I like to talk about writing, and I especially like to talk about writing this blog. But often times I talk about this in historical terms, or emotional terms, or literary terms, and seldom about the process. Normally I would leave discussion about that process out of a post on a game, but in this case I think there's a reasonable excuse for it.
The structure of the blog has really settled down over the past couple of seasons. There are segments which now take the form of a template I work around. I think about the things that fall outside of a South match day, and put them in first. Usually I leave the relevant South game until last. Sometimes the narrative thread of a week is easy to recognise, and I can come up with something creative and witty. Sometimes that doesn't happen, and I resort to talking more about the game than I feel I probably should.
And sometimes a game just leaves you so drained, that sitting at a computer and trying to resolve it and fix it in print is impossible, Some people who write these kinds of fan blogs, after a loss like that, can find no rest until they pour out their thoughts even if it takes all night. That's not me; as a slow thinker, I need to incubate. And thus if a post sometimes doesn't appear on here as quickly as you'd expect, it might be because I'm busy, but just as likely is that I'm spending my time doing something else, like going back to the Limerick because in my distress at the loss I forgot that I'd taken my bag with me after heading to the pub straight after work. Public transport gives you a lot of time to think.
The long and the short of it
There are two games to discuss here, those being the long game and the short game.
The short game is what happened on the field. Of all the things just about any club does, more attention is focused on this part of a club's existence, and yet often with so little and fickle reward. Coaches and players are studied, negotiated with, hired, and then let loose for as long as results stack up the right way, while boards and committees, so used to being in charge, try to resist interfering, though some are clearly better at not interfering than others.
The short game is why the club exists, and is the most tangible, immediate form of a club's existence. Seeing our team on the field is the main reason we become involved as spectators, members, and then as club men or women. The friendships we collect, the history of the club, are all an extension of the 11 players representing us on the field.
And yet that is the part of the game that people have the least control of. A player might get 25 touches, 40 touches, 1 touch, but most of those will see contact of the ball with the boot only momentarily. The coach hopes he has put out the right team, with the right tactics and with the right frame of mind. The board hopes that the team does the bare minimum of what it's paid to do, with some clubs' bare minimums being more ambitious than others. The supporters meanwhile watch on, and either encourage, abuse or both in the vain hope that some of it has an impact on the result.
Last night, some say 400, others 500 (in reality about 70-100), South supporters and sympathisers were up at Robina Stadium to cheer on the team. In Melbourne, there were about 40 odd in the upstairs room of the Limerick Arms, wishing they could be on the Gold Coast, or at the very least in our own social club, but being glad to at least be in a nice room, with good food and decent service. Other South fans who read this would have watched the game at home, and would be hurt by the result as much as anyone.
For those at the pub, as the game wore on, the questions being asked were the same. Why did Nikola Roganovic just not pick up the ball that lead to the penalty? Why were the extra time substitutions brought on so late? Leigh Minopoulos came on with ten minutes to go and looked dangerous from the get go - but the problem, apart from a lack of time to do anything, is that he had no other fresh legs to work off - why Andy Bevin was not brought on immediately following Palm Beach's red card, let alone before that, one can only guess at. If Taylor had so little confidence in Bevin, why not use Chris Irwin, who while also struggling for form has had more game time and shown more than Bevin has?
Brad Norton was excellent, but for mine Iqi Jawadi was our main driver in midfield and our best until he was subbed out for who knows what reason. While not playing against an A-League opponent, his work rate and level headedness showed that he is likely not long for our level. Nick Epifano drifted in and out of the game, as he tends to do. Milos Lujic was not as clinical as he can be. David Stirton, playing wide and away from Lujic, was not as effective as I think he would have been had he been played closer to his striking partner The defence by and large acquitted themselves well, apart from the first ten minutes or so.
If I had to pick out one player who caught the ire of myself and other supporters, it was Jake Barker-Daish, who has struggled to make his mark on the season in almost every game he has played. That's not to say he has been poor, but has he changed the course of many games this season for the better? His selection and retention throughout the entirety of this match said to me that Taylor had put out a side that was more intent on not losing this match rather than going out and winning it. Being the superior team on the park surely meant trying to avoid the scenario that the inferior wanted most - the lottery of the penalty shoot out.
The atmosphere at the Limerick, while very good and upbeat for the most part, slowly turned to frustration at the slowness of our ball movement and our inability to breakdown our opponent. Taylor's lack of subs just made things worse. When Eagar's penalty was saved to end the contest, there was if not silence - the trivia night downstairs made more than enough noise to fill the void - than a gnarling internal agony that could not speak. Everyone knew we had blown another chance on field to get the club some attention and build momentum for that intangible something.
That's how the short game leads into the long one. The long game is about resurrecting the club as a meaningful powerful entity in its own right once more; not an afterthought, not a historical footnote, but something that will shape the future of the game in this country; and to do this not by merely replicating what came before, but taking the best bits of that history and combining with the hard lessons of exile.
So while there was genuine hurt at the result of the game on its own merits, there was also hurt for the progress lost on the long term plans for the club. Whether they are fanciful dreams or not, and that I still think that they are is beside the point, the sense of the lost opportunity is real. Much of the focus has been on this article. On the surface it's another in the long line of pieces which talk us up, sees us talk ourselves up, and then makes for much mirth among opposition supporters which only gets extended when we screw up.
