Sunday, 9 August 2015

Happy, but not all the time - South Melbourne 4 Port Melbourne 2

I really don't know what to make of this game. We scored lots of goals, and could have had more, but how good was the opponent really? On the other hand, we kept them to few chances at the other end, and still managed to cop two goals. But there was also great resilience from the team to keep pushing and pressuring, and that created its own momentum and sense of purpose.

The team was unchanged from the Dockerty Cup win against Oakleigh, and so was the style. More numbers forward to help a formerly isolated Milos Lujic, who seems to have his mojo going again despite missing a sitter for his hat trick. Quite how he managed to get to the header from a cross that was in the air for an eternity, let alone manage to loop into the back of the net only the video will be able to say. His finish to put us in front for the third time, once again from one of many superb Brad Norton crosses, was excellent, but it was the cross that should be put on display for all the kids out there to learn and imitate.

By the end of the game Norton was so in tune with his crossing that it looked he was playing snooker and putting 'English' onto his crosses. There was one moment late in the game where you actually see the concentration on his face as he was about to hit a cross, angling his boot in such a way to get exactly the kind of spin he wanted.

How odd that Brad Norton of all players may become a cult hero, perhaps even future legend of the VPL era South? Yes there's a long to go on that front, but think of it this way: throughout all the tumultuous years during his South stint (2012-2015) he's the only one left. From derided and unappreciated, he has worked his way through form issues, and even the challenge of Shaun Timmins being brought into the side mid last year to essentially replace him (when other players would have perhaps thrown a hissy fit, and is probably playing the best soccer of his South career. He also seems to enjoy being around South, and seems to have plenty of time for the supporters. I'm still trying to get my head around it.

Nick Epifano managed to get on the score sheet twice, once via a penalty (earned by Leigh Minopoulos) and once via a through ball delivered by Minopoulos, which had a very Phil Kessel to Clarke MacArthur kind of vibe to it, when they both still at the Maple Leafs. It's great to see Leigh not just playing, but also contributing. I like to think that I can get some of the credit for his turnaround in fortune:
Defensively the two goals we conceded, apart from coming from limited opportunities, were also irritating for the manner we conceded them. The first was almost a carbon copy of the goal we should have conceded against Oakleigh the week before, while the second saw Nikola Roganovic parry the ball straight back into play two times, and by the third time Port got sick of that particular game and decided they may as well score

Anyway this week Chris Taylor did make some substitutions, but he still found some way to fuck with people's heads. In fact, in an atypical occurrence of paranoia, I wondered if he was directly trying to get into my head, when with the game more or less sewn up with 15 minutes to go, by making subs in the 88th and 89th minutes.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the game was the way we handled the wet conditions. The second best part of the evening was Bentleigh drawing 1-1 at home to Avondale Heights, meaning that we've drawn to within three points of the Greens, while having played one fewer game - and then on Sunday Heidelberg drew 3-3 with North Geelong, giving us the edge in the run home for what used to be called the minor premiership.

Next game + the run home
We have Avondale Heights away on Saturday, our last away trip for the home and away season. It won't be an easy game, not just because of the doggedness of the opponent, but also because the ground is small and not usually in the best of conditions, which will mean we'll likely have a result to grind out here rather than something pretty.

Bentleigh, whose poor run of form recently has seen them drop several games and look much more vulnerable, have two games left, against Northcote and Oakleigh. It's hard to know how well either of those two sides will go or how much motivation they'll have considering neither can make the finals.

Should Bentleigh win both of those games, we'll need to win all three of our remaining games. We play Avondale away, Hume City midweek and Northcote in the final round. Not an easy sequence of games, but two non-finals sides and an erratic Hume City are better than many of the alternatives.

Heidelberg also has three games to play, but dropping points today to North Geelong has set them back a fair bit. They've got Hume, who still need a point or two to make absolutely sure of a finals spot, Green Gully midweek who are still trying to make the dash for an unlikely sixth placed finish, and Dandenong Thunder who will be looking to do anything possible to get themselves into 12th spot and thus into a playoff for relegation rather than automatically go down. The Bergers will need to win all three games and hope results seriously go their way.

