Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Socceroos Coach Announced

Well I must say I was a little surprised when Ben Buckley called last night to offer me the job of Socceroos' Head Coach, starting immediately.

Of course I know when the time for my national duty has come, and I accepted. But not before I had a long talk with Buckley in which I said I would be making a number of changes, some of them which will shock some people and many fans, and he guaranteed that I would have complete freedom and control over the roster. His only stipulation was that I should develop a team to play what is often variously referred to as 'total football', 'attacking, flowing football' or 'entertaining football'. My own term for it is 'ensemble football', but I may henceforth also just use the term, 'The Brisbane System'.

Now of course the media and the fans, not to mention the FFA, are all clamouring to know which players I intend to use for the rest of the World Cup Qualifiers and beyond, and I'll get to that presently, but first things first. If we pit our 11 best players against the 11 best players of the top international sides, and all the rest is equal, we will lose. A soccer game is a contest of systems, and the first thing to be clear on, for the media, the fans and the players, is what system we will be using. The players will depend upon the system, not the other way around.

One of Australia's great apostles of ensemble football is Craig Foster. He understands well that a good team needs a system, and because he also understands that criticism is not helpful without positive alternatives, he has pushed a Dutch system as the model which Australia will follow. More recently he talks more about Barcelona.

But Australia no longer needs to look abroad for a great system. Ange Postecoglou and Ken Stead at the Brisbane Roar (these two should always be spoken of as a partnership) have developed a system right here in Australia, no doubt heavily influenced by the great sides of Europe but very much an Australian born system at the same time. It is still developing and is currently going through new tactical tests in the A-League. Aside from its effectiveness a major advantage of this system is that many Australians play it or play against it and all are exposed to it every week.

Just as the champion Spanish team is made up of most of the Barcelona squad, and hence the extraordinarily well developed culture of the Barcelona method of play can transfer directly to their national team, I intend to look first to the successful Australian Roar players for the team. They are all faced with competition from others of course, but when I look at players outside the Roar I will not merely be looking at their form, the league they play in, or their team's success, but how they are being coached and the style that their team plays. I don't need defenders who play in a team which uses a lot of long ball, regardless of whether they are in the EPL or not or how successful they are. I need players who can play how I need them to play.

At this point I should mention the conversation I had with one of my predecessors this morning. Pim Verbeek infamously suggested that if people wanted to play for Australia then they should seek to play overseas first. Well this morning he told me that if he was coaching now he would say they should seek to play either overseas or at the Brisbane Roar.

Needless to say Ange Postecoglou and Ken Stead will be my constant consultants. I have bought into their philosophy and hope that I can, as the national team redevelops, contribute to it and take it abroad. We think this system, if fully developed and supported, can take on the world.

In short (very short) the system is a 4-3-3 which can become a 3-4-3 as the holding midfielder drops back and the wing backs surge forward. At its most attacking extreme it becomes 3-2-5 in fact.

But fluidity is the key. Interchangeabilities must be developed one by one, and the more of them the better. I cannot just say to my players, 'swap places if that's helpful'. Two players can only swap places if they have trained to do this. These interchangeabilites are an example of how developing our team takes time. We can take shortcuts by choosing players who already have a relationship in a system and who are trained to understand how we use space.

At the same time we must, like the Roar, always train and play with the ball on the ground, making use of triangular shapes with short passing, maintaining possession and pressing like motherfuckers every time we lose the ball. All of this is hard. I can't take a player - it doesn't matter if they are the player of the year in the EPL - who has never played this way and include them in my team. The more my players already play this way, the more successful I can be in developing, from the bottom, the most successful Australian team to date.

That's what we want isn't it? Obviously I am being hired to make the new Socceroos, the first Socceroos of the new football era, the best team Australia has ever fielded.

