Wednesday, 7 May 2014

GMS - Steppin' on the Rake!

"Does anyone know the way to Albania??" Mike Mulvey


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

GMS - Grand Final Edition!

"I need a scout report on this 'Jason Deulo' he's playin' the Grand Final?? -- Tony Popovic


Thursday, 24 April 2014

We are not Amoysed - GMS

"Moyes probably felt as though he was coaching someone else's team" -- Graham Arnold


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Imagined Communities - GMS 16 April 14


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Breakin' legs, faces and records

"Red is the new orange" - Besart Berisha


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Cosi's Kitchen - GMS

"Stick a fork in me, I'm done" -- Harry Kewell


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

More Like Stan Darsh - GMS

"But the game had stopped sir!" -- Mitch Langerak


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Mood Music - GMS

"We're more than just background noise" -- RBB


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

GMS - Dance Dance Revolution

"He's been club-less for four god damn months, this is not news" -- Ange Postecoglu


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

GMS - Johnny Foreigner

A new approach to foreign players, extended licenses for the clubs, Juventus and Sydney FC. It's an action packed week of A-League scrambled sunny-side up!


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

GMS - Sochislife!

"Let the baby have his bottle" - Bushy

This week the lads are all over the beer, banners and Bunnings chairs that have dominated the A-League highlights. Oh and if we get around to it, the meaning of life. Operating from a soundless bunker somewhere in our nation's capital, the Scramble have the word!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Roar tip their cap on Berisha

The Roar would love to keep him, and the Brisbane fans adore him. The Roar’s Albanian ace Besart Berisha needs no introduction. So what’s the problem? 

The problem is that Roar – a club blessed with talent to burn – already have two marquees, and there’s a salary cap that prohibits the club paying Berisha what he’s worth. 

To rub salt into the wounds, Roar is not a club strapped for cash – and their rich owners would gladly pay to retain the Albanian assassin.

I can see why Roar fans may feel hard done by. I mean Berisha (who’s currently playing on a much lower salary than he will play for at Victory), was a genuine find, a diamond in the rough. 

And one might well argue that the Roar deserve just reward for their skill in identifying this prolific goal scorer’s potential. Why should Roar lose Berisha because of a salary cap, with some other club swooping in to buy his services?

The counter-argument (there’s always a counter-argument) runs something like this. The salary cap is necessary to guarantee the financial sustainability of the all the A-League clubs; to make sure that every A-League fan follows a club capable of winning the League; and to ensure that clubs are forced to turn to new local talent to round out their squads. 

Those of us who have followed Rugby League in recent times, will be well used to the salary cap-induced roster jostling that often forces our favourite players to seek ‘greener’ pastures.

But the truth is that Rugby League – another competition with a massive disparity in the financial capacity of its clubs – is a better for it. The net result is that on any given Sunday, any team can beat the other. 

There is no paying for a premiership, no buying insurmountable dominance. The only way clubs can ensure repeated success, is to excel at developing young talent and establish a competitive and productive club culture with effective backroom management.

And the A-League is no different. Berisha is probably the biggest example so far of a talented and popular player being forced out of a successful club due to salary cap restrictions. There will be more to come. 

Recently, the salary cap has taken on even more importance in light of Manchester City’s purchase of Melbourne Heart. Imagine if one of the world’s greatest financial powerhouses was permitted to buy the A-League title, year upon year?

City bring the kind of financial muscle and football nous that not even the Roar’s rich owners could match. The result would not only be extremely boring, but would probably result in mass bankruptcy, as the other A-League clubs struggled to bolster their squads. 

All this against a backdrop of disaffected fans sick of seeing their team smashed by the kind of opposition money can buy.

The reality is that even now, things are not equal in terms of A-League drawing areas – compare Brisbane’s three million residents to Newcastle’s 500,000. If the financial flood gates were opened the Jets would never be able to keep up financially with the Roar, let alone a City global football conglomerate. 

And yet the A-League needs a competitive Jets, not only because it’s exciting to see a team from Australia’s steel city, but because Newcastle has a hundred-weight of talented youth players.

