Simon Hill: VAR money should be spent elsewhere

Simon Hill with a statement on the VAR:

Fans pick up on this “victim” culture, and so we have the situation whereby at the weekend, the discussion didn’t just centre on whether Strebre Delovski had made the right decision on Bobo’s interference with Djulbic (or lack of) – but also whether he was “favouring” Sydney FC – presumably because they just happen to have been involved in all three VAR decisions so far, and because FFA is based in Sydney.

This is endemic in Australian sport. The NRL and it’s supporters spend a lot of time talking about the referees and how they got decisions wrong, so much so that there is now a backlash against it. AFL supporters regularly boo the umpires when they come out onto the pitch.

With the game perilously short of cash, $500,000 (if it exists at all), could surely be better utilised elsewhere? Maybe we could use it to pay the collision codes to bugger off elsewhere for a week or two, and allow our players to showcase their talents on something that doesn’t resemble a ploughed-up paddy field?

Fair point, but FFA’s desire to become a world leader on this issue is admirable and when breaking the mould, sometimes you have to spend big before you see a return on investment.

Despite holding on for a long time, football is beginning to cave to technology. The real concern, is how it will affect the flow of the game. The goal line technology used by the Premier League provides the referee with an instant decision on whether the ball has crossed the line. Where the VAR falls short (at the moment), is that there still needs to be stop in play and the flow of the game needs to be altered if the decision is changed.

Change the culture, not the game.


FFA lose Allianz Stadium turf war

Dom Bossi confirms the Waratahs game before the A-League Grand Final will not be moved to another venue:

Discussions were in place to move the rugby match to North Sydney Oval amid fears the decider between Sydney’s FC and Melbourne Victory will be played on a significantly damaged pitch.

“We appreciate the efforts of Venues NSW, the Minister and the Waratahs to explore the option of moving Saturday night’s rugby match,” said FFA CEO David Gallop in a statement. “These things are always more complicated than perhaps first envisaged. The fact is our grand final deserves a world-class surface and the traffic on Allianz Stadium makes this a challenge.

Wow thanks for that, but you didn’t see it coming with Sydney’s stellar season? When did actual discussions start taking place? Yes, there was no confirmation the Grand Final would be played there until the outcome of Sydney FC v Perth Glory semi-final but surely we could’ve all got together and said “Hmm, where might the Grand Final be played? Should we check what else is on at those stadiums?”

How does the excuse of “traffic” on the pitch account for AAMI Stadium’s pristine surface? It has an NRL club, Super Rugby club and an A-League club playing on it regularly. How responsible are the ground curators for the poor quality pitch at Allianz? Why have they failed to support their number one tenants?

“We’re just getting ready to play the Blues. We’ll play them in the car park if we have to.”

Loved this comment from Waratahs’ assistant coach Nathan Grey.

Victor Frade: Football’s most magnificent mind

One of the best football writers out there, Rory Smith, is hitting his straps since taking on a big role with the New York Times. He doesn’t disappoint with this piece on Vitor Frade:

His great contribution to the sport is tactical periodization, an approach to management that is often characterized — much to his evident frustration — as a coaching style. “It is not a method,” he says, almost as soon as he sits down. “It is a methodology. You have a methodology so that you don’t need methods.” The last word is issued with disdain.

To Frade, his approach is a management philosophy, a personal dogma and a belief system rolled into one. It is a way of thinking more than a way of playing, one conceived and crafted in this office, at this university, but that can now claim devotees around the world.

Its most famous evangelist is José Mourinho, who deployed it to considerable success at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, and who now hopes it can revive Manchester United. But Mourinho is not alone. Most of the great Portuguese coaching diaspora carry some of Frade’s imprint: André Villas-Boas and Vítor Pereira most directly, from the time they spent at F.C. Porto, but also Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim and Hull City’s Marco Silva at one or more removes.

Oft forgotten are the football theorists behind the greatest advances the game has seen. Some of them, curiously, didn’t win the most amount of trophies, but have influenced generations of managers – Jimmy Hogan, Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff, Marcelo Bielsa, Arrigo Sacchi, Viktor Maslov, Valeriy Lobanovskiy to name but a few. Frade, is proving to be another.

My Football Journey: Ljubo Milicevic

A thoroughly enjoyable piece by Damir Kulas for The Corner Flag:

Just another time the Socceroos missed out on potential, but also shines a light on mental health issues among sports-men and -women.

Much has been said about Ljubo Milicevic’s career in the past decade or so. Never short of sharing his two cents’ worth, his insights are a stark contrast to the media-trained athlete of the 21st century that shies away from voicing their own thoughts in pursuit of protecting a certain image.

While missing out on the World Cup squad in 2006 and perceived failures at club land might have some looking back in regret, Milicevic is keen to emphasise that he lived out his dreams by captaining his beloved Hajduk Split, representing his country, and playing in the Champions League against the cream of the crop.

“I definitely lived out my dreams as I got to play Champions League, I got to play for Hajduk Split in the derby against Dinamo, in the Europa League against Stoke, in the club’s 100th birthday friendly against Barcelona in front of a packed out Poljud.

“I played for Australia probably not as much as I imagined, but then at the same time I got to play against the likes of Argentina and Germany at the Confederations Cup in Germany in 2005. It is what it is and it is not disappointing – I don’t know about many other kids but they were pretty much all my dreams and they came true.

