Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Journey to the centre of the earth - South Melbourne 0 Heidelberg United 3

Photo: Luke Radziminski.
For those people who were worried that there'd be drastic changes to the South Melbourne experience in 2020, this game was endlessly reassuring.

Isolated striker? Check.

More wingers than you can poke a stick at? Check.

Blokes playing out of position? Check.

Gerrie Sylaidos getting subbed off too early, and thus any chance of central corridor play being used to get back in the game? Check.

Melvin Becket having high energy but no end product? Check.

No end in sight to our goalkeeping issues? Check.

Copping a goal and falling behind early, and having increasingly diminishing ideas about what to do to score after that? Check.

Now there were things about this performance that I did like, mostly from the first half hour before we conceded the opening goal. I think the wingers we have on hand are faster than we had last year, which at least gives you a tactical option independent of skill. Provided he aims for raw power over swerve, Stephen Folan looks dangerous from free kicks. Harry Sawyer works hard, and I want to see him in a team that looks more organised before judging his skill. Lirim Elmazi was very good in his South debut, and looks an excellent pick up.

But everything else was all too familiar. After several successful seasons, Heidelberg are in a transition period, having seen much of their regular squad depart and a lot of new faces arrive. And by a Berger insider's admission (made while we were having a chat on the tram after the game), it was the worst or weakest Heidelberg side for about a decade. And their own performance never reached any particularly great heights, except for their finishing.

Someone piffed a flare over the fence near Gate 1 towards the end of the
 game. Who knows why they bothered. Photo: Luke Radziminski. 
But tactically we were outdone once again. Once Heidelberg took the lead - somewhat against the run of play, not that that makes things better - they were content to sit back and absorb our increasingly flimsy attacks. Once Sylaidos was subbed off around the hour mark, things got worse as we retreated exclusively to the wings, and the Bergers were happy enough to squeeze us onto the touchline. We got past the squeeze on occasion, but then our crossing let us down.

So it might have been a bad day, a bit of bad luck conceding the first goal, and a scoreline made worse as a result of having to chase the game. These things happen, and maybe 2020 won't be a replica of the last two years. A couple of inclusions to the midfield spine, like Luke Pavlou or even Marcus Schroen, and maybe we won't be so one-dimensional and reliant on Sylaidos having to do everything in the middle. Maybe some better crossing.

Oh god, we're one game into the season and I'm already into "if this" and "if that" scenarios.

Next game
Eastern Lions at home on Sunday. Were it not for Avondale's point deduction, these two teams would be last and second last, but as it is, Lions are ahead of us and out of the relegation zone by virtue of alphabetical priority.

Digging deeper still
While some South fans on social media have rightly caned former supporter of the club (and now cursed apostate) George Calombaris for the wage theft proclivities of his businesses, the old wisdom of "be careful what you mock, lest you become it" has sprouted its head again -  and because it seems that they're not cognisant of the fact, that goes for fans of other clubs too, who are enjoying this bit of schadenfreude.

Because over the past week or so our own alleged shoddy behaviour when it comes to paying wages has come to fill out newspaper column inches, and all you can do is hope that it's all very, very wrong, and that the players who are still with us or especially those who have rejoined us are incredibly naive or know something that we pleb fans don't.

But past examples like Kevin Nelson and Adam Van Dommelle successfully claiming moneys owed to them by us (and perhaps others who were naive enough to sign a waiver when seeking a transfer out) don't fill me with much confidence that the club has learned anything from prior experiences.

First up is the still(!) ongoing matter of Chris Taylor's sacking. At various points since Taylor's dismissal in early 2018, South Melbourne Hellas supporters have been told by the club that Taylor was owed nothing more than the week's notice he was paid out upon his sacking; and furthermore, that Taylor's attempt to take the club to a FIFA tribunal (if the club admitted that such a thing was actually happening) was unlikely to succeed.

Well, news came in last week that Taylor had won a FIFA tribunal case which states that he must be paid out approximately $80,000. The article does note that the club is considering taking the matter further, but boy, what another dent to whatever's left of our reputation. To be fair, we weren't the only club named in the article - Sydney Olympic also got its comeuppance with a coach it had sacked - but at least Olympic were able to say that they'd won a championship in part because of that decision.