To their credit, the Roar fans have taken Berisha’s move with extremely good grace – much the same as Victory did when their country called on Ange. And these fans can claim the moral high-ground if in future, a salary cap fire-sale breaks in their favour. 

I just hope that when that time comes, the fans remember that the Roar have taken one for team A-League.

GMS Podcast | Every Wednesday Night


Thursday, 6 February 2014

6-Point Super Round!

The dogged resurgence of Heart, Phoenix, and Adelaide, has added an extra layer of spice in the competition for finals spots in 2014. The result, is that we now head into a round 18 where every single game is a vital 6-pointer.

The intensity of this year’s competition was shown by the mad scramble at the end of the transfer season – with almost every club adding some serious swagger to their roster.

But it hasn’t always been this way. After five or six rounds of the competition, last year’s bottom four (Wellington, Newcastle, Heart, Sydney) were again in lowly position, and some were questioning whether we already knew which teams would miss out. 

And as the Heart, Phoenix and Adelaide seasons faltered, it appeared that the race for six finals spots would be run between only a few teams.

Given their disappointing results, Sydney, Heart, Newcastle, Phoenix and Adelaide, might have been forgiven for shutting up shop and focussing on a rebuild for 2015. However, to their credit, these teams’ dogged pursuit of improvement has seen them turn their seasons around. 

The net result is that there is now a mere ten points separating 2nd and 9th in the League. There are only four points between 4th and 9th. 

 With each game in this competition a potential 6-point turn around, the tight competition for a place in the final six has made this round a corker – gentlemen, start your engines!

Wanderers (30) v Roar (37): [1 v 2] - Not much explanation needed here, who wouldn’t want to watch the two best teams in the land go head-to-head in Wanderland cauldron?? The stakes could not be higher - the Wanderers will welcome Brisbane needing to win to stay in touch; and with a win the Roar can put one paw on the A-League plate.

Mariners (27) v Victory (24): [3 v 4] – With a solid win the Victory can take 3rd spot from the Mariners, and edge a vital step closer to securing a vital top two finals spot. For the Mariners, there is the coveted chance to kick away from mid-table, and should the Wanderers fail, draw equal second on points with a game in hand.

Sydney (22) v Adelaide (21): [5 v 6] – What more is there to play for? The winner will climb as high as 4th, whilst the loser could well crash out of the top six. Both teams are coming off a disappointing result last round, and will be desperate to make this one count.

Heart (12) v Perth (21): [7 v 10] – Perth owe their table position to results against teams below them – in fact they’ve not beaten a top four team. A loss could see the Glory slipping away from 6th place. For Heart, every single game potentially represents the end of their season. Both teams will be desperate to take a six-point turn around.

Jets (20) v Phoenix (20): [9 v 8] – Locked together on 20 points, these two teams are hanging tantalisingly close to the safety zone. The winner could find themselves in sixth spot; the loser will start next week in ninth place.

Laurie is a panelist on the GMS.


GMS - Huawei Five-O

Silly season in the transfer market, Wellington debate the Auckland in the room, and we look at a massive upcoming round of football!

"I guess no-one's interested in watching us play" - Ernie Merrick


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tomorrow, when the show began - GMS

"The reason we're so inconsistent is because everyone hates us" - Frank Farina


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

I will Survive - GMS


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Adult Entertainment - GMS


Monday, 13 January 2014

37 Pieces of Flare - GMS


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Rumble in the Jungle - GMS


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Brozuka - GMS


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Lamentation of their Women - GMS


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mariners seek the Northern Spirit

This Thursday the Mariners will face the Phoenix in a catch up match at North Sydney Oval. Those soccer-mad Sydney-siders who followed the NSL in the days before Sydney FC will recall that North Sydney Oval used to be the home of what was one of the archetypal clubs of the current A-League – the Northern Spirit.

