Friday, 19 July 2019

Something which I only just became aware of

One really important thing to note about tomorrow's game against Hume - the senior match is on at 5:30, and that will be followed by the under 20s match at 7:45.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The season starts now - South Melbourne 1 Melbourne Knights 1

Everyone seemed fascinated by this pink-purple sky, with some of ours
 fans forgetting their troubles momentarily to take photos of the unreal sky.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Walking into the social club on Sunday, and seeing the trophy cabinets empty of all their trophies and associated paraphernalia, I was little bit concerned. Where was everything? Had we been robbed by people so careful so as to not break the glass cases? Did we melt down the silver - assuming there were any precious metals in the trophies - to pay off debt collectors?

Well actually it was because everything had been taken out because the social club had been used to film some television show about WAGs. Still, nothing had been put back in by game day Sunday, so there's three or four us squinting at photos of what the cabinet layouts used to look like, arranging display boxes, putting the trophies back in, and worst of all, hopelessly trying to put the various pennants in.

Instead of having convenient hooks from which to hang the pennants, the pennants almost invariably required to be screwed into tiny-and-very-difficult-to-access-without-Olympic-gymnast-contortions  holes in the ceilings of the cabinets. And you'd thought the social club's kitchen layout was messed up! I would love to meet whoever was responsible for choosing tiny screw holes instead of well-placed hooks.

But at least we got most of the stuff back in there (on way or another) before most of the visiting Cros turned up to shame us for our empty trophy cabinets. Still, at least we have our NSL championship trophies, unlike another club - just don't ask me where our NSL Cup trophies are

Speaking of the social club kitchen, I know I get to the ground pretty early compared to most people, but the arrival of my hamburger was very fast this week regardless of this fact, and I'm sure we're all really happy for me. I sat down to enjoy my burger (and later washed it down with a tasty beverage), and then watched the women's game being played outside but watched by me on the big screen (when it was eventually put on), only to see that we were already 2-0 down to the mighty 2019 Calder side, and thus pretty much already cooked.

Credit to our girls - and they mostly are girls, age-wise - they put in a good fight, and even tried to cheat their way to an own goal via a handball (which was easily spotted by the referee), but they were outclassed and out-muscled. Worse, it looks like we may have lost our starting keeper Erin Hudson, who came off midway through the second half with what looked like a serious arm injury - she was replace by an outfielder in goal, which didn't really result in a shellacking any worse than I would've thought we'd have copped before the game.

It does help keep the scoreline somewhat respectable when your backpass(?) floats over the makeshift keeper's head, bounces onto the sodden yet still springy turf and somehow up into the crossbar, staying out. But that and the late goal we pinched were just about the only things that went right for our senior women on the day - it's been that kind of season, and yet they're still in with a shot at the finals.

The rain came down throughout the senior men's game, but managed to avoid hitting Row H, which is all I really cared about. Now some people said this was a terrible game, the worst ever derby between two sides, but I felt that was a bit harsh. The game was played in difficult conditions, by two fairly ordinary teams, but it was attacking and entertaining. I don't think anyone was bored by what was on display on Sunday. Unimpressed? Sure, why not, that's their right - people are overly cynical these days and just as prone to nostalgia as they've always been - but I don't expect miracles of skill from NPL players and teams (or maybe I've subconsciously lowered my standards since the end of the Chris Taylor glory days).

The players are there (for at least some of us) to entertain us as well as try and get points, and on Sunday they did that. Gerrie Sylaidos put us ahead after 16 seconds with a nice low drive from distance, and that was nice. Of course all one could think of after that was how long would it take for Knights to equalise, and the answer was ten minutes, with pretty much their first meaningful foray forward. The game ebbed and flowed after that - we had the better of the first half, Knights the better of the second, but neither side dominated an entire half, nor were they able to prevent their opponents from creating chances against the run of play.

Each team had a candidate for miss of the season in this match. For us, it was Billy Konstantinidis inexplicably refusing to stick a toe out to tap in a Brad Norton cut-back that was rolling right in front of him in the six yard box. For Knights, it was Gian Albano blasting a loose ball over the bar from from eight yards out directly in front, with the whole goal at his mercy. There were too many close calls to count apart from that, but thankfully we managed to walk away with a point, because we could've ended up with less.

Apart from surviving a nervous finish, the other highlight was getting to pig out on leftover Krispy Kreme doughnuts that the women's team hadn't finished, and getting called a fat bastard (or words to that effect) for my troubles. I regret nothing.

Next game
Hume away on Saturday night

Relegation battle (status: nearly safe)
Being typically bold in my prognoses and estimations of the future, I'm prepared to call it... almost. Look, it's no longer a question of misplaced optimism or even that chewed out phrase "mathematical possibility". We're pretty much safe. It would take a monumental disaster for us to fall into the bottom three even from this far out, and trhe chasing pack would have to climb over a couple of other sides to get there first in any regard.

Kingston's win over the Bergers on Monday night is irrelevant to us. They're still on the bottom of the table, twelve points behind us, with just 15 points up for grabs. More relevant to us, Pascoe Vale and Dandy Thunder both lost, and are eleven points behind us. While it's not beyond the realms of possibility that we could fail to take any points from our remaining games, it would still require either Paco or Thunder to go on the kind of run that their form thus far this season has suggested they will not.

Those two teams also play each other on the run home, so one or both will probably be knocked out by the result of that game by that stage, with their best hope likely being getting into the playoff spot and facing what could be a very weak NPL 2 team.

Of course from our point of view, such things are nothing to be proud of, especially for a second season in a row - but it could be worse.

Blessed technicalities 
On the terraces I was having a chat with everyone's second or third favourite viking (depending on whether you're a Hagar the Horrible fan or not), about whether a team had ever been relegated from this competition despite reaching the 28 point tally that we have already accrued this season. And the answer is, "short answer ‘yes’ with an ‘if,’ long answer ‘no’ with a ‘but.’”. In 2014, Werribee City finished in 12th place, in what would later become but was not in that season the playoff spot. It is also worth noting that while officially Werribee and Port finished on 28 points apiece, the video tape of the game they played against each other in the final round of that season went missing almost immediately, and thus one is tempted to not consider the resultant points tallies anything resembling a legitimate outcome.

Retro/commemorative jerseys
The club is close to releasing some retro style jerseys - see the details below if you're into that kind of thing.
Match programs
I have added a couple of programs from 1979, and several away programs from season 1999-2000. More stuff will be added as the weeks go by, I hope.

On the couch
Dead but alive, alive but dead
Tuned into the Kingston vs Bergers game on Monday night. Kingston scored a rank dodgy early goal through Chris Irwin, and managed to keep the Bergers to few meaningful chances for the rest of the game. That's about all I could really say of this game, which was neither a great nor poor spectacle, and had little influence on whatever it is that South is trying to accomplish this season.

Final thought
We didn't want him!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Mental health day - Green Gully 0 South Melbourne 0

If Football Victoria still had a prize for photo of the year, I'd submit this, but you
know the PC wowsers wouldn't allow a pic of a man having a durry to win any
 accolades, being obsessed with anodyne wholesomeness. Photo: Luke Radziminksi
Well it seems a good number of you took the advice I dished out last week and took a mental health day last Saturday, perhaps anticipating that we would be crunched by a superior team. Or maybe you were told by people at the club that it was in your best interests to stay away for a while. Or maybe you were tired from staying up all night watching the cricket world cup for some stupid reason.

Not that I have official data to back up the following claim, but this was the lowest crowd I can remember attending a fixture between these two sides at this ground since, like, I can remember attending. But then I remembered that most games this season have felt that way, especially as the season has wore on, and I was less alarmed and more placated that we actually just collectively continuing towards our ethnic senior soccer death spiral; although giving it the name of "death spiral" gives it too much balletic street-cred.

