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WA needs to learn lessons from first FFA Cup

The FFA Cup rolled into Western Australia this week and left the state’s football fans both eager for more and under no illusion that massive improvements are needed.


Both Stirling Lions and Bayswater City put in respectable performances before bowing out to A-League opposition, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory respectively, but a lot of the excitement around the games was lost in the lead up when it was announced that neither club had adequate facilities to host.

Bayswater’s Frank Drago Reserve was ruled as an option early on so the club came to an agreement with Stirling Lions to switch the game to Macedonia Park, a tight suburban ground that has the potential for an intimidating atmosphere.

However, FFA informed both clubs in July that the lighting at Macedonia Park was unacceptable, forcing them to find an alternative venue; the Western Australia Athletics Stadium. So dismayed were Bayswater by the shift that they tried to have their fixture moved to Melbourne in the hope of at least generating some revenue from ticket sales.

Speaking to FourFourTwo earlier this week, Bayswater coach Chris Coyne stated that the request was denied by FFA and expressed his disappointment at the governing body’s stance.

“I think the FFA should’ve shown more foresight. It’s not just this one game, it’s about the next 10-15 years,” he said.

“We could’ve got $100,000, for example, off Melbourne game receipts and all the rest, why not let us do that? The money could’ve been spent in the right ways, such as floodlights so we don’t have this issue next year, junior infrastructure, facilities or coaching.”

FFA though said that it is open to ties being moved but had not received any official request from Bayswater to do so in this instance.

Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat last night told the media that he disagrees with the idea of switching games at the request of the club drawn at home.

“I’m actually grateful that the game was played here [WA Athletics Stadium],” he said.

“It would devalue the competition if home teams can move state to state; it certainly would have set a precedent if you like so I’m grateful the game was here. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t at the home ground, but at the same point in time, the safety of the players is pertinent.”

Ultimately it was the spectators who lost out on Tuesday and Wednesday night; there is very little worse than being separated from the pitch by a standard running track, never mind one with 12 lanes as well as long jump facilities in front of the main stand, as is the case at the WA Athletics Stadium.

Perth is renowned for being expensive and the price of tickets for the FFA Cup games did nothing to dispel that notion. While it cost $12 to watch Perth Glory take on the Newcastle Jets at Magic Park a fortnight ago, and just $8 to $10 for some of the other last 32 ties across the country, WA football fans were charged $20 (before you add in the ludicrous Ticketmaster charges for those who bought online well in advance).

Unfortunately the inflated price couldn’t be avoided as the clubs needed to generate the money required to hire the WA Athletics Stadium, something that doesn’t come cheap.

Any atmosphere struggled to carry to the players in both games, with Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey admitting that the gap to the pitch had resulted in Stirling Lions losing any possible crowd impact.

“I think we were helped by the fact the fans were about 40 metres from the ground, so they couldn’t affect the atmosphere,” Mulvey said.

“That negated some of the advantage that the home team probably had.”

Stirling boss Gary Williams echoed Mulvey’s sentiments, saying he was disappointed that the 1152 fans in attendance were so far away from the playing field.

Fans were far from pleased with the distance between the main stand and the pitch at the WA Athletics Stadium
Bayswater coach Chris Coyne was keen to stress that the facilities at the Athletics Stadium had nothing to do with his side’s defeat to Victory, but he also was clear with his opinions regarding the future and what is required to bring WA football up to scratch.

“I think, as a state, we need to look at ourselves and try to get something, whether it’s a home of football, whether it’s northern suburbs/southern suburbs, whether we do it regionalised, I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t know what the answers are but I think we do have to look at it and start banging on the parliament’s door and getting some things done so we’ve got floodlights, we’ve got facilities.

“It’s imperative; it’s not about us now, it’s about the next generation, it’s about building the game in the western state.”

While the onus is on the WA clubs to work with Football West to improve facilities, the FFA’s late notice of the updated lighting requirements left hands tied for 2014 at least. To call a spade a spade, watching games at the Athletics Stadium was a horrible experience, and not one that should be repeated.

