Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Bare essentials - Dandenong Thunder 2 South Melbourne 2

Apologies for delay in this post getting up, and a pre-emptive apology for it being short and not very good. Feeling a bit flat at the moment, but I've also got some temporary work with the government over the next three weeks which will occupy most of my time.

Got to Dandenong nice and early on Saturday evening, thanks in part to terrific public transport connections. I was early enough to catch most of the under 20s game, but not early enough to catch the first six minutes where we were already 1-0 up. Never mind - within 20 minutes we were up 4-0, and the entertainment potential of the curtain-raiser fell away quickly, as our under 20s romped away to a 9-1 win. The only noteworthy bit was the scorer of Thunder's solitary goal shushing the crowd behind the goal.

The senior game was a classic game between a side that can't score, and a side that can't keep goals out, but which can score. We had no Gerrie Sylaidos, who is on trial with Central Coast along with other Victorian NPL players from other clubs. Don't know how long he'll be gone for, but some people are suggesting three weeks, which is more than what the other clubs are apparently letting their players go for.

We had more Marafiotis than you could poke a stick, provided that you were very poor at pointing sticks at Marafiotis; in other words, two. That was double what I expected to be out there following the tantrum thrown by Pep during the win against Essendon Royals. It was good that Pep was there I suppose, because say what you will about him having a poor attitude and having no right foot, when it came to managing to be hit in the head with the ball from an actual half-decent cross, Pep was very good at that on the stroke of halftime, when we really needed some reward for our dominance.

Nikola Roganovic was also there, despite some claiming he'd been in Bali, or that he would be in Bali. Unfortunately in one of those moments that counted on Saturday night, he wasn't there, slipping over and letting Brandon Barnes score and easier goal than the Thunder striker perhaps otherwise would've scored. It's easy to be harsh here, but the bigger problem was how easily the ball went from one of the end of the field to the other, and besides, at least Nikola is present, which is more than can be said for Alasatir Bray, whose whereabouts are unknown and whose status as an active South player seem to be no more, if terrace talk is to be believed.

Billy Konstantinidis was there for the first time after his suspension, and he made a noticeable difference to affairs, and thankfully also got a goal to get that monkey off his back. Good work by Nick Krousoratis set that tap-in up, and if Nick isn't scoring goals, it's good that he was able to set one up. I thought he did OK, but he did cop a massive bake from Marcus Schroen during the second half, which looked unseemly even if it was the right call. Can we not focus on the positive reinforcement on the field when we're actually playing our best game in weeks and/or months?

The performance was heartening, but the draw was disappointing. Thankfully results in other games went our way, and we edged another point away from the drop zone, and even managed to go up a place in the standings. The rest was the usual - the hopelessness caused by missed chances, the grimacing over overpriced cevapi rolls and tasty exotic sodas, and wondering if how we might save ourselves.

Next game
Oakleigh at home on Sunday, a game many have been waiting for, for reasons which elude me. They say that Nick Epifano has walked or been sacked from Oakleigh. I suppose it could be true. It could also be part of the elaborate ongoing saga that is his stunted soccer career. I suppose it doesn't really matter in any meaningful sense. Not sure if Milos Lujic will play. All it is maybe two fewer ex-Hellas players on the field, and another seven or so left.

More importantly, if we can manage to finagle a win here, and have other results go our war way, we could be nine points clear of the bottom three. I have my doubts about this happening, because I think Oakleigh are a better team than their results suggest, but at some point results are the only reality that matters. And if that's true for us, why not for other teams, too?

This week's curtain-raiser is the Tony Clarke Memorial Match between the Copperoos and Formeroos.

Cup News
I didn't watch the draw for the fifth round live, because I was enjoying a succulent Chinese meal. OK, actually just a bog standard Aussie Chinese lunchtime special of lemon chicken and fried rice. But when I did eventually tune in to watch the stream on delay - wondering in part who would replace Teo Pellizzeri as our host - all the anticipation was done over within a couple of minutes, as we were the second team draw out of the barrel.

We've been drawn against current State League 1 South-East ladder leader Doveton. We've been drawn as the away team, and seeing as how this will be a midweek game and Doveton don't have lights, it looks like the game will be played at George Andrews Reserve. It's very unlikely that I'll be there in person, so if anyone wants to attend and write up a guest report, I'd be happy to publish it.

