Virus partly to blame for Chelsea loss to Manchester United

Chelsea players unwell before and during their 2-0 loss to Mourinho’s Manchester United:

One theory that has been considered by the club is that the bug had spread through the squad at a team bonding meal – one of a number arranged by Conte over the course of the season to strengthen the group – last Thursday evening.

Perhaps it wasn’t such great leadership this time… 🙂

The Making of Conte…

Dominic Fifield writing for The Guardian:

“It takes time to accept the sheer amount of work he is asking of you. Everything he does, in preparation or tactical organisation, is done with maniacal precision and attention to detail. It can be overwhelming at first. But, when you realise by buying into it you can win things, you follow. He is a perfectionist. The best there is. The No1.”

This is unsurprising given what Conte has achieved so far in his career. Turning around a disparate squad, mentally broken by Mourinho, into likely title-winners, is not something to be readily sniffed at, regardless if Chelsea are playing in Europe or not. Add to this his role in the restoring Juventus and the relative success of Italy at Euro 2016 with what was described as one of the worst Azzurri squads ever, and Conte begins edge his way into the echelon of the world’s top managers.

“He is replicating what he did at Siena and Bari, ensuring his players know exactly where to be on the pitch at any one time, and proving yet again that managers schooled at Coverciano [the Italian FA’s headquarters in Florence] are the best, tactically, in the world.”

This point about Coverciano cannot be understated. Max Allegri, like Conte, current Juve boss and product of the Italian Federation’s coaching school is highly skilled at adapting his squad to match-specific situations and exploiting his opponent’s vulnerabilities.

The manager goes out of his way to know how every player is feeling, whether he is fatigued or distracted, at ease or on edge and can empathise with them given his own 19-year professional career.

The regular team meals – there was another in a London restaurant before the trip to Old Trafford – have helped bond the group

Just as revealing were the bottles of wine and prosecco he sent to all members of staff, together with a signed note thanking them for their hard work

It’s surprising when this kind of thing is written as if it’s something new and innovative. Granted, there’s a narrative the writers must fulfil, but really, this is plain old good leadership from a man who knows how to get it done.


Socceroos squad culled to final 23

Marco Monteverde in the Courier-Mail:

The final 23 is stacked with midfield talent, including captain Mile Jedinak, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Jackson Irvine and Jimmy Jeggo.

And then there’s 18-year-old Adelaide United midfielder Riley McGree, who against the odds survived the selection cull.

Apart from McKay, midfielders Chris Ikonomidis and Ryan Edwards, attacking weapons Nathan Burns and Awer Mabil, and left-sided pair Craig Goodwin and Alex Gersbach were also chopped from the preliminary squad.

A fairly balanced selection that still keeps the entire squad on notice. Matt McKay doesn’t really add anything to the squad that a younger player can’t (except experience). His omission is unsurprising.

It is surprising though that Craig Goodwin has been left out after some decent performances at Sparta Rotterdam. Excitingly, Riley McGree keeps a spot in the final 23.

di Pietro touted as the man to save Australian football

Matt Windley in the Herald-Sun:


When the 47-year-old took over as Victory chairman six years ago the club was running at a loss.

Since then the club has achieved membership records and its highest average attendance, has pushed its commercial interests into Asia and he has become one of the game’s most respected voices.

Victory is Australia’s most profitable soccer organisation — FFA included. He is a passionate soccer fan and is also a successful businessman in his own right.

We could do a lot worse.

Oh that’s right, we are…

Ising: NPL clubs trying to re-assert their power

Victory founder Tony Ising lets rip at the breakaway NPL clubs on the For Vuck’s Sake podcast:

“…this has nothing to do with football. This has nothing to do with junior development. This is nothing to do with junior development. And has everything to do with a power play. This is 100% about power, the base of power in Australian football. The base of power in Australian football used to rest with the top-tier clubs of the NSL.”

“We all know that is now no longer the case, and there are certain former NSL clubs that cannot handle that fact. And they’ve tried everything. They’ve tried everything in their grasp to try and wield power back. This is just another one of many steps to try and re-dress the power balance as they see it.”

“The NPL clubs represent three per cent of the participation base of our sport. What about the community clubs? So, who’s championing for the community clubs to get a seat at the FFA table when they go through  their governance re-organisation? So all this is, is a power play to ensure the former NSL clubs get a seat at the table…”

“The spotlight needs to be shone on the Australian football media who have let this go without any scrutiny whatsoever. It’s unfair on the million participants in Australia to let a minority of stakeholders dictate the agenda.”

“Where is the FFA in setting this agenda? They’ve lost control of the agenda. The only reasonable explanation is that the FFA are sitting back, in their tower in Sydney, looking at this play out and saying let’s give these NPL clubs enough rope to hang themselves, because there is no logical justification for them to claim the power that they are seeking. It’s an absolute farce.”