The games themselves played out as expected, with Brisbane Roar’s quality shining through after they were given an early scare by Stirling, while a goal in each half was enough for Melbourne Victory to overcome Bayswater.

Despite the 4-0 score line, Stirling were very competitive for the first hour of the contest and were unlucky not to go ahead early on when Hayden Doyle struck the woodwork. Henrique De Silva eventually put the visitors ahead with a neat overhead kick.

Lions striker Moses Kalau was very impressive, and brought a save out of Michael Theo with a swerving free kick, but as legs started to tire Brisbane capitalised with three goals in 14 minutes from Corey Brown, Matt Smith and Jean Carlos Solorzano to kill the game.

Mike Mulvey had some kind words for the NPL outfit, and was pleased to see their positivity and desire to take the game to the Roar.

“I thought they tried to play the right way and I give them full credit for the way that they tried to play football against us, rather than resort to what a lot of teams do, which is just sit back and wait for us to make a mistake,” he said.

“They did that to a certain extent, but they were adventurous. They tried to play and tried to play out from the back.”

Stirling boss Williams was delighted to have been involved in the FFA Cup and admitted to enjoying seeing Roar up close, though he would have liked his side to have found the back of the net.

Bayswater also failed to score in their 2-0 loss but came close on a number of occasions, with David Heagney and Todd Howarth forcing Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe into a couple of strong saves in front of 1650 spectators.

Kostas Barbarouses and Archie Thompson were on target for Victory but they didn’t have it all their own way, particularly after the interval.

“I thought in the second half once the nerves settled we got to grips with the game and they were superb,” said Chris Coyne afterwards.

“Bar that goal when they went forward, and a bit of class from Archie [Thompson], I thought we were miles the better side in the second half so credit to them.”

Coyne was full of praise for the concept of the FFA Cup and believes that buzz around Bayswater and Stirling in recent weeks will only increase the appetite amongst clubs to qualify.

“The opportunity, the potential, to show your wares and to prove yourself against the best players, it is there,” he said.

“I think it’s a great initiative. We’ve really enjoyed this path, it’s given us a taste but, don’t worry, we’ll be super duper hungry next year going into the [Cool Ridge] Cup because the whole buzz and the whole excitement it generated was great to be a part of.”

WA’s participation in this year’s competition now relies solely on Perth Glory who will no doubt be keen for a home draw in the last 16.
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FFA Cup: Melbourne City fall at first competition

Melbourne City’s first competitive match has ended in disappointment as Sydney FC claimed a 3-1 extra time win in the Round of 32 FFA Cup clash held at Ballarat’s Morsehead Park.

A gallant City battled hard against the Sky Blues but eventually fell to defeat thanks to two Ali Abbas penalties in the space of four minutes in the second period of extra time to send Sydney into the next round.

The two teams couldn’t be separated after the 90 minutes with Melbourne Heart foundation player Nick Kalmar equalising in the second half, cancelling out Corey Gamerio’s 22nd minute opener.

It was hardly the way the club wanted to start off life under the City moniker but glimpses of great play throughout the match will give City fans hope that their fortunes are due to change.

This first competitive match officially completed the transition from Heart to City.

A healthy crowd of 2,801 gathered at Morsehead Park in what was a historic fixture for City.

Both sides left considerable firepower out of the side, presumably waiting for the real stuff to get started.

City were without major signings David Villa and Robert Koren while Austrian Marc Janko, Alex Brosque and Shane Smeltz failed to make it on to the team sheet for the visitors.

Former English Premier League winner Damian Duff didfeature for City but failed to fire in the cool Ballarat conditions, only showing small glimpse of what he is capable of in his 60 minutes on the field.

The first half was a relatively dull affair with both sides taking time to get into the fixture.

The clash in Ballarat was the first real hit-out for both sides with rustiness obvious from the start. The only goal of the half came through a goal-keeping error by City custodian Andrew Redmayne that resulted in Corey Gamerio’s seventh goal in five preseason games.

Redmayne ventured out of his box only for Gamerio to beat him to the ball. Gamerio got his shot under Redmayne as the ball barely had enough in it to trickle over the line.

