession and showed good promise through the mid field with attacks delivered down both flanks. In the first ten minutes there were three scoring opportunities for the Ranges which couldn’t be converted. It was therefore a surprise when on the counter great team work and passing found Reardo Luka clear to put the ball into the back of the net giving the Warriors an early lead in the fourteenth minute. The game now swung in the favour of North Geelong who continued to put pressure on the Whittlesea goal. The defence were stretched and in the fortieth minute a free kick on the right side saw a great cross delivered. A mad scramble right on the line somehow found the ball in and Mark Paleka was credited with the goal.

Whittlesea had the majority of possession however North Geelong were strong on defence and dominant in the final third in a first half that went all their way. The action returned in a big way just five minutes into the second half. A challenge on the edge of the box near the byline gave North Geelong a controversial penalty. First half goal scorer Luka took the shot from the spot and didn’t fail.

Shortly after another refereeing decision bought the home team supporters to their feet. Matthew Iuliano was on the receiving end of a careless tackle during a promising run down the left flank however with no card being shown, it was instead his response that instead saw the referee present the yellow. Having received the same card just a few minutes prior he was soon heading for the locker room.

Ten minutes later and with only ten men, Whittlesea conceded their fourth goal. Once again it was Reardo Luka on the end of cross to seal the deal for North Geelong.

Whittlesea can look back and reflect on a solid first half where they had most of the possession but couldn’t capitalise. The first fifteen minutes of the second half then saw an arguably controversial penalty and a send off all but rule out a come back. The final whistle sounded with North Geelong winning by four.

North Geelong really did put on a very good display especially in the final third. The Warriors delivered in this match: Luka with a hat-trick, the first clean sheet of the season, a high score of four goals for the season and a positive goal difference.

It’s optimistic to say this match will be a turning point for North Geelong however next Saturday they are at home to Moreland Zebras and they have a chance to consolidate their season. A win would put them five and five and potentially push them up into the top half of the ladder.

Whittlesea will lament a challenging game. Their next opportunity comes next week on the road to Dandenong City

Kingston City vs FC Bulleen Lions
NPL1 Seniors, Monday 26th May at Grange Reserve

Grange Reserve in South Clayton played host to the last match of Round 9 for NPL1. The U20 curtain raiser was a good game and FC Bulleen extended their two nil lead from half time to run out winners three one. The main game would prove to be the tight battle the preview predicted. The Kingston City website had a good introduction highlighting FC Bulleen would come hunting for goals especially with Joseph Katebian scoring seven goals in four matches and being named player of the month by FFV.

Kick off under lights and it was only five minutes before Paul Harvey scored for FC Bulleen. A cross from the left flank came along the six yard line and whilst he was closely marked, he chested it down to himself, one step and then a quick tap in past the keeper. The possession remained with FC Bulleen throughout the next period of play with the next major opportunity coming at the thirty minute mark for the highly regarded Joseph Katebian when his header hit the cross bar and was quickly cleared by the defence.

Kingston City looked to go close in the forty first minute when a free kick found an open man in the box and the resulting header cleared the defence only to be denied by the upright. Not to give up, Kingston continued the assault and right on the stroke of half time an amazing strike by George Stavridis on the edge of the area gave them the equaliser going into the break.

I wont say Kingston came out in the second half as a different team but they certainly turned up the intensity big time. Kicking towards the pavilion and some vocal supporters, they had multiple opportunities they were unable to put away. That changed in the seventy second minute when a run from the left flank made it past two defenders into the area only to be taken down by an obvious challenge. The players in red didn’t even have time to appeal as the referee had no hesitation in blowing the whistle and pointing to the spot. In one of the quickest penalties I’ve seen, less than twenty seconds had passed when Velibor Mitrovic slid it into the bottom right corner; the keeper moving early to the other side.

A fired up crowd on the hill were quickly silenced three minutes later as FC Bulleen found the net and the scores were once again equal at two two. FC Bulleen had made a solid run down the left flank all the way to the corner. A move in along the by-line and the ball was squared up to a waiting Matt Dimech who was unmarked outside the top of the box. From twenty yards his right foot strike curled away from the keepers outstretched hand into the bottom left corner of the net.

In the eighty fifth minute the Lions had a free kick which was delivered very well to the back post where it was slotted across the line. The whistle blew but with an unexpected outcome being the keeper deemed to have been fouled in the process. Even some of the home supporters were surprised at the decision but were regardless relieved to still be in game.

That relief turned to heart break in the eighty eighth minute when a blistering counter attack took FC Bulleen down the right side. The scrambling defence didn’t have the pace to match some of the attacking passes and suddenly two yellow jerseys only had the keeper to beat. They drew him out and then a square cross through the area left sub Joshua Sabidussi with an open net to put the Lions in front.

FC Bulleen ran out winners three two and will retain their ladder position in fourth albeit it now equal on points and goal difference with third place St Albans Saints. Kingston City will look back at a match where they had the majority of possession and scoring shots but weren’t able to put it away.

Final thought

Ian Syson really needs to download the Futbol24 app.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

IKEA Galvin Park - Werribee City 0 South Melbourne 1

First, let's get the game out of the way. Leigh Minopoulos started the match ahead of Nick Epifano, who replaced him late in the match, and as with last week Michael Eagar also didn't start, although he was apparently on the bench.

In a slog of a match we cleared one off the line in the first half - apparently it was Brad Norton - had Milos Lujic score a one on one in first half injury time after a great offside breaking pass by Iqi Jawadi, stuffed up a second to seal the game, and the side overall produced another gritty defensive performance to keep up the perfect start to 2014, now out to ten consecutive league wins.

The officiating was... well, it wasn't great, but what can you do? For their part, the home side's defenders are probably still complaining about the goal they conceded, but it looked onside to me from the worst possible place to make that call from. And the three minutes wasted in the first half while a Werribee player tried to put his shoe back on was a particular highlight.

What this all means is that after Oakleigh lost its first game of the season on Friday night against Pascoe Vale, we now lead by nine points from both Oakleigh and the in form Heidelberg.

But the real story was, as is so often the case, to do with scaffolding. Five years ago I got stuck on a scissor lift at the old Bob Jane Stadium, but I never thought that we'd rock up to a ground and be asked to put up scaffolding.
What that photo shows is the mid-point of a quite farcical situation. With Galvin Park being basically flat all the way around the outer, the South Melbourne media team arrived expecting some sort of scaffolding to be available. And that was true enough, except for the fact the visiting side had to put it up themselves, from the apparent odds and ends available on the other side of the fence outside the ground, without any apparent instructions about how to put it together (let alone an Allen key), or whether we should even bother to do so.