The game rather fittingly sees new Mariner’s coach Phil Moss (a former Spirit defender) return to his playing roots. Today football remains incredibly popular in northern Sydney, with numerous strong local clubs, and on any given weekend hundreds of kids and parents take to the field to ply the beautiful game.

The Northern Spirit was the first club Australian football club I supported, and I fondly remember the excitement I felt that northern Sydney finally had an NSL club to call its own. We all used to cut football helmets out of multi-coloured balls. 

Alas, the Spirit was also a club before its time, and the model proved unsustainable in the dour NSL format. However, Northern Sydney-siders remain a rather parochial lot, with a laconic approach to life that is unique amongst the four major Sydney geographical cliques.

For those less familiar with Sydney’s immense metropolitan sprawl, it is a city of cities that defies unitary descriptions. Due to its unique geography and  layout, Sydney is popularly divided into four culturally distinct quarters: west, north, east and south. 

Currently there are two teams in Greater Sydney, the Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC. Sydney FC has been dubbed East Sydney FC by the wags, and to a large extent, the caveat "East" is fitting.
Sydney FC play out of Randwick, and the club’s philosophy of stars is easily identifiable with the successful glamour of the owners of Sydney’s prime real estate. 

On the Western side the fans of Western Sydney sing for themselves – “We’re from the streets of Western Sydney” – and the Wanderers ably represent those streets with their hard-nosed approach to the game. The North however, does not easily fit into either of these philosophies, and geographically, is equally far away from both Parramatta and Sydney stadium.

 Believe it or not, most of Northern Sydney shares more cultural affinity with, and is geographically closer to, the Central Coast, which is only separated from Sydney by virtue of the Hawkesbury River. 

In fact the NRL has made a number of attempts to tie clubs such as Manly and the Bears to the Central Coast to increase their financial viability. These moves only failed because of an unwillingness of those clubs to embrace the change.

This point is not lost on the Mariners – it's no secret they have had their share of financial troubles – and they are seeking to reverse the favour, as most of the Mariner’s worries spring from their passionate but undersize fanbase. This small fanbase is exacerbated by a lack of potential sources of large corporate support. 

Put simply, the Mariners are a good club in need of more fans, and the games they are playing at North Sydney Oval have the potential to open the club to a demographic and corporate bonanza.

 Personally, I think the play for the support of Northern Sydney is a smart move by the Mariners as they look to shore up their finances. Even if they convince a sub-section of unaligned or semi-aligned north Sydney-siders to join their cause, then they could potentially double their membership. 

Perhaps even more importantly, it has the potential to bring additional and as yet uninitiated fans to the A-League. Until such time as northern Sydney once again has a club to call its own, the Mariners will be happy to represent, and the FFA should do all they can to back them on their quest.


It's way too hot - GMS


Friday, 15 November 2013

Heart Pressure

John Aloisi will be a troubled man tonight, and not just because his team lost to a fellow A-League struggler in Sydney FC. It’s also not just because in losing they once again looked blunt in attack, and were leaking goals at the back with defensive blunders that are arguably below A-League standards. 

What will be giving Aloisi real heart burn will be that in a winnable game for Heart, his team looked disorganised and almost disinterested in what was a key result for manager and Club.

Heart remain winless after six rounds of football, and have not scored since their round 2 draw with Central Coast – a game that they let get away after leading. Heart supporters were left with another faltering performance in which we didn’t see anything new. The post match comments from Williams were telling, “We’re just glad they [the supporters] came”. 

The definition of insanity is to keep on repeating the same behaviour expecting different results. The fans keep hearing that Heart are doing the right things and the results will eventually come – but at what point does a manager decide that the current course of action and tactics just aren’t working?

To my mind playing Mifsud upfront is one course of action that is not working. He is a small technical player, and is not getting the ground service that he requires to make space. Heart are lobbing long balls and high crosses forward which towering opposition backs are lapping up. Under Heart’s current set up, I would move the powerful Mebrahtu up front and the pacy Mifsud out to a wide role. 