Meanwhile, we've floundered in a mess of our own making, with high player turnover, poor morale, and no discernible middle let alone long-term on-field direction. Now maybe the decision to sack Taylor was absolutely necessary, even though those of us outside the board meeting which made the decision will probably never know either way. But it does show the perils of giving anyone, even someone as capable and as successful as Taylor, a five year deal in the first place.

Of more immediate concern is what this means for the club in terms of its finances and its alleged liabilities. Much was made at the recent AGM of the deep audit made of the club's books, and the plans to pay off the club's debts. Now here's another one, to be paid for how? With more director loans? And if you believe even some of what's being said out there, there's possibly another coach looking to be paid what they're owed, as well as persistent talk about players being owed money, and who knows who else.

In the Daily Telegraph it's being reported (behind a paywall which I'm not sure how I circumvented this time) there are at least three players seeking money they believe is owed by us. Just as concerning is that in terms of the comments made by public officials from various angles on this matter, there's no way of getting around that what the club is saying doesn't match up with what representatives from Football Victoria and the Professional Footballer's Association are saying.

While South president Nick Maikousis is (according to Tom Smithies' article) claiming that "Our governing body, the FFV, has not made any comment or contact in relation to these matters, nor has the PFA" the PFA and Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos are on record as saying that the opposite is true. And matters aren't being helped when Maikousis attempts to turn this issue into one where the club is the victim rather than the players who are owed their rightful wages - which Maikousis unhelpfully says add up to "a relatively small amount". If the amount owed is that small, then why not pay what's due and avoid this drama?

Now there's little doubt that we are the only club at this level that will fall behind in wages at one point or another, while other clubs are paying wages far beyond what is appropriate and sustainable for this level. But until we enter a league or competition with some semblance of cartel discipline and a sustainable operating model, all we can do - all that we should do - is make sure that we operate our own business in a proper and dignified manner that avoids such things becoming an issue.

And if that's not possible in this post-shame world, than at least start backgrounding journos off the record about the shonky behaviour of other clubs, and get them into the limelight as well. The next members' forum should be interesting.

Reaching new depths
On field, off-field, in the kitchen - is there anything this club can do right at the moment?
I'm not one to dedicate too much time to the food that clubs offer, so long as it's relatively prompt and more than nominally edible. Now I can't see the former being solved any time soon at South, but at least the burgers have been good enough. But the souvs? The souvs have been ordinary for a while now, and I made the same mistake that local soccer commentator Chris Gleeson made last week by ordering one. How could they get everything about it so wrong?

The souv was so bad that we've sunk beneath the old "don't eat at Green Gully" level. The bizarre thing is that a solution to their problem of mushy pita and indistinguishable meat content is right there in front of them - ditch the pita except for those ordering a plate meal, and use bread rolls instead with the lamb skewers on the menu instead of whatever it is that was passed off as meat last week.

Maybe we should hire Calombaris to work in the kitchen - it might not solve the wages issue, but it might at least solve the food issue.

Final thought
I find it funny - but not "haha" funny - that after all the effort that went into pushing the A-League bid and trying to draw attention to ourselves, often in the most shameless ways, that we'd complain about someone writing an article about us because they're out to "get" us.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Death and its malcontents

I'm tired of the old shit 
Let the new shit begin
Eels - Old Shit/New Shit
I had begun writing up a post about last week's final friendly, but it was maudlin and stiff to the point of self-parody. Normally that would only bother me a little bit, but there are times when I feel like I've pursued that angle as far as it will go, and that I need to lay off it lest the blog becomes emotionally monotone - especially when there's a whole season to go, where we can all be as pantomime miserable as we like.

So before re-writing the sections I'd already written, I thought I'd write the thing that I should have been writing about in the first place, that being the reason for my break.

Three weeks ago, my father died.

He had been battling pancreatic cancer for the better part of a year, and for most of that time was holding up relatively well; but as was explained to me by the oncologists in what turned out to be the final couple weeks of his life, at some point the body can no longer fight the fight. The blog's hiatus came on the day before his death, though at the time I only knew that his time on this earth was limited, and not necessarily that his end was imminent. So it goes.