But those who did attend managed to at least see our side put in if not a remarkable than at least a creditable performance, of the sort that makes you upset with getting only a point where before the game you were contemplating sacrificing animals to petty ancient gods for us to get a mere point.

As to what caused us to put in what was for 2019 an above average performance.. I don't know. Was it the possible formation change? Was there even a formation change? I couldn't tell. There were some players not in their usual arrangement, and some players on the field with players they have usually not been on the field with this year, but that could go for a lot of games. Also the sun was in our eyes, and there was a pre-season warmth that kind of distracted a little from precise analysis of the action.

I will say that part of what was responsible for the improvement compared to several recent weeks was Gully's performance. They looked very good against Avondale the week before, but were a bit less sharp on Saturday. It's also possible that Gully played right into our hands with their style of play, playing a high line and being willing to attack. In cases such as that, this season has shown us that as long as we don't concede, this kind of situation suits us just fine, as it allows us to counter-attack via the wings and in this case also up the middle with long balls over the top of the high line.

Melvin Becket sends the ball wide of the goal and wide of
 former South keeper Jerrad Tyson. Photo: Cindy Nitsos
Unfortunately, we were unable to score from any of the four or so pretty good chances created in the first half. Pep Marafioti delayed shooting, approached the keeper, did not pass the ball to an open Peter Skapetis, and then took a shot straight into former South custodian Jerrad Tyson. Skapetis himself was more unfortunate then incompetent when his initial shot was blocked by an almost stranded Tyson, before the quick follow-up shot from the save hit the one Gully player in the way of the goal. Ben Djiba made an enterprising run on the right, but was unable to get either a shot away nor pass the ball to a waiting striker. Finally, Melvin Becket did all the hard work dribbling his way to the six yard box, only to stumble over his own feet and place his off-balance shot wide.

Having witnessed all that, one assumed that our comeuppance was near, especially within the last four minutes of the first half; but that comeuppance did not arrive. Sure, we were not as good in the second, and certainly did not find the space behind Gully's defence that we did in the first. But for all Gully's improvement, they were seldom able to seriously threaten our back four. I think they only managed the one shot on target for the whole game, and thankfully Josh Dorron was able to keep it out - a long range free kick from Jay Davies curled towards the top right hand corner, but Dorron was able to extend his large frame and palm the ball away.

Not the first lemon tree to be spotted at an NPL ground.
Photo. Luke Radziminski. 
Some of our defensive efforts were a bit more acrobatic than perhaps necessary, bringing out calls from me and Dave of "I see you know your judo well, sir", which while funny (of course) didn't fit, because judo is about throws and not acrobatic kicking. We perhaps could've made a better stab at taking all three points if we made more than one substitution, but we didn't, even though there were players like Gerrie Sylaidos who were completely gassed with about ten to play. One hopes that the reluctance to make more than one change was due to tactical considerations and not we can't afford to pay the players this week considerations.

But we could've also made a better play at getting all three points if we were a little bit smarter in the second half, and not so much trying to second guess ourselves. I'm thinking here of the mess of a free kick concocted by Billy Konstantinidis and Marcus Schroen from a good position. True, the defensive wall was a bit close for my liking, and true again that free kick taking is a hard enough business, but elaborate games of misdirection are best left to people in better leagues; in the NPL, just let someone take the shot without too much showboating and get on with the game.

Anyway the refereeing was good, until such time as the ref needed to make difficult decisions, and then his performance went down the gurgler. For those who care about such things, it was our first scoreless draw since midway through 2017, and it also continued our unbeaten run at Green Gully Reserve, which has been going since we beat Gully in the first round in 2013. More importantly, we got a point out of the whole thing, and I got a match program because Gully is one of the two clubs still producing those things.

One more thing
It was interesting to see the lack of sponsor boards at Green Gully. Now we won't get into the ins and outs of who's a paid sponsor at Lakeside and who might only be there as decoration (or even if we have that many sponsors from outside the circle of the board); but knowing that these things happen at clubs lower down the food-chain, I always wondered how many sponsor boards at NPL clubs were actually from active sponsors.

Under such circumstances, one wonders if there's scope for putting in decorative/club themed boards instead, or at least keeping some redundant sponsor boards for a heritage role... Buddy's Mobile Disco at least deserves more than it's current fate of paint and rust decay with its face turned away from the ground and toward the north wind.

Next game
The Knights at home on Sunday afternoon. They'll be coming off a midweek Dockerty Cup game against Bulleen.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, gentlest of easing)
Not much changed on the relegation avoiding front this week - which is broadly good news for us, because it means that the teams in the bottom three who are trying to get out of the relegation and playoff spots are running out of time to do so.

Nearer to us, Port lost to Hume, the Dandy derby was a draw, and Pascoe Vale beat Kingston 2-0 to make it highly improbable that Kingston will be able to make it up to 11th. So we have a 10 point buffer to 12th (and 13th) with a maximum of 18 points up for grabs.

In our remaining games, it's the one against Dandy Thunder that'll likely be crucial. Let's hope we get some points on the board before then so that it's not crucial. Thunder are also due to play Pascoe Vale in the run home, so someone's going to have to take points off someone there.

Deckchairs on the Titanic
What is even this? I'm not going to pretend that I have any idea anymore how our football operations work, who does what, and what exactly it is they do. It's like people who work in offices - what do they do? So many buildings, so many offices, so many people in offices doing what, I don't know. Anyway back to the matter at hand. In summary, board member Andrew Mesourouni, previously in charge of junior football, is now in charge of the senior men's football department. Former general manager of the club Peter Kokotis, who was appointed football manager (senior men) last November, has now been put in charge of the juniors in conjunction with Mike Valkanis. Except that the latest article says "We welcome Peter back to the club." - so was Peter with us or wasn't he?

NCIP is gone
So it's gone. Now what? Will any major ethnic club officially revert to an older name? I can't really see that happening - especially those with a hankering to get into the mooted second division - but there's certainly more scope for blended branding incorporating old and new. I can also see some fans taking matters into their own hands, which will no doubt lead to some very mature outcomes. After all, freedom of expression for you is also freedom of expression for someone else; and has often been the case, it only take a minority of people to cause a fuss, and then for the rest of the club to either actively or passively condone the said fuss.

But I'm thinking of this stuff like it's current. Surely everyone has moved on, grown up, got a new hobby.

For our part, there's discussion about whether we should go back to South Melbourne Hellas, bring back the old logo, etc. I think most of our extant supporters are comfortable enough with the South Melbourne FC branding, and the possible use of 'Hellas' to augment that as a nickname or some such. I'd be in favour of an updated logo along the lines of the current commemorative badge, if for no other reason than that I've disliked the current one for a long time.

The most important thing though is that whatever the club and its members decide to do, it's now our choice, and not someone else's, which was one of the main points of my gripe about the NCIP in the first place.

What's happening with the Puskas film?
A few people asked about this a little while back, and I can't really provide a definitive answer. All that I know for sure is that quite a few interviews were done, that there seems to be a good story there, and after that... silence. Is money an issue? Is it competing projects? Have the boys fallen out among themselves?

If there's issues with getting the project going to the next stage - whatever that stage may be - I'm sure there's people that can help. Because as much as there's South fans wanting to know what's happening with the film, I'm guessing the people who've already been interviewed would also be asking what's going on with the film - and for them, it's not a just a movie, it's the story of an amazing moment in their lives.

You know, I actually got around to watching Rob, Cam and Tony's previous sports documentary The Galahs the other day, and I can see what they'd like to do with the Puskas film. Hopefully whatever's holding up production of the Puskas film is easy to enough to resolve, because it's a great story with much broader appeal than Harry Beitzel's Irish adventure, and a lot more archival footage to play with among other things.

