Friday, 29 November 2019

Moments of the Decade - Zero To Hero

As the 2010s come to a close, and as Sydney FC celebrate their 15th A-League season I thought it'd be a cracking time to look back on the last 10 years and pick some of the moments of the decade.

Everything that happened from January 1st 2010 until December 31st 2019. During that period of 3651 days we've seen 5 managers, 4 captains, 3 chief executive officers, 2 Slovakian cult heroes, and 1 unforgettable night in Perth. Here's just one the great tales from the decade...

2010

February: Zero To Hero

In late January 2010, it looked for all the world like Sydney wouldn't be able to get their hands on the Premier's Plate - several points behind Gold Coast United (R.I.P.) in 2nd and eternal rivals Melbourne Victory in 1st. For Sydney to have any chance at winning the plate, they'd need miracles both in their two remaining regular season games (both must win), and in both Queensland and Victoria. 

Kristian Rees, John Aloisi, and Michael Thwaite. I miss 2009/10.


February 7th was the first step for Vitezslav Lavicka's Sydney. At "home" to Perth Glory at Parramatta Stadium in the city's west. Sydney went ahead on 24 minutes after Shannon Cole was tripped in the box, and captain Steve Corica buried his penalty past a then rookie Tando Velaphi. The lead didn't make it to half-time, with Wayne Srhoj scoring 2 minutes into first half stoppage time to level it up. 

Sydney needed their big men - particularly marquee striker John Aloisi - to step up. Aloisi had underperformed for the majority of his time in Sydney and just could not find consistency. 3 minutes after the break, he had one of the great near phantom goals - his shot clearly went in, crossed the line and all, but was cleared through the side-netting by a Glory defender. A clear goal given (and without usage of video assistant referee). 

Yet again, Glory hit back through a young Daniel McBreen in the 80th minute. Sydney looked doomed to draw the match and hand the title to Melbourne Victory. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Centreback Stephan Keller's inch-perfect cross met John Aloisi's head, and it flew into the net in the 87th minute. 3 points in the bag. Elsewhere, Gold Coast United (who were then equal on points with 1st place Victory) lost 1-0 at home to Wellington Phoenix. With Victory winning their game that round as well, it all went down to the final day of the 2009/10 - a Round 27 Big Blue.

Whoever the A-League scriptwriter was who set up a Big Blue in Round 27 must have been pretty bloody pleased with themselves when it ended up being the premiership decider. Victory needed just a draw to win a back-to-back premiership. Whilst they were without their captain Kevin Muscat who was rested and struggled without a consistent striker, they still had a star-studded squad with Adrian Leijer, a young Robbie Kruse, Carlos Hernandez, and a very dependable Grant Brebner. 

It was a cagey affair to start off with, and claimed Steve Corica as a victim just 20 minutes in. The Sydney captain suffered a hamstring strain and couldn't play on. Brendan Gan subbed on in his place, and John Aloisi handed the armband whilst Slovakian international Karol Kisel moved more into a #10 role. 

A throw-in for Victory deep in their defensive half found the head of McFlynn, whose header met Brosque's, who squared it for Karol Kisel who took on the volley and looped it over a young Mitch Langerak to "draw first blood", as commentator Simon Hill emphatically called. Just Kisel's second goal for the club and what a goal it was. 



Sydney under Lavicka were a well-oiled machine and workmanlike. A very defence-minded manager, Lavicka boasted one of the best back-fours in the country with Simon Colosimo, Stephan Keller, Shannon Cole, and Sung-Hwan Byun. Sydney conceded just 23 goals that season, and kept 11 clean sheets with the ever reliable Clint Bolton between the sticks. 

The Sky Blues stayed firmly in the driver's seat after Kisel's opener, heading into half-time 1-0 up.

3 minutes after the break, a weak cross-field Carlos Hernandez pass played across the paddock failed to meet its desired target, and was intercepted by Terry McFlynn who knocked it forward towards halfway. Picked up by John Aloisi who took a quick touch, turned past Leigh Broxham and bolted forward. His quick pair of heels powered on, and as he closed down on goal he looked up, and let rip with his trusty left peg with his shot firing into the top corner. Cue Bay 23 delirium. A strike of the highest quality from the marquee, who once again answered the call when needed the most. 



A 2-0 win over our bitter, bitter rivals - pipping at the post them to the premiership at the very death. Not only cementing the Big Blue's importance to the A-League - but slowly but surely increasing the importance of the Premier's Plate in Australian football.

Never before, and never again, in Sydney's history has the biblical phrase "cometh the hour, cometh the man" felt more fitting than with John Aloisi. A man who lived for the big occasion and finally delivered in Australia at club level when needed the most. 

The annals of Sky Blue history will remember February 2010 almost as its own chapter - it was one hell of a ride as a supporter. Football at its best is moments and situations like in the 2009/10 A-League season. A close title race also brought Sydney a stand-out regular season crowd too, with over 25,000 at Moore Park Road on a wet, windy, and iconic February afternoon in the harbour city.