Final thought
Thanks to Hellas Johnny for giving me and a couple of buddies a lift back from Dandenong and into the city, saving me at least 45 minutes on the drive home.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

It could always be worse (and some people seem to wish that it was) - South Melbourne 1 Essendon Royals 0

Zac Bates shows of his balletic prowess. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
It really was a no-win situation. Given our erratic performances so far this year, our unsettled match-day squads, our coaching change, and our inability to score with any regularity, there are few if any South fans who are optimistic about our chances of progressing to the national stage of this tournament.

However that didn't mean that people were necessarily keen on losing this game; at least not until the last 15 minutes or so, knowing that actually progressing through to the next round could summon a worse fate, in the form of a more severe mauling against a more capable opponent.

Or even worse, distracting us from what looks like being another season battling to avoid relegation.

If we found a way to lose this game, the loss would've been rightly called a disgrace. If we'd won it comfortably, it would've been written off as achieving the bare minimum against a lowly opponent, again rightly so. In its own way, it was reassuring that the team managed to find a third, worse option than either of the preceding two: scraping through on a goal courtesy of a long-ball, and a header by one of our defenders placed into the path of another of our defenders, who slotted home like he was an actual striker, and all of that helped by the Royals defenders deciding they didn't need to track back.

So what kind of result would have placated our fans on Friday? Against a state league 1 opponent at the bottom of their division - and with no 'name' players, with the exception of Melbourne Knights also-ran striker Chris Talajic - probably nothing short of 4 or 5-0 win. Well, that didn't happen, and thus we are miserable.

This miserable state was enhanced not just the failure to second, third, and fourth goals, but also by the performances of some players. Giordano Marafioti got a start, looked dangerous at times (as he should against a state league 1 team if he's serious about this whole NPL business), but failed to take advantage of two very good chances in the first half; one from point-blank range, and another where he was one-on-one with the keeper. At under 20s level, missing those is less of a crime, because playing for South under 20s means you're going to get a heap of those chances; in the seniors, not so much.

Brother Pep was brought back in from the cold after two weeks away from the senior squad - due mostly, if one believes to the rumours, to a poor attitude on the training track - and failed to deliver. His lack of a right-foot was highlighted again, and even as one of his few prominent defenders, I can't help but think this is as good as we're going to get from Pep. He's been tried on the left, the right, and up front, and for the most part nothing has worked, and only some of that can be put down to playing in unsettled formations and unfamiliar positions.

Worst of all, after being benched around the hour mark, Pep proceeded to spit the dummy and march down the players race instead of taking his place back on the bench. So, that's probably someone we can chalk down as exiting the club come mid-May when the mid-season transfer window opens.

But who to put in his place? Well, we could do worse than Zac Bates, who showed a bit when he came on to the field (yes, it was only against a bottom of state league 1 club), but his speed was terrific at least, and he didn't look emotionally cooked after an early season spent injured and on the bench. Ben Djiba also continued to look good at right-back, as well as continue to provide the perplexing spectacle of an actual South Melbourne youth team player starting in the side (and not returning to the club to do so after several years away elsewhere) and looking competent.

More perplexing, and hopefully no serious ramifications come from this, was Kristian Konstaninidis being benched after an hour. One would've thought that KK could use all the game he could get, but he was subbed off to the confusion (and some disgust) of a few people, not least KK himself. Someone in forum land is saying that the substitution occurred because of a lost-in-translation moment between player and coach, and hopefully because we did win the game, that the misunderstanding is smoothed over, because we need a left-back desperately in lieu Brad Norton's absence with injury.

For all the angst about the performance, the Royals rarely threatened our goal. There was a goalmouth spill which was eventually cleared, and a sharp header straight at Roganovic. Then the Royals threw everyone forward towards the end, as you would expect. We hit the woodwork two or three times and missed some very gettable chances, which made things more difficult for us, as it has for most of this season. There was even a moment where it looked like we might get an unlikely penalty, when a Royals defender assumed a ball had gone out and thus rushed to hand it to his keeper (who was the Royals' reserve keeper, who had a solid game), only for there being the possibility that the ball had not actually gone out. Soon enough the officials decided that no player could have possibly been that stupid, and normal service resumed.