Well, the decision was made to at least try, and we (by which I mean mostly other people) ended up getting off to a false start, as we proceeded to try and put it together without any real idea of what we were doing - and then we found the instructions, which were on the part of the base, and that the colour coded poles actually had specific place they were mean to go, and then he real breakthrough when we started thinking in three dimensions. Two dimensions are hard enough. Anyway, eventually we figured out what the hell we had to do, and it was done, and SMFCTV cameraman Tim Dovas got up there to do his thing.
The home side's photographer partly explained the situation, that they had a grandstand (costing $6.8 million, and funded by the social club pokie joint next door that funds Werribee City) planned for the outer side, and I'm sure it'll be a nice feature once it's actually built. But for the time being Galvin Park is one of the crappier NPL grounds.

Also, quite why the game was played on the field adjacent to the field which was located next to the clubrooms, canteen and toilets, I'm not sure. The fields looked more or less identical to me, and it's not like the condition of the field that was used was much good.

Still, they had an electronic scoreboard with a count-up clock, which was a nice feature. It wasn't as nice as the colour scoreboard being used by footy club Werribee Centrals next door - and which was visible from the soccer field - but it's better than what most clubs have on offer.

Next week
Double dose of Dandenong Thunder. First up, a Dockerty Cup match at George Andrews Reserve on Wednesday, followed by a home match against the same side on Sunday. Some interesting decisions to be made on the squads and approach to both games - I think if people were forced to make a decision, the Dockerty Cup match, with its reward of taking us to within one game of FFA Cup qualification - will take priority.

James Musa called up to All Whites squad
We've speculated about how our depth would cope with injuries and suspensions, but national team call-ups? It looks as if central defender James Musa has been called up to the All Whites squad to face South Africa on Friday after some of the better known players dropped out.

Apparently we have signed some bloke called Dion Kirk, a midfielder from Adelaide United's youth squad. But who'll make way from the 20 man squad once the transfer window opens? Probably assistant coach Graham Hockless.

...and goodbye
Well, it looks like under 20s coach Matthew Maslak has been shown the door, to be replaced by Sasa Kolman. Results are one thing I suppose, but the word around Lakeside for a good while now was that he wasn't exactly the most liked person either. Messy to say the least.

Hay and Murray finally release their book!
Last Tuesday at the MCC Library, historians Roy Hay and Bill Murray finally launched their long awaited book on the history of Australian soccer, A History Of Football In Australia. Something like ten years in the making (probably more), it was officially launched by Les Murray in front of one of the most bizarre seating arrangements I've even seen.

Book launches are a strange old business, and I say that as someone who's been on both the audience and publishing sides. The audience is made up of several often very different groups - friends and family are often there, but often for reasons other than interest in the book itself - and then you have those industry types who are there not just to buy the book, or because they have an interest in the book, but because there will be an expectation that in future the people publishing today's book will turn up to their own book launch.

This was different though, for the warmth and affection in the room for the two scholars. In addition to the various sports historians, academics and FFV functionaries, and even members of the footy press - but quite notably few, if any, soccer journos from Melbourne's mainstream press - several South Melbourne personalities were also in attendance: Jimmy Armstrong, Ted Smith, Kimon Taliadoros, David Clarkson, Oscar Crino and even current South manager Chris Taylor.
The library itself is rather small, and so the seating arrangement was less than ideal. The two writers and Les Murray were at the front, but in front of them the audience was cleaved in two by a book shelf.

As noted earlier, Les Murray provided the main speech for the launch. He went through his personal history with Bill Murray and Roy Hay which dates back to the mid 1980s, including their shared collaborations - although Les was on much weaker ground when he spoke on the origins of football/soccer and the names of the organising bodies and games.

Bill Murray then provided a rambling, digression filled speech on the history of the book itself, the different ideas of which methodology to use, and a million references to the Scots. The main ideological differences were in their approaches as historians with regards to how to tell the story - Murray is more interested in themes, Hay apparently more interested in narrative (I probably cocked that analysis up), and also about how to view Australian soccer history. Hay thinks that the game is much more than migrants, and that it has had a longer and more nuanced existence within Australia than is often given credit for - which leads to his idea that the most recent soccer boom is the first which is not dependent on migration for its success. Murray on the other hand thinks migration is still the primary lens by which the game should be understood in the Australian context.

Roy Hay thanked those involved with assisting in the book's production, including FFA and SBS, as well as discussing the Hay-Desira collection that was also being launched. Hay also took a shot at Penguin and the general idea that soccer supporters in Australia don't buy books. Hay also subtly passed the baton on to the next generation of Australian soccer historians. While this book will not be the last work on the game that Hay or Bill Murray will contribute to, it is in many ways the grand opus, a defining even if not quite definitive statement which future generations will have to rely on, contend with and hopefully also challenge.

Questions and comments were then raised from the floor - the ones I can remember off the top of my head were Frances Hay's (Roy's wife and editor of the book), asking about why no mention had been made about the women's section of the book, which ended up in an elaboration about the process of including it - whether to integrate it into the main narrative or give it its own chapter.

The other notable comment came from FFV president Nick Monteleone, who seemed keen to latch on to next year's Anzac centenary and finding a way of asserting soccer's place within that. The problem with that approach - aside from my already stated discomfort with Anzac, and combining militarism with sport - is how to create a link without coming across as being opportunistic, jingoistic or prone to me-too ism. The code was there, the code contributed in its way (perhaps disproportionately), but the commemoration of those events must focus first and foremost on the experiences and sacrifices of the service people involved.

While this was the official launch - there are also plans for a Sydney based event - the book has already been out since the beginning of May. The book is retailing for about $45 for a hardback, though it also seems to be available online for a lot less that, perhaps as low as $35, which is outstanding value for a book of this kind. There's also an e-book version available for apparently a third of the price. The book looks terrific, with plenty of photos. I'll try and get a review up here sometime late next month.

The book launch was held at the MCC Library in order to coincide with the opening of the the Roy Hay and Peter Desira Research Collection. These additions - books, magazines, newspapers and other archival materials - have significantly boosted soccer's presence at the library. While the library is not open to the public in the same way that the State Library is, any serious researcher whether professional or amateur, is able to use the library as well as access those materials - all they need to do is contact the library and let them know ahead of time that they'll be coming.