- - - - 

Thank you for reading the first of the "Moments of the Decade" series. I'm planning on publishing one every 2-3 weeks or quicker if possible. I really enjoy the nostalgia factor and I hope you do too. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me via reading, sharing an article, or donating to ASOTH. It's all greatly appreciated. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin or ASOTH at @asothdotcom. I'm currently on the lookout for someone to administrate the instagram page for ASOTH. If you're interested, send me a message. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Australian Football and Homophobia

I recently came back from a lovely weekend in Perth to see friends and follow Sydney FC, watching them in a fairly enjoyable 3-1 win. Unfortunately for most fans, it was marred by the usage of video assistant referee which took up a majority of the conversation post game.

For me, however, what stuck in my head was a poor experience on my way out of the ground which unfortunately something I've grown fairly used to whilst following Sydney FC, and just being a football supporter, and who I am - homophobic slurs and abuse.




We left HBF Park after doing the celebrations with the players, and made our way around to get to the Brisbane Hotel for post-game drinks. We walked past a group of young men, probably in their mid 20s, who decided to yell "faggot", "poof", and a few other slurs at us. I was sort of unfortunately numb to it as it happened. This has happened far more than is acceptable at football. If it weren't for being in a group, I genuinely feared briefly for my safety. A bunch of both pissed off and pissed up young men targeting you is not an ideal situation and took the glow away from what was a big win for us travelling Sydney supporters.

Homophobic abuse has been too commonly experienced for me as a football fan. I'd previously experienced in the Sydney Derby, away in Adelaide and in Brisbane. I'm averaging 3-4 incidents of abuse a season. This is just not acceptable and goes against what the strength of the A-League and football is - our sense of community, multiculturalism, and acceptance. Johnny Warren famously titled his book "Sheilas, Wogs, and Poofters" which detailed how mainstream Australia viewed and looked down upon football. Football was deemed not a manly game, and for migrants and not "Australian" by Australian culture. The fact some people within our game use such terms is highly depressing.

For football supporters in Australia, Johnny Warren's book resonated deeply. Generally football supporters in this country are demonised by mainstream media and we need to stick together and protect each other. Every time I've had one of these incidents I feel like the game has betrayed itself and that we don't really want football to succeed. In the 2010s homophobia, racism, and sexism has become more and more frowned upon and people more likely to be pulled up for being a dick. But seemingly not in football. We don't focus enough in particular on shutting out the homophobic abuse.

I'm sick of the abuse and I'm sick of how often this has become a normal experience. I strongly believe football clubs need to take a stronger step to stop homophobic abuse and make football clubs and football communities safe places where abuse isn't tolerated. I'd love to see the A-League, W-League and FFA step up its commitment to Pride in Sport and actively have a round dedicated to standing up against homophobia - similar to how the English Premier League, English Football League, and FA have partnered with Stonewall. Rainbow captains armbands, charity collections for LGBT foundations, and rainbow laces - for just one week at least. Make marginalised people feel welcome and help stop the abuse. Awareness is a powerful tool to stop homophobia and racism, let's utilise it.

I remember being incredibly proud of my club, Sydney FC in 2017 when they had members from Flying Bats and Sydney Rangers come onto the pitch pre-game with rainbow flags to celebrate Mardi Gras and show support for the LGBT community. I feel at home when I see a rainbow flag at Sydney and makes me know where I am is an accepting space and that abuse won't be tolerated. I want this to become the case wherever I go for Sydney games.

I know I'm not alone in my experiences dealing with homophobic abuse while supporting Sydney FC or just football. It's time we actively challenged the abuse and tried harder, stepped up, and made it clear as a community we won't accept it. At the moment, I see the community as neutral bystanders.

- - - -

Perth has typically always been a terrific away day to do, as the 99% of locals are incredibly welcoming (hell, they invite you to their pub!) and one of my best away experiences was in Perth back in 2016. Whilst I'm very disappointed with what happened on Saturday night, it doesn't detract from my overall view of Perth Glory or the city of Perth or the people.

For this weekend I'm in Geelong for the Western United away game and really keen to check out Kardinia Park and what Western United is like as an awayday. Hopefully I'll see some of you there.

This has been a far more personal post than usual, but it'd been stuck in my head since it happened. Thank you for reading it.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Double Big Blue Review

On an overcast day in Sydney, it still shone Sky Blue as both the W-League and A-League sides triumphed over Melbourne Victory in two tough Big Blues.

W-LEAGUE



Sydney opened their season with a fairly comprehensive 3-0 win over last year's premiers Melbourne Victory. Remy Siemsen scored the opener in the fourth minute, after Caitlin Foord found space and danced into the box, before laying it off for Siemsen who slotted it calmly past Dumont. 