The remaining minutes of the half conjured up little in the excitement department as both sides were more than happy to sit on possession.

The second half started off with more vigour as both sides looked to play more than they did in the first half.

The breakthrough for City came in the 64th minute when Kalmar got his head onto a perfect free kick from Aaron Mooy to level the scores.

It was fitting that Kalmar, who was been at the club for all of its humble existence, would be the one to score the opening goal in its new life under the City football badge.

Mooy was the pick of the bunch for City in this game with his passing game a standout.

The first period of extra time belonged to City but lacked that cutting edge in breaking down what was all evening a resolute Sydney defence.

With under ten minutes to go and the match destined for penalty shootouts, the game was turned on its head when referee Shaun Evans pointed to the spot after judging Jason Hoffman brought down Gamerio illegally in the box, resulting in the defenders dismissal from the match.

Abbas coolly stepped up to the spot to dispatch his penalty and all but seal his side’s progression in the competition.

The drama wasn’t to end there with Sydney awarded another penalty just minutes later, this time stand-in skipper Robbie Wielaert the culprit by bringing down Terry Antonis in the box.

Abbas was once again the man to step up and take the penalty, ending in the same result as the first.

City manager John Van’t Schip was disappointed post game to see his side ultimately get done by what he felt was a dodgy penalty decision.

"The game's been decided after a moment that we had a good chance to score to make it 2-1 and then in the counter they made it 2-1 with the penalty.

"From what I could see, Jason hit, maybe, from behind, but the main thing was that before that it was clearly offside. That's how football is. Mistakes are made, that's how games get decided."

Despite the defeat, Van’t Schip took positives out of the match as he prepares his new look side for the season ahead.

"For us it's disappointing after having a good start and coming back into the game we dominated in the first part of the second half.

"There were some difficult moments but overall we did well. There's a lot of positives to get out of this game.

While not the desired result for a City perspective, there was still plenty to like from the newly instated A-League glamour club.

Even though not yet fully fit, Damian Duff showed enough quality in patches to remind us all that he is in possession if an EPL winner’s medal, and that he will be a handful for defences to deal with this season, with fellow new signing Mooy producing a fine showing this evening.

Throw Villa and Koren to the mix, City will no doubt be a force this season.

With the FFA Cup now out of the picture, City’s next competitive match won’t be until 11 October when they once again face Sydney FC in the opening weekend of the A-League season.

Melbourne City: 1. Andrew Redmayne, 2. Robbie Wielaert, 6. Aaron Mooy, 7. Iain Ramsey, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 11. Damian Duff, 15. David Williams, 17. Jason Hoffman, 22. Nick Kalmar, 23. Mate Dugandzic, 24. Patrick Kisnorbo
Subs: 20. Tando Velaphi, 14. James Brown, 19. Ben Garuccio, 21. Stefan Mauk, 26. Ross Achibald

Sydney FC: 20. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Seb Ryall, 3. Sasa Ogenovski, 5. Matt Jurman, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 7. Corey Gamerio, 11. Bernie Ibini, 12. Hagi Gligor, 17 Terry Antonis, 19. Nick Carle, 22. Ali Abbas
Subs: 1. Ivan Necevski, 4 Pedj Bojic, 13. Alex Gersbach, 16. Chris Naumoff, 18 Peter Triantis
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FFA must get its priorities straight

The continued debate over the merits of the A-League All Stars came to the fore again over the weekend with Football Federation Australia’s statement around Michael Thwaite’s call up for the clash with Juventus.

The Perth Glory defender is a late inclusion for the game, which takes place this Sunday, after Sydney FC’s Sasa Ognenovski withdrew and the FFA has barred the 31-year-old from his FFA Cup club commitments tomorrow.

Though it is a nice achievement to be part of the squad to play the Italian champions, Thwaite’s call up comes at a huge cost to Glory who now have to do without their captain for a competitive cup tie.

According to FFA:

While we sympathise with the Hyundai A-League clubs whose players miss training and matches, it is important that we protect the integrity of the match for the continued growth of football in Australia.

This poses quite the head-scratcher because surely protecting the integrity of a cup competition in its debut season is far more important than that of what is ultimately a friendly against a side irrelevant to football in Australia.