“In terms of elite development and pathways, and a model that’s national and takes into account the A-League at the top of the tree, and those pathways for the junior players; it was the same agitators within the NPL clubs in Victoria that took the FFV to court and prohibited the implementation of that model that serviced football in Victoria”

It’s farcical to suggest that the masses that are appealed to by the A-League are a minority when the A-League is now in a financial position that it supports the FFA, which is the absolute converse situation that used to be the case with the NSL. So the Socceroos used to be the cash cow for the FFA, now it’s turned around to the extent that Anthony di Pietro stands up at Victory in Business and demands that the FFA spends more revenue earnt by the A-League on the A-League. The A-League has absolutely turned 180 degrees that level of power of Australian football. The former NSL clubs that are sitting there trying to get their piece of the pie are missing the point.

Wow. A rant of epic proportions but fascinating and enlightening all the same. Stimulating the debate that needs to be had.



Ange shuffles his pack

Socceroos 30-man squad announced for crucial upcoming World Cup qualifiers:

Ange has certainly put a few players on notice with this squad. Of real concern are those playing (or not even playing) in below par leagues. Matthew Spiranovic (although injured) still remains in the Chinese second division with his club.

Notable inclusions from the A-League include Rhyan Grant and Danny Vukovic from the league-leading Sydney FC and 18-year-old Riley McGree. The outcry on Grant is baffling. He’s been the best in his position this season and giving him a taste of a higher level can only benefit him.

Three left backs is a long way from when Matt McKay was our best option in that position. The real lack of depth remains at right back and up front, with a paucity of good options.

A-League stadium blueprint

Michael Huguenin writing for


“Atmosphere is absolutely critical,” he tells Goal.

“What we work very, very hard doing now and what we’ve always spent a lot of time looking at is how do you get that intensity of experience when you’re actually there.

“What you really want is a continuous [seating] bowl. You want the seating bowl to wrap all the way around, you want to try and capture the atmosphere, the noise, the activity of the crowd.

“As soon as you start having gaps or breaks in the seating bowl, that’s when the atmosphere escapes.

Music to the ears of the discerning A-League fan. Playing in empty, soulless stadia in Australia negates on of the league’s biggest selling point: the atmosphere.

Key to attracting more people to the sport is to make them feel like they are missing out on a unique sporting experience they won’t get anywhere else. Build 15,000 – 30,000 seat stadiums and let the game grow from there.

Victorian clubs plan revolt

Michael Lynch in The Sydney Morning Herald:

“Once we have formulated our approach here, we will be talking to clubs who feel the same way in NSW, Queensland and South Australia to establish a national body of like-minded clubs,” a spokesman for the group said.

Their ultimate aim is to try and force a restructure of the game once more, so that there is a genuine national second division in which ambitious clubs could compete and win promotion to the top tier – and face relegation if they failed when they pitched in against the big boys.

It could take a threatened breakaway in this vain to actually spark genuine action like the professional movement in rugby union, World Series Cricket or the FISA-FOCA war in Formula 1.

“The A-League was a game-changer when it started, but it is stagnating now and is sucking up all the money in the game. The FFA has admitted that clubs here are not like clubs in the traditional heartlands of the game, they have acknowledged that as private businesses the FFA is focused on providing the A-League teams with the opportunities to maximise revenues and make money.

“We feel too much emphasis is on that and not enough on grassroots football, building the infrastructure of the game beyond the top level and developing young players and giving them the opportunity to play at the highest level with more clubs.

The political infighting and lack of leadership is destroying the hopes of young players and stagnating the growth of what is the most participated sport in Australia.


Mark Bosnich and Mark Rudan unload on Australian football after Brisbane Roar’s 6-0 loss in the Asian Champions League

This was fantastic and spoke to the general malaise the sport is in.

Every problem both Marks raised comes back to one thing: lack of leadership at the top level. The FFA must take responsibility and take action. It does not matter if they have supposedly been derailed by FIFA’s insistence on changing it’s governance structure. How is it possible they did not see it coming?

On promotion/relegation: nothing.

On fixture scheduling: nothing.

On expansion: nothing for two years????

FFA hints at delaying release of expansion blueprint

David Davutovic in the Herald Sun:

FFA chief executive David Gallop also declared that Australia’s national teams shared equal priority with the A-League, as FFA battles to satisfy its many assets.

Then it’s time for an independent A-League. It’s not hard to see the FFA have too much on their plate, and they are handling things poorly as a result.

Asked for an update on the expansion blueprint, the FFA were coy on a release date.

“Everyone wants expansion but the simple fact is that if it is not commercially viable it will fail,’’ Gallop said via a statement.

“FFA will have more to say on this in the coming weeks after engaging with external experts and consulting with the clubs, member federations and other stakeholders.

“With the certainty provided by the new broadcast deal, FFA has been analysing the commercial position of the sport to determine both the feasibility of A-League and W-League expansion and the process to determine where and when expansion should occur.’’

The real question is: why has it taken this many years to determine what a commercially viable A-League club is? If actioned earlier, surely the newly negotiated TV deal would provide a boon for such clubs, rather than reason to now take a serious look at expansion.