Anyway, because we could not find a second goal, we spent the last five minutes cowering in the corner. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's what you should do when you're in front, and trying to secure the win - but it was unedifying within the context of having to do that against a side ranked two divisions below us.

The hyperbolic reaction to the win would be to say that the squad is at best a mid-tier state league 1 side, but that's why you don't rush home and post straight away. For those of us who haven't quite yet obliterated the quaint desire to see their team win games no matter how aesthetically coarse the method, the win was appreciated, even if the performance still left a lot of questions left to be answered.

As always, it could've been worse! Other NPL clubs lost or barely scraped through against similarly or even less credentialed teams than the Royals. Of course no one cares about those other NPL teams and their near or actual failures, because they are not carrying South Melbourne cultural baggage. It's the price we pay for continuing to support Australia's has-been soccer club.

Hat report
There were new, limited edition hats and caps available at the merch stand, for those who care about such things. Some of them were trucker hats. Not being a trucker, it didn't seem right for me to buy one. Plus I already have my pompom beanie anyway, and who cares if the temperature is pushing 30 degrees in the middle of April.

It was good to see Nikola Roganovic come out with a hat in the second half - not only is that sun-smart, but it also helps avoid situations like this. More confounding was Gerrie Sylaidos' choice of head-wear. By now we are all familiar with the fact that he wears a sort of light beanie during games, usually a white one. But what was the deal with the navy/dark variation used in Friday? It was very warm out there, and we all know that dark colours absorb light and/or heat much more than light colours do.

Music report
Well, after complaining that last week's stadium music, once again we had some variation of the Queer as Folk soundtrack. And then at half-time, we had some variation of a Triple M All-Time Greatest BBQ/Driving/Drinking songs compilation. Is that an improvement? Yes, I suppose so. If you're wondering where exactly I hope my complaints about the stadium music selections end up, it's with the soundtrack to SimCity 3000 being played over the public address system in all of its light-jazz, proto-vaporwave glory.

Next game
Dandenong Thunder away next Saturday night. Since the match falls on Orthodox Easter Saturday.

Final thought
I was out and about on Saturday morning trying to fix the gaping existential hole in my life by purchasing some music on compact disc (it didn't work), and after discussing the merits of El Perro Del Mar's self-titled album (it's ace in its depressive interpretation of '60s girl groups) and the Manic Street Preachers and Richey Edwards' disappearance, the store's proprietor noticed my South Melbourne hat. Well, that led to a discussion about second divisions and such, and also about Western United, which said shopkeeper said he would support because he lived in the area - until such point as I made the pithy comment that he'd have to be driving to Geelong and Ballarat until Western United built their ground, if indeed it ever got built. Hardly the most thrilling story, I know.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Reality check - South Melbourne 0 Hume City 2

"Look at the sky and spot the planes, where would I go on holidays?"
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Whatever positive buzz had been carried over from the previous week's win against the Knights disappeared within four minutes of kickoff. If we fall behind at any stage in a game this year, there's little chance we are going to win the game. After nine weeks, you just have to admit that's the way it's going to be.

Sure, there might be the odd goal pulled back for a lucky draw, but for the most part we're cooked when we're behind, no matter how hard we try and how close we get. Luke Patitsas said, and I agree, that most games this year when they've been 0-0 have felt like we've been behind.

And look, the first goal we conceded was comical, but Hume should've scored from that chance anyway. After that, it was the usual: we had a ton of possession and played well enough to earn a goal ourselves, but it wasn't going to happen. You can blame the lack of an actual striker and extra 'unnecessary' passes, but empty nets at the back post and missed headers are opportunities which should be taken by anybody.

The second goal we conceded was even more comical than the first, but since we weren't going to score anyway, Hume putting it away is almost a moot point, unless we end up getting dragged down by that one goal, which in any case would be silly, because a season doesn't usually hinge on a moment in round 9 and not all the other goals you cop.

There are people doing deep analytical dives into the formation and the setup and all that, and good luck to them. I'd join in with my amateurish takes, but I'm just too tired. My solution (and it's not so much a solution as pining for the obvious) is that hopefully when Billy Konstantinidis returns from suspension (and assuming he can play out the majority of a match) we can stop with the makeshift strikers and false nines.