I could write about my father's life in great detail, but my telling of it would be incomplete, and besides which, this is not really the place for it. Suffice to say, he was born and raised in difficult circumstances, worked a series of back-breaking jobs throughout his life, and spent most of his life - 49 out of 72 years - in a country he never was able to quite get his head around. It's a story a good chunk of my readership will be all too familiar with.

But there was joy, too, and one of the things that brought my father joy was soccer. His village in Greece, now close to collapse from population decline, was large enough then to have its own soccer team, and in one way or another dad's interest in the game remained for the rest of his life.

Arriving in Australia in 1971, the football scene he saw here was past its 1960s state league peak, but was still healthy enough for there to be good players and good entertainment. Dad picked Alexander as his club not because he was from the north of Greece - though that became more important later on - but because when he first arrived in Melbourne he lived in the inner-north, in Collingwood. It was about as good a time to get on the Alexander bandwagon, as for the next decade or so they would be at their peak. Later the combination of distance (it's a fair hike from Altona North to Olympic Village), work and family commitments (my brothers have no interest in sport), and off-field politics (Macedonia issue, NSL and Soccer Australia bull-crap, internal club stuff) which gradually wore down not just the Bergers as a force, but also my dad's diminishing optimism about the game's prospects.

Thus he gradually drifted away from the local game; never completely losing interest, but never doing much to reverse that trend. When I came back to South in 2006, dad came with me for a few games, but eventually for all sorts of reasons - not least because I'd managed to attach myself to Clarendon Corner and the smfcboard bunch - his attendance at the soccer became minimal. He would still keep up to date via the Greek papers and radio, but most of his interest in soccer regressed to what was available on free-to-air TV. For a while there in the early-to-mid 2000s, I was headed much the same way, but turned that around in a story I've related in a number of places already.

My love of the game exists both because of, and in spite of, my father's relationship to the game. It exists because of his love for the game, because the game as it was for a good chunk of his first twenty years in Australia, contained a language he understood both in terms of what was happening on the field as well as off it. It's not that he didn't like Aussie Rules, but he had no cultural connection to it. I only went to one footy match before I was 18, and that wasn't with my dad. When we went together to see a sporting match, it was inevitably a soccer match.

So we went to soccer matches. At Paisley Park initially, where we saw Altona East win the Hellenic Cup on its home turf. Then to Middle Park and Olympic Village and Olympic Park, and even after the Bergers were kicked out of the comp, he would take me to South games at Lakeside. Dad the habits a lot of his generation had. Park miles away from the ground and risk a parking ticket instead of paying for parking; never pay for a grandstand seat; always time your run to get to the ground five minutes from kickoff, and always start getting ready to leave five minutes before the end of a game, regardless of the score. So many of these things infuriated me, and still do, but it's just the way he was, and none of my nagging was going to change things.

Besides which, I had found my own way to annoy him. I became a South fan instead of a Berger because I saw the 1991 NSL grand final on TV, and because the team did well after that, too, and because there were enough nearby relatives at the time who were also Hellas fans to keep me attached to that. The novelist Christos Tsiolkas relates the story of how the first time he disappointed his father was when he chose Aussie Rules over soccer, and I guess my picking Hellas over Alexander was something dad could never quite get over.

Dad kept that feeling buried pretty well though, still taking me to South games when he could, and using the line (that was only a half a lie) that watching a good game of soccer, and watching talented players, was more important to him than his team winning. He'd use the examples of someone like Ulysses Kokkinos, or Branko Buljevic, or Dusan Bajevic when he came out here with AEK. The Bajevic example he loved to roll out a lot - on that day the Olympic Park pitch was a mud bath, and yet Bajevic came off the field without having gotten dirty at all. Why? Because Bajevic refused to make an idiot of himself and chase balls when people should have been playing the ball to his feet.

But when I say it was only a half a lie that dad preferred entertainment and quality over the glory of victory, it was because deep down my dad really was a Berger tragic. In 2008, the Bergers' 50th anniversary season - and probably the last proper Bergers game my dad went to that I can remember - the home team came from behind and beat South 2-1. As their second goal went in, he smiled in a way that I hadn't seen him ever do, and he even did a little fist-pump. I didn't even know that he had a fist-pump in his gesticulation repertoire. The ride home in the station wagon from the Village to Altona North was almost unbearable for the smugness in that Kingswood station-wagon, the years of being humiliated by South during the 1990s melting away for him during the trip back.

