Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Safe (again) - South Melbourne 3 Dandenong Thunder 0

George Gerondaras did an admirable job at right-back.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The most blessed thing about this win is not only the fact that it secures our Victorian top-flight tenure for another year, but that it does so with a nice, clean, and unambiguous three games to spare. Say what you want about the squad's calibre, its erratic performances, and its baffling inability to score goals at regular intervals - when comparing 2019's team to last year's, this year's side is officially at least three points better than what was dished up last year.

That's no claim to fame for a club like ours, which will almost certainly miss the finals for a second year running, but you've got to acknowledge even incremental improvement where you can find it.

We looked sharp from the start - Gerrie Sylaidos launching a looping shot which the Thunder keeper was just awake enough for - and took the lead about ten minutes in after a (let's call it a) right-footed cross from Pep Marafioti was bunted in - just - by Billy Konstantinidis. There was confusion in the stands about whether the goal had crossed the line, but there were no complaints from the opposition defenders, even though one of our marshals behind that goal later claimed online that the ball had not crossed the line.

Apart from a ten minute patch in the first half - predictably arriving after about 25 minutes - Thunder didn't really cause us too many problems in the opening 45 minutes, while we wasted more chances. Pep Marafioti hit a right foot(!) shot off a turn on the edge of the box that cannoned off the crossbar, and that was just one of the chances we didn't get full value for.

The second half was pretty good from us, but without having yet put away the second goal, and with Thunder's season on the line, there were bound to be some nervous moments. We got two or three big ones, and somehow managed to dodge all of them. A long-range shot which drifted wide; a goal called back late (albeit correctly) for offside; and a soft header from a tight angle which should've been harmless, but Roganovic had slipped, managing to at least palm the ball away for a corner.

What would've happened had we conceded an equaliser with 15 or so to play? Who knows, but I wouldn't have been thinking good thoughts. Luckily for us, Kosta Stratomitros headed home a Sylaidos corner for the second week running, and that killed off the Thunder resistance on and off the pitch. There had been a reasonable and quite sweary presence of Thunder fans in the stands, but perhaps not as many would've been had Preston not been playing North Sunshine in a championship decider. Once the second goal left, those fans started to leave, and missed Marcus Schroen's close range goal for 3-0.

The man of the match probably went to George Gerondaras, who played a good game at right-back in place of Ben Djiba for some reason or other. Gerondaras put in some very timely tackles during the first half, as well as one poor one which got him a yellow. Ironically, it was probably that yellow which saved him from getting a yellow later on after he attempted a very blatant form of time-wasting and slowing down of the play; either that, or the referee took pity on George's youth and inexperience. Still, it was an impressive performance, give or take the odd nervous and rushed moment.

But the thinking person's man of the match though probably goes to Jake Marshall, who kept Brandon Barnes very quiet. Shut down Barnes, who's been single-handedly keeping Thunder's season alive, and you're halfway to getting a result over his team.

Finals prognostication (status: enjoy it while it lasts)
I bet a few you didn't think this was at likely to be a possibility before last Sunday afternoon. Probably most of you still don't think we're a chance, and that's fair enough too.

Some of you may not even want a finals appearance, thinking perhaps that we'd be ripe for humiliation should be make it - or maybe you're a club financier who would hate to make a late run to the finals, which would only result in several win bonuses and a finals game (or heaven forbid, two) where we wouldn't get the gate.

The sums are pretty straightforward: barring some colossal screw up by Gully and/or Hume in their remaining three games, the best we could possibly manage in 2019 is sixth. To do that, we'd need to "run the table" to borrow a phrase from American football parlance - that is, we'd need to win every game.

That's not going to happen, especially when you consider our erratic form up to this point, our poor goal difference, and the fact that sixth placed Oakleigh has a game in hand.

Just be happy (or less unhappy) that I can omit the bottom three teams from this screen-cap.

Next game
Oakleigh away on Friday night. They're undefeated in the league for like, forever at the moment. Quite possible that a few more South people than usual will be streaming this one.

Match day revenue idea for the social club?
Flying off the production line (just don't ask where...)
Congratulations to the under 20s, who managed to secure their championship with a comfortable win over Thunder on Sunday. While I'm sure the boys would've wanted to go through the season undefeated, at least the previous week's loss to Hume allowed the team to win the championship on home turf.

I watched the first half of the curtain-raiser, as has become my late season mini-habit, from inside the scoreboard control room, and the second half from inside the social club - well, I watched the last portion of the second half in the social club once someone with authority and the requisite know-how put the stream on the screens inside the social club, while I enjoyed a burger (quite good, and also delivered quickly), and not-so-much-enjoyed a slice of galaktobouriko (too custardy and runny, instead of the proper firmer texture, courtesy of skimping on the semolina I'm guessing here; also deficient in syrup for my liking).

Speaking of the social club, what's going on in there? They've upped the prices of the souvlaki from $8 to $10 because of an increase in the cost of lamb (according to a notice at ye olde ordering station), but one food critic sitting at my table also noted that the souv had seemingly shrunk in size from the usual offering - and the large chips was also a much diminished serve compared to what was produced so far this season.

In addition to all that, one thing which came to my attention courtesy of, well, being told about it, was the periodic inability of people to buy booze at the bar because one of the main people manning the register and bar area was underage, and thus not licensed to serve alcohol to patrons. I mean, good on the kid for following the rules, but the social club operators have really got to sort this out by the start of next year.

South Melbourne, NPL under 20 champions for 2019. Photo: Luke Radziminski.
Anyway, back to the under 20s. They got a warm reception from the crowd during the early part of the second half of the senior game as they walked in front of the grandstand.