On the couch
Not setting the couch on fire, yet
Watched Kingston at home to Pascoe Vale last night, in a real ordinary relegation six-pointer. It was good news for Pascoe Vale, but bad news for Kingston and people who inexplicably like Monday night football. Most frustrating of all was of course the fact that we've only been able to take three points off either team, but that assumes we're so much better than those teams and deserve to have taken more points off them. Thankfully there were also the last couple of SVU episodes with Dani Beck filling in for Olivia Benson to distract from the torpor of what was going on at The Grange.

Final thought

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Four more points 'til safety - South Melbourne 1 Pascoe Vale 0

I will say these things about this game.

First, if there are people still at South who are finding themselves unable to cope with the let's call it garbage football on display, then you should probably stay home. I don't mean that as an insult - I'm serious. The loss against Kingston was clearly too much for some people to take, to the point where it's hurting their mental well-being. Anyone still here watching South in 2019 has more than proven their loyalty (and their stupidity), so if you need a week's break or more, by all means, take it. If you can't deal with the club until such point that it mathematically avoids relegation, by all means, stay away.

In those kinds of cases, I wouldn't even recommend watching the game on the live stream. What good could that possibly do? Putting my Dr Phil hat and noting that "opinions expressed during the show are educational and informational in nature and are directed only at the individual show guests based on their specific and unique circumstances", if you've found yourself in an unhealthy situation, the best thing to do is to change your environment.

Look, if you're sticking around because you want to prove your worthiness in terms of loyalty, there's nothing left to prove. And even if there were something to prove, who's left that's both paying attention and actually cares about your vain and frankly stupid notions of dedication to this cause. It's like those idiotic competitions where people lay their hand on a car, and the last person still in contact with the vehicle wins the car; except there's about 250 people with their hand on the potential prize, and the prize actually doesn't exist.

All of this neglects the fact that there was a game on, and we won it! Remarkable stuff and completely deserved, if by completely deserved one means being the only team which managed to score a goal, which is the usual way of judging these things. The game was not great, but compared to the previous week's game, at least it was entertaining. It even passably resembled football, which is more than can be said for whatever the Kingston game was.

As has been our usual habit this season, we started off brightly enough, and then after about half an hour decided to withdraw into our shells and begin falling apart. In a wonderful act of mercy, Pascoe Vale started neither their talismanic striker Davey Van 't Schip - who had moved to Essendon Royals as part of Paco's week-long act of seppuku - and also had long-time South Melbourne aerial bane Joey Youssef on the bench.

When the deadlock was broken by this year's club golden-boot-in-waiting Giuseppe Marafioti, I did not celebrate with the fullest of gusto. Not because I was not happy or because I was caught off-guard, but because like others in Row H (the most sensible row, last bastion of sanity) I thought it was offside, and was frantically waiting for the linesman's flag. Thankfully it never came up, and then all we had to deal with was the saga of the last 40 odd minutes and Pascoe Vale having to throw everything they had at us and certainly equalising and then I suppose it was a 50/50 shot at them winning the game.

And yet despite South blowing several unbelievably good counter-attacking chances, Pascoe Vale could not find the back of the net. In the second half in particular, they got the first part of the attacking sequence down pat, beginning long sweeping two/three pass movements which cut through our near non-existent forward press and our doughnut shaped midfield.

Which when writing it like that, makes one perhaps realise that it's not so much Marcus Schroen's or any other player's fault that the central midfield is ineffective, but rather the blame should go on whoever thought it was wise to sign a team made up of a million wingers.

Anyway, despite attacking us for a good deal of the second half, they could not quite find a way through, not through the early season whipping boy Perry Lambropoulos (replacing an injured Brad Norton), not through the young Ben Djiba, not through whatever central defensive pairing we fielded on the day, not through Kristian Konstantinidis who came on as a sub for the re-injured Kosta Stratomitros, and not through the flying header, diving puncher, long thrower excitement machine that is Josh Dorron in goals, whom it seems we have put in as a permanent temporary solution until the end of the year.

OK, some of that is a lie. Paco did get through on one very real occasion, where they scrambled the ball across the goal line and probably onto the outside of the right-hand goal post, but that's as close as they got, and you really couldn't get much closer, and that's including the goal line clearance we had to effect in the first half after a timid shot over a semi-stranded Dorron was headed away by someone in a blue shirt.

At the end of the game with three more points in the bag, it didn't seem like too many of the South players were over the moon with the result, which could be a good thing in that they perhaps think that the job of avoiding relegation is not done, or that they thought they should've done better; or maybe bad because morale is so cooked that not even an arsey win can rejuvenate the side. For their part quite a few of Paco's players looked devastated, and if they do go down I suppose they might be missed, but not as much as when they had a wood-fired pizza van at the ground, which was some time ago now.

Next game
Green Gully away on Saturday afternoon. If the quality of the game between Avondale and Gully last week is anything to go by, we're screwed. Hope to see you there.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, survival nominally within unconvincing grasp)
The method by which we got our win aside, this was a pretty good week. In addition to our beating Pascoe Vale, Kingston also lost, which gives us a twelve point gap to the automatic relegation positions - a four match gap, with just seven games to play. Dandenong Thunder however managed to beat Bentleigh courtesy of several screamers, so while the gap between ourselves and the playoff spot is ten points - three and a bit games - Thunder are capable of scoring enough goals to win games, and we still have to play them towards the end of the season.

You'd like to think we'll at least crawl over the line a bit more convincingly than we did last year, but last year's near death experience will have everyone nervous until safety is actually secured, and filled with impotent rage after that.

One other thing
When it comes to how many touches of the ball or how long you should hold on to it before you pass or shoot it, there is no right answer except to say whatever looks good in hindsight to the average mug punter is usually the best way to go. especially in this godforsaken competition. Still, I had to have an awful, unnatural, and unbecoming spiteful chuckle at one moment in the first half, where Pep Marafioti was forced on to his right foot and he took about three baby elephant stumbling touches trying to get set up to hit a cross on his wrong foot, a cross which didn't come off. Now I have neither a right nor a left foot, but it's interesting (and I'm going to sound like a hopelessly old geezer footy radio commentator now) to see how one-sided so many players are in this comp which is just one step below the 'elite'.

Our other teams
Got to Lakeside's operations room early enough to watch the first half of the under 20s in their top of the table clash, which they ended up winning 3-1. That's about eighteen games undefeated now, but don't ask me which players should be brought into the seniors.

Photo: Luke Radziminksi
The senior women had an important 4-4 draw against Alamein. Important, because Alamein are one of three sides in this competition who are clearly better than everyone else, including us, and yet we managed to take a point off them despite fielding what looked on the highlights like a team that was about half the size of their opponents.

Credit for the draw must go in part to goalkeeper Erin Hudson (pictured right), who pulled off a cracker of a penalty save in the final moments of the game. It could well be a handy point in the race for the last finals spot.

Did not see that coming
A few weeks ago I noted that I expected nothing to happen to Melbourne Knights for some appalling fan behaviour during (and as it turns out, immediately after) our recent cup loss against them.

Well, as it turns out, something did happen, and the net result is a fine and a three point deduction for Knights, and a $500 fine for us for being in the vicinity of nonsense which apparently occurred in the tunnel after full time.

I'm trying to figure out what's prompted this action by Football Victoria. Is the fact that it happened on the prominent stage of an FFA Cup qualifier instead of the black hole of normal league play? Is it because it happened right in front of them and they couldn't ignore it? Or is it symbolic of a turn towards the more punitive tribunal regimes of older days, when massive fines and point deductions were handed out freely by the federation.