By closing the gap between the professional A-League sides and those in the State League through the FFA Cup, FFA has indeed done a lot more to grow the game than a once off showpiece friendly ever will.

Thwaite isn’t the only player who will be absent from Tuesday’s cup action with both Youssouf Hersi (Glory) and Mark Birighitti (Jets) also unable to take part due to their part in the All Stars contest.

Twelve months ago there was plenty of negative feedback from supporters over the amount of absences and withdrawals from the All Stars team that took on Manchester United in Sydney; the concept was being devalued so stipulations were added to players’ contracts stating that they must accept a call up if fit.

If you are selected by FFA to compete for a representative team:
a) The Club must release and make you available to participate in the Representative Matches on notice from FFA acting reasonably
b) You must promptly report for, and punctually attend, all Representative Matches, camps, training sessions, media conferences, promotional activities or other functions.

However, that was before the schedule for the FFA Cup was determined so the goal posts have shifted again, yet FFA are effectively punishing participating clubs by not allowing players to take part in games that are, in the Jets/Glory example, five days apart.

Realistically, neither Birighitti nor Thwaite are likely to start against Juventus so why couldn’t they play 90 minutes for their clubs days in advance?

Of course, there is the possibility of players picking up injuries during the FFA Cup games, thus missing the All Stars.

However, the All Stars squad has its own medical team who have already passed Western Sydney Wanderers striker Tomi Juric fit for Saturday, despite his club initially stating that he should not train for ten days due to a thigh injury. The same process could just as easily be applied to Thwaite, Hersi and Birighitti.

There’s no denying that the All Stars concept is a handy money spinner for FFA but when all is said and done, it is still a friendly and should not take precedence over the FFA Cup which is far more important to the game here in the long term.

The Australian football calendar has been skewed this year by the Asian Cup and we might not experience such congestion again - well, for four years anyway - but that shouldn’t excuse the current mess.

Common sense would have allowed players partake in the FFA Cup while also fulfilling their All Stars commitments; unfortunately, that path wasn’t taken by the powers that be.
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FFA Cup has something for all football fans

As someone who is inherently skeptical about any new football related initiatives, the FFA Cup was an interesting proposition in terms of inclusion.

Having moved to Australia after the National Soccer League’s demise and with no affiliation to or particular desire to be part of a State League club, I wondered how the competition would draw me in.

With the World Cup finishing only a few weeks ago, the new European season on the horizon, and the countdown to the A-League continuing, was there room for another competition comprising of teams that I, for the most part, had no interest in?

In hindsight, I needn’t have worried as the on field action delivered in a big way last night.

There are still plenty of issues that need to be ironed out - the weighted draw still doesn’t sit well with me, and the late decision to switch the venue for the Perth ties has left a sour taste in the mouth of many - but that was all put to one side, at least temporarily, once a ball was kicked.

I couldn’t name a single player from either Broadmeadow Magic or Brisbane Strikers before their last 32 tie, but that probably helped in a weird way. I had no preconceptions and didn’t particularly care about historical relevance of either, leaving me free to just sit back and watch some good old fashioned cup football.

The first half wasn’t anything to write home about but the second 45 minutes was exactly what the competition needed to captivate its audience, and credit must go to both sides who fought tooth and nail for what turned into 120 minutes.

We saw some excellent goals, two red cards, a penalty that should never have been given, and some kamikaze goalkeeping amongst other things, all of which lit up social media across the country.

The powers that be couldn’t have asked for a better first night of televised action.

A hat tip must also go to Fox Sports for their excellent coverage, which included crossing live to the other three games for goals and, most importantly, a deciding penalty shootout.

South Springvale is another club who I had never heard until a couple of weeks ago but now they are deservedly getting their moment in the spotlight after reaching the last 16.

The team, who are in the third tier of Victorian football, came from behind twice to draw with their more fancied opponents South Cardiff before prevailing on penalties; an instant feel good story from the last 32, and strong foundations on which to build up the competition.