The Sky Blues weren't on top of the game, but were defensively solid and didn't allow Victory much room for anything. Victory were lacking a playmaker and just could not get meaningful chances. Bledsoe didn't have much to do ultimately. 

Sydney doubled their lead in the 22nd minute, with Caitlin Foord teeing up Remy Siemsen yet again - this time with a great diagonal cross into the box which Siemsen headed home. Foord was consistently dangerous, constantly running at defenders and finding space, and getting the ball into dangerous areas. 

Late in the second half, young Shay Evans was subbed on for Remy Siemsen. She made a great impact on the match, and scored her first goal in the W-League in the 92nd minute. A pinpoint cross found her, and she nodded it home. Cue ballistic celebrations. One of the most special moments I've seen. Seeing a young Aboriginal footballer play and score in the national competition is really something. Historic moment for Shay Evans, indigenous football, and Australian sport. The start of a wonderful career. Glad I was there for it. 

An ultimately comfortable win for Sydney, and with so many players still to come back it is very pleasing to pick up 3 points against a full strength Victory side. Next up is a trip away to Adelaide on Friday night. Adelaide were unlucky not to come away with a point in their opener against Wanderers and I expect them (as usual) to be fairly tight. They gained Mary Fowler up front who already looks to be an astute acquisition. 

Final score: Sydney FC (3) def. Melbourne Victory (0)
MOTM: Remy Siemsen

A-LEAGUE


Despite an incredibly poor first half, Sydney came out the other end to claim a priceless 2-1 win over bitter rivals Melbourne Victory. Victory were ravaged with injuries and international call-ups and Marco Kurz set up a highly defensive side.

Ola Toivonen scored for Victory against the run of play just before half-time, and with how dour the match was it was hard to see Sydney getting into it. They just didn't play their style effectively.

Paulo Retre found mixed fortunes playing at left-back again, with his ability to win the ball still there, and he is still good at getting forward and getting back - he just isn't a left back. Having to turn to your favoured foot every cross is not ideal. Zullo coming on to replace him in the 70th minute was cause for joy, as the leftback returns from a quad injury. 

Sydney found the equaliser through Adam le Fondre, with a Brandon O'Neill corner meeting the head of Alex Wilkinson which squared it for le Fondre to head home. A well worked goal, and yet another one from a set piece. From there Sydney seemed to click a bit.

The eventual winner came about after Sydney really stuck to their playing philosophy. Neat passing in the final third, dynamic full-backs and a good killer ball. O'Neill involved again as his diagonal ball into the box found the run of Rhyan Grant at the far post who unselfishly squared it for Kosta Barbarouses - whose initial effort hit the bar but was then tapped home. Who else could it be? 

Barbarouses was immense in the second half, winning a lot of 50/50s and driving forward alongside his strike partner le Fondre. The two of them are showing some great signs and when they went forward Victory didn't have much they could do to stop them. 

I'm still a bit concerned over the performances of Baumjohann at right midfield. I don't think he's made for the position - at least not when playing very defensive teams. Anthony Caceres did well when he replaced him, and I'd like to see him start next week in place of Baumjohann. 

A very very important 3 points in the long run. Not playing your best and still getting the win is a sign of a champion team - last year we never truly showed up except for the Semi Final and still won the toilet seat. Credit to Corica for an effective team talk at half-time, with le Fondre being involved much more from the outset of the second half.

Luke Brattan I thought put in a terrific shift. Constantly getting involved, played the ball well, and was the only player to perform in both halves. Been very good for us since he signed. 

Next up is Perth Glory away. A rematch of the uneventful 2019 Grand Final. Perth haven't found much rhythm but always have it in them. Looking forward to it.

Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Melbourne Victory (1)
MOTM: Luke Brattan


- - - - 


A successful weekend in Sky Blue, with our W-League side top of the table, and the A-League side just a point behind Melbourne City at the top. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin or ASOTH at @asothdotcom. 

Keep an eye out for more content on both here and the twitter account. Got some exciting things I'm working on, and really appreciate everyone who chucks a follow, like, read, or retweet to ASOTH. 


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Match Review: Sydney FC 2-1 Wellington Phoenix (A-League)

Sydney escaped with all three points against a resolute and spirited Wellington Phoenix side.


The Sky Blues started the match very strongly, with the majority of possession in the final third, passing the ball around with ease. Some really nice football to watch there for 15 minutes. Brandon O'Neill got Sydney an opening goal after a Baumjohann corner got stuck in a bit of pinball. Whilst the final touch seems to have come off Barbarouses, it didn't stop O'Neill from claiming it.

After that, Sydney were all over the shop. Not able to clear their lines, passing slowed down, players couldn't string many passes together... was very unbecoming of such a talented side. Lucky to still be a goal up at half time, thanks to some heroics from Australian international Andrew Redmayne.

Nix were always going to score, and worked hard for their equalising goal. Inability to clear their lines caused Sydney to concede. A deflected shot finding its way in, 1-1.