But our trajectories as followers of local soccer nevertheless drifted further and further apart. He had a passive aggressive tendency, too, with my attendance, especially because I would take public transport most places. He both wanted and was happy for me to to go all sorts of soccer games; but there were also times when he was befuddled by the notion of my taking a lengthy public transport journey, which would see me return from the other side of town in the early hours of the morning. "Why do you need to go, when there'll be other people there? Does the team specifically need you there?"

And like a lot of the older generation, if it was raining, so much the worse! Why would someone deliberately go out and get wet for no good reason? And don't get me started on what he thought about anyone who would be stupid enough to volunteer at a club, and especially anyone who trusted anyone on a committee, ever. At some level, what my dad would've considered as my crazy and now decade-plus renewed dedication to South Melbourne Hellas and soccer - in terms of attending, writing, and thinking - is my attempt to make up for lost time, and to avoid becoming so jaded that I stop caring about something that matters to me so much. I'm trying to make up for all those games I didn't get to see during the NSL years, for all the soccer friends I didn't have in the 1990s and early 2000s, and for the culture I was not as connected to as I wish that I was.

It's also my attempt to not fall into the trap of self-defeating cynicism that my father fell into. My friends and readers will know that I love to complain, that I instinctively first see how things could go wrong instead of how things could get better, and that I am prone to being openly caustic; but I've seen the alternative, and I'd rather be attached to the glorious mess of Australian soccer than be apart from it. In other words, unlike my dad and so many of his generation - and later generations - I'd rather be mumbling to others at a ground that things will never get better, rather than sitting at home mumbling to myself that things will never change.

But we still talked about all the off-field and on-field happenings, and we would still watch most of the major world tournaments at our disposal. I remember him taping Greece's first World Cup game in 1994 against Argentina, and then when I woke up and asked about it, him telling me it was not worth watching because we'd been smashed. I remember sitting in my uncle and aunt's lounge-room in 1997, where in the only time I ever believed he had any clairvoyant ability - because he'd make these kinds of predictions often, whether one way or the other - he picked Iran's coming back from 2-0 down.

We were both stoked when Australia finally qualified for the World Cup, and like everyone else we watched the Socceroos with awe in Germany, and le,ss awe in later World Cups. But the best time was probably the 2014 World Cup, where we stayed up late and woke up early and I watched far more of a World Cup than I ever had before, and my dad became a sort of ancillary character in my sleep-deprived narration of events, waking me up for games, and supplying me with tea and biscuits.

The final confluence of our soccer interests was the most unlikely set of circumstances I can think of. Throughout my extended career as a university student - a botched stint at Melbourne University in 2002 and 2003, and a much more successful stint from 2007-2018 - the things I was studying almost never came up in discussion. When I was writing my doctoral thesis on Australian soccer literature, for the first three or so years of that he must've just assumed that I was doing "something", but who knows what. But one day he asked what it was that I writing on, and after I'd explained it his face lit up and he started talking about his own poetry.

Now I knew that he had once fancied himself a poet, and that he had been published in Neos Kosmos in the early 1990s, writing poetry on a variety of subjects - such as the commercialism of the modern Olympics, and the Macedonia issue - but the key here was that he remembered that he'd written a soccer poem, an ode to Heidelberg United Alexander while they were having a difficult season. Not only that, but it had been published in Neos Kosmos in an abridged form, and a Bergers committee member had seen it and was so moved by it that my dad was offered a double pass to their next home game.

But that wasn't the whole of it - dad had also written a poem on what he saw as the unjust sacking of Jim Pyrgolios as Hellas coach and Pyrgolios' replacement by Frank Arok; as well as a lengthy poem on Altona East PAOK's Hellenic Cup win in 1992, which was printed and placed on the window of the wooden portable which was then PAOK's social club space. The Pyrgolios poem and the PAOK one survived in draft form, but the Bergers one I was never able to trace down a complete version of, except for a couple of stanzas in a draft. Maybe when Neos Kosmos completes its digitisation I can finally find the rest of the poem.

