Monday, 2 April 2018

Fear and Loathing in Westmeadows - Hume City 1 South Melbourne 0

You go to a game "knowing" you'll lose but still hoping that you can win it, and then get all the more disappointed for not trusting your gut instinct.

Except for FFA Cup foamers, no one who has paid any attention to the opening few weeks of this season's NPL Victoria season could fail to see this result coming. But that's the FFA Cup for you, a far more gimmicky and therefore interesting competition compared to the grinding, gruelling, brutalising experience that is NPL soccer. And if that comparison doesn't just fill your heart with glee, remember that on these kinds of matters, we're partly responsible for digging our own public relations grave.

So with no Oliver Minatel (still injured) and no Andy Brennan (suspended for this game and one more week after that, but hopefully picking up some much needed match fitness), we started the game with eleven players on the field. Two of those - Milos Lujic and Leigh Minopoulos - were playing on one leg each, and who knows what extra damage they attained in being out there for 90 minutes they really shouldn't have been.

Even worse, there was no bench. I mean, there was a bench and it had players on it, but most of them were apparently defenders or too young to throw to the lions. The decision not to use any of them is a real worry on several fronts. First, we were told in January at the AGM that at long last, after several NPL seasons and youth system restructures, that we were on the cusp of introducing some of our youth products to the senior team. Second, the current senior coach knows these players better than most, having coached them himself.

Third, that none of them were considered even good enough to replace Leigh Minopoulos, who could barely move in the second half. It is distressing to think that in our time of need, a goal down but a man up, that we chose to hobble out the game rather than even dare to give anyone else a go, for fear perhaps that they might succeed. Again, without wanting to make pointless comparisons, but four years ago Chris Taylor threw on Kobbie Boahene in a cup match and it worked.

Again, I can't fault the determination and endeavour of the players. Even crippled, we outplayed Hume more than they outplayed us, we had good chances to score, and we did not take them. Meanwhile our perennial lack of a free kick taker costs us again, this time as Nick Hegarty - among the two or three competent free kick takers left in this league - done us in with a free kick.

But that's just one of many holes we'll need to plug as we crawl our way to the mid-season transfer window, hoping like hell in the meantime that we don't end up in a relegation battle.

But at least we still have our health, for now
Of course things could always be much worse. The security arrangements on Friday at Hume City were, to put it bluntly, atrocious. There's probably different rules for the FFA Cup as opposed to league games - and clearly different rules and government by-laws for Lakeside Stadium compared to most venues in the suburbs -  but sometimes you still wonder how clubs and hired security details can get it so wrong.

It started with the baffling and ended up at the near disastrous. The baffling was the temporary fencing blocking the outer wing from the southern goal. This would make a kind of sense if the entire area behind the goal was closed off; but that area, like the rest of the ground, was accessible from the grandstand side of the ground. It was like a cheap metroidvania trick, a barrier constructed for no obvious reason except to create pointless backtracking.

The near disastrous was obviously a much more serious affair. In the second half, during the drawn out five minute deliberation by the referees on what to do with Hume captain-coach Nick Hegarty after he chopped down Leigh Minopoulos, the South fans behind the goal turned up the invective towards the ref and the Hume players involved in the post-tackle push and shove.

Without anybody important really noticing, during this time a group of Hume City supporters clad in black - including, apparently, their president - walked behind the southern end goal and planted themselves right next to the angry South fans. What these Hume City supporters wanted to achieve with this maneuver, only they could could know, but very quickly the whole thing escalated from shouting match to push and shove and very nearly much worse. Thankfully, enough people - mostly South fans, if we're going to be honest about this - threw themselves between those most likely to kick it off, yelled long and loud enough for everyone to back off, and eventually the Hume City supporters decided to move away from the area.

While all this was happening, one would've expected security to rush over to prevent any escalation of the incident, but all it seemed that all that was available was one security guard and one volunteer ground marshal. Now I can tell you from experience that while being a ground marshal is 99% boredom as you wear a fluoro vest and try to look nonchalant, that 1% of time when you're expected to do something but you're not sure what it is that you can do or even what you're allowed to do are an awful situation to be in. Even more so if your own club's officials are apparently in the mix as well, not trying to calm things down but trying to stir them up.