I previously stated that I don’t have much interest in State League football, and that probably won’t change as I am too committed to my own amateur club. However, I respect and appreciate the traditions of those who are involved at that level across the country and the FFA Cup has given the likes of myself a chance to learn more about them.

Even if you don't support any of the teams participating, the excitement and "magic of the cup" should be enough to get you to a local ground to soak up the atmosphere, or at least stick on the television to catch the action on Fox Sports.

As much as it may have wanted to, a predictable football-bashing article in the mainstream media, conveniently dropped on the FFA Cup’s big day, couldn't take the shine off what was a great occasion for the game in Australia.

Like many others around the country today, I’m looking forward to the next lot of fixtures already.
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Stocky’s Scribbles – The sinking of the Titanic

What a difference three months of a season of football can bring.

Words and images by Craig Stockdale

Under grey skies and traditional cold and windy conditions, last season’s premiers Sandringham ran into an iceberg out at the State Football Center in Darebin, sinking to a 2-0 loss against the fresh faced NTC U17 Girls in round twelve of the SportsMart Victorian Womens’ Premier league clash.


Having lost their main striker Emma Runnalls to a red card last week against Heidelberg United, Sandringham would still have remained confident that they could over power the younger NTC U17 Girls brigade by imparting their experience and physical approach to the game - the same style that saw them win convincingly back in round one of the season.

Not the case at all – in fact what we witnessed may well be the sinking of the Titanic.

Overall, it was a very lackluster effort by Sandringham who allowed the NTC to play their game style dominating possession for the majority of the game and eventually culminating in a two nil defeat for the maroon and blue. This would undoubtedly have them leaving Darebin with many things to ponder in the run-up to their next match against a rampant Bundoora United placed second on the table.
Right from the onset the FFV U17 Girls pushed forward applying pressure to the Sandringham defensive line. The midfielders led by the Taranto Twins and Feakes controlled play searching for Goad, Sepe, Lawson and Martin out wide who were all weaving in and out of the defenders creating space and looking for Harbis to capitalise.

Sandringham had their chances early and at the nine minute mark, Vatcky streamed down the left wing and crossed to a well-positioned Gibney who was unable to convert the shot on goal for Sandringham under close surveillance from the NTC defensive center backs of Williams and Pitts.
Minutes later, play was halted as a serious injury was sustained by Sandringham’s Captain Hannah Stuart who fell awkwardly jarring her knee in a tackle. Stuart had to be stretchered off the pitch where physiotherapists rushed her back to the change rooms for treatment and later to the hospital for scans.

At the resumption of play, Vatcky was again running hard for Sandringham but without support up forward slotting the ball into the box only to be safely captured by the NTC keeper Erin Hudson. Not much was happening for either side at this stage of the match but all that was about to change in a sensational six minute period.

At the 36-minute mark of the game, an errant Sandringham foul was awarded to the NTC U17 Girls just outside the box and up stepped NTC Captain Jess Pitts to take the shot. The right foot missile smashed into the cross bar, ricocheted down to the awaiting feet of Melissa Taranto who nonchalantly tapped the ball into the goal to register the first major of the match.

Five minutes later at the 41-minute mark, Martin once again ran un-marked down the right wing finding the feet of Lawson who managed to weave through traffic to create a one-on-one with the Sandringham keeper Alina Kapusta. Lawson saw an opening nut-megging the keeper and running onto the ball to then slot home the second NTC goal of the day. 2 nil as the whistle sounded for half time at Darebin.

With regular coach Sean Parton missing in action, the crowd had expectations the experienced Sandringham team would come out firing in the second half and arrest the lead from the young NTC outfit. Sure enough, several advances forward saw Nicola Prins and Sienna Fogarty threaten the NTC defensive line but the youngsters remained steadfast and managed to repel every Sandringham threat.
A number of corners at both ends failed to change the score line and as the game progressed late into the final stages, NTC showed their fitness by maintaining and controlling possession which further frustrated Sandringham. Let it be said, Vatcky was valiant in defeat for the entire game but had little support from her team mates as Sandringham now slump to sixth position on the league ladder.