While Melbourne Knights are equal on points with Heidelberg, they have only two games left to play and would need to do a Bradbury to finish on top.

Some thoughts on the people that were there, and those that weren't, and I promise not to talk about the social media numbers at all, OK?
If there were 1,200 people at the Dockerty Cup final last week (some say 2,000 but that's being generous) then a crowd of 370 for this fixture just a few days later is a touch disappointing, albeit par for the course for the 2015 season.

Of course one should take into account the fact that Port's home crowds are even worse, often struggling to reach 100, so the chances that they'd bring anything resembling numbers across the 4.5 kilometres from SS Anderson Reserve to Lakeside were slim, especially considering that they hadn't brought numbers to the City of Port Philip 'derby' in any of our previous meetings at Lakeside.

But back to us and what is really troubling about such a low attendance. Now we may all recall that the club performed a survey asking the supporters what day and time they preferred for their home kickoffs to be, with an apparent majority stating a preference for Sundays at 3PM, or 5PM. The board looked at the survey, scratched its collective head, and decided to go with Friday night fixtures because they thought that:
  • The coaching staff and players would benefit.
  • We would attract better corporate support
  • It would allow the juniors to come to games after Friday training sessions
I'm not going to say that the decision had already been made, but it's hard not to be cynical about these things. Here were some of my thoughts at the time the survey was announced, all the way back at the 2014 AGM (so really, January 2015).
To that end, the club also stated the decision to play most of our home games on Fridays - though some of our games will be moved to Sundays - was in part motivated by the coaching staff's desire to optimise the recovery and training schedules of the players. This is despite 60% (a sketchily provided number) of our supporters responding in an online survey that their preference was for Sunday games. The hope that we would better attract corporate sponsors to attend on Friday nights was also expressed. Overall there was a lot of doubt in the room about the decision, but we'll see how it goes. In this writer's opinion, without the social club Friday nights just won't be a success, but they may as well try something different. Hopefully the games don't clash with Melbourne based Friday night AFL matches.
As you can see, I had my doubts about the success of the Friday night venture from an attendance perspective (especially without a social club), but I was willing to give it a go and see how it would all play out. The move does not seem to have worked, at least not from the perspective of attendances. Not being the type to go around counting the number of children at games, I can't say whether we have attracted more of our juniors to attend, but one of our informants reckons that the corporate attendance was poor.

There should also be concerns for the following reason. Last Sunday for the Dockerty Cup final, more people turned up than did on Friday night when they had to pay entry at the gate as opposed to using their membership cards. The team, despite some traditional slowdown in the middle portion of the season, is also doing well. It won a championship last season lest we forget, has just come off a Dockerty Cup win, and is still well in the running for the NPL national playoffs and seemingly starting to find form at the right part of the year heading into the finals.

There was also no footy on in Melbourne on Friday night, so where was everyone? Or maybe that was everyone, at least from the point of view of the people who will turn up every week no matter what. If that's the case, then why not cater to those fans and play our home games on Sundays? Either that or just say 'look, we think that playing on Fridays gives us that much more of an edge of winning a championship, so with all due respect, since most of you are going to turn up no matter when we play, we've decided to play Friday night games'.

One and one makes two; two and one makes three; it was destiny
I am hearing things from all sorts of crazy different sources and I am starting to put two and two together. There has been some angst about the name 'South Melbourne United' being re-booted, in case it got used as a means to get a South Melbourne affiliate of sorts (so not really South Melbourne) into the A-League playing with a red vee jersey. But then there is also talk that there have been negotiations with the South Melbourne Women - and if you thought like I did that, 'wait, I thought we had established that were in a de facto relationship' - then that certainly might come as a surprise.

But what if instead of registering South Melbourne United as an A-League front, it was designed to go the other way? Several NPL clubs have set up 'community clubs' in order to maintain a broader junior base that's more participatory in outlook. Now one of the concerns for South Melbourne Women, should they apply for the Women's NPL which is due to start next year, is that like a men's NPL side they would lose many of their juniors. While women's soccer in Victoria has a track record of often being more about 'teams' as opposed to 'clubs', as an outsider, South Melbourne Women seem to be more at the 'club' end of the spectrum, and thus would lose something culturally important in the transition. Does a scenario where South Melbourne FC becomes the dual licence holder for NPL men's and women's football, while establishing South Melbourne United as a community club outpost overcome those problems to the satisfaction of all the parties involved (mainly the women not getting treated like garbage)? Are there enough facilities to cater for everyone adequately whether they play for a mens' or boys', womens' or girls', NPL or community club? What kind of impact will this have on other clubs in our local area?