Because while Knights got done over for racist chants, flares, and an incident in the players race, Football Victoria's press release also noted that other clubs also received hefty punishment for serious incidents. If that's the case, it may be worth keeping an eye out (as we all should) in case some of our fans are getting close to the edge in terms of what's acceptable fan behaviour. It's not like we haven't been docked points for our own fan transgressions.

Anyway, the three point deduction sees Knights drop down several spots, including below us. It's doubtful that Knights will get dragged into a relegation battle - as opposed to some recent seasons, they're too good on field this year to really worry about that - but it might cause some classic comedy capers when it comes time to sort out the bottom slots of the top six. Funniest of all of course would be if we somehow jagged a bullshit goal late against Heidelberg to secure that sixth spot by a point over Knights (because our goal difference is garbage), but that assumes the fanciful idea that we're even going to get one more win for the season.

Match programs
Thanks to one of the blokes who hosts Preston's show on FNR (I forget his name, how embarrassment), I've added three South vs Preston match programs ranging from 1989-1991 to South of the Border's match program collection.

Thanks also to the Jakarta Casual who helped us add a home program against George Cross from 1989, and Todd Giles for the home program against Newcastle KB United from 1979.

All of these can be found in the usual place.

Me and George Cotsanis at the Goals and Glory
  
exhibition at Deakin's Waterfront campus, with a
 couple of the display panels behind us.
Photo: Roy Hay
Goals and Glory exhibit
Last Friday I went to the Goals and Glory exhibition at Deakin University's Waterfront campus in Geelong. Accompanied by local amateur soccer historian George Cotsanis, it was an interesting trip, which included bumping into Roy Hay, who was of course involved with setting up the exhibition.

Made up of photo collage style display panels along with artefacts placed within glass cabinets, the exhibition performs two core functions: displaying the breadth of the Australian soccer experience, and also acting as a means of raising awareness of the Schwab and Shorrock Collections hosted at Deakin University.

The display panels give an overview of a wide variety of topics, among them: youth, women's, and Indigenous soccer; Australia at the World Cup; notable players; the role of local clubs, in this case clubs from and its surrounds; Laurie Schwab and Les Shorrock; as well as the potential to use the resources in the collection for genealogical histories. The display panels also had QR codes adjacent to them, allowing for more in-depth analysis of the displays for those tech savvy enough to use them.

Within the glass cabinets there were more objectively precious and/or fragile artefacts, such as Victorian Soccer Federation (and predecessor group) minutes, but also items loaned for the exhibit such as World Cup match balls, jerseys and so forth - predominantly it seems from the Didulica family. There is a timeline of Australian soccer on a television screen, and the audio component of commentary from Australian national team games piped in through the exhibit.

I can't say for you whether it's worth the drive down to Geelong to see the exhibit - you may spend 20 minutes in there, or you may end up spending an hour there like George and I did, in part because we bumped into Roy, but also because we were happy enough to look at several of the display panels several times and discuss their importance or value to the exhibition. For example, George was able to point out the different people he interviewed on The Pioneers show he hosted on FNR. I was able to discuss the photogenic properties of Oscar Crino, especially in a medium - soccer photography - which doesn't necessarily have the same aesthetic qualities of other sports, because soccer is about the simultaneous movement of the ball and player - maybe gifs are the natural artistic form for soccer aesthetics?

Feedback I've seen from more historically minded soccer followers seemed to be impressed with the exhibit. For me, having some experience of seeing university exhibits, this was one of the better ones I've come across. The exhibition is free, and is open on weekdays until July 29th. There is scope for groups from outside Geelong to have the exhibition displayed in their own space, as it is equipped to be a travelling exhibition; though how it would be localised for your own region would need to be discussed with the exhibition's organisers, as would shipping.

And Roy, sorry about not signing the guest book, but there wasn't a pen anywhere near the guest book!

Final thought
Peter Griffin was right: The Godfather does insist upon itself.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Another tipping point - South Melbourne 0 Kingston City 2

Two weeks ago, before the Avondale game, we were at least nominally the form team of the competition, having won four out of the previous five league games, and most of those against the either sides in the top three or against sides who were not so bad that they were in the bottom three.

Since then we have had a disappointing but nevertheless expected loss against Avondale, and whatever that was meant to be on Sunday. When these two teams played earlier in the season, Kingston hadn't yet won a game, but looked good at least for the first hour or so, and we looked good in the last half or so.

Sunday by comparison was dire from both teams. Kingston had only won one game since they'd beaten us, while we'd been up and down, our best being quite good and our worst... well there's plenty of room to talk about that, here and elsewhere.

Especially elsewhere, where people have written off the rest of this season as nothing more than an extended pre-season for 2020; and that's if we're in the NPL instead of NPL2 which, as noted by the doomsayers (currently in ascendancy over the optimists) is not exactly guaranteed.

This was a dull game from almost beginning to end. At least for the first 45 minutes, even as nothing of note happened for us, at least nothing of note had happened against us.

Then came a cheap defensive turnover, a quick forward thrust by Kingston - their first meaningful forward movement - and then a low cross (I won't deign to call it a shot) which deflected over the keeper into the back of the net. That sucked what little air was left in the stadium, and things only got worse from there.

The second half started with what was predictably a flurry of action from our end, but very little of attacking quality. By the end of the game, Kingston had added a second, subs were made, and we could've played for another two hours and not gotten close to scoring.

I've not named any players today, because we've fallen into the trap of scapegoating people, and sometimes they can take the blame, but there was so many flat performances on Sunday that it'd be wrong to single out any particular person.

Passing, movement, direction, and leadership - especially leadership - were all found wanting from our end. Had we been beaten by a team playing free flowing football, we could perhaps have rationalised it in some way.

But we lost to a team so low on confidence, playing such a simple game plan that in many ways was beneath them, and out of character too for a team that had built a reputation of playing attractive, attacking football on a limited budget, and despite the risks that entails for a team always likely to be threatened by relegation in this competition.

We were instead beaten by a team that sat back, gifted us possession while denying us space, and just waited for us to screw up. And screw up we did, enough times and bad enough that even those few chances that the visitors were able to muster were still of higher quality than anything we managed to put together.

By the end of the game there were more of those chances, too. And in the stands there was anger, and anger at the people who were getting angry, and all of sudden here we are again in another low. Every time we end up here, it seems like there's no way out. And each time, whether for an extended period or (usually) for a brief one, we manage to dig ourselves out for long enough to revive hope.

But each time that recovery takes a bit more out of everyone that's still left at the club, and it pushes more of our supporters beyond the threshold to which they can be bothered to give a stuff.

Relegation Battle (status: ongoing, stable but precarious, imminent change arriving)
Not a great week overall on the relegation front. Of course the centrepiece of that not greatness is our loss to Kingston, which arguably hurts us more than it has helped them, though of course all these things remain to be played out over eight more weeks. Dandy City continues to collect points. Port will be spewing that they weren't able to pick up a win against Gully, after leading by two goals and with a man advantage.

On the positive side - and there were positives - Pascoe Vale and Dandenong Thunder continue to rack up losses, and thus the nine point buffer between ourselves and the dreaded playoff spot remains for at least one more week.

Next week
Pascoe Vale at home on Sunday, for a ridgy-didge relegation six-pointer. Talk is that they've sacked their coach Vitale Ferrante. Not sure if that will make a difference.

If we win this game, I'm not going to come out and say that we'll be safe, but it'll do us a hell of a lot of good. If we lose, well, strap yourselves in for another stressful finish to the season.

Where's Luke's site?
It looks like Luke Radziminski's South Melbourne FC related photo-blog has disappeared off the internet. Not sure why.