Finally, in addition to this book, Hay and Murray have expanded their bibliography of Australian soccer materials, covering academic articles and theses, newspapers and magazines, coaching manuals, books, novels, plays and films.

Player points cap - what has FFV got to hide?
Fellow Victorian soccer blogger Mark Boric has recently thrown out this piece on the lack of transparency at FFV. I'm linking to it not only because I've thrown my two cents in the comments section, or because South of the Border got a mention, but because he's right. The player points cap is a core element of the NCR reforms - to have them shrouded in mystery seems entirely pointless, even counter-productive.

It also got me thinking about the facilities audit which the FFV has just started - will the results of that be made public? I wouldn't hold my breath, but I'd love to know what the state of Victorian soccer infrastructure is, at least at the 28 odd NPL licensees.

I'll outlast them all at this rate
Well, the tenure of FFV CEO Mitchell Murphy has ended (or rather, will end at the end of June), apparently due to family reasons. Murphy was in the job for about eleven months, following the interim term of Peter Gome, and the five and a half year stint of Mark 'Lawn Bowls' Rendell. Twitter and the forums are rife with speculation as to the 'real' reasons behind Murphy's resignation, which have been followed by the resignations of FFV board members Kimon Taliadoros and Aldrin De Zilva.

According to the forums De Zilva, who had recently been charged with abusing a young referee at a junior game, had apparently been dissatisfied with the financial reporting at FFV and initiated proceedings with ASIC. There's surely more to come out of this.

Around the Grounds
with new contributor Skip Fulton (@Football_Vic)
Bentleigh Greens vs Heidelberg United
NPL Seniors, Friday 23rd May at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex

They say the Burgers are better at Hungry Jacks. Well the Bergers we certainly better at Kingston Heath on Friday night. Heidelberg made the drive south sitting in third position and having won their last four games. They were the favourites against Bentleigh Greens who are out of form with only four wins from nine matches this season. The Greens have had recent losses to Green Gully and South Melbourne and last week delivered Goulburn Valley their first draw in the NPL with a 1-1 result in Shepparton.

Bentleigh started the match the stronger of the two teams and controlled the ball for most of the first twenty minutes. They had a number of chances but it was Brent McGrath with a low strike from the top of the box that sailed past the keepers stretched right hand and into the net to opening the scoring.

If you happened to be at Green Gully in early April you may recall the South Melbourne match when a Kieran Gonzales clearance hit Milos Lujic straight in the back and rebounded into the net. Well around the thirty minute mark in this game you would have been having flash backs because the exact same thing happened to Bentleigh Greens keeper Stuart Webster and suddenly against the momentum of the game Heidelberg were back in it at 1-1 thanks to a rebound off Heffernan’s butt!

The second half saw some tough action often going from end to end with wide play down both flanks. Bentleigh was solid in the mid-field however a tight Heidelberg defence combined with a number of missed opportunities meant the Greens couldn’t add to their earlier goal. On the counter attack it was Kaine Sheppard who put Heidelberg in front in the sixty fifth minute. The remainder of the game proved uneventful with Bentleigh showing desperation at times pushing forward but then easily giving the ball away. Extra time and a marvellous strike from James Goulopoulos sealed the deal and once again triggered the chants from the travelling Heidelberg supporters.

Overall it could be said Bentleigh had the stronger game but individual mistakes and their inability to capitalise on opportunities in front of goal meant they hit the rooms without a result. The Greens with just one point from their last four matches and they sit in fifth on the ladder with five teams within two points of them. Heidelberg continue to be one of the surprise packages this season. They are now seven wins from ten and thanks to an upset win by Pascoe Vale over Oakleigh in the other game on Friday night, the Bergers are only three goals off second place on the ladder.

Next week Heidelberg return home to Olympic Village on Sunday for their fourth home game in five weeks to take on Northcote City. The Greens hit the road and travel to JL Murphy Reserve on Friday night to take on Port Melbourne.

Final thought
If you're not going to put out Kraš napolitanke, don't bother serving wafers.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Kiss of Death, round 10, 2014

Bentleigh Greens vs Heidelberg United - Friday 23 May 14 @ 8:30PM @ Kingston Heath
Bentleigh had a disappointing 1-1 draw at Goulburn Valley, while the Bergers continued on their merry way with a 1-0 win over the Knights. A Greek derby somewhat. Should get a decent crowd, if Hellas fans aren’t doing anything on the Friday night. Bentleigh is hot and cold, and the Bergers have hit a hot streak. I don’t think this will matter in the derby environment. Bentleigh Greens 1 – Heidelberg United 1.

Pascoe Vale vs Oakleigh Cannons - Friday 23 May 14 @ 8:30PM @ Hosken Reserve
Pascoe Vale was unlucky at South losing 1-0, while Oakleigh drew 1-1 at home to Northcote which drew the cheers of the crowd at Lakeside when announced. Pascoe aren’t too bad. Attacking wise they are fine, midfield they are fine, defensively they are improving yet have a long way to go. Their tackles leave a lot to be desired. Will they be able to beat the Cannons? Oakleigh is losing pace on first placed South. six points behind, and they will be looking to keep up or close the gap if South was to lose on Sunday. Pascoe Vale 2 – Oakleigh Cannons 2.

Dandenong Thunder vs Ballarat Red Devils - Saturday 24 May 14 @ 7:00PM @ George Andrews Reserve
Dandenong had a shock 0-3 loss at home to Werribee, while Ballarat won their first home game 3-2 against Gully. What’s happening at Dandy? If some chojek opa rok bro can explain the situation, it will be handy. However, I still think Dandy will be too good for Ballarat and won’t go into meltdown with 20 to go. Dandenong Thunder 2 – Ballarat Red Devils 1.

Hume City vs Green Gully - Sunday 25 May 14 @ 3:00PM @ Broadmeadows Valley Park
Hume had a 1-1 draw at Port Melbourne, while Gully lost 3-2 away at Ballarat. Gully has the worst defence in the league having conceded 25 goals. Hume have the third best only conceding 10. If my calculations are correct, Hume should win this one. Hume City 2 – Green Gully 0.