The other danger of this of course is if the 'community club' decides at some point to go its own way, as appears to be the case with at least one version (I think the Sunshine George Cross affiliated community club). How our South Melbourne would manage to keep a relatively short leash on such an organisation remains to be seen. All of that of course supposes that my rank speculation has even the faintest whiff of truth to it. I may be just pissing into the wind.

Of course, all this speculation flies in the face of this comment (seriously, read it, it's interesting), which puts forward a fairly detailed idea of how South Melbourne United will be the front for getting back into the A-League.

Attention Lakeside Stadium maintenance people
The public address system is struggling during bits where music is being played, with the music fading in and out. It's been happening for a few weeks, and it's really starting to get annoying. Bad enough having crap music being played, worse when the speakers are playing up as well.

Things could be worse! - new segment
This segment in a nod towards the desire among some people for more positivity. Each week I'll be trying to find a way in which things 'could be worse!', to make us appreciate what we have. Suggestions are welcome, come see me at a game and let me know what you're thankful for as a South fan.
Final thought
Great, that overseas football nonsense has started again. There goes my Twitter feed and my Facebook news feed.

9 comments:

  1. I can proudly say I was a fan of Norton from the moment he signed, sure there were periods where he struggled but he always put in 100% and now we are reaping the benefits (actually for many seasons now) of having him at South.
    I hope he gets re-signed for at least 2 more years. Best left back in the league and inching closer as a South Melbourne hero, in the same mould as Rama and Nando.

    I'm really happy for him that it's all working out for him. Top bloke.

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  2. I can admit I used to flog Norton. Didn't rate him as a defender (a lot of opposition goals appeared to come from his side of the park), and was always surprised when he'd pop-up and score goals.
    I think Norton has raised him game considerably, and continuously since joning South. I may've mellowed over the years, but I think my lack of vitriol towards him is more due to his workrate and quality.
    Have to agree that he's a great personality around the club too. Always smiling, always interacting with the supporters, and an all-round good guy.

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  3. Not much has been made of it but South Melbourne do have a community club relationship with Yarraville Glory. Not sure what Yarraville get out of it apart from one South Melbourne junior coach and some free junior SMFC memberships.

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  4. I also reckon if Mala improves his ability to get forward on the right and whip in a few more early crosses there's a greater benefit to be had. Mala is a sensational right back and if he can add another dimension to his game it'll give us a massive edge.

    I think the back 5 deserves a lot of praise this year. As it currently stands we have the best defence in the league with least amount of goals conceded. Despite issues with red cards, injuries and international duty, they've stood up the entire year. Roganovic obviously has played a huge part, I mean the guy is an absolute rock back there. I'd be super happy if we can keep all five of them moving into next year.

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  5. I thought the name of your community club could not not contain the same suburb name as your own?

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    1. Yes, that would be a problem. Maybe we'd have to use our powers of sucking up to the governing bodies to get around it.

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    2. So a new club can come along and be formed and use your city name but you yourself cannot use it? Who at the FFV thought of that one?

      Maybe we can use Hellenic or Yarra Park instead? (Or just use Albert Park or Middle Park and end up taking over their clubs in the future)

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  6. You're taking at least some of the credit for Minopoulos! Really? You're kidding me aren't you? Based on what? Comments on this blog?

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    1. It was a light hearted reference to getting Leigh to change his Twitter avatar from a photo of him playing for Werribee City to something South Melbourne related. Any subsequent improvement in match day opportunity and performance is of course, purely coincidental.

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While I like people commenting on the blog, it would be useful if different posters could at least leave some sort of nickname to make it easier to sort through all the different 'anonymous' posters. If your post doesn't get approved straight away, it's probably because I haven't seen it yet. Lastly, just because I approve a comment for publication does not mean that I endorse its content.