Now to be honest, the quality of dad's poetry was firmly in the category of doggerel; but since one of the points of my research was its focus on what existed in terms of Australian soccer literature, rather than the quality of what existed, I was stoked to learn about his soccer poems, and that some of them had survived. I transcribed the remnant drafts, transliterated them, added them as an appendix in my thesis, and cited the poems as works and my father as a writer in the main body of my thesis. I used my dad and his work specifically as an example of how hard it was to find examples of Australian soccer literature by non-English language writers, but also how important it was when one did find examples of them.

Passing my doctoral thesis was an ordeal - I had wildly disparate examiner's reports - so the day that I got notice that the third examiner had passed me with minor corrections, I was more relieved than elated. But the day I graduated was a joyous moment, because I got to share that with my dad, having written a work which had him in it. Like many of the people who followed soccer in this country, my dad's experiences, memories and thoughts of the game will soon be lost. It's in Australian soccer's DNA that we keep forgetting the past, and keep attempting to re-build Troy on top of the rubble and ashes of the cities which preceded them. And the nature of most theses is that once they are finished, they will soon fade into irrelevance or insignificance - but knowing that I was able to preserve my father's work and part of his life in some format was reward enough for the effort.

As for last week's friendly...
Returning for my first bit of South Melbourne action for the 2020 campaign - or more correctly, preparation for the 2020 campaign - I felt that not much had changed in the months since I last watched a South game. The greeting at the door before I pick up membership pack was the same.  There were the same old faces sitting in the social club, and later watching the game, in this case a friendly against NPL2 side Northcote. Not everyone was there - more will be back this week - but there were no unfamiliar attendees except for the subbuteo faction on the futsal court, and even they've been there before.

If there were changes to be noticed, they were subtle ones. The complimentary scarf is longer than usual. The faces behind the bar are a little different, but they're still pouring spirits somewhere between a shot and a free-pour. The burger is much the same, including the wait time. At one point, social club manager Vic had Clutch(!) on the social club's stereo system. Outside, the sun-and-rain-bleached blue of the athletics track has been touched up to be of a more robust royal blue hue, while the city skyline to the north was clouded in smoke.

But the meaningless of the hit-out, bushfire relief aspect notwithstanding, was much the same. Whether pre-season form is magnificent or disastrous, there is no oracle which can reliably predict what it will mean for the season proper. But I asked those who had been to more pre-season games than I had this year to offer their assessment of what they've seen anyway, even if I knew that the answers would be non-committal. The most optimistic refrain was that it seemed that at least the team no longer hated each other and themselves which, if true, would be a step up from last season and the season before that.

Then again, give it five minutes and anything could happen. It's a very long season and a very large squad, and all the woodfired pizzas in Shepparton might not be able to prevent internal schisms should things go wrong.

On the field, I don't think it was a full-strength line-up for us. Peter Skapetis was out there, and initially at least he ran harder than I'd seen him do at any point for us last year. Chris Irwin played further up the field, as a pure winger, than he usually did during his previous stint with us, where he was much more likely to be used to as a wing-back. Harrison Sawyer is big, runs hard, and has spindly legs that I predict he will repeatedly trip over, Melvin Beckett looked exactly the same as last season, a lot of sizzle and not much steak. Marcus Schroen was not out there, so someone else was taking corners, free kicks, and penalties.

The tempo was high throughout the friendly, but you know what I think about high tempo at this level - that it's the Max Power Paradigm - not the right way or the wrong way, but rather the wrong way just faster. Both sides created a ton of chances in part because of this high tempo, which has freaked out the kinds of people who treat pre-season friendlt games against lower tier opposition in which we don't run them into the ground (with what I assume is nowhere quite near our likely starting eleven) as an ominous portent of doom for the coming season. Of course, had we belted our NPL2 opposition, the calls may have been that it was not a real hit-out against a comparable opponent. I say let's just wait for the Bergers to bury us on Friday night before we get legitimately panicky. 