Melbourne Knights vs Port Melbourne Sharks - Sunday 25 May 14 @ 3:00PM @ Somers Street
Melbourne Knights lost to an own goal at the Bergers last week 1-0, while Port Melbourne drew 1-1 at home to Hume. The only thing keeping the Knights out of relegation is their goal difference of -6. Port on the other hand unfortunately, are not in relegation trouble. Oh how I wish they were. Melbourne Knights 2 – Port Melbourne Sharks 0.

Northcote City vs Goulburn Valley Suns - Sunday 25 May 14 @ 3:00PM @ John Cain Memorial Park
Northcote had a 1-1 draw at Oakleigh, while Goulburn Valley Suns held Bentleigh to a 1-1 draw. This will be an interesting match. Northcote are at the same level as the Suns. I reckon Northcote might be a tad too good by a bee's dick and beat the Suns. Northcote City 2 – Goulburn Valley Suns 1.

Werribee City FC vs South Melbourne FC - Sun 25 May 14 @ 03:00PM @ Galvin Park
The match of the round. Werribee stunned the footballing world with a late 0-3 win at Dandenong, while South wasn’t good, but wasn’t bad beating Pascoe Vale 1-0 at home. South is now nine games, nine wins. A record in anyone's language. Speaking of language, has anyone visited Werribee's webpage recently? Scroll down and check out the match write up, in Italian! Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is not allowed under the rules of competition. No ethnic clubs allowed to advertise their ethnicity. I expect the FFV to drag them to the tribunal over this. This is an outrage! I’ll be jetting into Avalon and taking the short trip to Werribee. Have never been there before so don’t know what to expect. Will there be Italian flags everywhere? Will there be Italian style Ultras ? Should I go casual to survive, or should I wear club colors? South weren’t bad or good last week, but ground out the result against a Pascoe Vale side who was intent on not conceding. Instead they were happy to chop at will, while the referee destroyed the game. Some decisions were daft. Fucken woeful. FFV, give us some decent refs FFS! South will be looking to get their 10th win in a row at Werribee. They are an unknown quantity and will always be a danger game. They will not spoil the party of the team of the century. We are South Melbourne, we DO NOT lose to shit teams like Werribee. Leigh Minopoulos will hopefully go on a rampage. Werribee City 0 – South Melbourne 4.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Social Club Artefact Wednesday - Greece visit 2006

Here's something from our more recent history. On this day in 2006, we hosted Heidelberg United at Lakeside. The weather was bucketing down, forcing the majority of the fans into the top half of the grandstand, leaving about 30 odd idiots on Clarendon Corner to get drenched. (was this the birth of the umbrella assassin chant? I can't remember for sure. I was sitting with my Berger supporting dad in the grandstand.)

One of the attractions of this derby fixture was that the Greek national team, including several members of the Euro 2004 winning side, were going to be at the game. Greece was in Melbourne as they were due to play Australia a few days later, in what was the Socceroos' farewell match before heading to the 2006 World Cup.

During the game, there was the absurd moment when the word had got around that the Greek players were in one of the corporate boxes behind most of the crowd, and everyone got up to look behind them, trying to get a glimpse of their heroes instead of paying attention to the game in front of them.

A terrific game by the way, which we won 3-1, including a cracking goal from George Tzirtis, a curled effort by Fernando, and a Coveny goal when we destroyed the Bergers' offside trap. Good times, especially since it would be the last time we would beat them for five years.

While I'm not quite sure what the Greek national team players made of the experience of hanging out with the diaspora on that cold and wet evening, the Hellenic Football Federation presented us with the lovely plate pictured above as a token of their appreciation. Did they train at Lakeside during the stay? I can't remember.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Theodore's goal makes it nine wins in a row -South Melbourne 1 Pascoe Vale 0

A Matthew Theodore goal after 25 minutes was enough to give South Melbourne the win over a dogged Pascoe Vale outfit, as well as preserve its perfect start to the season.

Aside from that moment however, South put in its most disjointed league performance for the season, looking flat and finding it difficult to cope with the visiting side's tenacity, and the stop start nature of the contest.

For the first time in several weeks the South starting eleven saw a change, with Andrew Mullet getting his first league start in a South shirt after captain Michael Eagar failed to recover from the foot injury he received late against Bentleigh last week. Brad Norton was captain in Eagar's place.

In the first couple of minutes, South looked to continue where it had left off last week, but soon the game regressed into a series of mistakes from both sides, as neither team was able to settle down into any sort of rhythm. South's midfield in particular looked out of synch, failing to get back to defend quickly enough, as well as delivering poorly to the forwards.

For their part, the 13th placed Pascoe Vale didn't come to just defend, and at times looked the more fluid and dangerous of the two sides. But when Theodore collected a loose ball on the edge of the area after Pascoe Vale failed to clear from a corner, and slotted home a low shot past former South keeper Stefaan Sardelic, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the visitors.

Matthew Theodore's teammates congratulate him on what turned out to be the decisive goal.
Photo Cindy Nitsos.
South settled down after that, and forced two good saves out of Sardelic from long range efforts, but the second goal to kill off the game would prove to be elusive. Nick Epifano, who copped a ball to the face, went off at halftime giving Leigh Minopoulos an extended stint on the field, but even 2014's super-sub - who increasing numbers of supporters had been calling to get a start - was unable to create much.

Leigh Minopoulos loses the ball after a good run down the
right. South fans were furious, as they thought the Pascoe
Vale defender clearly handled the ball in the process of
dispossessing Minopoulos. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Milos Lujic had the best chance of the second half, after a series of headed balls appeared to sit up nicely for him, but he pulled his shot to the left. Pascoe Vale kept pressing, but were generally unable to force Jason Saldaris into making a save. Their best opportunities came from set pieces, but even two late free kicks from out wide were sent out harmlessly.

Not so harmless was a clearance from James Musa towards the end of the match, which sailed high out of the playing area and struck the head of one of the security guards near the players race.

South now finds itself six points clear at the top of the table, after Oakleigh drew 1-1 at home to Northcote, and nine points clear of third placed Heidelberg. A disastrous run for Bentleigh - just one point out of a possible nine in their last three outings - sees them fall well off the pace, even making their game in hand irrelevant. But there's a very long way to go yet.

Next week
Away to an increasingly unpredictable Werribee City, who after a recent poor run - which included a home loss to last placed Goulburn Valley - managed to beat Dandenong Thunder 3-0 away from home.

Dockerty Cup news
Bit of a rough result, being drawn away to Dandenong Thunder, to be played on Wednesday 28th May at 7:30PM. We play them in the league just a few days later, too.