By the way, Billy's initial five match suspension was reduced to four thanks to a guilty plea, so he should be back for the game against Thunder away when league action resumes in a week and a half's time. Whether other potential forward options such as Manny Aguek, and Pep and Gio Marafioti can redeem themselves in the eyes of Esteban Quintas - who had them dropped for poor training ground discipline - remains to be seen.

The Heimlich maneuverer being performed on the field is a new one for me.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.  
There were some crazy tackles in this game. Not necessarily malicious, but just bizarre. In the first half there was a sliding high-booted kick somewhere between Liu Kang and Johnny Cage. There was one moment where a Hume player inadvertently got his legs caught around (I think) Jake Marshall's head, while Marshall was basically standing upright. Aside from those strangenesses, there worst behaviour for me, which was never called out, was the constant manhandling of Leigh Minopoulos during his half or so on the field. The groping and molestation of Leigh was bizarre, and never went punished.

Speaking of Leigh, there's chitchat going around that he's been appointed as an assistant coach. Strange, if true.

Brad Norton was subbed off 20 minutes from time on Sunday.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
More immediately pressing is Brad Norton reputedly getting a hamstring injury. That saw Perry Lambropoulos brought on for the last part of the game, which makes you wonder what's going on with Kristian Konstantinidis that he can't even get a run with 20 minutes to go in a game that we're chasing.

Thank goodness that, for the time being, there are three teams in this league doing worse than us. It won't last, but it at least gives us a false sense of hope to cling on to.

Next game
FFA Cup Round 4 against Essendon Royals at Lakeside on Friday afternoon. Not many of us seem to hold any hope that we'll get anywhere near the national stage this year, and that all our efforts should be directed at not getting relegated. Fair enough. Still, you wouldn't want to lose this one, especially against a State League 1 opponent which has only managed to (I think) get one point from four matches, and which has seen its coach (Michael Curcija) resign on Tuesday.

Women's report
It was too damn warm to sit outside and watch the women's game against Heidelberg, so we stayed inside instead and watched the game on the live-stream. Despite there many screens available to us, I think I missed almost every single goal scored in this game. That included the one goal we scored to open the game, and all but one of the five we ended up conceding. I did see Heidelberg miss a penalty, but the game was cooked by then.

It seems like the women's team is in a massive transition phase. No Lisa De Vanna; Chelsea Blissett gone to Young Matildas; Tiff Eliadis retired to more social football; Amy Medwin preparing for a US college gig; and Melina Ayers looking to sign with a lower division US team. Add to that the injury on Sunday to Sofia Sakalis, and things are looking more difficult than perhaps people would've anticipated.

Still, that means someone else has the chance to step-up and make the grade and all those other cliches.

Food report
As often happens, when there are new people on hand in the social club, things take a little longer than you would like just to order something and pay for it, but once that was sorted, I got my burger very quickly because this time they were pre-made instead of being pumped out on order. This was fine by me, and the burgers were solid, but one regular reader was upset that he was unable to get a burger without cheese. I have no idea why the kitchen staff would not accommodate his request, and I have even less idea why he would think that having his complaint posted on South of the Border would make any sort of difference. But here we are, fulfilling this request of his to have the matter on record.s.

Merch report
I am also hearing reports that merch that people wanted to see available was not available yet. This happens. More accurately, this happens every year. Even more accurately, this happens every year despite assurances that it won't happen this year. As I noted on Sunday afternoon, the only person at South Melbourne who has actually managed to deliver on a merch promise in a timely manner is the bloke who got me the hooped socks. Now don't mistake this as me being bitter, because I'm not. I got the item I wanted after a decade long wait earlier this year, and so far as I'm concerned, everyone else can please their Kappa-wearing selves.

Match program
I uploaded the match program from the recent Knights game. You can find it at the usual page.

At the footy
Nothing much happened either at the game I was at on Friday night or whatever live-streamed game I flicked on during the halftime break - I think it was Paco vs Knights.