At this time the biggest problem for the Socceroos is the midfield. I haven't decided on my whole squad, and of course I must keep up to date with rising talent, but I do know of a midfield of three which works very well. Matthew McKay, Eric Paartalu and Mitch Nichols are the 'first' three across the middle.

Here is the first 11 I am currently looking to train with for the game against Saudi Arabia in Sydney, which will be the first competition test of the new team.

Michael Theoklitos
Shane Stefanatto-Matthew Jurman-Matthew Špiranović-Ivan Franjic
Matt McKay-Eric Paartalu-Mitch Nichols
Tommy Oar-Brett Holman-Dario Vidošić

Now, just taking one position as an example, there may be better goal keepers than Theo. I would say not by much, but that may be so. But have they been trained to act as a sweeper when the team is up field? Have they been to begin attacks with short, tactical distribution to the back line? Have they had the boot up the center of the field thoroughly beaten out of them with whips and stout sticks? I don't have time to train a player in these tactical techniques, these game habits. I need to find a keeper who already knows what I need them to do in the system, as much as possible.

With that in mind I am very open to suggestions from fans about how I might better staff the field. Obviously I need a complete back-up team to complete the squad, and there are many contenders. But here I have very frankly given you, the media and fans, a skeleton picture of what we as a football nation are about to embark upon. Humbly I ask for your patience and your support.

Our goal is to reach the top 4 at Brazil 2014.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix 1:1

It is anxious times for a Brisbane Roar fan. I mean hell, the undefeated streak stretches to 34 games. But it's hard not to notice that the last two games have presented a new challenge. It's hard not to notice that we have not scored from open play in the last two games.

In week one, Central Coast tried to handle us the way they almost did last season, with their half-open, counter attacking game, but once again, came up short.

The next week Sydney tried to press us high, and failed.

The Gold Coast also tried to press high; opening themselves up, and they were shown three goals against them for their efforts.

Adelaide - bless them - tried to beat us at our own game, and were utterly exposed.

Melbourne defended. They did not beat us, but with only nine men, they stifled us. Going by Archie's insistence before that game that Melbourne needed the first goal and that if Brisbane got the first goal Melbourne were basically stuffed, it's my suspicion that the tight defense we saw Melbourne play in the second half last week was not entirely improvisation due to extraneous circumstance. I believe it was Melbourne's plan to get an early goal - as it has been observed that Brisbane is often exposed early on - and then defend approximately as they did.

But regardless of how much their defensiveness was forced upon them, it worked. And Wellington, on paper the weakest team in the League, did the same thing. And it worked again.

That's the season so far. The sweep of the story is that the League has not figured out how to defeat Brisbane and indeed they have more-or-less given up trying. But they have worked out how to neutralise Brisbane. Perhaps Ange is right and there's nothing to worry about. There were good chances tonight after all. But my feeling is that other teams will do the same thing, with a reasonable expectation of success, and that we need a new trick.

One of the questions is about Brisbane's depth. In terms of on field leadership I don't think Matty McKay has been entirely replaced. It was him who would rally the troops, leading by example, for the final efforts, especially when the team was down. There doesn't seem to be that extra kick in the team; that turbo mode. The second halves of the last two games have been tactically clever enough, and accurate enough in terms of passes, but have appeared almost monotonous. We are left asking, "And???"

With Nichols away Issey was brought in to start and Broich was brought into the middle. Broich in the middle is great by me but Issey does not seem comfortable with the system yet, hogs the ball a bit and hence loses possession too much. He also shows some magic, and he did come very close to scoring so, unlike my son and consultant Jacob, who thinks Issey is "fuckin useless" I haven't given up on him. Depth is a challenge though.

Brattan deserves a mention at this point as he does appear to be able to do his job in the system.