Fundraising ideas
Instead of raffling off the signed balls and/or hampers or whatever else it is they use for prizes, they should offer patrons the chance to select the music for the pre-game fill in time between the end of the under 20s match and the start of the seniors.

Maybe they could even auction it off at the jersey night? If you won, your selection would have to suitable for a family audience, but at least it would be a chance to get rid of that awful house music and raise some money for the club. Maybe someone would even choose to have no music before the game.

Rules for some but not for others? The case of St Albans
There will be many hiccups and bumps on the road as the NPL tries to get its footing in Victoria, and we've just reached a new one with St Albans apparently being docked three points for not fielding an under 13s team in some fixture or other.

While on the face of it the punishment seems to fit the crime, this missive on the St Albans website, written by committee member Joseph Hovanjec - and in all honesty, one of the best pieces of writing I've ever seen from a local soccer club, if only for its clarity and directness - goes into some depth on the matter as seen from their side.

The crux of the issue for St Albans seems to be, that given the short amount of time available from learning that teams were successful in being offered an NPL licence, to actually starting, getting together teams for every age group was incredibly difficult - this is especially so when St Albans is in a very competitive market, with Melbourne Knights, Sunshine George Cross and Green Gully all located nearby.

(Oddly, no one has yet mentioned that junior recruitment difficulty is a result at least in part of the abandonment of FFV's preferred zoning model, though mention has been made of too many teams being offered places in the metro area.)

And, St Albans' argument follows, unlike other prospective NPL teams from around Victoria, which just assumed that they were 'in' (Surf Coast, anyone?), St Albans are effectively being punished for doing the right thing by waiting until their application was confirmed which, seeing as apparently all the 2014 VPL teams were assured of NPL status as part of last year's peace deal, was a situation teams like St Albans could not take advantage of.

The issue even made it to radio (and thanks to one of our readers Skip, who sent us a reminder to listen in), where St Albans president Robert Colina called up to chat with FFV's NPL head honcho Liam Bentley. It's about 25 minutes in, and well worth a listen to hear one man absolutely on the edge of his tether, and the other man trying to respectfully answer the questions while still upholding his duty to his employer and the overall direction of the NPL.

That call was followed up soon after by Box Hill United's Nicholas Tsiaras, one of the spearheads of the co-signatory group which took on the FFV over the NPL last year, who said that everyone knew what they were getting in for, and that everyone is and must play by the same rules. Tsiaras' point of view has also made it to, where the debate has continued.

What this situation has highlighted are the differences in expectations and behaviour within the NPL Victoria licensee constituency. Where a club like St Albans expects if not outright lenience from the FFV, than at least practical acknowledgement that they've done everything in their power to get their player and team quotas filled, other clubs are expecting no such favours.

Where St Albans are looking for assistance from the FFV, the attitude from other NPL constituencies is that FFV should be a 'small government' administrative body and not an interfering body, an attitude most strongly put forward last year by another co-signatory figurehead, South Melbourne board member Tom Kalas.

Others meanwhile, including myself, have asked the question about why leniency is not being shown in this area, when leniency in other areas - the big one being facilities failing to meet NPL criteria - seems to have a foothold.

On soccer-forum, Tsiaras provided a reasonable explanation for this, mentioning the fact of the game's poor cousin status in this state compared to other sports meant that it would be difficult for many teams to meet those requirements straight off the bat.

The counter argument to that is that clubs like St Albans have put in the hard yards with regards to facilities over a period of decades, while other clubs chose to spend money on players and the short term goal of winning championships, as opposed to establishing long term soccer infrastructure.

But whichever argument one chooses to side with in the facilities debate, one thing appears to be certain - that if teams don't improve their facilities by the end of the three or so year leniency period - there will be consequences, with FFV soon to begin the process of auditing facilities:
As mentioned in the previous NPL Delegates Meeting FFV will be conducting Facility Audits of all NPL clubs’ facilities. 
As you can understand getting to all 28 clubs is a big task and as such we have allocated a time and date for each club, we ask that you make one person from the club available to open doors, gates etc. No decisions or recommendations etc will be made on the day, this is simple an exercise in gathering information to give us a picture of where each club is at as well as provide a foundation for your ongoing facility planning. 
This will be a top to bottom report on what each club does and does not have, as well as sizes and other issues which should take around 45 minutes in total. 
We will be providing each NPL club with the report within 7 days of the inspection including at what level ( Class A, B etc) each area of their facility meets."
- extract of an FFV letter to NPL clubs, as posted on by Nicholas Tsiaras.
And the consequences of those audits could be far messier than a three point deduction.

Around the grounds
'So I've been watching a lot of Victorian soccer lately, and you know what I've discovered, Dr. Katz?'
'No, what?'
'I need a girlfriend.'

So, Port vs Hume, that huge blockbuster between two teams who won't win the championship but won't get relegated either (I realise that's a very early call to make), and a suitably large crowd was in place for this one - it's always a good sign when a goalkeeper has to jump the fence to fetch their own ball for their goal kicks. My first observation was this:
which became slightly more topical to this blog's general theme (South Melbourne the soccer club) when this was tweeted in response:
Then the game started, but not before the farce that is the pre-match huddle
The first half was completely frantic, but with almost nothing of note happening except for a late Port goal and Kamal Ibrahim sooking about the refereeing. The second half was just as frantic, but more interesting, as both sides started creating actual chances, most of which they stuffed up. Hume pulled one back from a free kick that was headed in, and then followed that up with a short corner. As I observed that night:
Port missed some one on ones, and Hume missed a volleyed shot from close range after the Port keeper had made a save. Bentleigh coach and South Melbourne Hellas legend Johnny A laughed at it, knowing that he would have scored that. The match finished 1-1, I watched the match alone, and the 11:00 train to Werribee from Flinders Street got cancelled due to 'operational requirements', an example of management jargon so vague that it could mean just about anything.

But in a victory for people power or the invisible hand of the market - choose your preferred ideological paradigm - the chocolate bars at Port's canteen are now $3, down from their original $4. I bought a Cherry Ripe in celebration, and probably also because I'm reading a book about Macpherson Robertson, the inventor of the Cherry Ripe.

How the other half live
It's not often I find reason to head out to watch soccer in the south-eastern half of the state league divide, and yet on Saturday I was faced with two choices to indulge myself on that front - head to Clifton Hill vs Noble Park, or Malvern City vs Langwarrin (happy 50th anniversary by the way). Well, my heart had been set on the latter, and despite some momentary dithering I ended up in Kooyong, at an open park located between a footy ground, a baseball diamond and a freeway.