An irreverent player who bucked the stereotype of the 21st century footballer, he’ll be remembered as a cult figure to many for his no-holds-barred approach to voicing opinions on football and society.


Should the FFA Centre of Excellence be shut down?

Kate Cohen writing for Fox Sports:

There are a number of factors contributing to the Centre of Excellence’s demise:

The Centre of Excellence is not what the AIS program under Smith used to be. Firstly, the intake develops players for the Joeys (under-17 national team), as opposed to previously when it was for the Young Socceroos (under-20 national team)

When football was demoted from a Category B sport to a Category C sport by the Australian Sports Commission, government funding was cut, as was access to AIS resource such as sports science, physiotherapy and nutrition.

The success or failure of youth programs usually take years to play out, with the progress and quality of players making it into the full national team the marker of success. But the A-League has now been around for 12 seasons and:

Now, there are also A-League academies entering the landscape, which further diminishes the allure of the AIS-based program as the “golden ticket” to professionalism.

The justification for this is that, with A-League club establishing their youth academies, more players will have access to those pathways. Say for example all nine Australian A-League clubs have youth teams from under-13s to under-18s (plus National Youth League teams competing in their local senior NPL competition), the Academies system will allow over 700 players to be exposed to professional pathways.

This is indisputably a good thing, and if done right, could be a scaled down version of the much lauded youth system established by the German FA, implement after the Die Mannschaft’s early exit from Euro 2000. But problems still exist in Australia, such as:

In Melbourne, with City and Victory, and in Adelaide, A-League club academies don’t have a competition to play in – with rival clubs blocking their entry into local NPL youth competitions.

Only in December 2016 did Brisbane Roar appoint a technical director to begin establishing their academy, while Newcastle Jets will only take over the running of the Emerging Jets academy program from their state federation later in 2017.

Poop in the A-League Finals + the end Melbourne City…

Jonathan Howcroft reviewing the first week of the A-League finals:

Firstly, let’s point out the number of poo references in this piece:

…but even those damning numbers hide constipated play and an uncertainty in tactics and selection

In its place has been a tortured passing game that but for one thumping of the wooden spooners has been all fart and no poo


The culprits are numerous. Nicolás Colazo has failed to live up to his marquee billing and was a passenger before he was substituted on Sunday; Bruno Fornaroli has been a shadow of the irrepressible player of last season; Bruce Kamau’s decision making continues to frustrate. Cahill has scored his fair share of goals but he is accommodated as a No10 and the lack of a playmaker to lubricate City’s attacks has been exposed often.

No doubt the addition of Australia’s greatest goalscorer was a boon for the league, but his addition to the side has neutered Fornaroli. Even when City were playing at their peak, it was rare to see a performance by the Uruguayan striker reminiscent of his stunning first season. Howcroft’s mention of the lack of a playmaker is spot on, and Cahill’s affect on the entire side is noticeable.

The City Football Group’s Brian Marwood endured the misery from the stands alongside former England manager and now coaching advisor Roy Hodgson. He has some decisions to make over the lengthy offseason, figuring out how to convert his franchise’s massive advantages into on-field success.

Perhaps City are experiencing similar issues to parent club Manchester City, in that a club built on spending huge amounts of money on players just below the top level doesn’t always lead to a winning culture that lasts? Regardless, they are in need of a coach who is capable of moulding that kind of culture, and they have the money to do so.

Rest assured Roy Hodgson will be saying to himself: “Glad I’m getting paid to watch this drivel”. Is Hodgson really the extent of City’s thinking? What advice is he even providing?

A grand final featuring the top two sides on the ladder remains likely but Football Federation Australia will be disappointed semi-final derbies failed to eventuate. The governing body could do with the cash and the positive exposure after it was reported (and subsequently denied by head office) that the free-to-air component of the recently negotiated broadcast rights deal remains unsold and without any interest from Channels Seven, Nine or Ten.

Sydney and Melbourne Derby semi-finals would have been an incredible spectacle for the competition, but it speaks to the league’s fragile position if that is what was being relied upon. The swing-for-the-fences approach adopted by the administration and football fans, who believe there is one solution for all of football’s ills is short-sighted to say the least.

The likely situation that the free-to-air rights will fall to ABC is a body blow, but not a deathly one. Cop it and move on, the game is bigger than that. It’s going to take mountains of work and years of perseverance to achieve what we all want to see.

Arnold an oblique strategist?

An interesting take from Jonathan Howcroft on Sydney FC’s continued success:

“The oblique strategies was a set of cards created by Eno and his painter friend Peter Schmidt, and published as a signed limited edition in 1975. On each card is printed an (often quite abstract) instruction, which is invoked when an artist, producer or band has reached some form of creative impasse and requires external disruptive influence to suggest new ideas.”

But you can see where he is going with this oblique theory. Sydney have been so utterly successful this season, sweeping all before them, they are in danger of running out of steam, similar to the 2007 New England Patriots. Can Graeme Arnold continue to motivate the squad and see them through to winning the Grand Final?

Again, the Sky Blues’ success raises questions of how the A-League champion should be decided – first past the post or via the obligatory Australian-standard final series? Which represents our footballing culture best but also translates to mass appeal?

Howcroft’s sly dig at the FFA was particularly enjoyable:

If FFA does open a deck of oblique strategy cards, it would be serendipitous if they pulled out “Towards the insignificant”.