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.


  1. Jeez, I was tidying up some of the blog's match history page, and I didn't realise that this season started the same way that last season ended.

  2. My friends last 3 matches have delivered a 1-11 outcome. Has it ever been this bad?

    I think Hellas will have to go into my Facebook Rezili file. Quite apt seeing I have had it for 10 years this year.

  3. Looking at the photo out of context, our Melb Sports Trust friends are on hill ripping flares. Outrageous!!

    1. So that's where Enosi ended up, working for the man in management!

  4. 'Alphabetical priority'?!!!

    Here's a chance for South Melbourne to change their name!

    Guess which is the most common first letter used in the Finance industry.

    So, lets go for an English word that is derived directly from the Greek. And no diversion via the Turkish language, nor derived originally from Phoenician or whatever vile filthy foreign language Greek has borrowed from!

  5. By the looks of Calombaris in the photo I posted here https://twitter.com/Savvastzionis/status/1229543834066898944 George has probably been eating too many souvlakis lately

  6. As for the payments, I do recall someone (in a high position within the game) telling me once, about 4 years ago, that Souths accounting systems leave a lot to be desired.


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