Around the grounds
I'm calling it now - Altona East is cooked in 2019. The only thing that will save them will be some ridiculous end-of-season restructure, the kind of thing that happens with unnerving frequency in Victorian soccer. And all this after East scored within the opening two minutes from a penalty against recently promoted Epping City. After a sluggish start, the fluoro yellow kitted visitors worked their way back into the game, and scored from a penalty of their own after about 20 minutes. Thereafter the game ebbed and flowed amiably as well as meaninglessly, with a lift in intensity in the last ten minutes of the half. But Epping took control of the second half, scoring early, and never letting East get a chance to respond. Even Epping's profligate play in the box only served to delay the inevitable, which was made even more inevitable when's East's keeper got sent off ten minutes from time and had to be replaced by outfield player. The most excitement on the day was the three or four blokes watching the closing minutes of the Geelong vs GWS match on a phone, who were getting all agitated because they either barracked for Geelong or had a bet on the game. It used to be blokes huddled around a transistor radio, now it's this. Victorian soccer folk change in detail, but not in substance.

Final thought
Very disappointed that Teo Pellizzeri has departed Football Victoria. He'll be an incredible loss to Victorian soccer, but he'll be some other organisation's gain. Even if our official interactions were limited, he was always good to South of the Border with regards to media passes and such, and using some of our better gags during the radio broadcasts. Hopefully we'll still see him around the traps.

Monday, 8 April 2019

33% - Melbourne Knights 0 South Melbourne 1

There are members of the South Melbourne family who view '30' as the magic number this year. It's the magic number because, barring some bizarre turn of events where teams at the bottom end of the table collect an inordinate amount of points, even greater than last season - 30 points will be enough to see you survive. We're now a third of the way there, having endured a coaching change, erratic form, an unfortunate suspension, and an absence of home games, with two thirds of the season to go.

Er, not quite. Photo: Luke Radziminski
For some reason all during the week there was this sense of anticipation about this game. Granted it was mostly coming from Knights fans, who were promoting the bejesus out of the game (as is their right), and getting ready to bask in the glory of victory, but still, it all felt a bit confected to me. That's probably due to us sucking and them not sucking, and expecting to get beaten, even though I personally haven't thought that highly of Knights' performances this season despite their better than expected results.

There was also plenty of inane banter in the lead-up, which I had nothing to do with because I carry myself with the utmost internet decorum , but you people... boy, you just can't resist. How dare you even remotely question the Knights' poster campaign? Aren't you scared that the singing man on the Knight Train radio show or one of his acolytes is going to come after you and teach you Greek words?

Anyway, the (apparent) great tragedy about this rivalry - apart from these two once mighty clubs being stuck in the state leagues - is that for the last 25 odd years there have been few moments when both clubs have been at the top of their leagues at the same time. There have been blips - like the 2013 semi-final - but even that was dependent on us making an outrageous run in the second-half of the season and benefiting from the Southern Stars fiasco to even make the finals.

So after several years of us being quite good, and Knights being garbage, this year it is the Knights who have been good and South who has been middling. A large crowd was in attendance, but the atmosphere was muted. There was some some chanting from Knights fans, but they were close to inaudible in the second half. The flatness of the crowd was matched by a flatness to the game as well. Knights had the better of it, especially towards the end of the first half - and only heroics by Nikola Roganovic (in league game 100 for us), and a clearance off the line keeping it level.

The second half from us was better and Knights seemed to lose the ability to do some of their more intricate passing. At any rate, their falling behind played into the hands of a team that will prefer sitting back and hitting on the counter until such time as we get a proper striker and attacking midfield set-up.

This game was decided by a goal to us, and a very fine and enjoyable and comical goal it was too. A crappy turnover in midfield, four passes, and Brad Norton with the finish after a gut-busting 80 metre run. It was Brad Norton's first goal for the club in two seasons, and just our sixth goal this season.

Putting all that to one side for the moment, I love everything about this goal. Its straightforwardness is of course a major appeal. The Knights fan yelling out 'chase!' even though Norton is already flying past the defender. Leigh Minopoulos leaning over to his left looking around a corner to make sure the ball goes in. The fact that Norton actually scores, of course. The laughter you can hear on the video is also a treat. All that, and the way it fulfils every Knights fans' fantasy, that they lose so many games to us that they have dominated.

Won't someone please think of the gamblers
To be fair, they did have the better chances in this game, but it's not like we weren't threatening in our own way. Had we been able to hit a proper through pass in the first half, we may have created even more chances than we did. The bigger problem from our end is that even with three nominally defensive midfielders, there were stretches of the game where we struggled to gain possession. There were the standard moments of indecisiveness in defence, and too many times where we went back to the keeper, but for the most part we defended well enough; which is not the same thing as great, but a step forward nevertheless..

