Even before the, er, unpleasantness, the team was set for a decent overhaul, especially in defence. New keepers, new centre-backs, even new wing-backs. Alastair Bray will be the obvious first choice starting out, and Brad Norton the starting left full-back, but the other three spots in the back four will be be up for grabs. Injuries to new recruits Jake Marshall and Darby Dexter mean that it'll likely be Kristian Konstantinidis and new player Christos Intzidis in the centre of defence for the start of the season, and *probably* Matthew Foschini at right fll-back, but who knows for sure?
For everything which has changed however, other things will look stunningly familiar even where we have recruited new players. The midfield suffered few changes; the outs amounted to Jesse Daley, whose place in the starting eleven was all over the place in 2017 (and who disappeared to Perth for trials twice), and Stefan Zinni and Andy Kecojevic who were about as marginal as midfielders could get in a semi-professional squad that plays as many games as we have been in the habit of doing.
And yet two of our midfield pickups are entirely familiar - Andy Brennan and Iqi Jawadi have been here before, the latter for a lot longer than the former, but still, it's not like we don't know what they're like. Oliver Minatel, if he plays in the attacking midfield role, will be where a lot of this year's planning will likely sink or swim. That, and the fact that because we got and then got rid of Sam Smith, the next in line for replacing striker Milos Lujic (should something happen to him) is Leigh Minopoulos and Giordano Marafioti.
One thing which is puzzling me is that, by my very erratic calculations there are 19 confirmed players where we need 20. So, is it Luke Pavlou or Ajdin Fetahagic that takes up one of those spots? Anyone with a better idea of this situation is more than welcome to post it in the comments.
Need more Greeks!
We have signed Greek defender Christos Intzidis. He's a 25 year old journeyman who has spent most of his career bouncing around the Greek second division. My main concern here is that he just doesn't seem to have played very much football for a 25 year old professional, especially recently. And while I could watch the highlights packages and see what he can do, these things seldom if ever show us what a player can't do.
It's an interesting signing in some other ways as well. Obviously as a visa player, he'll need a certain amount of renumeration, which suggests that money is still coming in from somewhere, or that savings made elsewhere have been funneled towards a signing like this. There's also cultural and language issues, but that's to be expected with an overseas signing, especially from outside the British Isles or New Zealand.
I'm also reminded of discussions that were had a few years ago on the old smfcboard, especially following the onset of the Greek financial crisis, that we should be looking at players in the Greek second and third divisions who would quote/unquote kill it in this league of ours. Despite the plethora of Greek clubs in this league however, it's not a recruiting tactic that's been used very often. I think maybe Northcote had recruited a Greek player from below the top tiers, but they got relegated anyway.
It promises to be a fun experiment. When was the last time, guest players like John Samaras not included, that we even brought out a player from Greece? Was it Margaritis Hatzimanouil in the mid-1970s?
What was that about visa players?
We've also signed Oliver Minatel, a Brazilian most recently of the US non-MLS tiers. Again I haven't watched the accompanying highlights package, though someone claimed to be about as impressed by them as they were by Andy Bevin's compilation, which doesn't fill me with confidence. Anyway, the general scuttlebutt non-highlights watching consensus is that Minatel is a left-sided attacking player.
But I can hear you already asking, don't we already have one of those in the form of the People's Champ? Is this an attempt to shunt out the Champ, or was he on his way out in due course anyway? Shurgs shoulders, maybe? I don't know
The other theory is that Minatel will be the more-or-less like-for-like replacement for Marcus Schroen, so something like an attacking midfielder. Seeing as he's possibly the direct replacement for Schroen, I wonder if Minatel can take a set-piece? Not that Schroen himself had much success there in 2017 barring that goal at home against against the Knights, but it has been a long-term problem for us.
Anyway, after an AGM where the board had said it would be very cautious, perhaps reluctant even to sign visa players unless they fit an absolutely obvious need, we've signed two visa players. These things happen I suppose. One day you have a successful coach of four and half years' tenure, the next morning you don't. Likewise, one week you're making noises about a change in signing philosophy, and then another week you seemingly quickly change to another one.
I'm not terribly flustered about this; visa spots are there to be used, and the club felt it had two spots it really wanted to fill either because of a genuine need to do so and inability to find a suitable local option, or because it felt it needed to reinforce the squad for Kolman's and their own sakes. I mean, imagine it all works out?