I, too, have many grievances with these articles. As a materialist, I'm not one for dreams and lack of detail. Show me, show the members, the evidence of your success as a board, otherwise it's just idle talk. If we can't progress past the levels we say should progress past, is it not better to hold your tongue? A successful FFA Cup run should not be the measure of whether a team - any team - from outside the topflight gets into the A-League. While I understand that an FFA Cup match at home against A-League opposition, especially Melbourne based A-League opposition, would show some potential for crowds and match day experience and management, it will fall well short of all the other things that a club needs to qualify for an A-League licence.
Our continued obsession with pointing out our social media numbers has reached so much beyond parody that we're even being mocked by people that aren't Croatians with chips on their shoulder. I have nothing against ambition (OK, that's often a lie, but let's play along for a moment and assume the original statement is true), but doesn't this newly re-found reach for the stars mentality fly in the face of the (measured) hissy fit the club threw earlier this year when David Gallop said that we wouldn't be seeing promotion and relegation for 20 years?
While the board may be proud "the club turns over more than $1m annually and expects to double that when its social club and futsal centre is completed in the next year or so", for many of our fans it's merely an arbitrary number. Meanwhile they're probably thinking, 'good grief, more waiting for an interminably vague date' regarding the social club. They may also get squeamish when they hear the board seemingly push aside our history - after all, most of our history was pretty damn good. The short game? Our history is thousands of those moments, so why cast them aside?
But at least at this stage, that kind of rhetoric is still well short of some of the speculation about giving up our history for an A-League bid which may not even exist. History is a powerful guide, but the future is open ended. You don't need to sell out the past in order to make progress. In that respect, I endorse our president's statement about earning our place rather than it being given to us because of 'don't you know who I am?' style antics. And as hard as it is to hear that the exile from the big show has been beneficial to the club, in many ways Leo Athanasakis is only saying what I've said on this matter for years. That doesn't mean we've got everything right, but based on the way the club was run during the NSL years, would we have survived even a couple of seasons in the reformed topflight?
And while I think there could be better ways of demonstrating our ambition without coming across as overly desperate, the tendency towards ambition for the club is not something to be scoffed at. No matter how we go about our business, especially when it comes to somehow thinking we can get out of this competition, there will always be those outside the club that will doubt and mock us, As much prestige as we've lost in our decade away from the topflight, we still have enough presence for outside people to bother caring about our failures. Perhaps more importantly, there are people who would have once dismissed even the suggestion that we should be given another chance at a higher level, who have changed their mind on the matter.
Now of course the court of public opinion counts for nought, but that could equally be applied to those outside our club who seek to burst our bubble. When it comes to somehow getting out of this situation, it's only in the corridors of power that opinions matter. The key thing to remember about public opinion though, is not to become slavish to it, nor to dismiss it outright, but to figure out who's worth listening to and when. Sometimes (often) our self-delusions need deflating, even if the motives of those performing that deflation aren't not always pure. Sometimes it's also worth getting outside our misery caves and taking some pride in how far the club has come and that people outside ourselves recognise this, while still acknowledging that there are still many things that need to get done, and processes that need to be improved, not least of which is communication with the membership about important issues.
There were even people complaining about putting pressure on the players to perform in this game. Really? I thought this was South Melbourne. The fact that each loss still burns, and each success feels significant means something. It means that we're still a going concern that's worth fighting for. As easy as it is to dismiss those who've left us behind, for some it just be may be the fact that they feel our plight too deeply. What I would say to those people is come back to the club that you clearly care for, and share that experience with your fellow Hellas fans. Supporting South is not something which should be experienced in isolation. This is something understood by both those of us on the Gold Coast, and those at the Limerick.
The final of the Dockerty Cup, against Oakleigh Cannons. While the game is at Lakeside, the match day is controlled by FFV, and thus your South Melbourne membership will not get you entry into this match. I do not know if an FFV season pass will get you entry.
In good news however, tickets are available online via Ticketmaster, which will hopefully lessen hassles at the gate, though as pointed out by Mr Belias, the $4.20 booking fee will probably put a lot of people off. I suppose it's less of an issue if you use the internet option to buy several tickets, thereby minimising what Ticketmaster gets.
Or you could rock up to the ground early, watch the women's cup final, and avoid the fees and the lines altogether.
While I would have preferred a solid red vee for the heritage strip - maybe next year - I did enjoy the return of the heritage jersey, as well as the respectful modern take on the design. Shame about the lack of hooped socks, but I get the reason for the omission (as long as it was concerns about a clash).
Another missed opportunity
I apparently made a great quip yesterday, and now I can't remember what it was.
Out of body experience
Watching South live on television was a bizarre experience.
In which I momentarily forget and ignore the fact that there are real people, with real emotions, who are just doing their jobs and what they think is right on behalf of an organisation I don't like. But, and here's the thing, they too made their choice when they hit 'tweet', and thus in retrospective retrospect, I stand by my comment.
Real reason South Melbourne is not in A-League: FFA's fear of hooligan strife between South's Social Media Firm and Heart's Green Seat Elite— Paul Mavroudis (@PaulMavroudis) July 26, 2015