MATCH DETAILS

NTC U17 Girls 2 (Melissa Taranto 36’; Janna Lawson 41’) defeated Sandringham Womens 0


NTC U17 GIRLS ELEVEN: 20. Erin Hudson (GK); 2. Giulia Sepe; 3. Jaimee Williams; 4. Jade Feakes; 6. Adriana Taranto; 7. Emily Harbis; 8. Melissa Taranto; 10. Jess Pitts; 13. Annabel Martin; 18. Beatrice Goad; 19 Janna Lawson.

Subs:  14. Maddy Stockdale; 12. Alexi Garcia; 5. Sky Jensen; 1. Jamie Brown;  16. Sabahat Rexhep


SANDRINGHAM WOMENS ELEVEN: 13. Alina Kapusta (GK) 11. Alex Cuss; 16. Emma Robers; 5. Kristen Stensholt; 7. Kirstie Shearing; 20. Hanah Stuart; 18. Sienna Fogarty; 8. Nicola Prins; 2. Annabelle Gibney; 15. Elaina Vatcky; 10. Stephannie Tanti.

Subs:  12. Eliza Gleadell; 32. Phoebe Parker; 6. Stephanie Parton; 1. Lucyna Kapusta
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Perth Glory fan forum report

Perth Glory’s second fan forum of 2014 took place at ECU Joondalup in the city’s northern suburbs on Wednesday night.

While the weather in Perth wasn’t the best, the attendance of approximately 30 people was a disappointing showing from a supporter base that is never shy when it comes to airing its views via social media and other platforms.


On the panel were club CEO Jason Brewer, head coach Kenny Lowe, assistant coach Andy Ord and players Rostyn Griffiths and Brandon O’Neill who previously played for ECU Joondalup.


Memberships

The first topic of the night was memberships and there were some concerns raised around the FFA’s new active fan measures. Jason Brewer assured the fans that the club is doing everything to minimise the impact on Glory supporters given nib Stadium caters for a totally different set up to the likes of Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers.

While free public transport is again not part of the membership package, Glory are working on some alternatives in the form of public parking concessions and shuttle buses to games from Perth CBD.

In terms of membership numbers, 1850 people have signed so far (30%+ of last year’s total) and the club is aiming for at least a 20% increase overall. The first 1200 membership packs were posted to supporters this week.

The five-game flexi membership is a new option this season and there is also some news on the horizon regarding concession memberships. To help drive memberships, there is a big advertisement campaign coming up which will involve television, newspapers, the back of buses etc.


Preseason

With effectively 14 weeks of preseason training, the club is in a position where it needs to get in shape for the FFA Cup game with the Newcastle Jets on August 5th. After that, the intensity will be toned down and gradually lifted again before the season proper kicks off in October.

In terms of preseason fixtures, Glory will travel to Malaysia for three games between July 14th and 24th before returning to Perth for a game at nib Stadium in late July with a well-known European side to be confirmed soon. Members who have renewed for 2014/15 can avail for discounted tickets for the game, while the public will be able to gain admission for a lower price than they would pay for a league game.

There will also be games against A-League opposition – Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar – in August and September, as well as run-outs against local clubs and the state team.


Football department

To date, Glory have confirmed seven signings with one, if not two, more on the way in. Only Mitch Nichols is yet to arrive in Perth - he lands next Monday.

In terms of the recruitment philosophy, Kenny Lowe was very clear in what he is looking for. Players who have had international experience are the main goal, whether that’s under 17, under 23 or, preferably, senior level. Players with a good injury record and the physical capabilities to get through a full A-League season are also very desirable.

All of the new recruits fit that criteria except Youssouf Hersi, whose deal was already in place before Lowe formally took over. Cost is obviously a factor and players with senior international experience will demand more wages wise, but Lowe and Andy Ord are confident that they have got the right mix.

When Lowe was asked about the process for signing players, he explained his use of ‘Wyscout’. According to Wyscout’s website, it offers a database of 220,000 players and is used by over 400 professional clubs and 450 player’s agencies. Using Wyscout, Lowe is able to watch and analyse in detail prospective signings before any formal contact is made regarding a transfer. Take a look for yourself, it’s very impressive.