"The system." There was a moment which I would love to successfully describe as it summed up the difference between what the Roar are doing and what other teams appear to be doing, in the first two thirds of the field anyway. Franjic received the ball very close to us, watched his defender frantically attempting to press him, and passed it off to his left (to Smith I think). It was the look on Franjic's face. It might be boredom. Certainly kind of cocky, contemptuous of the quite obviously pointless work the defender was doing. It looked like Franjic was pulling the same string as he had pulled a thousand times before, the outcome entirely predictable. And indeed, the defender huffed off to the left as Franjic gently sidestepped into the space created, as he knew he would before he even received the ball. It was just a moment, but seemed to sum up what was happening out there.

The thing is, the Roar machine is working. No team is beating us, and the opposition coaches from the last two weeks appear to be overjoyed to get the point from a draw. There is no team saying, "We can be better," merely teams saying, "We can stuff your game."

We'll see about that, of course. What a team does when we do score ourselves into the lead, as we nearly did about eight times in the second half, remains the open question. Keep in mind that the longer the game goes on the more the Roar have the advantage of their fitness and conserved energy. That's basically why teams need to score against the Roar as early in the game as possible. I suspect that the full defensive shell is also energy conserving to an extent.

It is in desperation that I am attempting a constructive solution to the Roar's new tactical dilemma. The second half tonight was a déjà vu of the second half last week versus the Victory. One thing that we did not see is any deviation from the ground level passing game plan. Any other team would be trying to chip balls over the top to a target man in the box. Not the Roar. They are so pure that it may defeat them.

If teams continue to conduct this kind of tortoise defense against the Roar maybe a target option would be good for the last ten minutes of the game, just to break things up, just to give the opposition something new to think about.

I don't suspect Berisha is the man. Paartalu appears a good choice for his height but he is key to the defense and the distribution around the defensive wall. I want to see Adnan given a go at this. According to Wikipedia he has been utilised just this way in the past and has scored goals like this, as well as from set pieces. The man is about 9 foot tall and we have had, in the first game against Central Coast, a glimpse of this aerial ability. It doesn't really get mentioned because he played such a small part in that game but he won two aerial challenges in that game with apparent effortlessness. The second was in the box from a corner but it went over the bar. I actually suspect that Ange is holding this weapon back purposely.

The neat thing is you can have Adnan on the bench as defensive cover, but then in this particular instance - when the opposition has retracted into its tortoise like defense - push him right up front as a natural target man. It's not changing the system. It's just giving it a new trick, for a contingency.

This game review was supposed to be 'visceral' I think. It would have been moreso if I was in the intoxication of the 5:1 drubbing that I expected Roar would deliver. The game was compelling and the atmosphere, with the 16,500 fans, was brilliant. Some are saying that the Roar are looking 'toothless' or whatever, but I still find myself hypnotised by their passages of play. But for a Roar fan tonight's game, on the back of last week in particular, was sobering.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pass and Move

When I began this blog over five years ago I honestly thought there were no active A-League blogs. I soon discovered I was wrong and wrote a reasonably comprehensive review of the amateur blogs which focused on the A-League at that time.

One of the things I was hungry for from the beginning was high quality, football-knowledgeable analysis of the games. There was some, and frankly I found the best of it better than anything that the mainstream has to offer. For all of Fozzie's apostolic mission to increase our understanding of the game, for example, he doesn't actually write or present detailed and comprehensive tactical analysis of games and, come to that, neither does SBS. 442 doesn't do much better.

My suspicion is that although there are hard core fans who seek a deeper intellectual relationship with the game, they would not actually have an enormous audience compared to the "Broich thinks the coach is really good" or "Sydney confident for the big game" type bullshit that is constantly spewed at us.

Since that time, of my three favourites, James Brown went and got a girlfriend, Mike Salter had a kid and only Tony Tannous has left his old blog and joined the Roar Sports Opinion team. Of the latter I would say that some of the best analysis of all of those early A-League seasons remain on the record on Tony's old blog The Round Ball Analyst.

