We have finally managed to put aside the disappointment of driving halfway across town and standing around in the freezing cold only to find out that not only had the last game of the Roar Roadshow kicked off before the advertised time, but that the Roar had only sent Rado Vidosic and his youth team.
Rovers seemed to be doing all the attacking in the first half. A speedy bloke on the left wing was having a particularly good night of it, going past his defender at will. On closer inspection, the defender in question turned out to be none other than Robbie Kruse, and he looked none to happy about the situation.
Kruse sulked about the place, half heartedly tugging at the speedy winger's shirt and arguing incessantly with goalkeeper Griffin Mc'Master who was clearly none too impressed with the cover he was getting from the right. Kruse was undoubtedly grumpy - but who could blame him? One of the few to impress in preseason, what was he doing playing completely out of position for the youth team while Charlie Miller and Co were at home on the couch in their snuggies?
Back to the football - the Young Roars were barely able to string three passes together while Rochedale played a direct game making particular use of their pace on the left wing, while several hundred brave souls stood in the cold with only Robbie Kruse's increasingly petulant displays of disgruntlement to entertain them.
Towards the end of the first half, youth coach Rado Vidosic gave up shouting "Too many touches! Too many!" at his players and instead turned to the well stocked bench and carefully explained that opportunities were going begging because the team were dwelling on the ball too long.
"I want to see two touches - second touch must be pass" he reiterated.
At half time virtually the entire side was subbed and the game changed dramatically. Suddenly the Roar were dominating, moving the ball beautifully with two touch football, creating space and plenty of chances - well done Rado! After a super second half the Roars deserved their 1-0 win.
Two players stood out, Michael Angus at left back and Joshua McVey up front, both veterans of the inaugural National Youth League. I was impressed with Angus who defended well while also getting forward hugging the touchline to create a extra outlet wide, he looks to be an intelligent player with good pace and a great engine. Hoops' pick was McVey, who was given nothing to work with in the first half but after being subbed back on in the second half(yes that is how seriously this game was being taken), he was in the thick of things drifting out to the left and cutting inside and it was he who scored the only goal of the game with a perfectly placed long range effort.
So thanks to the Junior Roar for putting on an entertaining show (in the second half anyway), but we are left wondering why Farina and the senior team did not appear as advertised. It is not as if the preseason has gone so well that the senior squad does not need the match time. Could it be that the injury crisis is worse than they are letting on? Was Farina worried that a potential loss to Rovers a week before the new season would have provided a knock out blow to the team's confidence?
The other mystery is almost as intriguing: What was Kruse doing there at all? Why was he playing in defence? Was he being punished? Did he loose a bet? Is he not being considered for for the Gold Coast game? (and if not why not we say!) Is the injury crisis so bad that he may play in defence against Gold Coast? - none of it seems plausible...
Well that is what the hundreds of children and families who turned out in the freezing cold were expecting anyway, instead they got Rochedale Rovers vs the Roar Youth Team - complete with youth coach and a trining game approach with players subbing off and back on again!
No matter what the result, tommorrow's hit out against the North Queensland Fury wont tell us much about the Roar's rediness for the season. Firstly because Fury are rubbish, and secondly because the Roars will be missing no less that 9 first team players through injurey. However, as noted on the Roar's Official website, Adam Sarota will be using the match to impress the the coach and fans... its a wonder he did not think of trying to that before now, but I'm sure we are all looking forward to it. Still, if the lad never makes the grade at the Roar, Fury will probably sign him.
Gold coast United Coach Miron Blighberg sat in the stands at Ballymore on the weekend grinning from ear to ear as the Roars stuttered and sputtered to a 2-0 defeat against the Newcastle Jets. Should we be concerned?
Last season the Roar looked dreadful in preseason and went on to be dreadful for the entire first half of the season, only hitting their straps when it seemed almost too late. After a barnstorming finish to the season including stellar performances against the strongest sides in the league, fans could be forgiven for hoping that the relatively settled squad will start the season with the same fluidity and success as they finished the last.Unfortunately the preseason performances have been more reminiscent of Phoenix on an off day than the Roar side which stormed into the final series last term.
The truth is, that of the first eleven that took the Roars to the brink of triumph last season, only Moore, Van Dijk and Nichols have been regular starters in preseason. The current starting eleven is a shadow of last year’s team.
Despite the fact that other clubs have been strengthening their squads voraciously with quality players such as Burns, Coyne, Sterjovski, David Williams, Robbie Fowler, Joel Porter, Jason Culina and Lloyd Owusu, instead the Roars have lost superstar Tahj Minniecon to Gold Coast and flirted half heartedly with the idea of signing
big bad fat bald Bob Malcolm – so short of fitness that despite spending the majority of the preseason with the club, he is yet to play more than half a game.
Not only has the squad not been strengthened and lost one of its most potent attacking weapons in Minniecon, but injury has deprived Farina of Murdocca (who’s injury, not coincidently, roughly coincided with the slump in preseason form), Zullo and Tiatto – all linchpin of the side which performed so brilliantly at the end of last season. David Dodd, Reinaldo and Tommy Oar are also injured and Matt McKay has only just returned from his loan stint in China, having missed most of the preseason preparations.