It took barely anytime for the tempo to change after that. Minutes after the equaliser, a Brandon O'Neill free-kick met the foot of Rhyan Grant who managed to loop his effort over the keeper, and into the net. A jammy, but nonetheless fantastic goal from the Mullet Man.

Anthony Caceres copped a potential leg-breaker after a poor challenge from Liberato Cacace which saw the Nix man sent off. Sydney closed out the final 10 minutes fairly well, and hung on for an important 3 points.

But what did we learn?

1) Gonna take some time

A bit like last week, Sydney looked great in parts when attacking. Some real fluidity and genuinely pleasing football. Baumjohann was positive when on the ball, but still needs to gel a bit with the other players. The first half was entirely down his right flank, and he worked relatively well with Rhyan Grant. He went AWOL in the second half (much like the rest of the team) and was subsequently subbed off for Caceres. 

Barbarouses and Alfie still need some more time together, but they again showed some lightning pace on the break and I'm very excited to see more of them together. 

2) How good is Redders?

Back from international duty and back to his commanding self in the box. Some great saves throughout and all I could think of was the immortal words of Jacob Tratt: Thank f*ck for Redders. The save just before half-time, a dive to his left to stop a Jaush Sotirio header was top drawer. I think we've taken for granted just how big he is in this team. 

3) Utility man

Paulo Retre is a perfect A-League utility player. Can play pretty much anywhere on the pitch and always does a decent job - stepped in at leftback tonight and did a solid job. Unfortunately, he just isn't left-footed and that is an issue. Joel King performed very well last week when filling in for Zullo and I feel he was hard done by to not get a start here. For the derby next week it'd be a tough ask for King, but I think I'd prefer a proper specialist in the specialist position - with all due respect to Retre. 

4) Derby headaches 

The first derby at the new Parramatta Stadium is next week. A resurgent Wanderers side hosting a fairly solid and star-studded Sydney. I feel Corica has two very big decisions to make - who starts at left-back, and who starts at right-midfield. Caceres is a very good passer of the ball and has a lot of pace in him, and always does a good job when called upon. Baumjohann look fine thus far but I think he may be better as an impact sub. He's got immense talent but I felt he faded out too much tonight. 

5) Leichhardt is stunning

A truly amazing day out by the bay. A packed house, some beautiful weather, all in a great boutique stadium. I'm very glad we've chosen to use Leichhardt and Kogarah as our home venues - they are just stunning and the Cove with the club, have done a fantastic job of making them feel like home.


Full player ratings

Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Wellington Phoenix (1)
MOTM: Andrew Redmayne


Not a great performance but a vital 3 points, keeping us top of the table heading into Round 3 - just ahead of Western Sydney. I'm gutted I'll be missing next week - first derby I've missed in the A-League. I'll be in Japan for the Rugby World Cup, likely having double brown trousers watching both a semi-final and keeping updated on the derby. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, and to those who have donated to me. It all goes a long way, and I'm planning big stuff for this year. Very happy to say I've recently collaborated on a piece for a mate on another website. Should be out this week. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin and ASOTH at @asothdotcom.


Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Redders Dead Redemption

Andrew Redmayne for a long time in his A-League career was deemed not good enough by large sections of Australian football. A second fiddle for the absolutely majority of his career - often to some of the best keepers the league has seen.

Photo from @jamcas50


He struggled for game time at his hometown club Central Coast Mariners as a youngster, and moved to Brisbane Roar for 2 seasons - being the back-up to Michael Theo as Ange Postecoglu's Roar went back-to-back toilet seats. He made just 5 appearances in the first 4 years of his A-League career.

That's enough to stop a majority of goalkeeping careers. A new opportunity came for Redmayne at Melbourne Heart, yet again as a #2. His debut for Heart came in a January win over Newcastle Jets in 2013, and from there on out was first choice keeper. Playing time would soon become limited however, with the rebranding of Melbourne Heart into Melbourne City coinciding with him being being dropped for Tando Velaphi.

His next move was in 2015, joining Western Sydney Wanderers to replace Ante Covic who had just retired, after an inspired few years with the Wanderers. Big shoes to fill. He played 23 matches for the Wanderers in the 2015/16 season, as the Red and Black were runners up in both the premiership and championship. His form was good enough to justify being the #1, benching veteran keeper Liam Reddy in the process.

Redmayne was the #1 for the first 11 matches of the 2016/17 season for the Wanderers, but suffered incredibly poor form, in part due to being in a fairly poor team - and clearly very low confidence. He was a goalkeeper crying out for a change, and luckily - things lined up.



At Sydney FC, previous starting goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic had found himself frustrated on the bench following the brilliant start to the season by new signing Danny Vukovic. Janjetovic desired a move out west to reunite with previous goalkeeping coach Zelkjo Kalac, and Redmayne had the chance to reunite with with two influential coaches from his past - Graham Arnold, and importantly - John Crawley. So, the swap was done. Janjetovic joined the Wanderers, Redmayne joined Sydney - yet again a second fiddle - or so it seemed at the time.