Final thought
The national second division white paper has been released. Maybe we'll talk about that here next time.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Book review - A double dose of Knox City

Knox City is an unremarkable club. That's not a slur, but merely a statement of fact. They are not and never will be a household name, or even a cult name in Australian soccer. Being unremarkable does not mean however that the club is unimportant. Socceroos have come from this club. Knox played in Victoria's top-tier. Knox even had a brief a stint in the National Youth League. And if nothing else, Knox City is important to the people who continue to attend and support the club, as they have done in the club's various guises since 1951 - remarkable longevity for any club in Victoria, but especially for one not tied to a major ethnic community, and especially one situated in the far-eastern suburbs.

What is remarkable about Knox City however is that where most clubs in Australia have managed to produce nothing in print about their history, Knox is able to say that there are two published works about the club in circulation.

Covering the first 50 years, some 18 years ago Chas Collison put out From Basywater to Knox City: The history of a soccer club, 1951-2001, a small booklet discussing the first 50 years of the Knox City Soccer Club. The A4 booklet runs to no more than about 20 pages, but within those pages it does its job admirably. Augmented by photographs, the booklet briefly covers the origins of the club within the local community of German members of the Temple Society; a list of office bearers; brief decade-by-decade narrative summaries of the club's first 50 years; a divisional history; some stuff on the club's juniors; and a page on the off-season All Nations Cup tournament, which Knox hosts on an annual basis.

It's well presented, and is the kind of thing that most clubs should be able to produce without too much effort. An interesting element of Collison's booklet, and one which might otherwise go overlooked is that it was completed with a small government grant given during the International Year of the Volunteer. It's the kind of thing that more clubs should be aware of: that not only do these kinds of grants exist to help clubs compile, preserve and present their histories, but that Football Victoria also offers assistance in winning these grants (though in Collison's case I assume it would've well pre-dated such federation assistance).


Bruce Darnell's Knox City FC: An Updated History from 2017 is by the author's own admission not an attempt to re-write Collison's work, but rather to make note of what's happened since; namely a sharp decline after a brief flirtation with the Victorian top-flight, and the eventual steadying of the ship and the club's status in the Victorian third and fourth tiers.

But Darnell also goes back in time and tries to fill in gaps that perhaps didn't occur to Collison. Thus Darnell also provides space to Knox's women's teams, its juniors and veterans teams, and also about 20 pages of photographs. About 100 of the 180 pages on offer are dedicated to the statistical history of the club. This includes divisional histories, league and cup information, as well as information about office holders, record holders, and an updated list of All Nations Cup winners.

The centrepiece of Darnell's statistical summary is his cataloguing of the results of 1,432 of 1,440 of Knox's senior men's league matches up until the end of 2017. The fact that Darnell has been able to achieve that level of detail for a predominantly lower league club is incredible. Darnell's summary also provides a kind of snapshot for the state of Victorian soccer records. Mainline federation (that is the not the amateurs or church leagues) results for senior men's are usually available if you look hard enough; scorers for those games are much rarer, and line-ups rarer still; and for women's teams all but impossible to get, especially before the mid-1990s. Darnell's work also highlights the collaborative nature of soccer historiography as practised by Victorian amateur soccer historians. Darnell pays credit to the many historians and stats collectors who have come before him, including John Punshon and Mark Boric.

One disappointing thing about both of these publications is that neither appears to have made it to the State Library of Victoria's collections. It'd be a safe bet that few people outside publishing circles are aware of the concept of "legal deposit" - that is, the legal requirement of sending in copies of your publication to a state or national library. It's not just a matter of legal obligation; it also makes good preservationist sense. Australian soccer clubs are notoriously poor record keepers when it comes to history, and thus having a copy of a text published on this or any other club in the safe hands of a state library is a good idea/ And apart from helping researchers and the curious have a safe, easy to find copy, it also takes some of the pressure amateur collectors and archivists from having to preserve and somehow promote all of this material on their own.

Copies of Darnell's book are reportedly still available from Knox City. For those who want to peruse a copy of Collison's book, I have scanned it and made it available here.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Blergh - South Melbourne 0 Avondale 3

There's no lolly quite like a home-name brand lolly bought from a pharmacy.
Photo: Luke Radziminski. 
I can forgive the fatigue of three games in eight days, even though not every player out there on Sunday played in all three games. I can forgive the players for suffering under the yoke of some diabolical early refereeing (how did Krousoratis not get a free kick after his opponent tried to snap him in half?), though some of our own players - and the coach - really should be doing all they can to avoid nonsense yellow cards for dissent, time-wasting, and scuffles.

I can understand being disheartened after going behind to the league leader after matching them for forty minutes, in what was admittedly up to that point a pretty ordinary game without much football played for long stretches. But what happened after that was pure garbage. The second goal we conceded was completely fucked. You're 1-0 down, it's going to be the last play of the half, why you don't have every player in the box, why Pep Marafioti doesn't stay on the post and instead wanders into no man's land, and why doesn't Nikola move? Just mind-bogglingly shit. The header came from beyond the penalty spot, it didn't have much power, and yet instead of being cleared away all of a sudden we're 2-0 down and as far as I'm concerned, out of the game.

The rest you've probably already seen or heard about. A third goal conceded early in the second half, all part of the most dreadful, half-hearted 40 minutes of football you've ever seen. Thank goodness that Avondale also took their foot off the pedal, because if they hadn't we'd have lost this game by double the score or more. There was a five minute period late on where we had a couple of attempts on goal, and looked OK from corners, but that was it. Even with the commentary headphones on you could hear the bronx cheers from Clarendon Corner.

It will be interesting to see what the line-up will be next week with more or less a full-team (sans the injured Kostas Stratomitros) at our disposal. And that goes for Marcus Schroen and Nikola Roganovic as well - because while one doesn't want to single out any player for a below par performance, because everyone lowered their colours - these two above all seemed to put in flat-footed, awkward performances not befitting their status as senior players.

Sophomore album blues
Being on the live commentary for a second consecutive week was less enjoyable this week, if only because one had to maintain a professional veneer and remember to praise the opposition as well. Had your correspondent been in his customary position in Row H, he may have been able to vent a little more.

Now that I think about it...
My commentary gimmick should have been to call Avondale "Avondale Heights".

Next game
Kingston at home on Sunday. The kind of game we really should be winning, but we'll see I suppose.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, stable, approaching a fork in the road)
All things considered - including the likelihood, now realised, that we weren't going to get a point off Avondale - this was a pretty good week for us on the relegation front.

The only really negative thing is that Kingston couldn't get a point off Oakleigh, but since I had little doubt even before their form reversal that Oakleigh would sort itself out, perhaps it's better that Kingston lost, lest the Reds manufacture some sort of recovery (probably starting against us).

Dandenong Thunder choked hard, coughing up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 - let's leave aside for now whatever points punishment they may receive for last Saturday's shenanigans. Pascoe Vale got crunched by Port. Dandy City only drew with Gully. And as bad as our goal difference is, the teams in the bottom four spots are all worse off than us in this regard.

So with 9 games to play (27 points), we're 10 points clear of 13th, and 9 points clear of 12th. Certainly not safe, but I'd rather have the head-start than have to play catch up.

If some of you are still holding on to the finals fantasy, well, good for you. I'll be happy to join if and only if the next two weeks goes well.

Women hovering in that mid-table sweet-spot
Yes! I finally got to see a senior women's match after such a long time; of clashes, impossible to get to venues, of enjoying the Collingwood bandwagon before it sputters out sooner rather than later. I watched the first half of the women's game against the lowly Bayside United from inside the scoreboard operations room; which is to say, I saw bits and pieces of the game because the seating arrangements in that room are not exactly conducive to watching the action unless you're in the hot seat. I did see our first and only goal for the first half, as well as Sofia Sakalis' penalty hit the upright and go across the face of goal.