In defence Moore and DeVere have been fixtures in the center during preseason, but last year’s full back heroes Tiatto and Packer have been largely covered by youngsters Matt Mundy and the ungainly and not so speedy Josh McCloughin who is clearly more comfortable and effective at centre half.
In midfield Nichols has been the senior figure, playing a deeper role in Murdocca’s absence, last year’s rough diamond has looked frustrated, cranky and puffed. Let’s hope inflated expectations don’t consign him to Kruse style second season blues. Now that McKay has returned the third midfield slot in Farina’s 433 seems likely to go to last years Youth League player of the season Adam Sarota, or (should he ever manage to regain fitness) Bob Malcolm. Neither has been particularly impressive in preseason. Sarota is clearly not used to scrapping in the centre of the pitch and seems to lack the positional sense and physical intensity to play the role. Malcolm has played well when on the pitch, but concerns about his ability to return to full fitness may be at centre of the delay in signing him to a contract.
The same concern must be hovering over Charlie Miller, who is yet to put ninety minutes together and was rested against Newcastle due to a niggling injury. Not mention Reinaldo who has sat in the stands for the entire preseason.
This weekend's game against the Newcastle Jets at Ballymore will be the best indicator yet of how the Roars' preparations for the season proper are travelling. After some early positive the pre-season seems to have stalled with some poor results and a number of injuries to key players in particular Murdocca, Oar and Zullo.
30,000 fans in green and white hoops verse seven orange scarfed home supporters. The competition on the field was just as one sided, Celtic too fast, too strong, to clever by half for the shell shocked Roars, most of whom looked as if they had never seen anything like it, and to be fair, they probably hadn’t. As a large Scotsman at the urinal next to me explained “Oon y'r XBOX, Celtic are, like, a 4 star Te-am. Brisbane are, like arf. Arf a star. Shite.” He spat on my boot for emphasis and I meekly agreed.
Who would have dared argue with this huge, noisy army of madmen? I even found myself inadvertently bellowing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. What a spectacle. Who would have dared argue with this huge, noisy army of madmen. I even found myself inadvertently bellowing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. What a spectacle.
At a glance the day was a
roaring raging success for new football, the Roar and their new administration. However after the game, as the victorious green masses march up caxton st complete with full pipe band, a feeling of unease emerges. Below the surface, the very success of this event brings the A-League's failures into sharp focus and raises a couple of glaring questions.
1: Where were the Roar Fans?
Roughly 25,000 of the 30,000 in attendance were there to support Celtic – even accounting for the possibility that many of those fans may also be regular Roar supporters as well – were were the non-Celtic supporting Queensland public? Only a handful of the Roars’ supporters turned up to watch them play their most illustrious opponents even in their short history. The members’ side of the ground was bizarrely empty and given the phenomenal turn out for the Hoops, the total attendance figure must have been disappointing for the organisers. This does not bode well for the “blockbuster” opening round derby vs gold coast. Miron and the Clive Palmer have done a fantastic job at promoting their club through the media but they won’t be bringing 25,000 traveling supporters to Brisbane for the opening round.
2: Where are these all these Celtic fans every second weekend?
Are they all going to sit at home in front of ESPN for another thirty years waiting for Celtic to tour again? The A-League has clearly failed to capture the imagination of these football fanatics. Football in Australia faces stiff competition from the other less accurately named codes, to be financially viable the A-League must , at the very least, engage those fans who already love the game. New markets in asia and the battle with AFL can wait, first the league must appeal to the converted.
If there are 20,000 - 30,000 Celtic fans in Brisbane, it would safe to bet that there are at least as many rangers fans, 10,000+ Manchester Utd fans, 10,000+ Arsenal fans, 10,000+ Liverpool fans, countless fans of Milan, Inter, Juventus, Barcelona, Madrid, Ajax, Crystal Palace etc etc etc. Why have the Roar and most other A-League clubs, failed to tap into the vast footballing diaspora?
Compared to Celtic with there European Cups and multi million dollar transfer kitty, the Roar may well be "Shite", but when it comes to live football they are the best thing to hit this town since 1997 when the Strikers one the NSL in front of 40,000. So why the resistance? Is it the unnecessarily ugly strip or the ridiculously childish name? Are tickets too expensive or the games too boring? Is it the inevitably contrived vibe that surrounds the A-League as clubs struggle to forge an identity? Is it the ground announcer who sounds like he stuck in a perpetual audition for a gig on the Price is Right? Or are Brisbane's footballing public just too rusted on to their existing overseas clubs or local state league teams to care about the Roar?
“Get it up! Get it up arrrhh!! No, no, no! don’t pass it sideways! Get it Up!!” The portly gentleman next to us continued this stream-of-consciousness analysis for the entire game, pausing only to observe with exasperation that Culina “should have been a hairdresser”. As entertaining as this was, the enjoyment paled in comparison to listening to Gold Coast Utd nauseating theme song over the sound system. Watching large beer swilling Gold Coast fans shrink visibly with embarrassment to the sacerine melodic strains of Eurovision winners Botherhood of Man's "United we Stand" was worth the price of admission alone.