Occasionally I would also take the time to surf around international fan sites as well, and it was apparent that their media was enormously more developed, not just in quantity but in sophistication and understanding, I daresay the lag in  the quality of football media in general is parallel with the lag in the quality of the football. We can't expect Australian media and bloggers to be as sophisticated as Europeans, perhaps.

And although James, Mike, Tony and others were doing their best, and better than any mainstream, with people as ignorant as myself as their audience, there was another level available, not merely in knowledge and quality of analysis but in presentation and consistency.

Ok, maybe I craved more pictures. During the last World Cup I discovered Zonal Marking, and was overjoyed when it did an analysis of Pim Verbeek's Socceroos vs Germany. Well, I wasn't that overjoyed with the content as such, but I was awakened to a type of analysis, that this website appeared to consistently do, which was exciting.

Anyway that's a bit of my own journey with it all, and in that time I've learned a lot about this game, and also about how much I don't know. Aside from bloggers my teachers of strategy and tactics were mostly the coaches of the Roar in a way, Miron Bleiberg, Frank Farina and, especially Ange Postecoglou. It is the latter that seemed to put a lot of the pieces together for me.

As I watched Ange develop and implement his system, and then begun to watch it work, I felt that I understood much better some of Craig Foster's rave, and also his passionate vehemence. Another level is possible, another level of football, and that level is facilitated by increasing understanding of the game among coaches, parents, fans and journalists.

The real fear with regard to the Brisbane Roar, according to this narrative, is that when Ange goes the Australian media and fans will forget it as a freakish success, the pressure will be off the other teams to do the extremely difficult, and the A-League will revert to the sort of mediocrity in which a thug-led Melbourne Victory can win. The only antidote to this fear is increasing understanding of the game.

The narrative about Ange is well established. He has 'brought the A-League to another level', 'raised the bar for all the other teams' etcetera. And he really has.

But a new player has also come onto the Australian blogging scene. It is my opinion that he's raised the bar of tactical analysis (for both A-League and Socceroos actually) but interestingly, he's declared that intent.

I am saying that Pass and Move is to soccer blogging what Ange is to the A-League. I guess it's a coincidence that 'Pass and Move' is also a good description of what Ange has brought to the Roar's game. Here is Pass and Move's manifesto in full:
Pass and Move is a football blog dedicated to tactical analysis, with a special emphasis on the Socceroos and the A-League, the top flight of Australian competition. It was inspired by the work of Michael Cox on Zonal Marking and Jonathon Wilson for the Guardian.
Pass and Move is an attempt to elevate the level of tactical discourse and insight about football in Australia; the central tent of Pass and Move is to move beyond merely reporting 'what' occurred during a match and ascertaining 'why' and 'how' it was won, drawn or lost.
Pass and Move hope to encourage others to broaden their own football knowledge. Check out the Recommended Reading below, and help spread the word about Pass and Move.

Advancing the level of understanding is not merely something Pass and Move does by analysis. Pass and Move does an occasional "Commentary on the Commentary" where he discusses mainstream discussions of a game and explains to us why they are full of shit. Now, clearly in each case there may be room for real argument, but this analysis is better, more comprehensive, coherent and clear than anything else around for our country. It also has cool pictures of the formations.

Now, no I don't know this guy. I don't even know if it's a guy. This review is from my heart. It is in the interests of our game in Australia for us to actively support the best possible analysis of out league, our national team and the games thereof. The more we build understanding among fans and media, the more likely it will be that, when Ange goes, the Australian football public will insist that the teams in the A-League continue to aim for the very difficult: that high place of practice which I am calling ensemble football, that has not been seen enough in our country.

I am also aware when I read the posts in Pass and Move, which are almost daily in frequency, that there is enormous love and effort behind the blog, and I am aware that with little reward the person behind it will not last, or not as consistently. Just like we must encourage good football, we must encourage good football writing. And I sincerely think we should actively support this blog. If Fozzie's apostolic mission is important to him, he should also actively support this blog. Same goes for any other football evangelist.