Of course while we're all very happy for the boys on their deserved title, quite a few people will be asking how many if any of them will end up playing senior football for the club in the near future.

My answer to that would be, well, who knows? It's very hard for any club to create teams made up mostly or even significantly of its youth products, and the higher up the divisions that team is, the harder it is. Perhaps with the lower senior men's wage budget, there may be more room for our youth products to come through.

Either that, or we'll do what we normally do - let them wander across the cursed earth of Victorian for a few years, before picking them up again down the track after they've played for Bentleigh or someone like that.

Final thought
Already with the rumours about who we're signing next year! Hold off until the season is officially over you ghouls!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Existential malaise - Hume City 3 South Melbourne 1

This post is late because I only just managed to get back home via public transport after to walk into the wind after the game back to the station.

If last season was a nightmarish, self-inflicted disaster of a season, it was still possible to view it as an aberration; an overdue or ahead-of-schedule correction to several pretty good years - good years which perhaps existed in spite of good club stewardship rather than because of it.

With four games to go in a second consecutive below mediocre season, we're now wondering at best where and when this meandering operation will end. Will it end in eventual relegation, if not this year or next, then in the year after? No one can really see a way out of this torpor at the moment, and it's a torpor which extends throughout the club. On field it has been an erratic shambles, and off-field there seems to be no energy, no drive, no purpose. That this has happened in a 60th anniversary year - which so far has been celebrated mostly via occasional commemorative merchandise - has some fans particularly concerned.

Worst of all, it seems as if a good portion of those most rusted on South fans have thrown in the towel, if not permanently, than at least for the remainder of this season. Our fan base post-NSL has been cleaved off, then chipped away, and now perhaps we're at the stage where those remaining are being weathered away.  I've long maintained that boasts about club loyalty are just that, and that everyone has a breaking point. Now we're seeing people who would seldom miss a game home or away finding better things to do. Even more concerning, a good deal of those still attending often do so with regret and a kind of self-loathing.

Anyway, from a superficial perspective, the fact that there were four goals in this game at least points towards an extant entertainment factor. The reality though is that the game was a mess. A gale force wind blowing straight down the ground made play extremely difficult. At least we got the nominal benefit of that wind during the first half, not that it actually did us any good. We created three or four pretty good chances, failed to take any of them, and for the rest of the time sent in a whole bunch of wayward crosses that sailed out of play. Of course all this was made worse by the fact that Hume scored into the breeze, with a free kick no less. That was pretty much the game right there, because if we couldn't keep the home team out when they were going against the wind, how were we going to do it when they were kicking with it?

The answer was that we couldn't. We conceded two more goals, which probably looked worse from the other end of the field where I was standing then closer to the action. I suppose it was nice of us to score a goal from a corner a - Gerrie Sylaidos corner - when the game was already done, and by which time most of the behind the goals crew had already left. And at least we fought the game out, which is more than can be said for the tail-end of last season. But the bigger problems remain, and we can only that we'll have a chance to solve them in NPL rather than in NPL 2 (or whatever they remain the the tier below us next season).

There's an old Dr Katz joke about the three most dangerous parts of flying being takeoff, landing, and the bit in the middle, and that's pretty much our situation at the moment. Neither the forwards, defenders, or midfielders are adequately doing their job, though I will be gentler on the defenders for having to put up with a rudderless central midfield operation. There has not been a settled lineup all season, only some of which can be put down to injury, and far more towards recruitment. We can't even keep the nerve of hanging on to the same goalkeeper during a recent undefeated streak, where even if Josh Dorron's performances have been a little iffy, than at least he has been no worse than Nikola Roganovic.

But anyway, that's short term stuff. Who's going to coach us next year? Who would stay? Who would even want to come to us in this state?

Next game / Relegation battle (status: sadly still in play)
Another week, another mixed bag of results for us on this front.

After leading 2-1 at one point during the first half, Kingston lost 5-2 to Gully. The day before, Pascoe Vale had lost 2-1 to Knights. That's the good news.

With four games to go, only a complete South Melbourne catastrophe and simultaneous turnaround in form from either of the bottom two would see us land in 13th or 14th.

Unfortunately for us, a finish in the relegation playoff spot still remains in play. That's thanks to our three game win-less streak, as well as Dandenong Thunder picking up a point at home to Avondale on the weekend.

It could've been worse - Thunder had an early lead, and late on in the piece Brandon Barnes missed what was by his standards a very gettable chance.

So this week's game against Thunder is obviously huge. This is especially the case for Thunder, who need to win the game in order to have any chance of getting out of the bottom three.

A draw for us should be enough to save us in 2019.

Women's team
Not much better news on this front, though at least our seniors are still in with a chance at finals. Last night they lost 3-1 to Bulleen, but considering our very young cohort and the fact that we had to use an outfielder and chief scorer as a goalkeeper as a starter, it could've been worse. First choice keeper was seriously injured last week, and our backup walked out during the week or before that. We even managed to take the lead yesterday and didn't look too bad in general play, in what was a turnover fest in the first half. Second half Bulleen managed to compose themselves and keep us at bay. Sofia Sakalis seems to have a lot on her shoulders, with almost everything useful having to go through her this year, but you hope she'll get a lot out of this season because of it.

Final thought
I haven't really been watching much other NPL this season, and certainly not Hume games, but has that chanting group of theirs been there all season? It seems unlikely to me. Didn't notice them at the earlier fixture between our sides this year. Maybe it's only a special occasion thing. If that's the case, it's nice to think that we still warrant that kind of respect and/or attention. Special props also to the gaggle of teenagers chanting "fuck South Melbourne" and thumping the lid of a bin. You the real deal, not like us who had to be pleaded with to chant by Hume goalkeeper Michael Weier.

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.