Whatever changes are made, it’s important that Aloisi undertake some honest self reflection –the simple fact is that something about Heart’s current set up is not working, and six games without a win and virtually no goals, is a large enough sample size. To go on blindly insisting that the current setup can deliver success will likely result in more of the same, and risk making Aloisi appear like a coach without answers.

At the end of the match a section of the Heart supporters unveiled a banner which read simply “Aloisi out”. Frank Farina can relate to Aloisi’s situation – two weeks ago as Sydney FC were faltering, there was a Twitter campaign by a section of Sydney supporters calling for Farina’s head. Now whilst these fans are definitely jumping the gun, boards are not generally too far behind the sentiment in the terraces. 

Sydney FC for their part are not the most clinical or well organised team, however they have worked their way out of trouble by working hard and taking points when they are on offer. Furthermore it’s clear that the Sydney FC players will play for Farina, who has been able to inspire the performances necessary to lift the pressure. More importantly, Farina has adjusted tactically to play to Sydney FC’s strengths.

At the moment it’s hard to see where the Heart will draw their inspiration over the coming rounds. Next week the Heart travel to face a rising Jets side, whose youthful line up will not be outdone for exuberance. The week after next the Heart line up against Adelaide, whose coach Josep Gombau has also been under increasing pressure as his tiki-taka breaks down under counter attack.  

A key part of any coach’s role is to prepare his side mentally for the game both in terms of belief in the game plan and focus on the execution, and Heart have yet to really demonstrate either of these.  In Round 9 the Heart will face the powerful Wanderers again.

The A-League is unique in that there is a definitive pass-fail line based on a 60/40 split of the League. The 40% teams in the A-League who don’t make the finals will consider the season a write-off. Most League’s have a more grey definition of success, with only the bottom 13% or so in the drop zone facing definitive failure. 

As the A-League steadies itself financially, all the clubs will be desperate to play finals football, and if things look grim it will undoubtedly inspire changes at the top. Unless he can successfully chart a new course, Aloisi could well find himself the first coaching casualty of the season.

The problem for managers of struggling teams in smaller competitions like the ten team A-League, is that you don’t have to lose too many games before you’ve lost to everyone in the comp. And then it is much harder to surprise teams with your style. The opposition know how you play, and know how to beat you. Unless they can bring something new to the table, Heart will more than likely lose again. 

It is the law of the jungle that the strong will overcome the weak, and it is critical for the Heart that they don’t take on the role of the perennial strugglers or easy-beats. The team needs to be mentally tough, and believe that their manager can lead them out of what is starting to look like a quagmire. All this makes the next two weeks crucial for the Heart and Aloisi. 

Unless the Heart can jag some sorely needed points against fellow strugglers the Jets and the Reds, Heart will be in danger of losing touch with the teams above them.

Laurie is a commentator on the Goalmouth Scramble.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Shoddy Announcer - GMS


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Short Sighted: Referees on Film (2 Minutes Later)

It’s no secret that a number of A-League refereeing incidents have detracted from results and diverted the fan's attention away from the football. The response to the issue so far from the FFA has been tepid – for now they holding the line that everything is fine. 

The referees themselves know something needs to change – earlier this year the League’s top referees threatened strike action over demands that the game’s only non-professional parties finally become professional. The FFA quickly negotiated a truce which involved some extra training and development provisions, but for now their most important representatives remain distracted by their day jobs.

Refs are in essence the managers of our football action, and custodians of the fan’s faith in the spectacle. The role of the referee is arguably the most important on the pitch, and the League should invest as much as possible into ensuring that that their on field representatives are the best that they can be. 

A-League fans are being asked to accept that semi-pro referees can continue to keep up with a rapidly professionalising A-League. That this situation is increasingly untenable was fittingly illustrated by the Perth vs Sydney FC offside call in round five – the official simply hadn’t the legs to keep up with the game he was officiating, and subsequently wasn’t in line with the players to make a clear offside call.

The fans may accept the outrage this time, and possibly the time after that. But soon enough the hypertension will build to a point that the level of frustration will explode. Mass protest could well be sparked by a single refereeing calamity – the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. 