The swap move was a controversial one at the time, with fan backlash around the move instantly. Whilst most of this was toward Vedran Janjetovic (a former fan favourite) - Redmayne copped a lot on social media as well. Hell, I was guilty of it. I wasn't enthused with the signing at the time, but I think a lot of the bad reaction was more because of the way Vedran left. Had Redders signed from us off Wanderers in the off-season, I reckon there'd have been much less of a fuss.

Goalkeeper form fluctuates a lot, as the then #1 of Sydney - Danny Vukovic - was discovering. After a fairly forgettable spell at Victory, "Vuka" joined Sydney with a chance to reinvent himself (sound familiar?). As we all know now, Danny Vukovic's sole season at Sydney was truly superb - a record amount of clean sheets, a Socceroos call-up for the first time in 7 years, and trophies.

That Roos call-up gave Andrew Redmayne his debut chance, as Sydney travelled across the Nullarbor to play Perth Glory. Sydney had mathematically won the Premier's Plate the night before their game against Glory, so it took the pressure off the Sky Blues as a whole.

It was a routine 3-0 win in Perth, with Redmayne only needing to make two saves. For a while there, it looked like that could be the only time we'd ever see him start. That was until Danny Vukovic sealed a dream move overseas to Genk in Belgium after winning the 2016/17 double. Thus left a void between the sticks for Sydney.

Once again, fans weren't sure what to make of Redmayne as a #1 for the upcoming season. Replacing a goalkeeper in a winning team is hard enough, but especially hard when that goalkeeper had the greatest season a keeper's ever had in the A-League. When it came to the first pre-season games of 2017/18, Redmayne was given the nod. After an injury ruled out new signing Alex Cisak for a lot of pre-season, it was clear it was Redmayne's spot.

Changing goalkeepers is hard, and getting a player's confidence back is even harder. Redmayne's attitude towards the situation was commendable - a self proclaimed "head down, bum up kinda guy". Work hard on what you need to improve on, contribute to the team, stay humble. If there's ever a player to personify "never give up" it is undoubtedly Andrew Redmayne.

After a season at Sydney, it had become fairly clear there had been a considerable improvement in his game. The nervy moments became fewer, he hit some form consistency for the first time in years and was clearly much happier on and off the pitch. 17/18 was a settling period, and 2018/19 was the new dawn.

2018/19 was a truly turbulent season for the big man in goal. Good pre-season form, including a Man of the Match performance against ex-club and rivals Western Sydney in the FFA Cup, as well as a penalty save in a Round of 16 match had him in good footing ahead of the upcoming season.

From December until May, Redmayne was a machine. Long gone was the tenuous punches of crosses into the box, and more heroic claims of the ball and a clear aura of confidence about him. Comfortable and commanding in his box, he's worked hard over the last 2 seasons to make the #1 spot his own.


Heroes are made in big moments, and in Australia, it doesn't come bigger than a do-or-die Grand Final. Fittingly, the same club and city for which he made his Sydney FC debut for back in 2017 would now become the home for his most iconic career moment so far.

Redmayne pulled off two massive saves in normal time, in an otherwise tense and gritty match between Perth and Sydney. When it came to penalties, it was time for "Redders" to shine.

The night prior, Sydney FC hosted a meet-and-greet with travelling supporters at their team hotel. A great function in which we had pretty much free access to players. I asked him about how he felt about penalties, and he had a confident look on his face as he replied.

And that confidence carried over the shoot-out. His now notorious "Wiggles" routine on the goal-line to put off the taker was inspired and showed a lot of self-belief to continue doing. He went the wrong way for Glory's first penalty, but then saved Irishman Andy Keogh's penalty down low to his right.

Destinies and narratives combined however, with Brendan Santalab - a player hated by Sydney supporters for his abuse of Ali Abbas years back - up to take a do-or-die penalty. A proper villain to Sydney supporters over the years. If he scored, Glory still had a chance of getting even in the shoot-out.

Redmayne's goalkeeping coach John Crawley famously noted for Redmayne before penalties "Santalab: Dink, middle". The glovesman took the advice and stood his ground on the line - catching with ease Santalab's failed panenka penalty. A villain vanquished by the underdog hero on his redemption arc. Full circle from his debut for Sydney just 24 months prior in the same city.


This of course set up Reza Ghoochannejhad to win the shoot-out, and the A-League championship, for Sydney FC. As Reza himself said in a post-match interview: "Redders man... f*cking unbelievable!" I think that sums not only his performances this season - but the story of the man himself. A once completely rejected goalkeeper now the star of a championship winning team, comfortable, happy, and now a hero for the ages for Sky Blues supporters. No matter what else happens, his redemption story will remain in the annals of Sydney history.