Why Malvern? Because there were several ex-South under 21s players playing for the seniors there, coached by former South 21s and 18s coach Gus Caminos. I tried to stay low key, but was eventually spotted by a couple of people, though at least I got a free souvlaki out of it and those people seemed enthusiastic to see me, which while enjoyable is always a little bit unnerving.

The crowd wasn't massive, but there were some noticeable differences compared to my north-west experiences:
  • The average age of the supporters was about ten years younger in the south-east compared to north-west.
  • There was more club merchandise being worn in the south-east.
  • You're unlikely to see someone wearing this shirt in the north-west.
  • In the north-west you're also unlikely to see (for the time being at least) someone turn up in a Scotch College (or similar) soccer kit
  • The north-west still makes better souvs, even if what they're making is actually a gyros instead of the diced meat on a stick business.
Somehow, despite dominating the early proceedings, Langy found themselves 3-0 down before a little bit of a gift of a penalty just before halftime saw them pull one back. Malvern however managed to slot away another three goals in the second half to win in 6-1, done by sitting deep, countering effectively and defending well enough when called upon to do so.

Much debate was had about the future of South and the social club, the future of Australian soccer and the future of Australian soccer players. What happens to players who don't make it through the NPL junior ranks and become senior players? It's OK to say to some of them, take a step down a couple of leagues and play senior soccer but:
  1. They may not get that opportunity if older players are pushed down due to the NPL points system.
  2. Who's going to actually get down there and watch them? 
On point no. 2, I remember being heckled (in a semi good natured way) when I asked this sort of question at a South AGM, about why I never see South movers and shakers at VPL or state league games. Because if the only people who end up watching lower level senior soccer are club committee members, the occasional parent and the reserves players who haven't inexplicably left after their match has finished (and other dateless wonders), does that mean players are finished if they're not famous by 18?

Is Nunawading City's Great Leap Forward/Cultural Revolution style effort to build up a production line of soccer playing robots the only way forward? Is South attempting to mimic that (probably badly)? What happens to those clubs and players that get left behind? In the future, will anyone actually play the game above State League 1.5 because they like the game, and not because it's some sort of career path? Why are Glen Waverley line trains so much cleaner than corresponding lines going to dodgy suburbs?

Well, I at least got to talk about my thesis with someone who seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing. In this humanities student bashing culture, that was a pleasant experience.

Final thought
FA Cup final at 2:00AM? That's way past my bedtime.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Kiss of Death, round 9, 2014

Port Melbourne Sharks vs Hume City - Friday 16 May @ 8:30PM @ SS Anderson Reserve
Port Melbourne had the tougher of the 2 tasks last weekend disposing easily of the Ballarat Red Devils, while Hume had a 4-1 win at home to Goulburn Valley. Will be an interesting match with Hume only having conceded nine goals. Port on the other hand have scored and conceded 15. I think Hume will be too good for Port, with them just nudging over the line.  Port Melbourne Sharks 1 – Hume City 2.

Ballarat Red Devils vs Green Gully - Saturday 17 May 14 @ 3:00PM @ Morshead Park
Ballarat lost at home to Port Melbourne 0-4, while Gully once again got thumped 4-0 away to the Bergers. Ballarat has somewhat impressed me, but their discipline is their let down. Red cards in the last few matches have cost them points. Gully is having the shittest start in their history, and will most likely start rebuilding as of this weekend. Ballarat will finally get their first win at home and third overall for the season. Ballarat Red Devils 3 – Green Gully 1.

Goulburn Valley Suns vs Bentleigh Greens - Saturday 17 May 14 @ 6:30PM @ Jack McEwen Reserve
Goulburn Valley has a new coach as of last weekend. Peter Zois is the man at the helm and he has some work to do with the Suns. Bentleigh lost 2-1 at South last week and weren’t too bad for the first 45 minutes. In the second half they fell to shit. They looked like they were more worried about losing than winning. Johnny A left his subs too late, and if he had made them earlier, the scoreline might have been different. They will however be too good for the rabble that are the Goulburn Valley Suns. Goulburn Valley Suns 0 – Bentleigh Greens 3.

Dandenong Thunder vs Werribee City - Saturday 17 May 14 @ 7:00PM @ George Andrews Reserve
Dandenong had a good 1-3 win at Northcote, while Werribee drew 1-1 with Pascoe Vale, missing a penalty in the 92nd minute. Dandenong is hot and cold. They can't make up their mind if they’re winning or losing. Werribee is yet to find its feet. For their information, you wont find Leigh Minopoulos either, he’s at South. No Leigh Minopoulos, no Werribee City. Dandenong Thunder 3 – Werribee City 0.

Oakleigh Cannons vs Northcote City - Sunday 18 May 14 @ 3:15PM @ Jack Edwards Reserve
Oakleigh had a 3-1 win over the Knights, while Northcote City struggled 1-3 against Dandy. I witnessed the last 20 minutes or so of last week's Oaks vs Knights match and wasn’t too impressed with Oakleigh at 2-1 to be honest. I don’t see what the big deal is. They have more weaknesses than strengths. The Knights were severely depleted, so I’d take that win with a grain of salt. Northcote. HAHA. Suck it. Keep Rixon and all the others at John Cain. Showponies. Oakleigh Cannons 3 – Northcote City 0.

South Melbourne vs Pascoe Vale - Sunday 18 May 14 @ 5:00PM @ Lakeside Stadium
South beat Bentleigh 2-1 and Pascoe Vale left Werribee 1-1. The first half last week wasn’t too flash for South. As mentioned further up, Bentleigh looked like a team who were more worried about losing, rather than winning. Holding possession, stupid passes, and time wasting were all part of Bentleigh's pathetic attempt to beat the Team of the Century. If Johnny A made those subs earlier, they might’ve had a sniff. The second half South dominated, and were silly to concede that goal at the end. The ref, well what a dick. Six minutes of injury time for what exactly? Douche. Pascoe Vale were lucky at Werribee last week. In the 92nd minute Werribee missed a penalty and let Pascoe get away with one pint. But ah well. South Melbourne 3 – Pascoe Vale 0.