A refereeing “crisis” will likely inspire a knee-jerk reaction like the introduction of video refs. Here’s a novel idea: why not pragmatically deal with the refereeing issue now, before the FFA’s hand is forced into a hyperextension by an explosive backlash?

Video Referees

Football is called the beautiful game for a reason. In no other football code can defence can turn to attack so rapidly; in no other code is territory gained and conceded in such largesse; and in no other code do guile and capricious genius rule the pitch quite as they do in football. It is code for partisan artisans, with a team functioning more like a living breathing entity than a collection of individuals. In other codes teams tirelessly learn set plays and plan specific phases of defence and attack. 

In football defence is attack, and vice-versa. Our coaches drill the players with the skills necessary to work together, and then rely on the team’s cohesion to manufacture chances on goal. Each minute is filled with passages of play that have never been seen before and will never be seen again. Stopping the beautiful game for up to two minutes whilst a faceless official endlessly examines close up pixilation of a hand straying offside will undermine everything that makes football great.

Sport is all about moments. Moments of greatness, triumph and celebration. Anyone who is a fan of cricket will know the blight that glacial video decisions can have on a sport. Cricket’s great moment – the wicket – has been forever tarnished by the fact that a wicket is rarely complete these days. Celebration is held in limbo whilst the opposition work out if they will appeal. If they do, the appeal is then prosecuted in the endless replay of video, heat mapping and “snickometers”, with the decisive moment of glory subsumed by the weight of lengthy analysis. 

To subject the beautiful game to such conjecture would be to lose not only one of the fundamental values of sport – accepting the call of the umpire – but would rob ourselves of the greatest elation that football has to offer its fans. And it does not even guarantee accuracy – often even when slowed down to 100ths of frames, often a video cannot clearly illustrate definitely when a ball crossed a line, because of the speed with which it moves.

And who are we that we can no longer accept the rub of the green? That we cannot accept the call that was close and could have gone our way? The line-ball call that didn’t go our way is not the problem here. As Adelaide coach Josep Gombau sagely noted, sometimes the calls go your way and sometimes they don’t. Calls that don’t go our way only become a problem when the error is so calamitous so as to beggar belief. 

The problem is referees who are not well versed enough in the rules of the game to be able to apply the correct offside ruling from a throw-in. Who are not physically fit enough to keep up with the speed of professional players, and in lagging miss a clear offside. Who are not given the time to mentally and physically prepare to hold one of the most important offices in our game.

It is clear to me – and I suspect many others – that it is time to give the League the professional officials it deserves. As an ex-referee I perhaps sympathise with their plight more than most. Take it from me, being a ref is way tougher than anyone who hasn’t done it can possibly imagine. Refereeing a match is something that I suggest every player who has ever given a ref a gobfull do. 

It is time for the FFA to give deserved support to its most valuable representatives – the only representatives that most fans see. With five games a week, there are fifteen professional officials required across Australia and New Zealand. Let’s develop them, hire them, and get on with the game.

Laurie Plant is a commentator on the GMS Podcast.


Monday, 11 November 2013

FFA Coaching Conference: NPL clubs should pay all coaches U12 - NPL but not players. Which club will lead?

The recent Coaching Conference in Canberra asked local National Premier League Clubs to refrain from paying players - and pay your coaches instead.

Coaches are undertaking expensive courses and give many hours of their time so kids and adults can play in the NPL.

But how many Coaches are being paid, at your Canberra club?

Already clubs around town are trying to poach players by offering payments or higher payments than their current club. Some have offered to double what a player is getting at his current club.

So where does the money come from for these NPL players? Gate money? Stop laughing!

Well if players were paid based on the crowd they pulled in no-one in Canberra would be paid.

An increasing source of revenue for the NPL clubs is their juniors. Different clubs charge different fees for U12 - U18. I wonder why?

No doubt some is siphoned off to pay their leading male players.

You wonder what amount of money is wasted on player wages across the men's premier league season.