The three points aside, the most pleasing aspect of the game for mine was the polished and mostly poised game of Ben Djiba, who started at right-back instead of Perry Lambropoulos. Apart from a solid defensive performance, Djiba also managed to get up the field and provide an attacking option. Djiba came off injured in the second half - hopefully he's OK - and Knights immediately attacked his replacement Lambropoulos; but Perry held his own well enough, which was also a good sign. Just because one prefers one player to start over another, it doesn't mean you want the less appealing player to struggle when he's on the field.

Other results fell our way, too - Kingston lost, and Oakleigh and Dandy City drew. We won't be able to rely on their collective ineptitude to survive, and we won't be able to rely on anyone else keeping us up in this season but ourselves

Next game
Hume City at home - at Lakeside! - on Sunday. The curtain raiser will be the senior women taking on Heidelberg at 1:30.

At the footy
One thing the NPL live streams have come in handy for is for when you're at the MCG on a Friday, or Saturday or Sunday, and you need something to fill in some time while you're waiting for a game to start and try in vain to block out the noise of the stadium music and announcements and kisscams and dancecams. Caught twenty odd minutes of Altona Magic vs Bentleigh, and apart from Sami Nour scoring with a nice volley, this was a hard game to watch because every few minutes someone went down like they were shot.

On the couch
There being no curtain raiser on Friday night, one had to wait around for an hour at Knights Stadium doing not very much except wait for other people to show up, and then wonder about the squad choices made by Esteban Quintas. As is their way these days, Knights have standalone senior matches for their Friday night home games, with the under 20s punted to Sunday afternoons. It makes sense I suppose. Come Sunday, I could've gone to Somers Street again to watch the under 20s game, but I didn't want to. I preferred to stay home and watch it on a live stream, partly for the absurdity of watching an NPL under 20s game on a live stream. Who could possibly be interested in this? Don't answer that.

Our boys dominated the early proceedings, in part thanks to a strong breeze, and Manny Aguek could've had a hat-trick within the opening 15 minutes, but he didn't. The game deteriorated to the point where it was hard to keep attention. Knights seemed to steady the ship in the second and had a bit more of the play, but a player of theirs that had apparently gotten injured was laying out the back of the southern goal, and eventually an ambulance turned up which delayed the game for about 15 minutes. Hopefully the kid is OK.

In recent seasons these kinds of situations have seen games abandoned, but this one resumed at about 77 minutes or so. A miscalculation by the Knights keeper coming off his line made things easier for Gio Marafioti to score what would be the only goal of the game. Usual practice for under 20s/reserves games is for there to be no injury time, but here the game went to about the 102 minute mark.

Manchester United at Olympic Park in 1967.
Photo from Weinstein family collection
Home movies!
Great work by George Cotsanis of the My World Is Round Facebook page and of course The Pioneers show on FNR. Last year he bought some reels of film off eBay, and got them digitised. The footage includes a half-hour long film of Manchester United touring Australia in 1967, with games - in colour! - against Victoria and New South Wales - as well as some junior soccer. Mark Boric provides a run-down and some background information on his blog about that film.

As part of this haul, George Cotsanis has also managed to unearth footage of Torpedo Moscow vs Victoria from 1965. Mark Boric also has some background on this game on his blog. Lastly, there's a brief film of the touring Roma side watching Richmond and St Kilda at the MCG. I think I've seen that footage or footage like it before; certainly I've read about the Roma players at that game, probably in the VFL Record.

Please, please, please share these videos with your friends, especially among your Man United friends and family.

Final thought
One may ask what's the point of trying to create a buzz about a game and a club, and deploying tons of volunteers all over the place, and trying to build a family-friendly environment and putting up #eraseNCIP and pro-rel banners, if a minority of goons is still intent on trying to intimidate and attack opposition fans by stealing scarves. One may say it's a minority, but it seems to happen more regularly than it should, and it makes you wonder if some people at Knights actually condone that kind of behaviour. I suppose we should be glad that this time at least, the goon's mates (and fiance?) convinced him to back off.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Tangalakis resigns - Quintas new senior coach

Word had got around last night that Con Tangalakis was out, and today the club confirmed that news. The club have framed it as a resignation, which will do little to convince at least a good chunk of our support that it was a sacking in all but name.