South Melbourne Fringe Festival
Four youth players have been upgraded to the senior list. Striker Giordano Marafioti, right full-back Josh Hodes, winger Ben Djiba, and centre-back Giorgi Zarbos have all been what I suppose you'd call provisionally elevated into the senior list.
It's easy to be cynical and say that these four players have been elevated to the senior list in part to get the squad underneath the 200 PPS limit, but it's also true. Every club does it, we've got two visa spots filled worth 20 points each, and something has to be done to get us a pass mark.
While I don't doubt that Sasa Kolman wants to use these players - as their former under 20s coach, he knows them better than anyone - the reality is that for most of them, this is as good as will it get. People can talk about youth development until the cows come home, but the higher up you go, the harder it is to put into practice.
Fans and boards want senior success; who's going to risk that on some unknown and untested quantities, whose careers thus far have been spent entirely playing against only players their own age? Anyway, all the best to the lads, but most people will be hoping we won't be needing their services.
Arrivals and Departures
The squad deadline was last Tuesday 5PM, so apart from everyone else already named and shamed, it's worth notung Andy Kecojevic has officially left the club, joining Springvale White Eagles. It never quite worked out the way it should have there, right?
- Matthew Foschini (signed until the end of 2018)
- Milos Lujic (signed until end of 2018)
- Jake Marshall (signed until the end of 2018)
- Nick Epifano (signed until the end of 2018)
- Darby Dexter (signed until the end of 2018)
- Matthew Millar (signed until the end of 2018)
- Andy Brennan (signed until the end of 2018)
- Keegan Coulter (signed until the end of 2018)
- Iqi Jawadi (signed until the end of 2018)
- Christos Intzidis (signed until the end of 2018)
- Leigh Minopoulos (signed until the end of 2018)
- Oliver Minatel (signed until the end of 2018)
- Giordano Marafioti (upgraded from youth team)
- Josh Hodes (upgraded from youth team)
- Ben Djiba (upgraded from youth team)
- Giorgi Zarbos (upgraded from youth team)
- Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until the end of 2019)
- Brad Norton (signed until the end of 2019)
- Alastair Bray (signed until the end of 2019)
In, then Out
- Sam Smith (Port Melbourne)
- Stefan Zinni (Avondale)
- Zaim Zeneli (North Sunshine Eagles)
- Michael Eagar (Port Melbourne)
- Luke Adams (Ljungskile SK, Sweden)
- Tim Mala (12 month sabbatical)
- Nikola Roganovic (retired)
- Jesse Daley (returned to Queensland)
- Andy Kecojevic (Springvale White Eagles)
Out for injury related reasons
- Marcus Schroen
Players whose status I'm unsure about
- Luke Pavlou
- Ajdin Fetahagic
- Bardhi Hysolli
Friday night NPL matches kicking off at 8:15PM or at 8:30PM, especially in the middle of winter, have been a bugbear for some people for some years now. There's been little that clubs have been able to do about it, as there are rules about the times at which reserve and senior matches can kickoff for night games. Besides which, more and more clubs, both in the NPL and in the state leagues, have been moving their fixtures to Friday nights.
But I see that Melbourne Knights have tried to get around the problem in a way that most if not all clubs have been reticent to try, by playing their reserves/under 20s games on a different day. South has done similar things in order to accommodate women's/men's double-headers, and games like the Old Socceroos vs Copperoos, but this is the next logical step.
So, Knights have moved to try and play some of their early season senior home games as standalone fixtures kicking off at 7:30PM instead. The possible benefits? More attractive to families and people desiring to stay back after a game, and maybe not having to put up with the worst of the winter conditions. Oh, and possibly lower costs on hiring security for matches.
The drawbacks include less time to get across town to a game, especially for the handful of people who rely on public transport to do so. Maybe less revenue from people that get to games early? Look, we're probably well past the point where anything is going to make a drastic difference to attendances, but why not try something anyway?
The question is, is this something you would like to see happen at South games, should we ever consider playing Friday night games again? Is the idea of standalone senior matches something you'd like to see brought in across the board for Friday night fixturing in the NPL?
South of the Border, freeloading once again at an NPL or state league game near you in 2018
Of course it's not completely freeloading. In exchange for the pass, I write this blog about South, and try to get to at least 1-2 other games a weekend in order to write up everyone's favourite "around the grounds" segment. And I usually put at least something back over the bar and bolster the crowds by at least one person.I see that someone's been accredited for another season... pic.twitter.com/tyBD9EIWj3— Paul Mavroudis (@PaulMavroudis) February 9, 2018