This week was another interesting week at South Melbourne, even if it was still mostly a continuation of the post-NSL era phenomenon of the off field stuff being far more interesting than what happens on the field. What makes this slightly more tragic now is that despite the turmoil, the team is actually playing well (or at least well enough to still be undefeated) and therefore the gap between the on and field levels of interest shouldn't be this high. But here we are.
Come gather, 'round children...
Two themes largely dominated the discussion rounds this week. First was the banning of Cliff Hussey from the club indefinitely after his online run-in with Nick Epifano. Cliff thus began the transformation from marginal, shuffling, bad haircut freak show to, for some people at least, the people's hero - a change which could yet prove to be validated, and thus incredibly dangerous for those who've put their lot in with Epifano and Chris Taylor, the person who's most gone into bat for Epifano. Despite people pushing for him to turn up to last night's match in order to provoke some sort of protest action, Cliff did the sensible thing and stayed away, The pre-match rumour that Epifano was set to get a start or a bench position, despite his own indefinite ban from football, proved to be a false alarm.
Is it true that Epifano is due to go overseas sometime during the season? If he has serious mental problems that he needs to sort out, shouldn't he be taking a break from football to sort them out, instead of always seemingly being near enough to getting a game, if not getting one? Who is responsible for anonymously posting the comment on here about his Facebook comment after the Bentleigh game? If we lose players mid-season, who can we find in the transfer window that's worthwhile, isn't cup tied, and won't break the player points tally? What happens if the latest arbitrary deadline set by Martin Foley for the resolution of the lease issue passes? Can we go on together with suspicious minds?
From donkey to thoroughbred in six weeks
The other issue was the rumour (from a usually reliable source) that Andy Brennan's trial at Newcastle Jets was such a success that he's signed a two year deal with that side, which seemed to be confirmed to me last night with a metaphorical nod and a wink by another insider. The reaction on the forum was terribly predictable, but as Dr Phil says, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.
So there was the usual reactionary anger against the FFA. There were was more pragmatic argument about the structures that make this sort of thing inevitable, although with little acknowledgement of the fact that we've had very few players taken up to the A-League. There were even those who, out of a sense of defeat and/or genuine goodwill, wished Brennan well, and hoped that we could keep him for at least a while longer before he officially has to leave. Some people though were hinting at treason and betrayal; that Brennan and the club have hoodwinked the fans; that Brennan would not put in 100% now that he had an A-League gig; that we should have put our best player onto a professional contract.
Never mind that Brennan came from being an off the bench impact player, to starting against the Knights in part because of one goose's stupid antics and the other two strikers' inability to stick the landing - within six short weeks he went from potential glue stick to champion racehorse. The tragicomic call for our 'better' players to be put on professional contracts, and if possible for more than one season - aside from the costs that would be incurred for doing so - is exactly the opposite course of action to what people asked for when we did have players on long term contracts! Those players on longer term contracts eventually became an albatross around our collective neck, as they routinely underperformed or became injured. The call then was for bringing in a ton of a new players and a new coach to replace those at the club, and then bemoan the lack of stability, and on and on it goes,
The structural injustice we have to deal with means that there can be (and is) justifiable anger when something like this is due to occur - but the fact is that this structural injustice is sufficiently onorous that there's really no need to start frothing at the mouth and putting that foam on the cake and calling it whipped cream.
The whole thing smacks of effort
|Some of Clarendon Corner's old guard look on, unamused and unimpressed.|
In the midst of all this, a game of soccer broke out
As for the game itself, I wouldn't call it dire or lacklustre, just disappointing. I expected more from Pascoe Vale, but they mostly sat back and tried to hit us on the counter. For a team that has some serviceable attacking options, it looked liked they'd decided from the start they were going to sit back and take what few opportunities that may fall their way - a long way from the team that should have destroyed Port Melbourne in the first half earlier this season.
We weren't great, and too often it seemed like we resorted to
Heavy rain then swept across from the west, turning over the sponsor boards and sending the officials scuttling out to get the ball kids indoors, lest they catch a cold. Team manager Frank Piccione filled in for a bit until the weather calmed down, though he didn't exactly looked thrilled about it. Having once performed a similar role during an ill-fated cup game, I can sympathise.
The second half was better from us, even as the weather turned nasty. Lujic hit the post with a header, Dane Milovanovic cracked a powerful long range shot which at least looked spectacular, and a volleyed Brennan attempt almost managed goal of the season of the status, were it not for the visitor's keeper making the save. At the other end, apart from set pieces - and even there Pascoe Vale were generally poor - the most likely means of us conceding were the weather and our own complacency, neither of which made much impact on the game.
My resident realist informant said 400, including the people in the souvlaki line. No propaganda number was provided. When they all bunched up together in the upper parts of the stand when the rain began, it looked like more from my side on position, but doesn't it always? I'm starting to come around to the idea that anything later than 8:00pm kickoff time for the senior game is just madness, especially when they start the game at 8:13 instead of the scheduled 8:15 anyway.
Port away on Friday night. Another little mini-South reunion: Shaun Kelly, Alan Kearney, Kamal Ibrahim, Trent Rixon. It's going to be fun.
Those who there will be telling their grandchildren about this. I mentioned in my round 1 report that the Water Rat burger was tasty, but completely undone by the lack of tomato sauce. Well last night I tried their chicken parma - which at $18 instead of $22 for South fans, is a sort of special deal I guess - and was greatly disappointed. A burger with fancy capsicum paste instead of tomato sauce? I can understand if not approve of that. A parma without any napoli sauce? As I struggled through my chicken schnitzel covered in burnt cheese, I decided that I'd stick to the happy hour beers, but from now on eat from the Valkanis canteen instead, even if it does take half an hour of waiting in line for a souv. And just to emphasise how bad this tomato sauce shortage crisis is - even their bottle of tomato ketchup (really guys, ketchup?) on the outside table was just about empty.
Around the grounds
I love the smell of
Altona East vs North Sunshine Eagles out at Paisley Park. The first thing I notice is how many North Sunshine supporters are at the ground halfway through the reserves game - dead set, there are more people at the ground by 2:15 then there are for most Altona East senior games. The second thing I notice, after buying my souvlaki and hanging out next to the ticket shed, is that I can smell the refinery next door. Two weeks away from Altona North is all it took for me to lose my immunity to that odour. North Sunshine took a 1-0 lead into half time courtesy of a free header from a corner. East equalised early in the second half from a well worked move, but conceded again from another unmarked header, then left a man by himself at the back post to be 3-1 down. A late penalty to the hosts made it 3-2, but poor passing made a late equaliser unlikely. It didn't happen.
'You need to unban Cliff/He's not as bad as Griff'