After a positive start to the season, further wins have failed to materialise in the past four weeks. Some misfortune aside - Billy Konstantinidis' early season absence and later suspension among that bad luck - the weekly lineup put out on the field by Tanga never seemed to match what many fans thought was the optimal set up.

Two visa spots used up on defensive midfielders has also stumped people, but no issue has been as contentious as the usage, lack of usage, and misuse of Gerrie Sylaidos. Putting whatever conspiracy theories may exist aside for a moment, the one thing I can say with some certainty is that there was obvious friction between Tangalakis and long-serving players, who could not understand Sylaidos being removed from the field when matches were on the line.

What if any influence this actually had on Tanga's resignation only those close to the action know for sure.

Tanga helped get us out of a jam last year, with a team not of his own making. He used some youngsters, fought against an alleged fifth column from within the squad, as well as rumours that the club wasn't up to speed with its player wages. Yes we needed a bit of luck to avoid the relegation zone, but he was in charge when we avoided the drop.

He handled himself well as the club sought to bring back John Anastasiadis. There were always going to be those who doubted Tanga's suitability for a coaching gig at a club like South. Whether out of necessity or by natural occurrence, the budget is not what it was in recent years. Some of the pre-season recruiting, but especially the pre-season match selections, which emphasised variety over cementing a definitive starting eleven, had fans concerned.

But in the first three games at least, a good performance against Bentleigh, and two wins over Dandy City and Port, had people optimistic. Not just for the wins - whose performances were arguably not as good as the Bentleigh game - but for the way the team was playing. An expected loss against Avondale could be psychologically brushed aside, but the losses against Kingston and Pascoe Vale were in their own way devastating - we could've/should've beaten teams like that, but the failure to do so has us much closer to the relegation zone than anyone would be comfortable with.

Why after the draw with Green Gully though, and not say, after the FFA Cup with Essendon Royals, I don't know. Maybe they didn't want to repeat last year's mistake of letting what some may consider free-fall to continue unabated. Maybe someone's trying to head off a 'vibe'?

Luke Patitsas of the Sour Grapes blog made an interesting observation about the team last week:
I’m not sure if this is just a South Melbourne problem, but every time we miss golden opportunities, and are not already in the lead, its feel like the score is being undermined. It may be 0-0 on the scoresheet, but for me we are actually losing.
Is it possible that such a mindset had become prevalent in the players themselves? Maybe those of us outside the inner sanctum can only clutch at straws, like Tanga disappearing - as Kolman did - from club media duties, leaving it to the players to front the supporters.

Tanga's replacement is assistant coach Esteban Quintas, who has little senior coaching experience; just the one game in charge of Bendigo City back in 2016. Naturally quite a few people think we're doomed now, and I wish I could find reassuring words to allay those concerns, but I'm stumped. All we can do is support the team and hope that things improve from here on.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Portent of doom - South Melbourne 1 Green Gully 1

Patience is wearing thin. The initial goodwill on offer is diminishing. Memories of the good (or at least better) performances from earlier in the season are receding into the distance.

Everything feels increasingly toxic. Photo: Luke Radziminksi.
Which is not to say that yesterday was a complete disaster on the field. We didn't lose the game. The performance was good in moments, and erratic in others. There were long stretches of the game, especially in the first half, where we dominated play, but our defensive frailties came to the fore again, and basically the first chance that Gully had, they scored from.  Most disappointingly, the goal we conceded came straight up the middle, where I assume we're meant to have two defensive midfielders to provide cover for our central defenders.

At least we got the goal back very quickly, which calmed down the nerves of the supporters for a few minutes. Krousouratis, who had an energetic but ultimately unfulfilling performance, at least tested out ex-South keeper Jerrad Tyson on this occasions to the extent that he parried the ball to Gerrie Sylaidos, whose patience with the shot seemed to stop time itself. Thank goodness he scored.

There was no Kristian Konstantinidis, who having apparently recovered from the flu (assuming that was the cause of his absence last week), was out this week because he was recovering from an ingrown toenail. One wonders what affliction - real or imagined - will keep him out of next week's game.