Off the pitch, Redmayne has been a class act. Embracing the challenge back in 2017 and endearing himself to supporters and being incredibly charitable with his time. He's given away jerseys to supporters, and spent considerable amounts of time after matches taking selfies, signatures, and chatting. That's what I love seeing from players.



19/20 looks to be another big season for Redders. Called up to the Socceroos squad again after making his debut in June, alongside fellow Sky Blue Rhyan Grant, and going into the A-League season as arguably the best keeper in the competition. I'm keen to see where his story leads next, the redemption arc is just one chapter in a now bright looking career.


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Thank you for reading this article, it means a lot to me. I've been slowly working on this since the Grand Final in May. More content to come throughout the 2019/20 season and beyond from me on here.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me via donations on my ko-fi page. Every donation is appreciated and I hope you enjoy the content from me.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, or ASOTH at @asothdotcom.


Saturday, 3 August 2019

Match Preview: Sydney FC vs Brisbane (FFA Cup)

Heading into Sydney's first competitive hit-out of the 2019/20 season, let's take a look into this Sydney side, their preseason so far and how it carries into Wednesday's clash.


Sydney have had a busy off-season, with a multitude of announcements in regards to the playing squad and coaching staff. Departures of Joshua Brillante, Aaron Calver, Siem de Jong and retiring captain Alex Brosque the most notable. How did Corica respond? With acquisitions of Luke Brattan, Ryan McGowan, Alex Baumjohann, and Kosta Barbarouses.

Corica's coaching staff took some hits as well, as  assistant coach Ufuk Talay departed for the Phoenix job, and  goalkeeping coach John Crawley joined the Australia set-up. Paul Reid and Matt Nash their respective replacements. Club legend and in many heads most important man - Terry McFynn, also left the club this offseason to become Perth's W-League manager. The loss of "Tmac" cannot be overstated. He has been such a huge part of the club, with 15 years of service. I wish him all the very best in Perth.

Opponents Brisbane Roar have been in an absolute rebuild this off-season. First time manager Robbie Fowler has more or less ditched the previous squad and built up a team of journeymen for 2019/20. Additions of note have been Aiden O'Neill, Roy O'Donovan, and Brad Inman. O'Donovan is a curious player - on his day he is unstoppable and one of the finest in the league - however often he can just end up being a frustrated dickhead known for violent outbursts and incredibly dangerous play.

The foreign contingent of Fowler's Roar side aren't exactly household names - with them all having played in either League 1 or League 2 to varying levels of success. If there's one thing you should be able to expect from players from the English lower pyramid is that they'll have fitness. Playing 2-3 times a week back in England will mean they have a natural advantage in fitness.

The quality of players is yet to be truly seen, but it's an interesting trend having so many British and Irish players coming to the A-League in the wake of Adam le Fondre.

- - - -


Having recently played in ridiculously warm weather against French giants Paris Saint-Germain a week ago, I think the Sydney lads will be keen for some nice friendly midweek Leichhardt winter weather. 

The recent visit to China took five players out ill, with captain Alex Wilkinson, Patrick Flottmann, Brandon O'Neill, Michael Zullo, and Thomas Heward-Belle all on the sidelines watching on for the PSG friendly. By now they should all be fit and firing to play, and I don't see Corica surprising us much with his starting XI for Wednesday. 

Bench: Heward-Belle, Retre, Caceres, Ivanovic


I'm very keen to see how Brattan partners O'Neill in the midfield. O'Neill from pre-season matches I've seen thus far has had a lot more driving forward and a bit more of a playmaker role than he often was last year. Brattan will be one of several players in line to make their debuts on Wednesday, alongside Kosta Barbarouses, Ryan McGowan, and Alex Baumjohann. 

Barbarouses and le Fondre looks like a strong partnership thus far, with a good 45 minutes together against St. George and then some very good football against PSG last week. In particular I am looking forward to seeing Baumjohann on his debut. His performances in the friendlies have been very strong, he looks to be a great signing. His vision, passing, and general ability on the ball is just brilliant.

Ryan McGowan is probably the least flashy of the debutants but an important one nonetheless. Generally any player that has partnered Wilkinson in the heart of defence has done well - Matt Jurman, Jordy Buijs, Aaron Calver, Ben Warland, Jacob Tratt... and now hopefully McGowan as well. A player like McGowan who has spent his career entirely overseas up until this point is a very good get, and long-term will surely be partnering Warland. 



Wilkinson's appointment as captaincy should not come as a shock to anyone. I'm confident he'll continue right where Brosque left off, and has plenty of experience captaining teams in the past. O'Neill and Ninkovic have seemingly been made the vice-captains, both of whom are good choices. Should O'Neill stay at Sydney, I'd say he's dead cert for captain when Wilkinson retires. 

- - - - 

How will Wednesday's game play out, though? Will Sydney win? I'd say we're favourites as the home team, but Roar's side will have a massive point to prove with several players hoping to cement a spot in Fowler's side. 