The introduction of strength and conditioning coach Toby Horak will allow players to recover better from injuries, and hopefully prevent them getting into that situation in the first place.

In terms of the coaching structure, the aim is to lay the foundations for what will be a long-term set up. With several new appointments and some young coaches on board, Jason Brewer believes that the club is now set up with relationships that were previously absent, i.e. Jacob Burns and Ante Kovacevic will work to bridge the gap between the playing group and the owner, CEO etc.

Another piece of good news is that Glory will be gradually taking over the W-League team again, with Football West having been in control in recent seasons. The hope is to have as many A-League/W-League double headers as possible at nib Stadium.

One of the concerns raised by supporters has centred on older players being recruited at the detriment of game time for some of the younger members of the squad. I took the opportunity to ask Brandon O’Neill, a 20-year-old who has been in and out of the first team at various points over the past two seasons.

O’Neill was keen to stress that he benefiting massively from training with the more experienced professionals, and learned a lot from Steven McGarry and Jacob Burns in previous seasons. He made the point that if there isn’t such competition for places then some of the younger players can be guilty of not working as hard as they should be and, as a result, performances will drop.

O’Neill also agreed with Kenny Lowe’s point that nobody, whether they are 17 or 27, should be guaranteed a place in the team and if a player is performing they will be in the team irrespective of age.

On exciting youngster Danny De Silva, he has signed a pre-contract agreement with Italian giants AS Roma and cannot join them officially until he turns 18 this year. This means that there are no directives from Roma over how much game time that he must have with Glory this season.

Brewer reiterated that the club is still very much committed to development of the best local and Australian talent, pointing to the signing of promising young goalkeeper Jordan Thurtell.

With all topics covered, there was an informal discussion about some minor issues before the forum was concluded. The next fan forum will take place just before the 2014/15 season.
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Safe Bets


I'd bet my box on Brazil winning the World Cup. You heard it here. The latest cartoon from the Hyundai A-League World Cup Webcomic "Sack Attack" by Agaki Bautista.


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The good, bad and ugly of the Socceroos in Brazil

With Australia’s World Cup campaign over at the first hurdle, the inquest will begin into what went right and wrong ahead of January’s Asian Cup campaign.

Three defeats against Chile (3-1), the Netherlands (3-2) and Spain (3-0) meant the fixtures panned out as most expected but it’s not all doom and gloom; far from it in fact.


Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons we can take from Brazil 2014.


The Good

We learnt that while it’s going to take some time to fully recover from losing the ‘Golden Generation’ of 2006 and 2010, there is some very exciting talent emerging.

The excitement surrounding Mathew Leckie is fully justified following his World Cup performances, and Adam Taggart's move to Fulham shows that it’s not just Aussies who are sitting up and taking note of the youngsters.

Matthew Spiranovic oozed class at times at centre half, while Jason Davidson has surely cemented the left back position for many years to come.

It was nice to see Tim Cahill sign off from the World Cup with arguably the greatest international goal in Australian football history, while Mark Bresciano also got his fitting swansong after battling injury before and during the competition.

The attitude of the players, most of whom were playing in their first World Cup, was positive every time they took the field and there were periods in each game where they put it up to vastly superior opposition.

Unfortunately, the gulf in class came to the fore eventually but playing without fear will stand the team in good stead.

A mention must be made to the supporters who travelled in numbers to Brazil to support the side; their vocal passion was very audible through the television and the sea of green and gold sounds like it was very well received by locals and other fans alike.


The Bad

Some will consider it harsh to pick on the results but it would have been nice to go home with at least a point in the bag.

Even though expectations were low following the tough group draw, both the Chile and Netherlands games should have yielded a positive result. On each occasion though, the Socceroos failed to take their chances and were punished.

When it was 2-2 against the Dutch, Australia should have retaken the lead as Tommy Oar looked up and spotted Leckie unmarked six yards from goal. For some reason his cross was fired at the latter’s chest rather than slid across the ground and goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen saved easily. Within a minute, the Dutch scored at the other end to win the game.