Aside from what has been happening on the field, it has been as low-key a lead-up to a Victorian top-tier season that I can remember, apart from the bizarre Avondale points deduction which happened very late. There is no buzz. It's not just us, either - pretty much the whole league, and the federation, too, has approached 2020 as if there is nothing to get excited about, nothing to look forward to. Of course it doesn't help matters that most teams in this competition have no fans to get excited about anything, but even those clubs with what might be classed as "actual supporters" have mostly been quiet.

So is this it? Is this the end, the point where everyone finally, genuinely acknowledges the futility of state league football? One can only hope, though we'll have probably have to wait until after the game against the Bergers to be sure.

It's official
I am glad to say that I am once again officially accredited by Football Victoria to provide the public with South Melbourne Hellas nonsense. Also other nonsense, too, I assume, but I'll have to check the accreditation agreement.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Taking a brief hiatus from the blog

Dear South of the Border readers,

Due to my having to take care of some pressing personal business over the next little while, the blog will be going into hiatus for the next few weeks.

I will also be significantly reducing my social media presence during this time.

However, those of you who wish to contact me during this break for whatever reason can still do so through the usual channels, and I will get back to you when I can.

Thanks again for your support over the past 12 years, and I look forward to returning to the blog and to being with you on the terraces sooner rather than later.

Paul


Thursday, 16 January 2020

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood (the ambient noise is Furlong Road)

When it rains, it pours, and haven't we seen that play out this week? Everyone (except me) panicking about a lack of pre-season friendlies, and then: BANG! Two friendlies announced on the same day, and for the same day! Like some ill-prepared undergrad rushing to get their essays in at the last minute, fuelled by the kind of adrenaline created by the terror of imminent failure, the club is going to play two games within hours of each other on Saturday to make up for lost time. The games will see our bloated - and I'm not going to add any mealy mouthed adjectives to sugarcoat that fact - senior roster split into two squads, but don't ask me which one will be the stronger. If this arrangement achieves one thing though, it proves that the club can actually set up a friendly without having to worry about "everyone" having already settled their pre-season schedules. Oh, and the details for those two games? Saturday at noon at Gully against Gully, and later that evening at 5:00 against Magic at Springvale White Eagles. I won't be at either affair, so if someone wants to summarise events after the fact that would be nice, or else I'll be forced to cobble together something from what people say over social media. The next and very obvious step for the club after this is to set up two games at the same time at the same location with two different opponents, but in true hack American sitcom fashion (and that includes you, too, Frasier) having told neither of said opponents of this arrangement, with players and coaches rushing between two adjacent (but also obscured from each other) fields in order to try and pull off the scam, only for the two parties we've been trying to court to become savvy to the shenanigans, and for us to only realise too late who we "really" wanted out of the two, while being left with nothing because of our inherent indecisiveness, and the need for all classic era (read: before the crippling emergence of post-post-post ironic post-comedy) sitcoms to reset before the next week's episode.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Welcome to 2020, belatedly

Hello folks, apologies for the lengthy gap between updates. I'd have written sooner but a) I have been busy with other things, and b) there has been a whole lot of nothing happening in the South front. With regards to the "being busy" factor, I'll say more on that toward the end of this blog post; but as for the whole lot of nothing that has been happening, we might as well begin the year by summing up what has been happening since I last posted.

Squad update
After having being rumoured to have signed with South soon after the end of the 2019 season, goalkeeper Pierce Clark's name was not mentioned except for laypeople asking variations of "didn't we sign/aren't we going to announce the signing of Pierce Clark?".

There was that much radio silence from official and unofficial sources that the people still paying attention to South in the quiet months had given up on getting Clark, and had instead moved on to figuring out which of Scylla and Charybdis would win the starting keeper's role.

And then on Christmas Day(!) the club announced that Pierce Clark had indeed signed for us, and now the speculation is not about who will be number one, but which of Nikola Roganovic and Josh Dorron will be number two.

Irish defender Stephen Folan has arrived after getting married, so I guess pretty much everyone who's relevant is now involved with the beginning of pre-season proper, which saw the squad trot off to Shepparton for the week.

Of course I'm interested in the procedures for dealing with the smoke haze during pre-season, and what effects that will have on the squad and its preparation for season 2020 - something that all clubs will have to deal with.