Heidelberg United vs Melbourne Knights - Sunday 18 May 14 @ 6:00PM @ Olympic Village

Heidelberg had their way 4-0 with Gully, while the Knights were unlucky I felt losing 3-1 at Oakleigh. The Knights are pretty much fucked at the moment. Injuries, injuries and more injuries. The Bergers find themselves in unfamiliar territory sitting third on the ladder. Have they been playing well? Not really, but well enough to collect points, which is all that matters this year. Get the points, finish first, and the title is yours. Heidelberg United 3 – Melbourne Knights 0.

Rumours and Innuendo – Moron Alert.
The shit people write on there is pathetic. I was tipped off by a user that apparently, Leigh Minopoulos is unhappy and is looking to leave the club in June for first team football. What a crock. I’ve made a few phone calls overnight, Melbourne time. Leigh Minopoulos is NOT unhappy at South, Leigh Minopoulos is NOT leaving South, Leigh Minopoulos understands HIS role at South, South is one big happy family with 8 from 8. I got a few screenshots provided as well. Apparently some dick has gone and put that Leigh Minopoulos is in talks with Altona East (your team Paul), and that they were beaten to his signature by Melbourne Tornado (does this team even exist). Funny thing is, a few people fell for it!

A cheerio goes out to Pascoe Vale president Lou Tona (@LouTona) who started following me on twitter @KODFootball. We had a good chat about the pizza and food delicacies down at Hosken Reserve. Apparently, the donuts down at Hosken Reserve are “quality”. Apparently, “introduce yourself next time and I will buy you some doughnuts”, “I will organise with latte”. Lou also went on to offer myself and Paul Mavroudis free entry into the match at Hosken when South plays there.

This my friends, is a president! A man who not only loves his team, but appreciates the people who go out of their way to write about football in this state. Unlike those mutts down at FFV who don’t even issue media passes! Lou Tona, I take my hat off to you. You are a gentleman, a true lover of the sport. Unfortunately, South will beat you guys this Sunday at Lakeside.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Social Club Artefact Wednesday - Peter Ollerton's 1976 VSF ID Card

Former South and Socceroos striker Peter Ollerton is due to turn 63 next Tuesday, so it was as good as time as any to put this up. (you could make an argument about doing it next Wednesday, but we have something else in mind for that).

This is one of the cooler artefacts I found, a mid 1970s (1976 to be exact), VSF player ID card/booklet, replete with bad haircut and the mandatory 1970s moustache, which he has since discarded.

Apart from South, Peter Ollerton has played at and coached at a ton of different clubs, mostly in Victoria but also in New South Wales. A member of the Socceroo team that went to the 1974 World Cup (where he made two appearances as a sub), Ollerton's South tenure was relatively brief, but successful at least in its initial phase, being a member of the 1976 championship winning team.

Monday, 12 May 2014

South make it eight in a row - South Melbourne 2 Bentleigh Greens 1

If this match report is even worse than usual, it's because I was busy chatting with interstate visitors, often not about the game at all.

We watched the under 20s get done 5-2 in what ended up being a bit of a rout in the second half, as well as the sandbagging of the new fangled sponsor boards so they wouldn't fly off onto the running track or the field of play like those from the last couple of years.

Discussed the awesomeness of this post, and of course Michael Lynch's 2012 VPL season preview, which inspired said post.

After second placed Oakleigh had cruised past the Knights on Friday night - more on that in the around the grounds section - the gap between us was once again closed to one point. Bentleigh for their part had coughed up their first loss of the year last week, meaning anything other than a win here would put them in a very difficult position at this early stage of the season.

Of course I ended up slagging off Mothers Day, and after being asked which public/religious/Hallmark holiday I wasn't against, I ended up with Royal Melbourne Show Day, which that jerk Kennett took away from us.

This is what happens when you use people's Twitter
handles instead of their proper names. Disappointed
now that Leigh didn't go for something more exotic.
And let's not forget the anguish caused by this result, or the cosmic injustice of this game.

When you've won seven league games in a row to start the season, and there are no injuries or suspensions to force your hand, it's kinda hard to change your starting eleven. And so it was that we fielded the same starting lineup for another week, though at least some of the fringe players managed to get some game time on the Wednesday against Berwick in the cup.

While it wasn't a uniformly quality game, it was exciting for pretty much the entirety of the 90 minutes and the five that the ref added on to the end. The first half was Bentleigh's, the second half ours. While we weren't without our chances in the first half, our poor final pass let us down time and again. At the other end, Jason Saldaris pulled off some fine saves to keep us at level pegging at half time. Bentleigh defended deep and in numbers, but were able to transition quickly as well as spread the play well to wide areas.

Fucken Cypriots - how do they work? Also Ernie Tapai, fridge magnets, Redheads nightclub, and for some reason former Heidelberg and Port Melbourne player Arthur Vatsanis.

The second half was better from us in at least starting to win the midfield, but the game got scrappier and our killer pass still wasn't there yet. The good thing was that Lujic managed to pounce on a loose ball, and it was us that took the lead rather than them. Did it change the game, or was that goal reflective of changes that had already happened? I can't really say for sure, but it probably came at just the right moment (don't most opening goals?)

I explained again the issue with the social club to people unfamiliar with the situation.

You, Strawberry, hit a home run. Photo: Cindy Nitsos
Lujic should have had a second a minute later when comical defending by Bentleigh on the edge of their 18 yard box saw the goalmouth lay open. Unfortunately Lujic's poke towards goal took a deflection and ended up rolling wide. But then the most obvious substitution in the history of mankind happened - obvious because it has happened so many times already this season in this exact same way - Leigh Minopoulos came on for Nick Epifano. And that caused the second most predictable thing to happen on an NPL field in 2014, that being Minopoulos being involved in a South Melbourne goal, this time as scorer, after he sucked in the Bentleigh defender with a dummy shot, and then tucked away yet another goal to add to his super-sub reputation.

Bentleigh was by far the toughest opponent we've faced so far in 2014, and despite the win - eight league wins in a row by the way - there were flaws exposed that will need management. Along the wings in particular, Bentleigh often got through far too easily - thankfully the desperation defending by James Musa and Michael Eagar got us out of enough sticky situations. Saldaris' kicking was erratic, but his command of the six yard box also left a little to be desired. That was conceded after Michael Eagar was substituted late as a precautionary measure (after getting copping a nasty blow) was also probably no coincidence, as the Michael Eagar Fan Club will tell you. One look at the injury crisis at Melbourne Knights will tell you how quickly the limited depth at pretty much all NPL clubs gets tested when even just a couple of injuries hit.