Later I decided to get a souv in the social club, and watched the second half from in there. The game turned into a procession, with South adding four more goals and showing that there's great disparity between these two sides, despite South's incredibly young team and whatever other results they had between them earlier this season. It's remarkable that in a ten team competition that there would be five kinds of club. Calder, the runaway leader and favourite for the title. Then there are the two teams behind Calder, who might be able to knock off the ladder leader on a once off, winner takes all game. Then there's the three or so clubs looking to sneak into the finals even though there's little chance of them doing any damage. Another three clubs just killing time. And Southern United, with a goal difference of -146.

Basically, we're in that sneak into the finals group, relying on taking care of business against the NPLW's dregs, and making sure to win the balance of the games against Box Hill and Heidelberg.

Around the grounds
Karpeh (oh no, please no, don't do it) Diem (damn you to hell)
Ralph Reserve. Third last (I think) Western Suburbs hosting (probably last) Altona East. Jerry Karpeh, playing for East, had an eventful game. Karpeh booked about 20 minutes in for persistent backchat. Half an hour in he was asked to put black tape on his socks because they had too much white. About 40 minutes in he scored the opening goal of the game, bundling home a goal from a long free kick that fell out the back of the Suburbs defence - important timing as Suburbs had just started to get on top. And with about 15 minutes to go, he cut back a ball across the six yard box that the Suburbs defenders thought had gone out, which was bundled in for 2-0 and the game. He also cocked up 2-3 more very gettable chances. Suburbs had enough of the ball and territory, but in general struggled to create meaningful chances until they were 2-0 down. They had a 15 second goalmouth scramble at 0-0, and hit the post at 1-0 down. I think both sides had a man sent off late for off the ball stupidity. A good day out, except for getting thorns in my hands while retrieving a ball that had got stuck in a cactus.

Final thought
Two Indonesians at Hellas! There goes the neighbourhood.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

See you next year - Melbourne Knights 4 South Melbourne 2

This is late not for any particular reason other than laziness. Not that anyone asked at any rate, which is reassuring

Since I didn't expect to win this game anyway, I can't say I'm particularly disappointed with the result. Sure I'm annoyed with how the result came about, but it was only an exaggerated variant of so many of our losses - and even some of our wins - that there were few surprises for anyone who's watched this team this season. And the key moments of utterly shambolic defending aside, it wasn't even close to our worst performance of the year. We scored goals, created chances, and fought the game out to the end, things which you can't necessarily say about our actual worst performances this year.

But you can't go coughing up certainly three - and probably all four - goals of that nature, when you're already in the habit of conceding at least one utterly avoidable goal every game. Our forwards have at least sorted out their end of the bargain to be scoring at least one and usually two goals a game to cover those defensive frailties - and the fact that we are inexplicably the form team of the league over the past five weeks backs up that assertion - but there's only so much they can be expected to cover at the other end.

Why not celebrate with us, Kristian Konstaninidis?
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The first goal we conceded came after three rather predictable examples of what we have been all about in 2019. First, we had by far the better of the first ten or so minutes, peppering away shots and crosses, and generally looking up for the contest. Second, we conceded from basically the first real chance that Knights had. Third, that chance was created because of poor defensive discipline by Marcus Schroen (and really, it could've been anyone, but as one of the few long term experienced players in the squad, Marcus has carried a target on his back all year), who dived in at a loose ball in midfield, when being more risk averse and keeping his feet to push the Knights player who would have got the ball wide would have been a safer, more productive move.

It's like I've said all year. If the opposition is scoring bombs from 20 or 30 yards out, you get upset but you also grin and bear it (unless it's a player like Andreas Govas who should never be allowed to line a up shot from any sort of range). But we give up these awful, gift-wrapped goals week after week, and while I know that it's also an NPL speciality across the board, but we're just terrible at it.

After managing to get back into the game via a Kristian Konstantinidis header - and for all his other cock-ups this season, there's probably no other player in this league that's as hard to mark from set pieces as KK - we copped a goal straight away. This happened not necessarily because Knights created an irresistible bit of football - though good on Hamish Watson for getting unmarked in the six yard box so easily - but because we were distracted by KK's antics celebrating in front of MCF of all people. South fans hate it when opposition players celebrate in front of us, but we're not too fond of our own players doing the same to opposition sides. It's admittedly a rare occurrence from our end, but it was such a stupid, hubristic thing to do by KK, especially when he couldn't easily celebrated with the fans behind the goal at which he'd scored.

Billy Konstantinidis appeared to injure his shoulder after scoring his goal.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Clearly KK and the team were fired up by the equaliser, but they were so fired up that they forgot the golden rule of state league reserves teams everywhere - after you score a goal, just kill the game off for three minutes to take the sting out of the game and avoid conceding due a goal via adrenaline and lack of concentration.

Sadly, any realistic chance to win the game was lost by the third goal we conceded. This was a goal that was so comically bad, if I was a European or Asian gambler watching the game I'd be be thumping the keyboard in disgust. Now on closer inspection there was a push against Marshall, but at time the confusion between Marshall and Roganovic looked so bad that I gave up all hope then and there.

When Billy Konstantinidis pulled it back to 3-2, some people decided to get all excited. The fools! Knights got it out to 4-2 right away, and that was that. Nick Krousoratis hit the post, and the team kept trying, but what a waste of time and energy it all was. We lost, mostly fair and square, and more or less by our own hand and hubris. Even with a lot of the changes to the first team in order to deal with the three day break and the cup-tied players, it was going to be an uphill battle. Part of that was going to be the fact that we couldn't use the cup-tied players who may have been useful, but that's the nature of recruiting in this league now, that unless you go searching in New Zealand or the abandoned A-League player pile for mid-season transfers, just about any player you sign is going to be cup-tied.

We can't even really blame the narrowed dimensions of the field. It's Knights' ground, and they're entitled to do what they want with it, and it was known weeks in advance that this was going to be the case. I'm reminded of an episode of King of the Hill (a show I have rarely ever watched) where Hank takes the role of grounds-keeper for the high school's football field, and adjusts the condition of the field, like leaving the grass long in the wide areas to combat the opposition's gun wide receivers. Everyone knows that South's offensive strength this year lies in its wingers, so why not use every means at your disposal to negate that? Meanwhile, though the injury to defensive midfielder Kosta Stratomitros early in the game didn't help, at our worst we kept banging the ball long to Billy Konstantinidis, who was out-gunned all night in the air. Thus the game at times resembled our recent loss to Dandenong City, where the opposition won the game because they got to direct affairs on their terms.

And where we sought to muck around with the ball in half dangerous areas in the back half, the Knights defence played a very disciplined style, getting any half dangerous ball out of play, adapting the old rugby union adage, "if in doubt, kick it out". That non-reluctance to give us back possession could've backfired of course, but since we decided to put in our worst defensive performance of the year, their overly cautious approach looked like genius by comparison to whatever it was that we were doing.

Now in this game at least we weren't completely outplayed in the way we were against Dandy City, but giving up the goals that we did, and failing to adequately adjust to narrow ground and Knights' defensive set-up, meant that we had to work extra hard to create chances and score from them, while Knights only had to wait until our next screw-up or lapse in concentration.

It'll sound like a commentator's cliché, but the least you could hope for after this loss is that we learn something from it.

How about that atmosphere?
As tends to happen after a South visit to Knights Stadium, there were allegations of racist chants from the home side directed toward either our fans or players. This time it was "you dirty Turkish bastard" chants directed at Kristian Konstantinidis.