As for the lone security guard at that end of the ground, he was the typical poorly trained and poorly paid scrub that winds up doing this kind of work at NPL grounds. Clearly out of his depth, and seemingly without even a walkie-talkie, dealing with 20-30 odd angry men screaming at each other, and at him, by his own admission he didn't know what to do. And yet the other security personnel on duty for the day made no effort to come over and assist him. Glad as I am that nothing more serious kicked off, I also felt bad for that bloke.

I'll make no claim that South fans act like perfect little angels at every game. But it's clear that Clarendon Corner and to a lesser extent South fans in general are seen as a soft target for members of the opposition that want to act like smartarses, especially when we're at away matches. When this happens, most often it's limited to the antics of opposition players or coaches choosing to celebrate in front of our supporters rather than with their own fans or players. Sometimes though, like Friday's game, some opposition fans want to take matters into their own hands for reasons only they know.

It's the strangest thing, especially in light of the fact that for a good few years now, and with the exception of Jack Edwards Reserve and the Veneto Club, the most vocal South fans actually try to get away from opposition supporters at the suburban grounds, even if that means picking the worst spot at the ground from which to watch a game.

There are really only two other clubs in the NPL at present that consistently bring away fans to most games, and that's Heidelberg and the Knights. Heidelberg don't have an organised fan group, so there's a smaller target there automatically. But MCF is noticeable enough at most games home or away, and yet from my anecdotal observations at their away matches, opposition personnel (whether fans or on field representatives) don't dare try to instigate anything with them.

Of course MCF has a far more fearsome reputation than Clarendon Corner, and it's probably one of the reasons that the NPL's assorted on and off field clowns like to have a go at us when their team is up. But it shouldn't even need to come to that, but good luck FFV clamping down on teams that aren't us or the Bergers for off-field stuff.

And in just a few weeks time, we get to go there and do it all again. Oh joy.

Of all the days that South Melbourne and North Melbourne played on the same day
Late on Sunday evening, walking back to the crappy car park at Sunshine (the good one was closed to accommodate train replacement bus services), a bloke popped his head out from a car parked behind Pap's Market to ask me who had won out of South and Hume. Probably the first time ever some random has recognised that what I'm wearing is South Melbourne merch and not North Melbourne stuff. Good to know for what's left of the SMFC marketing team I suppose, that we've managed to get some brand recognition at last.

Next game
Melbourne Knights away at Somers Street on Friday night. Though I imagine many South fans will miss this game due to Orthodox Easter commitments, for those attending the match please be aware of the earlier than usual kickoff time of 7:30PM.

Keep in mind also that the senior women are at home this Saturday in a twilight fixture against Greater Geelong Galaxy, kickoff at 4:15PM.

A-League expansion process officially underway (not that any of that matters)
Well, here we go. The on again/off again, will they/won't they process appears, at last, to be actually happening - unless of course you're of the conspirational mind that the decision of which teams to add has already been made, in which case carry on as you do.

For the rest, the announcement of what appears to be at least a quasi-legitimate process for A-League expansion will be welcome. One way or another, South Melbourne Hellas fans will get a degree of closure on the matter of joining the A-League.

Well, at least until the bidding process after this one, for teams 13 and 14 and/or whatever vacancy arises out of Wellington Phoenix's four-year licence not being renewed.

FFA's timeline for A-League expansion for the 11th and 12th licences.
The successful bids will enter the competition in season 2019/20.
So it's going to be two new teams coming in for the 2019/20 A-League season, which gives the successful bids a year to get their operations up and running. I have no idea if that's enough time, or whether the delays to expansion up until this point have seen everyone who's keen for this refine their bids even further.

As part of its call for expressions of interest, FFA is asking for bidders to address the matters of "vision and strategy", "proposed locations", "financial capacity", and "details about persons involved in the prospective bid". It will be interesting to see if at any point South Melbourne Hellas members are informed about our club's efforts in any of these categories (with the possible exception of the location issue), seeing as how we never got around to learning about investors or ownership structures when we were trying to pull off the Southern Cross gimmick.

Anyway, if the following comment made on the Football Today site is true, it will have a significant impact on the kinds of bidders likely to front up:
Our understanding is that the two new expansion clubs will not have access to any of the broadcast revenue - and therefore will not have the salary cap covered - for at least 3-4 years, thereby ensuring that the new franchises must have very deep pockets to be able to cover potential losses. 
I won't claim any expertise on FFA's and the A-League's finances, but there are some things we can reasonably deduce as outside observers. Among these observations are the fact that the recent A-League television deal, while more or less securing the future of the competition for the next few years under its current format, was not big enough to pay for everything the FFA is responsible for; hence the cuts to things like the Futsalroos.