And it is wasted as no sooner does a player bunker down at one club, he heads to a rival club for presumably more money.

Mike Charlesworth, owner of the Central Coast Mariners, has called for junior playing fees to be reduced. Canberra National Premier League Clubs by stopping player payments could show they were really interested in promoting and developing their club.

Imagine if any of our 8 Premier League clubs came out and said we'll pay all coaches but not our players.

What an interesting culture you could develop. And how you could take pressure off these NPL clubs in a financial sense.

Should anyone really be paying players to play in Canberra to play football?

Only Canberra United players should be paid and they regularly train 5 times a week and attract close to 1,000 people per game. Can any men's Premier League club match that?

What is the benefit to any club of paying players in Canberra? And which club(s) has a focus on coach and player development rather than win, by paying players, at all costs?


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Slippery Fish - GMS Pod


Ange starts the revolution - half a team wiped out - and a need for speed from full back.

If you have been following the Socceroos since 2006, or just reading the blogs and articles over the last few years you'd know Australia owed a massive debt to our 2006 player group.

 It's the bulk of that squad that got us to the 2010 and now 2014 World Cup. We say thank you.

To one and all.

And while we have all looked to the future, it took some of the guys at SBS, and in the media, along time to realise where we needed to head.

Few called for heads before the 2010 World Cup. And it was only at the World Cup itself that the enlightened journos of Aussie football started to sense we needed change. Others pushed their own agenda.

Remember the calls for Richard Porta and Nicky Carle! The targeting of Harry Kewell.

And while Holger Osiek started well with his 2011 Asian Cup performance it was still Harry Kewell, despite his critics, Lucas Neill, Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill, Luke Wilkshire and an ageing addition in Sas Ognenovski that got us to the final.

And the bulk of those guys got us over the line for 2014.

Think Archie Thompson v Iraq in that crucial away win. Or Tim Cahill v Iraq or Oman to name but two. Or Lucas Neill and Sas Ognenovski v Japan, Jordan and Iraq most recently.

Michael Thwaite and Rob Cornthwaite replaced them for the Oman debacle and look what happened there.

And of course Mark Schwarzer a legend of Australian sport who has saved us time and time again since he came onto the scene v Canada way back in 1993. Not as skilled as Bosnich some say - rubbish, The guy has played more international games, more World Cups and lasted much longer than Bozza. What more did he have to do?

And to be publicly attacked, if not directly then indirectly, by Zeljko Kalac at the 2010 World Cup. He stood his ground, dignified, and came out well on top.

And he retired because he was lacking motivation? Ange didn't push him or so it's said publicly but I'm sure if Holger was still here so would Mark. Whatever we salute him, and he goes out having got us to 3 World Cups.

Without Schwarzer there was no John Aloisi penalty and how that would have changed football?

And now Ange with his first squad has announced major changes.

Luke Wilkshire, Archie Thompson, Mark Schwarzer, Sas Ognenovski and Brett Holman all gone.
Not even in the squad.

That's 4 out of 5 regular starters but still some same Ange plays safe. Fourfourtwo are just one who have it all wrong. If you wipe four of your certain starters from the team, in this case the squad, that sends a message to them loud and clear. That ain't playing it safe!

At his press conference when discussing Luke Wilkshire's absence Ange talked for the need for speed from full back under his style of play. That's youth!

Think Brisbane Roar or Melbourne Victory. We need to be fast and mobile. We need to be able to pas and move.

Ivan Franjic, Michael Zullo, Lucas Neill and Alex Wilkinson changes the average age of the back four overnight - if Lucas goes as most think then Rhys Williams, Ryan Mcgowan, Jason Davidson are seemingly able to step in.

The change is on.

While Luke Wilkshire and co may come back from the list wiped, realistically only Brett Holman has a chance. The Ange revolution is on.  

This isn't just a squad for the World Cup, with one announcement you can see the 2015 Asian Cup squad shaping up.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Individual Brilliance - GMS

Round 3 of the A-League and the goals are hard to come by - is possession football working?