Some South fans (rightly) attempted to bring this to the attention of the world and/or Football Victoria powerbrokers like FV CEO Peter Filopoulos, while knowing full well that almost certainly nothing would be done.

This is all the more hilarious (for want of a better word) because Filopoulos took aim at South fans for their alleged cruelty toward Heidelberg player Harry Noon when he got injured last year, and also took aim (rightly) at anonymous homophobic bigots on Twitter who were targeting the Matildas.

I feel sorry for Filopoulos on one point. As a former Hellas man, if he was to initiate action against the Knights, he'd be on a hiding to nothing in terms of "bias". Still, the more pertinent issue is that everyone just seems to accept that this is how some Knights fans behave, and there's nothing that anyone with any authority on the matter can do about it, if they even want to.

Things got a bit weirder online after this when a couple of people pointed out the hypocrisy (or irony?) of some Knights fans being at the forefront of trying to take down the National Club Identity Policy, while some Knights fans continue to sing racist chants. One might even think that some of these people could be doing both.

Anyway, there's no hypocrisy here as far as I'm concerned, because they are mutually exclusive behaviours. And maybe for some Knights fans, chanting racist garbage is part of the cultural heritage they wish to maintain or propagate?

Of course all that got lost in an argument about which club was best at not partaking in the other's post-match hospitality, so we'll see you back next year* for our next visit to Knights Stadium and the ongoing fan shenanigans which nothing will ever get done about.

Happily for all concerned, that will all get overshadowed by the vile antics of some Dandy Thunder/North Sunshine fans at Paisley Park tonight.

*Assuming we don't relegated.

Next game
Avondale at home on Sunday, that is, tomorrow. The curtain raiser for this match will be the senior women taking on Bayside.

On the couch
Tonight on Wings... ah, who cares?
Watched Hume vs Oakleigh on Tuesday night. Doesn't matter now.

Final thought
At least now we can focus all our energies on avoiding relegation, and then settling into our natural position for 2019 - either 7th or 8th.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Half team, full result - South Melbourne 2 Port Melbourne 1

Josh Dorron is that tall compared to his team mates, that he looks like a kid
who has been kept back a year in primary school. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
I had zero expectations going into this game, based on the rumour going around that we would be fielding a very irregular side, dropping this player and that player and also that guy, preferring to keep them fresh for Wednesday's cup game. This was more or less confirmed by the president during a brief chat we had before the game, and confirmed by the team sheet up online before kick off.

Of just as much concern was that we would have pre-planned, non-situational subs set up, which is the kind of thing which could backfire very easily. This was all the more worrisome because of the importance of this game to our chances of avoiding the drop, or if you're some sort of obstinate optimist, our chances of keeping up with the top six.

Nikola Roganovic dropped to the bench, replaced by Josh Dorron for his first appearance in a South shirt. Jake Marshall on the bench. Billy Konstantinidis on the bench. Zac Bates on the bench. Kristian Konstantinidis, Ben Djiba, and Leigh Minopoulos not even in the squad. Tom Aulton partnering Kostas Stratomitros at centre-back. Nick Krousoratis starting. Melvin Becket playing defensive mid! In such a crucial game, it seemed like madness, even if Port had Alan Kearney and Michael Eagar out.

Anyway, there was little time for me fret over these details, because I'd been called up to guest commentary for the match's live stream. This happened because I got to Lakeside, found myself alone and bored in the grandstand, and then moved into the scoreboard control room for a chat with the South media folks, and suddenly agreeing to do guest commentary for the senior men's game with Chris Gleeson.

Melvin Becket was the match's surprise packet. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Now even though I have little bit of live radio broadcast experience behind me (both as a guest and as a co-host), I was still a bit nervous before doing this game, which partly comes down to working with a new partner. But even apart from that, would it be noticeable that my eyesight is not that good? Would it matter that most of the Port players I recognised I did so only because they were ex-South boys?

In the end, we probably got away with it for the most part, although there were a couple of moments where I think I could've done better. I'll be better for the run, so to speak, should I ever decide to do it again.

The biggest difference to my normal experience of a game was of course that I actually had to pay close attention to what was going on out on the field, and not spend half the game making jokes about nonsense and then asking my fellow members of Row H what just happened when something notable occurred on the field.

Congratulations to Marcus Schroen on reaching 100 games for South.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
What I noticed by paying attention is that the game followed a familiar pattern for a 2019 South match, despite the plethora of personnel changes. In other words, long periods of relative and actual dominance, alternating with periods where we're stuck in defence with no midfield presence of which to speak, leading to a cheap goal being conceded. The first half was that summary in a nutshell. A promising early start to the game, in which we even managed to score, followed eventually by a comparatively terrible last 10 minutes of the half where we gave up a very soft goal (though credit to Sam Ford for his turning our defence inside out, as he did in the earlier fixture between the two sides).

My concern was that like last week the late goal in that half would carry over into momentum for Port in the second half (and perhaps latent memory of what happened the last time we played against each other). And at least early in the second half, Port seemed to apply the tactic of playing around Melvin Becket. But then the game became the Melvin Becket show, in the great unlikely defensive midfield performance in a South shirt since... well, I suppose Oliver Minatel's run in that position last year. It's the kind of thing that will never, ever work again, though I bet we try it again at some point.

Our midfield, when it was there, looked good, and did that familiar thing of being rotated around like playing a game of H.O.R.S.E. on a basketball court. Of course so much depends on Gerrie Sylaidos, and he certainly made his presence felt at crucial moments. Less successful were other players, notably Nick Krousoratis, who just can't take a trick at the moment. The one time he was left unmarked however on Sunday he managed to keep the ball alive and cut it back to Skapetis for his first senior South goal.

Of course after that we had enough chances to bury Port but didn't. Defensively some of the effort of keeping Port out was typically chaotic, but solid enough. It'd be nice if we could keep a clean sheet. At least we made sure that ex-South man Giordano Marafioti didn't get on the score sheet, though the fact that he couldn't get his shot on target will serve as justification for own coaching staff not playing him more often.

Next game
Melbourne Knights away on Wednesday night in the FFA Cup. While it would obviously be nice to win, we'll be going into this game as heavy underdogs, playing on a narrow, bumpy pitch, in front of a hostile crowd. All the pressure's on them really.

Relegation battle (status, ongoing, slight improvement)
While yesterday's win takes us to within two points of the top six, my sights are still firmly set on the relegation battle, and the quest to get to that nominally safe 30 point mark.

So on that front, results generally went in our favour last week. Apart from our own win - a relatively rare one against a team below us this season - Kingston, Thunder, and Pascoe Vale all lost. Dandy City and Oakleigh both won, but I think we can safely assume that in the case of City that their mid-season 'ins' have already made a big difference, while for Oakleigh their form has inevitably taken a turn for the better considering the calibre of their squad. Or one can argue that once a certain disruptive force was removed, things turned around for them, but that's not really our concern.

After Avondale on Sunday, we've got Kingston and Pascoe Vale at home. Get four points from those latter two games, and we put ourselves in a position where those two teams are very unlikely to catch us. One week at a time though.

On the couch
Yes, we have no bananas
I had wanted to go watch the senior women's game against Box Hill United on Saturday, but life got in the way. First, I had to play the role of designated Saturday supermarket trip chauffeur. Second, there were bus replacements on the Lilydale and Belgrave lines, pushing out journey times from my place to Wembley Park to two hours. Third, it's all live streamed these days, isn't it? So after I got home from Coles I chucked the game on my phone, got about two minutes in with that particular incessant noise - you either know what I'm talking about or you don't - before my Vodafone connection chucked it in for the afternoon. The only bigger pity was that the women lost 2-1, in another less than inspiring performance. At least I avoided having to eat was apparently a very dodgy souv.