Corica has a clear starting XI in mind for this season, and this will be (unless a sudden injury) the first chance he has to play it out. Baumjohann will be pivotal to this match for Sydney I feel, as he could be the X Factor we need for this year. Very happy to have football back, and hopeful we'll see a good crowd at Leichhardt which seems a pretty perfect venue choice for an FFA Cup match.

I'll be writing a match review after the game, and that will be found on here as well.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, and ASOTH at @asothdotcom. 




Monday, 8 July 2019

Sydney Winter Round-Up

Sydney FC have been quite active over the last month or so, with several key player announcements - both in and out. Let's take a closer look at this, and some of the other goings-on at the club.




INS:

  • Kosta Barbarouses (3-year deal) 
  • Alexander Baumjohann (2-year deal)
  • Ryan McGowan (2-year deal)
  • Anthony Caceres (2-year deal)

1) The losses

OUTS: 

  • Cameron Devlin (Wellington Phoenix)
  • Jacob Tratt (Perth Glory)
  • Josh Brillante (Melbourne City) 
  • Aaron Calver (Western United)
  • Alex Cisak (free agent)
  • Mitch Austin (free agent)
  • Danny De Silva (end of loan)
  • Reza Ghoochannejhad (end of loan)
  • Siem de Jong (end of loan)
  • Alex Brosque (retirement)
  • Jop van der Linden (retirement)
The recent confirmations that Tratt and Devlin would not be staying at the club were very disappointing after how well they performed last year. Devlin in particular looked like a great prospect for the future. I wish Devlin well at the Nix, and hope we see him return some time soon.

Josh Brillante is an interesting one - I wrote a whole piece a few months back about Joshy when he was rumoured to be off to South Korea. What I said then ultimately still feels true. We have more than adequate replacements already at the club, and his form had dropped a lot in 2018/19. It was definitely time for both parties to move on. His choice of cashing in at Melbourne City is a completely respectable choice for his future, but it's a step backwards career-wise. 

I can't see him making it back to his levels from 2016/17 again, but on his day he is a top A-League midfielder. Best of luck to him. 

As for the previously confirmed departures from the end of May, there wasn't too many shocks. Perhaps the biggest being Jop van der Linden completely retiring from football aged 28 due to injury. He never got into form at Sydney and clearly wasn't fit for a long stretch of the season, but it's pretty gutting to think he's had to stop playing this soon. 

Alex Cisak will remain a mystery man forever to us Sydney faithful. Did he ever truly exist? Was he a figment of our collective imagination? Was there ever truly a back-up goalkeeper for Redmayne? Was that actually him for those 8 minutes against Rockdale City? We may never know. 


2) Recruitment

INS:

  • Kosta Barbarouses (3-year deal) 
  • Alexander Baumjohann (2-year deal)
  • Ryan McGowan (2-year deal)
  • Anthony Caceres (2-year deal)
Sydney have been fairly busy in recruitment thus far. As of time of writing, there are 4 confirmed signings for 2019/20. 

Kosta Barbarouses was the first new signing, revealed back in June, switching from rivals Melbourne Victory. Barbarouses is a proven goalscorer in the A-League, and managed 15 goals for a side that arguably struggled to truly hit their heights. Whilst not a direct Brosque replacement, he is certainly a bit like a younger Brosque. Pacy, good finisher, and wily. 



Last week saw ex-Wanderer Alex Baumjohann join. The attacking midfielder was intermittently impressive for them but was a bright light in a fairly crap team. He impressed with his passing of the ball and clearly has a bit of flair, but I'm not sure he has the defensive side nailed down. So much of the success at Sydney is based off every player doing their defensive duties. I hope in a better team he'll be more motivated and be able to truly show how impressive he is. 

Next up was the signing of 20-time capped centre-half Ryan McGowan, joining after a career spent entirely overseas - including spells in the Scottish Premier League, English Championship, and League One. A strong signing and definitely a good long-term choice to replace 35 year-old Alex Wilkinson. As a defensive duo I think they'll do well, and McGowan has played at a good level for a long time - he should have no issues slipping down into the A-League.

Lastly for now is the confirmation of Anthony Caceres joining on a permanent deal, following a successful loan spell in the back end of last season. A good, versatile player who despite some early hiccups, hit some good from towards the end of his loan. Where he'll play on the pitch is up for discussion, as he played as both a central midfielder, and a right midfielder last year under Corica. 

Now for some thoughts on a well-publicised rumour: Luke Brattan to Sydney FC. A talented midfielder who has proven himself consistently at A-League level but has always had an air of "dickhead" about him. Perhaps a less toxic dressing room atmosphere would greatly benefit Brattan, as it has with other players who've joined us from Melbourne City. Corica has continued a good atmosphere that Arnold started, and I'm sure "Bimbi" can sort out any issues should any arise. 

3) Off the pitch

Sydney have confirmed Under Armour as their new kit supplier for the coming years, with a kit reveal on the 24th of July. The kits Under Armour have done over the years for other clubs have been fairly mixed in my opinion. Their kits for Tottenham I really rated, but their stuff for Southampton has been sort of horrible. 