Apart from not being able to fund national teams and other programs, it's also not clear whether the television deal is big enough to actually expand the competition; nor whether the notion that Fox Sports will only accept new teams from Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne will have any influence on the expansion process.

You've also got this happening as the AAFC and other bodies are in the middle of developing their second tier model. At the same time, the representative body for A-League franchises is also unhappy about expansion occurring while the FFA Congress issue persists, and while the A-League operating model is still to be revealed. They've also gone further, saying that it "does not accept the legitimacy of the process", whatever that means

Of course, FFA as it exists now could be changed or turfed out depending on what happens with FIFA and the ongoing issues with the FFA Congress, but for the time being let's pretend that the version of FFA which exists now will exist for long enough that it will see the expansion process through until at least October 31st 2018.

At the time of print, South Melbourne had not released a statement or acknowledgement on the official opening of the expansion process. The Brisbane City and the Sydney/Illawarra Southern Expansion have released statements, and Team11, the South-East Melbourne bid, noted the opening of the process.

By the way, if you yourself want to bid for an A-League licence, you can start by filling out the expression of interest form.

Regular readers will know that I don't like to make predictions, but for whatever it's worth I reckon it'll be Southern Expansion and Brisbane City. Not that any of that matters, of course.

Around the grounds
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys
The day before our game, figuring that we were doomed from the outset, I decided it was worth heading to someone else's sorta high profile FFA Cup battle in order to at least a last dose of FFA Cup schadenfreude before ignoring the competition as best I could for the remainder of 2018. To that end I ended up at Somers Street for Melbourne Knights vs Altona Magic. The 2018 Knights are if not even close to being world beaters, they are at the very least a long way from their abysmal 2017 variant. Magic meanwhile are in middle of an old school live-by-the-benefactor, die-by-the-benefactor revival, recruiting heavily from NPL 1 in order to get out of NPL 2 as quickly as possible. Out of all the teams outside NPL 1, they're the ones you'd want to play the least.

So, that being the case, it's fair to say that this game was decided by those moments when Magic decided to be switched on. When they were, they looked at least a half-step above the Knights in ball movement and skill. When they were switched off, Knights were able to get the ball up to dangerous parts of the field, and do largely nothing of note when they got there. The key moments? The sides being level at 1-1 after half an hour, but Magic switching on again and taking the lead again soon after; Kym Harris being stretchered off for Knights on half time, meaning an inadequate forward line reshuffle; a dull second half coming to life when Magic's Jon McShane getting sent off, but Knights continuing to be ineffective, conceding two further goals before finally looking dangerous in the last five minutes and pulling a consolation goal back.

Towards the end of the game, there was some hullabaloo near the visitors bench, as the assistant referee on that side left his post to talk to the referee, presumably about abuse he was receiving from spectators next to Magic's bench. I could not tell from my vantage point which side's supporters were responsible; while MCF is out of the grandstand and back on Quarry Hill in 2018, both Knights fans in general and the Vagabondi ultras firm or whatever they are that sometimes appears at magic games tend to wear black. The game eventually resumed, and ended with a deserved win to Magic, not realluy much of an upset except perhaps in how lopsided the score was. As patrons filed out of the ground and back to their dreary little lives, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was played over the stadium speakers, a nice touch only possible when you probably expected to lose anyway, and weren't going to be hung up about it.

Final thought
As if this season wasn't bad enough already, I got trolled on Twitter by a bloke who's the Australian soccer equivalent of George Costanza; a man whose lofty career high was getting sent off in a third/fourth place Maltese Summer Cup game five minutes after he got subbed onto the field.


  1. Brisbane City will cover the FFA's 'We're not racists' angle. Perfect ..... until it predictably fails.

    1. Btw ... 30 years ago the NSL consisted of 7 Victorian teams and ZERO Queensland teams.

      If the FFA think that having a national league where Brisbane and Melbourne have the same amount of teams, is the way to go, then they really are idiots.

      The demographics have not changed that much to warrant such a move.

  2. In regards to A-League expansion, if the statement about no broadcast money is true, than it is only a matter of time before expansion will have to put expansion talk on hold again. - It makes no sense for anyone to pay $millions for a licence if they are essentially guaranteed to make a loss for the next four years.

    1. Remember the $5M entry fee for HAL1? Very few franchises fronted up this fee. I think Victory eventually paid a $1.5M fee after a couple of years and the FFA called it "even".