The people who I assume actually watched the game reckon Iqi Jawadi had a great game and was probably BOG, so who am I to disagree? And does it matter that we're not that thrashing teams in the way that Oakleigh are? Apparently not. And I'll tell you something else - if you're waiting for the round where Oakleigh and Bentleigh are due to take points off one another, you're going to have to wait until round 19, the same week we meet Northcote for the first time. If it wasn't for the fact that everyone will play everyone else twice, you could have sworn that the FFV got the fixturing committee from the AFL to do the NPL fixtures for this year.

Next week
Pascoe Vale at home. They're near the bottom, but have been more than competitive in most games.

After being disappointed by the FFV's highlights of our win at Ballarat - there was more to the second half than a solitary goal kick - I settled in to watch SMFC TV last Tuesday, and instead got fishing. Fishing! What a terrible crime against humanity. Apparently it was all too do with technical difficulties out at Channel 31. Of course it ended up on youtube afterwards anyway, as did the latest edition of Minute with Mala.

South fans win (sorta) share (a very small one, if that) of (pretend) award
One of our readers, Savvas Tzionis, posted in the comments section last week an excerpt from Joe Gorman's A-League awards piece in The Guardian - and it's a good thing he did too, because as much as I like Joe and his writing, I wasn't going to read the article until Savvas popped with up the fact that we got a mention:
Best Twitter stoush
Scott Munn and George Calombaris, who traded insults over Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory. Munn made fun of Victory's 5-0 loss to Wellington Phoenix (despite Heart being bottom of the table), Calombaris called him 'Mr Munt' and the best part was when South Melbourne fans accused Calombaris of being a traitor to Hellenism because of his new loyalty to Victory. Not to be outdone, Richard Garcia and Jerome Polenz's little internet battle was also good fun.
So thanks to Savvas for letting us know about this tidbit, and well done to all those South fans who put in the hard yards, even though I think the award should have gone to 'Ezequiel Trumper vs Everyone'.

Lakeside to host 2015 Asian Cup teams
While travelling out to Berwick on Wednesday, an interesting question was raised - would Lakeside be hosting any of the competing teams? Well, after asking around, it seems we'll be hosting the Socceroos in the lead up to the tournament. Some of our more anal retentive readers may recall that Lakeside hosted the Saudi national team in the lead up to their crucial 2014 world qualifier back in 2012 - which they went on to lose, so who knows if it did them any good.

FFV Hall of Fame nominations open
Know someone worthy? Then head here to find out more. Even if your candidate doesn't get up this year, their nomination is kept on for future years.

Football Federation Victoria (FFV) is accepting nominations for the FFV Hall of Fame. 

The FFV Hall of Fame recognises extraordinary performance over a career by participants who have made a significant contribution to the game in Victoria.

This year's inductees will be announced at the 2014 FFV Gold Medal Night later in the year.

The following people have been inducted into the FFV Hall of Fame since it began in 2010:

2013 - George Wallace, Janette Melvin, Alan Davidson

2012 - Theo Marmaras, Jane Oakley, Paul Wade

2011 - Michael Weinstein, Theresa Deas, Tom Jack

2010 - Harry Dockerty, Betty Hoar, Jimmy Rooney

Click here for the FFV Hall of Fame policy and nomination form.

For any queries regarding the FFV Hall of Fame, please email Executive Assistant to the CEO, Charlotte Greer, at

Around the grounds
A short lived experiment of a national body comprised of several incompatible warring states, held together by a corrupt self-serving central bureaucracy, which would inevitably fall apart with spectacular results. Was the NSL our own Yugoslavia? Discuss.
Even with their very good record at Jack Edwards Reserve - apparently they hadn't lost there since 2006 - it was always going to be an uphill battle for an injury riddled Melbourne Knights to not lose this game against the best team in the competition. And so it turned out, with Oakleigh eventually running out 3-1 winners, and it could have been so many more had the officiating and the Cannons' finishing been more compliant. Still, assembling such a great team is probably easier when:
  1. You can get away with putting more sponsors on your shirt than is apparently legally possible.
  2. No one is probably ever going to publish the player points tallies for 2014.
Still, on that sponsorship matter and for whatever it's worth, there were a lot fewer sponsor boards around the ground on the perimeter fencing than one is accustomed to at Oakleigh. What's up with that?

At the end of the game, the MCF people deviated from their fascist chants, the chants about Yugoslavia (like the NSL, Yugoslavia's gone for good - can't we all just move on?), the 'North Sunshine is so wonderful' chant and whatever other chants they sang on the night, to perform the Croatian language version of the 'sack the board' chant. At least, that's what I assume they were chanting - after many years on the World Game and Football Anarchy forums, I did manage to pick up that 'uprava' means 'board, committee or administration', and after six losses in a row I think it's safe to say that they weren't chanting 'this committee is doing an OK job under very difficult circumstances, so we'll be patient and support them'. The bloke running towards the fence to heap passionate (English language) abuse on the team also kinda gave it away. Tough times at Somers Street, but Oakleigh keeps rolling on, still undefeated in the league and probably still spewing that they rolled over in that Dockerty Cup game against Werribee City.

Stop the madness! Start the movie!
These new fangled referees. The match between Altona East and Cairnlea at Paisley Park was almost called off because the ref thought it was too wet. Too wet! There were no visible puddles on the field, the ball was bouncing during the warm ups, and this bloke wanted to call the game off. Luckily someone from the visiting team got on the blower to the FFV, who apparently told the ref to play the damn game, which turned out to be a very entertaining and end to end affair.

Is there any moment as transfixing in soccer, as when from a free kick the goalkeeper is rooted to his spot watching the ball fly by? When you're on the receiving end, it's terrifying. When you're on the shooting end, there's that sense of possibility, the momentary near certainty that the ball is going in. Too bad for Altona East, they were on the receiving end, with the ball cannoning in off the post. Soon after they equalised, but eventually lost the game when they gave away a fairly cheap goal. The game concluded, we all started walking back to our cars, when we noticed that a very serious looking melee had started on the field. For a match that had had no spite in it whatsoever, this was a disturbing turn of events. Thankfully, the ground marshals and the calmer players managed to sort it out before it got completely out of hand. How it started is anyone's guess.

Final thought
I accidentally left my 2014 team poster at some pizza place on Bourke Street.