A few changes for Sydney in the coaching staff, with goalkeeping coach John Crawley off to Graham Arnold's Australia set-up and Matt Nash replacing him. Ufuk Talay's departure to become Nix boss has left a vacancy which Robbie Stanton has filled in, with Paul Reid also joining the coaching staff. 

Sydney have a blockbuster pre-season friendly coming up against Paris Saint-Germain in China in late July, which is both incredibly well done by Sydney to get organised and also pretty odd. Not often will you see the likes of World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe coming up against Paulo Retre. Looking forward to it. 

- - - - 

Overall, a productive opening month in Sydney's off-season, and now pre-season. Sydney have a home FFA Cup clash to look forward to in August against the rebuilt, Robbie Fowler managed Brisbane Roar to be played at Leichhardt Oval. 

A-League fixtures are due out on the 22nd of July from what I've heard, so not much longer to wait now. 

That about wraps it up for now, I'll write another round-up in about a months time (or sooner) depending on the going-ons. 

Thank you for reading this, and thank you everyone for your continued support of ASOTH. Thanks to everyone who has generously donated to the site via my ko-fi page. It is greatly appreciated. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, or ASOTH at @asothdotcom.


Monday, 24 June 2019

Matildas, Heroic Failure, and Progress

So, Australia is out of the World Cup after losing on penalties to Norway in the second round. This has been an interesting tournament to watch for Matildas supporters, with some stunning highs, and now agonisingly deep lows.



I've been pretty critical of Australian football for how we seem to approach international tournaments, and particularly how naive we often seem to be. Thankfully, I think this tournament proves it isn't entirely true.

After losing the first game to Italy with the last kick of the game, Australia got better and showed some proper fighting spirit - I haven't seen an Australian national team this hungry for success and to prove themselves. The 3-2 comeback against Brazil isn't just the highlight of this World Cup for Australia, it's in my opinion the biggest highlight in Australian international football.

From 2-0 down, I was pretty certain it was done for. There wasn't much clicking, but thankfully they showed the heart and gameplan to get back into it - and win. I haven't seen this from the Socceroos at a World Cup in the last three failed tournaments.

Australia has a "football nation" lacks a lot of worldliness and perspective. We love excuses to use when our national teams don't win. I still hear people whinging about 2006 against Italy far too often (it was over a decade ago, it was a pen, and even if you disagree it's time to get over it). We've often been lucky that there's been "bright lights" in a lot of these failures - such as Tim Cahill's wonderstrike against the Netherlands, or Brett Holman's form at 2010.

2019's World Cup showed us an Australian side which we can accurately feel a lot of disappointment and frustration at being knocked out in early. That's a huge sign of progress in my view. I've seen less talk of this being a "heroic failure" and more of it being just a fail which is refreshing. We're slowly becoming less accepting of losing with our calibre of players and our high expectations could've been matched this tournament. The squad and game is stronger with us expecting and believing there's more to this team.

I'm very proud of the squad this year. For an incredibly difficult 6 month run in to the World Cup, they've done pretty damn well. We had mixed luck (like every nation) this World Cup with officiating but somehow made it work most of the time thanks to a good fighting spirit and using the famous Matildas "never say die" attitude.

I think Alanna Kennedy was extremely unlucky to be sent off, as I don't see it as being a "denying a clear and obvious" goal scoring opportunity, and there were still several defenders nearby to prevent the "opportunity". But that's football. Australia rode their luck for a lot of extra time, and Lydia Williams' performance will be unfortunate to not go down in folklore. World class saves one after the other, and the only reason Australia made it to the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

Internet trolls and dickheads have been fairly open with their misogyny since the Matildas took the limelight in Australian sport, and the players have copped significant amounts of abuse - particularly personal attacks against their sexuality. I think Sam Kerr's "so suck on that one" line after the win against Brazil should go down well in history. Having the national team captain as open as she is with who she is, and defending herself and her teammates with incoming abuse is exactly what I like to see. I think while she still has some ways to grow to become "the" captain, she's started well and has a bit of fire which works pretty well for me.



Looking forward, this team has a big Olympics campaign to come in Tokyo next year, and I think they've learnt a lot from this World Cup.

In the meantime, support your local W-League team, buy season memberships, show up to games, and give your support to the players. This is potentially an incoming "Golden Generation" the likes of which Australia has never seen. A proper attacking side who score goals and often for fun, and genuinely inspire young kids.

- - - -

Thank you for reading another "Jamie rambles helplessly over something" editorial. I've had a lot of thoughts about this World Cup and it's hard to express everything well in text.

As an Australian, I'm still gutted they've been knocked out, but this isn't the end of the journey.

Thanks again to everyone who has donated to me and ASOTH via my ko-fi page. It's very much appreciated.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, or ASOTH at @asothdotcom.