      Once the preferred bids are shortlisted, this set and solid criteria will become a bit more flexible and fluid.

  3. It's a disgrace that we have been knocked out by what is probably the weakest Hume side we have ever faced.

    What's even more disgraceful is what has transpired to lead to Friday's FFA Cup shock loss.

    The following needs answers:

    - Why did we only have 9 fit players?
    - Why is our squad so wafer thin?
    - Why does the club talk up its youth program when the coach who knows the youth program intimately doesn't even trust his bench full of kids?
    - Why is the squad so unfit?
    - Why is a hugely inexperienced coach left without any support networks? Who is there to mentor the coach and provide guidance and advice?
    - Has the coach lost the dressing room?

    Serious questions must be raised on list management and scouting/recruitment.

    Unfortunately, we wont be given any answers to the above.

    At very best, we will finish mid table.

  4. When South does not get short listed in June, at least we can avoid the A League distraction moving forward, and focus on trying to salvage what is left of this season.

  5. They cant sack Kolman because they would be admitting the sacking of CT was a mistake. The individuals who have created this mess should be held to account.

    Its a shame that this season will be a write off.

    1. Yep, they will happily drag us down to relegation zone before they make such admissions.


  7. Kimon Trimboli4 April 2018 at 08:55

    I actually like the we way play under Sasa. Its fluid and sexy at times and even against Hume I think we were the better side for most of the game. Just cant seem to get the ball in the back of the net and Milsey seems to have lost a yard or so of pace and that killer instinct in the box... Main issue for me is the extreme lack of depth in the squad (is this because of the board getting rid of CT's signings or other internal malarkey?) otherwise Id be happy to persist with the "Kolman method" I don't think he has lost the dressing room as I feel that the boys all tried their best - Fish kills himself every week, Apples runs like a racehorse, Jawadi seems a brand new man, even Epa seems to enjoy his time on the pitch and doesn't seem as petulant as previous seasons.... Yes we need a plan B up front as I agree Minops was "out for the count" after 30 mins or so but Im not convinced the season is a write off yet....

    Still, its a shame we will be missing out on all the hype of the FFA cup as it does tend to draw massive amounts of attention (and crowds) our way..

    About the A league bid, I wish the board would come out and advise the members on what is actually being done behind the scenes. No major disrespect intended to the guy, but Billy Paps just looks and sounds like a used car salesman trying to 'persuade' the public that letting us in would be the answer to the A-leagues problems. Maybe the best way of going about trying to be welcomed back into the fold is to not constantly denigrate the system we want to be a part of - if in fact we actually want to be a part of it????

  8. Milos was playing with a crook ankle, I don’t like our style under Sasa because it’s mostly based around useless possession, yes we were the better side in the 1st half but up until the red card they mauled us is the 2nd half, the team not only lacks depth but it’s also clearly unfit which is why we conceed so many 2nd half goals.

    Sasa not making a sub and having 4 youth defenders on the bench is mind boggling, don’t the under 20s have midfielders/forwards?

    Season is a write off for mine, just need to msg s few results to stay above the drop zone,

  9. Kimon Trimboli4 April 2018 at 09:37

    I didn't know that about Milos, thanks it explains alot. I get what you mean about useless possession however you must admit we generate a lot more clear-cut chances playing this way?!?

    Fitness is clearly an issue as we seem to be playing a decent 30-40 mins every game only to really slow down after the break - What ever happened to the trainers, physios, conditioning staff we seemed to have heaps of last year? The bench seems "empty" this year....

    Cheer up dude, season is not yet a write off. Im hoping Marcus is back soon and maybe (for once) our "Brazilian" comes good :)

  10. We look no more dangerous then our opponents, we have to kill ourselves with 60 passes to create a chance whilst hume, northcote etc create the same with 5 touches. You could drive a bus through our midfield at times.

    The most alarming thing? The good teams are coming up on our fixture list. Sasa doesnt know hoe to grind out a result. Instead he promotes a high octane style of football on a group of players who can only pull it off with remote effectiveness for 45 minutes. The stats dont lie, in our last 4 2nd halves we have conceeded 9 goals, those are numbers produced by teams in a relegation scrap.

  11. I assume South has played an away game during Orthodox Easter previously.

    But against our main rivals, the Knights?

    1. We best Avondale 2-0 on Orthodox Good Friday 2 seasons ago. Match was played at Somers st.


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