But of course we're also waiting for friendlies to start so we can hang out hats on completely meaningless observations of pretend actual play in the event that our pre-season form doesn't correlate with whatever happens during the season, while getting our "I-Told-You-So" voices ready for those moments when one of our scattershot January opinions turns out to be true.

2020 SMFC senior squad roster as of 07/01/2020
There just might be too many categories listed below.

Signed
  • Daniel Clark
  • Lirim Elmazi
  • Stephen Folan
  • Chris Irwin
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Perry Lambropoulos
  • Matthew Loutrakis
  • Jake Marshall
  • Josh Meaker
  • Brad Norton
  • Luke Pavlou
  • Harrison Sawyer
  • Marcus Schroen
  • Gerrie Sylaidos
  • Giorgi Zarbos
Played for us in 2019, but now on the payroll in another guise
  • Luke Adams
I'm not any good at putting names to faces, but I've seen them in photos, so I assume they're hanging around 
  • Melvin Becket
  • Nick Krousoratis
Battle to the death to decide who gets to be Pierce Clark's number two
  • Josh Dorron
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Peter Skapetis
Played with us in 2019 and people are assuming they'll be back for 2020
  • Ben Djiba
  • Zac Bates
Played with us at the end of 2019 but who knows about 2020, though I'm assuming they're gone
  • Keenan Gibson
  • Amir Jashari
'They' say that he's not coming back for whatever reason
  • Kostas Stratomitros
Apparently at Kingston
  • Manny Aguek
Spotted at a training session at Jack Edwards last month
  • Pep Marafioti
Has he even been in Australia since early in the 2019 season?
  • Andrew Mesourouni
Last time anything was heard from him, he was "exploring options in India"
  • Billy Konstantinidis
Out
  • Tom Aulton (Brisbane Olympic)
  • George Gerondaras (Kingston)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (Northcote)
  • Leigh Minopoulos (Essendon Royals)
  • Will Orford (Western Pride)
Where are the friendlies?
Apparently there's some sort of friendly session with Moreland City tomorrow evening at Darebin - mostly featuring our kids - but I haven't seen anything on the club's Facebook or Twitter, and I don't use Instagram, so I'm going to pretend that nothing formal has been arranged yet.

The lack of friendlies and the super low-key pre-season business from our end has begun causing some angst among our supporters, some of it probably genuine concern and some of it fueled by less noble motivations.

But let's look at it in some context. By this time last season we'd had three December scratch matches, and one in January. By the time we reached the beginning of the season, we'd played another eight friendlies, had no striker, and rocked up to games where we'd be gassed by the 75th minute.

So while I'm no coach and no conditioning expert, and certainly no athlete with any sort of knowledge of what constitutes "match fitness", I'm willing to let it go for the time being. What's the worst that could happen?

Public transport guide updated
I've updated and streamlined my public transport guide. I've gotten rid of the map screen-caps, dispensed with most superfluous routes, and tailored details specifically to myself and any other South fans who may end up taking public transport. If supporters of other clubs find the guide useful, good luck to them.

I've also been brutal in my estimation of some of the grounds and their respective match days, basically telling anyone who'll listen to not bother. Thanks also to the anonymous comment leaver for adding a couple of suggestions.

Match programs and memorabilia
A reminder that South of the Border is still looking for South Melbourne match programs. We're also looking for old footage and audio recordings to upload to YouTube, as well as photos of old memorabilia that we can add to our 'artefact' segment. I know that you people have this stuff.

Contribute to South of the Border
As usual, South of the Border is always on the lookout for new and old contributors, on both an ongoing and a one-off basis. So, you know, if you want to write something for us, send us a message and I'll see what I can do to make your dreams of writing for this prestigious publication come true.

More seriously, without wanting to second guess what's going to happen in the future, circumstances are such that I could be absent from a lot more South games than I usually would - and my usual seasonal absentee record stands at about either zero or one game per season.

That being the case, I'm letting my readership know to get their typing fingers ready just in case - in the past I've had people pitch in and do a splendid job with fill-in match reports. I am certainly already looking for people to write up summaries of whatever South Melbourne pre-season matches they end up going to, because I can't see myself making too many of those.