There were also missed opportunities to tie the contest against Chile and again the Socceroos were punished as Jean Beausejour made it 3-1 in injury time.

Such lessons can be tough to take at the time but Ange Postecoglou is the sort of coach who will make sure that the players learn from their failure to turn chances into goals.


The Ugly

The defending. Dear God, the defending.

There were some horrendous basic errors committed in each of the three games which gifted goals to the opposition.

Spain’s opener was a culmination of a number of mistakes, starting with Jason Davidson getting caught out on the left hand side as Juanfran was given acres of space to put a ball into the box. At the same time, Ryan McGowan was snoozing at right back and David Villa burst past him to connect with a lovely backheel finish inside the six yard box.

Against the Dutch, Davidson was guilty of not pushing out with the rest of back four as Robin van Persie found himself alone in the penalty area with time to tie the game up at two goals apiece. Fingers were also pointed at Mat Ryan for not dealing with Memphis Depay’s strike that resulted in the winning goal.

Heading back to the first game and to be 2-0 down after 14 minutes smacked of stage fright, understandable to a certain extent. Chile were gifted both goals though as Australia’s failure to clear their lines allowed Alexis Sanchez to pounce before Jorge Valdivia was left alone 25 yards from goal to double the lead.

Of course, this wasn’t the Socceroos’ first choice backline with Ivan Franjic’s tournament ending prematurely during the Chile game, while Curtis Good, Trent Sainsbury and Rhys Williams missed out altogether through injury.

With a number of FIFA windows coming up before the Asian Cup, Postecoglou will have ample opportunities to iron out some of the problems.


There seems to be two camps being set up in the immediate aftermath of the team’s exit – those who are satisfied with the glorious failure and the others who are dismayed at the mediocrity that resulted in the country’s worst World Cup showing ever.

The truth is probably somewhere in between and while the attitude of the players could never be called into question, it is important for those in positions of influence (the media in particular) to hang up the pom poms and constructively criticise with the aim of seeing more improvement.

Like the experiences gained on the pitch, Australian football will be better for it.
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A Yeasty Walk of Shame

It was widely expected that Australia would struggle against the likes of Chile, Netherlands and Spain and with two games down in the World Cup, the Aussies may not have claimed a point but have pushed two of the world's best sides to the limit.

As a result of Australia's effort against Holland, The Football Sack editor and serial Australia slagger-offerer Matt Marsden was made to take the Twitter equivalent of a walk of shame after a wager went wrong.


After writing that the Aussies would flounder against three top teams after the World Cup draw, a narrow 3-2 loss to the Netherlands qualified Matt for a touch of rose-in-every-cheek embarrassment.
Although the Socceroos fell short of a point despite leading 2-1 in the second half and Holland scored three goals, the two Australian goals meant that this 'Strayan naysayer would have to eat his words.
That yeasty face represents more than just a lost wager as the Australians have proved that the future of football in Australia is very bright.

Granted, we game up short against both Chile and Netherlands but it's clear to see that Ange Postecoglou is preparing this side for the future. There is proof that Ange football - playing out from the back, cutting off passing options and pressing hard against defenders - not only works against A-League teams but a side that possesses such quality like Holland.

Despite our early exit from the competition, Postecoglou can only be wrapped with the signs shown ahead of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup during which Australia will meet South Korea, Oman and Kuwait in its group.

But the World Cup is far from over with a game against the recently-dethroned champions Spain sitting on the horizon. Having already been eliminated, Spain is playing for pride alone and that is sure to not sit well with them.

Despite Tim Cahill missing the final game due to picking up his second yellow card of the tournament, Australia's attacking moves against Holland were impressive but the defence left a lot to be desired. Given that Spain hasn't even remotely looked threatening going forward, it may not even matter.

Ange and the boys will be playing to win against 2010's World Cup winners and on current form are a huge chance to take all three points.
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Jumping Ships


I've always been a Dortmund and Germany fan, I promise! The latest cartoon from the Hyundai A-League World Cup Webcomic "Sack Attack" by Agaki Bautista.

Read up on our review of Nike's The Last Game ad or check out more popular original content with the World Cup edition of The Football Sack Podcast!

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