Final thought
The feedback I caught up with after the game on my contribution was positive, and I thank people for that. It seems like at least some of you at home were just happy to have a South person contributing to the broadcast of a South game, which is fair enough. I tell you what, it's harder than it looks trying not to celebrate a goal by your team on a live broadcast. Much easier was avoiding falling into the suggestion made by some unhelpful people about deliberately mispronouncing key words, or doing style shout-outs to Clarendon Corner celebrities.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Crap - Dandenong City 3 South Melbourne 0

Photo: Luke Radziminski
I was death warmed up on Friday night thanks to some stupid virus, and part of me wishes that I'd not bothered making the trip out to Endeavour Hills to watch the slop that we dished out, especially if meant being mostly bed and couch-ridden for the next few days (and who knows how many days after this post).

A word about the location of Frank Holohan Soccer Complex. By NPL standards, especially NPL public transport standards, it is the Middle of Nowhere, Beyond the Black Stump, and Out the Back of Bourke all rolled into one. Thankfully I got lifts to and from the ground, because walking through the mud and darkness, and in this case the rain, would've been utter madness. I say this as someone who's read enough Australian bush gothic literature to understand the dangers that lurk in that darkness.

The public transport guide that nobody reads but me has been updated accordingly.

The game itself was a dog's breakfast from our point of view, played almost entirely on the opposition's terms. That meant a lot of contested ball, lots of aerial ping pong, and few moments where we able to maintain possession, keep it on the ground, and get numbers forward.

A South Melbourne Hellas version of Where's Wally. Photo: Luke Radziminski
That being said, even though it wasn't looking like being a good night for us, it was fairly even for the first half hour, and we largely kept City from making too many threatening advances. Of course I worried about every set piece we had to defend, because we have been poor at defending those all season, but I was still harbouring the optimistic (and in the cold light of Tuesday evening, clearly foolish) belief that we could at least get a draw out of this game.

When we did manage to get it on the ground and control the game for a ten minute spell late in the first half, we looked great, consistently dangerous, often *this* close to scoring. It was mostly down to Gerrie Sylaidos, who all of sudden was able to assert himself (and thus establish a a Hellas midfield presence when none existed previously), bringing into the game Zac Bates and Pep Marafioti, who were also able to bring in Billy Konstantinidis. Unfortunately we managed to take none of the three or four very good chances we created during that timespan - though some doubts remain about the legitimacy of the offside call which denied Billy Konstantinidis a goal.

Then we coughed up the opening goal late in the first half from a set-piece, and we were cooked. Now, someone asked after we copped that goal "who was that smartarse who said we'd cop a goal from that free kick", and I owned up to making the statement - but let's be honest, anyone could've done it at any moment during the season and it would've come out to be true, not because of some sort of voodoo, but because we have been garbage at defending corners and set pieces. And no amount of supposed voodoo would ameliorate the poor attempt at a punched clearance (and even coming out for that punch) from Nikola Roganovic, and the poor attempt at a recovery from the whole defence.

Any hope that we would be able to recover in the second half disappeared quickly. Without any midfield drive or control, all we had was long balls to Billy, most of them from Roganovic, which I think tells you where moist of those long balls were reaching Billy - a long, long way away from goal. Eventually we copped a second and a third goal, capping off a horrible night all round. We were tactically outdone by a fairly straightforward opposition game plan, executed by a collective of experienced players who were able to impose their will on the contest.

Few players were blameless in our defeat, and the coaching staff will have to their share of the responsibility too. The younger, inexperienced players I can forgive to a degree, but our more experienced players failed to show the way. Marcus Schroen for mine was the key culprit. He's had been all over the shop this season, but in recent weeks has at least been able to showcase his value to the team with some crucial goals and passes. Friday night he had a stinker, the de facto midfield captain being nigh on invisible.

I've got to say though that the poor personal discipline of some of our players leaves a lot to be desired. And I don't just mean team orientated things like tracking back (which fell away across the board on Friday night as the game wore on), or even emotional intelligence (chin up, etc), but stupid, irrelevant, hopeless moment of action. Billy Konstantinidis, for all his indisputable talent and worth to this team, is someone who doesn't quite seem able to control his worse instincts when he becomes frustrated. There's already been that suspension from his punch against Pascoe Vale, and several niggly incidence aside from that. But the push on Adrian Leijer which saw Leijer collide with City keeper Damir Salcin and begin pouring blood all over the place was a cheap, unnecessary and as it turns out very dangerous thing to do.

That he didn't get a yellow card for it - while he was already on a yellow - is a little strange to me. Just as disappointingly, Peter Skapetis - who came off the bench for his senior South debut - also engaged in pointless off-the-ball antics. What did they achieve? What could actions like that achieve? Having never been a player myself, maybe there's some hidden, unknowable (to me) psychological reason for it.

Anyway, the whole experience (except for a $2 can of soft drink) was absolute garbage, and hopefully it's a while before we have to deal anything resembling that, including the children whose screams were straight out of a horror film.

"Hail my Führer, you Greek cunts"
There have been plenty of 'charming' characters we've come across in our time in the VPL and NPL. Sadly, sometimes these are South supporters. More often than not though, the aforementioned charming characters tend to be big egos and the safety of a home ground - and sympathetic home ground security and marshals who see South Melbourne supporters as a nice, big, soft target.

This week South fans noted an escalation in abuse and threats of violence from opposition fans, with the principle offensive character being a a hi vis Hitler fan. Not sure what his issue was, as no one had said anything to him or that group of City fans along the fence. Anyway, if anything it just goes to show that making a pre-game announcement about not tolerating anti-social behaviour is a perfunctory act if nothing's done to enforce standards.

One more very petty thing...
And this applies as much to Bulleen and Monbulk as much as it does to Dandy City. If you're going to host night games, that's fine - but if you do so, could you make the effort to either have adequate lighting, or if that's possible, at least wear a kit that doesn't blend in entirely with the surrounding night?

Next game
Port Melbourne at home on Sunday, in the first of our traditional mid-season stretch of home games.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, stable)
Aside from own rubbish result, the other results actually largely went our way. Port Melbourne and Oakleigh both drew, keeping both behind us. More importantly, Bentleigh managed to come from behind to beat Pascoe Vale, and Kingston beat Thunder, keeping Paco and Thunder six and seven points behind us respectively. And if you're really desperate for glass half full validation, even Altona Magic remained (figuratively) within the relegation battle, losing 2-1 to Melbourne Knights.

Of course much of this would matter a lot less if a) we had at least beaten or drawn a few games against the teams so rubbish that they are somehow - still! - below us, and b) didn't have such a terrible goal difference. But all of this will matter until such point as we are no longer in a relagation battle.

FFA Cup news
We have been drawn against the Melbourne Knights in round 7 of the FFA Cup. Of course, the typical South of the Border reader (whether you are South fan or a Knights fan), being highly educated and completely of the belief that there are no such as coincidences, already knew this was going to happen.

The only thing that rivals the surprise is the all NPL2 fixture that was also drawn; all of which is a reminder that there's no such thing as magic, just the combination of sleight of hand, warm balls, and enough people willing to suspend disbelief in order to make the spectacle work.

Oh, we've been drawn as the away team this time, so bonus points to Football Victoria

Mid-season transfer window comes to a close
A couple more signings to round out whatever it is we think we're doing this year.

We've signed Keenan Gibson, a central midfielder from Avondale. We've also signed Tom Aulton, a defender from Brisbane City, has also joined up. He comes with this glowing reference from up north:
Talk seems to be that Dean Bereveskos has been moved on to Dandy Thunder, while question marks remain over the fate of Ethan Gage.

Final thought
Many thanks to Mark for helping Gains and I get to the game, and to Johnny for getting us away from there.