70's gay pride anthems aside, the involvement of the disappointingly sparse 10,000 fans was more 14th green than Kop end and the ground anouncer was a little to the Bernie Fraser side of animated. Polite applause was the highlight of the first half apart from some isolated attempts at “Gold Coast Clap clap clap” and a brief but concerted effort to boo the referee after a blatant penalty shout was refused. After Gold Coast hit the lead the crowd were finally caught up in events and atmosphere over the final ten minutes was jubilant only spoiled by the anemic strains of “United we Stand, Divided we Fall” at the full time whistle.
There are plenty of match summaries floating around the interwebs so I won’t bother going over all that. Basically Fulham looked much the better team in the first half, Murphy scored with a brilliant free kick. Tiered and rearranged, Fulham fell into disarray after half time. Gold Coast attacked wildly, throwing plenty of haymakers but landing nothing. Tahj Minecon injected some much needed pace and penetration upon his half time substitution and in the end Gold Coast deserved their win and could have had a few more but for wasteful finishing.
While the result means little, it would be an ardent Roar fan who refused to be impressed by some of United's payers' performances - So let the record show that we were officially unimpressed.
However, Adama Traore showed great skill and pace going forward and while Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora (or Robert Zomoro as the lackluster ground announcer would have it) caused the left back the occasional moment of defensive panic, he wont have to deal with that kind of quality week in week out in the A-League.
Joel Porter and Shane Smeltz provided plenty of evidence to suggest that Tahj Minniecon might be the team's best striker. For his part the
greedy,traitorous memercenary ex Roar starlet proved that he can create panic among defenders of any pedigree.
Michael Thwiate impressed, particularly after moving into midfield from where he made numerous penetrating runs and took a few good shots, even executing a neat Cryuff turn which failed to impress the gallery "Get it UP! Fa #*$%s sake foward!"
Of the other central midfielders, Griffiths was combative, Culina was predictably classy (despite an apparently maddening penchant for passing the ball wide) and after a slow start, in which he appeared to be well behind the pace of the game, dwelling on the ball and getting caught in possesion, Brazilian Robson settled well into a holding role.
Through gritted teeth, we cant deny that Gold Coast showed enough to convince that they will be a serious force in the coming A-League Season, so long as none of the players are stuck down by 70's pop schmaltz induced paralysis.
The bad news that Massimo Murdocca will miss the start of the season has been balanced by the relief that David Dodd is out as well. However, the two injuries have left the center of the Roars' midfield a little light on. It is likely that Tiatto will slot into the midfield, but there is also the possibility that the twin injuries may increase the likely hood of Bob Malcolm signing for the club.
Malcolm came on at half time in the wolves match and really dominated the midfield. As much as TRD would love to see Robbie Kruse stay at the club, the squad's bounty of forwards and scarcity of dominant midfielder and defenders could make Malcolm the more prudent choice, should a decision have to be made between the two.
With Devere and McJosh both strong options to partner Moore at the back, midfield is where Malcolm could strengthen the team most effectively. No title chasing team should be relying on Dodd to anchor midfield. At 24, Dodd should have established himself at senior level by now. If room needs to be made in the squad to allow Kruse to stay and Malcolm to join, then surely Dodd must be the prime candidate to leave. Griffiths, the other player to be too old to be considered an up and comer but not good enough to hold down a first team spot is currently important cover for the defensive line, however the rise of Matt Mundy could have his position also under scrutiny.
Perhaps it is time for Griffin and Dodd to be moved on allowing Mundy and the impressive Luke Brattan step up.
UPDATE: Shortly after publishing this post, I checked the Roar Web page to find that Griffin has vanished from the team profiles page and Matt Mundy has been added. I'm sure he was there last week. -Should we draw anything from the fact the other player comming off contract, Robbie Kruse, is still listed?
While he impressed in this weekend's trial match against Wolves, Robbie Kruse cut a dejected figure as he trudged to the dressing rooms after being substituted. With his contract ending in days and Farina stating that a decision will be made within the week, there is every possibility that the lonely walk from the bench, around the back of the field to the sheds on the other side, could be the last time we see Kruse in a Roar jersey (lucky break for the fashion conscious given the imminent introduction of next seasons strip). What a sad way to go out. There was no fanfare, no kids waving autograph books, his feet dragged reluctantly, he avoided looking up from the ground and as he passed reproaching murmurs about night clubs were audible.
Such an ignominious exit would have been unthinkable when Kruse burst into the side with a spectacular goal on debut half way through the 2007-08 season. The impact the introduction of Kruse and Zullo on either wing changed the momentum of the Roars season and took them to the brink of the minor premiership.
Lets not forget the immense contribution Kruse made in that season and the potential which was clear for all to see. Kruse is now older, stronger, faster and presumably wiser. There is every chance he can be a better player now than in his break-through season.
Unfortunately for Kruse and the fans the decision may have to be made before he gets the chance to show us.