(I'm reminded here somewhat tangentially of one of our favourite defunct segments, Renco Van Eeken Fruit Watch, where readers of South of the Border were encouraged to keep an eye out for whatever piece of fruit the injured striker was eating during the 2013 season. But I digress.)

There was no Billy Konstantinidis, who looks like he'll have to wear a five game suspension, unless of course the club finds success at an appeal or tribunal hearing on the matter. But assuming the penalty won't be lessened, that's one game down and four to go, including the cup game later this month.

The wind and rain and cold has finally arrived. Hello winter football.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Pep Marafioti, who I have advocated as the most appealing stop gap option for striker, worked hard, was often starved of timely and/or appropriate supply, made some poor runs, and had two chances on goal from which he should have scored at least one. I'm thinking particularly here of the chance in the first half, where was probably offside (uncalled) and had plenty of time to choose a side instead of waiting to be shut down by his opponent.

(The moment in the second half where a few people have thrown him under the bus for not passing to Gerrie on the right wing seem a bit harsh; Pep looked like he was closed down very quickly on that side by his Gully opponent, and only a just over-hit touch on his way to the byline from the same sequence of play prevented a chance being created in the six yard box.)

Other players put up some good moments, and some equally awful ones. The communication at the back is messy at best. Perry Lambropoulos had probably his best game for us at right back, and even offered something going forward for the first time this season (modest as that was), but at his worst almost looked like he tripped over the ball. Hesitation on that side of the field was very concerning. The left hand side seemed to hold up reasonably well by comparison

I continue to struggle in understanding the team setup and the substitution decisions. What's most concerning is that I can't help but wonder if the players think the same way, too. It's quite possible Tangalakis has lost the playing group, or at least veteran elements of it. At Kingston, KK was apparently shouting at him about defensive issues; at Pascoe Vale, Schroen was unhappy about Gerrie being benched; and yesterday Minopoulos shrugged his shoulders and shook his head when Gerrie was subbed off. You have one proven game-breaker, the kind of player a lot of other clubs would love to have on their books, and yet the level of trust or estimation that Tanga has for Gerrie seems far below what many pundits and even more South supporters have.

We're not in the relegation zone, but we're in a relegation battle.

Talk about Tanga's future at the club
Lot of talk going around that he's been sacked, but I'm waiting for the club to make the announcement, and not just because it's still April 1st.

Next game 
Melbourne Knights away on Friday night.

Keep in mind that this match kicks off at 7:45PM, and that there is no curtain raiser.

On the couch
Saturday provided many options, one of which was to go to the senior women's game against Box Hill United at Wembley Park. Checked the PTV site, bus replacements from Camberwell to Ringwood. No thanks. Chucked it on the old YouTube instead, and saw something I hadn't seem from our women's team this season - a team that was switched on from the start. Raced away to a 2-0 start, and the coughed up a goal to be only 2-1 up. The final margin was eventually 4-2 our way, the same as the week before, but this was the best we'd looked in a while. Not a patch on what we were doing last year, and you have to wonder how far we are behind Calder, but it's a long season, and as long we can get to the finals - which we should be able to do pretty easily - we should be able to do something.

Around the grounds
Having decided not to go out to Box Hill South, I went out to Ardeer instead for Westgate vs Altona East. So many regrets, not so much for the game which went predictably the way of Westgate (3-0). Westgate have this habit of playing games at 6pm on Saturday nights, which always end up being freezing. Never mind the lights, which are poor, I've been to plenty of games in the cold, but Westgate's home night games are uniformly unpleasant when it comes to the climate. I'd always wondered what the appeal of playing the games at that time was, and all I can think of is that they're trying to get as close to a Balkan mountain village idea of cold. Speaking of the Balkans, some mob called Balkan Grill has taken over the Westgate canteen, and I had to do a double take when I saw someone cooking who was wearing a chef's style white coat; seeing a cevapi roll at $10 and every other option at least $3 more than was a bit of a concern. This is the club that prides itself in being mean street working class - they even call their ground 'The Ghetto', stupid name as that may be. Has the gentrification of Sunshine accelerated that quickly?

Final thought
At least we kept our non-Northcote undefeated run at John Cain Memorial Park going. Small mercies.