One last thing. As a Roar fan I am delighted that Pass and Move has so far reviewed all of our games this season. These reviews remain an extraordinary literary record of our season. But Pass and Move only reviews two games per round. These games are determined by popular vote on surveys down the right hand side ("Which Round x match are you most excited about?"). So it is of utmost importance that Roar fans get on the site and vote for our games to be reviewed.

Just as a final note, I feel fairly confident in predicting that the Roar are going to destroy Wellington Phoenix on Sunday afternoon and then make biscuits out of them. That, I'm afraid, is the extent of my own tactical capacity.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

"Wouldn't cost that much to buy mate. The A League teams sell players for fuck all." A Tribute to Matty McKay

The above quote is lifted from the Rangers fan forum and is not referring to Matty actually but to Thomas Broich and Mitch Nichols, who they merrily discuss their club's prospects of poaching, given what they see as the bargain purchase of Matty.
The page about Matty, which begins when the first talk of the transfer emerged, goes for 50 pages. The fans appear very pleased indeed with their Australian international signing, a common sentiment being that if he had been from a mediocre European team he would have cost over a million pounds.
Someone even put together a Matty compilation:

The best part is a 'comment' by our own A-League blogger, Pass and Move, who does the Rangers fans an enormous service by giving a fairly detailed and expert view of Matt McKay as a player. I reproduce it here with the permission of Pass and Move, as a tribute to a great player.
Matty was a founding member of Brisbane Roar and really the first player that I really watched evolve. The first time I saw a picture of him I was struck by his mischievous grin which, for me, alongside his dogged work rate, marked him as a winner in waiting.
Thank you Pass and Move for permission to republish this for Football Down Under's audience.

Posted 09 August 2011 - 02:56 PM
Hey Guys, 
I'm an Aussie, so obviously reasonably well informed about Matt McKay in the A-League and his performance for the Socceroos. Cards on the table, I know next to nothing about the venerable Scottish game, except that I have to go see an Old Firm derby before I depart this Earth, cause they fucking rule. I am a Melbourne fan, not a Brisbane devotee.

First off, he wasn't even in contention for the World Cup squad 'cause for some reason we hired a douche of a coach who decided to play a 4-4-2 against Germany with a right winger and an attacking midfielder up front. Holger Osieck was appointed afterwards, spouted off some drivel about playing players based on performance not league/club, and we all thought he was full of shite. Well he proved us wrong. He took four or five A-League players into the Asian Cup, which we were all apprehensive as f**k about on account of our World Cup beatings. Matty got his chance in the game against Bahrain, last of the group stage, as an injury replacement for our left back. He did okay, defending about as well as he could.

Then came the first knock out game against Iraq. Every pundit, armchair coach and his dog in Australia was waxing lyrical about how it was unfortunate for Matty, that Brett Emerton would be back from suspension, and Matty would have to lose his place. Well Holger said f**k that, stuck Matty in as a left midfielder. He fucking owned. Best Aussie of the night, even counting Harry Kewell who was somehow coaxed back to damn near Leeds form. Three minutes away from penalties, McKay steals the ball from a huffing and puffing Iraqi, lays on a f**king INCH-PERFECT cross from the half-way line, right into Harry's onrushing head, who scores a mammoth goal. He DID NOT play as a winger - he has an engine that'll go all night and into the next morning, but it's less a ferrari and more a volkswagon. More of a tucked in old-style 90's left midfielder, who linked with Harry and Carney (converted wing-back) and sprayed passes all over the park.

Then came the annihilation against Uzbekistan. Again, Aussies old and young were still trembling from our World Cup beatings, every pundit figured Matty's selection against Iraq was a reward, a mere bauble for being a good lad. Again, kept Brett Emerton, who at this stage holds the record for the second highest number of caps for Australia out of the line up. Again played as a tucked-in left midfielder. This worked really well because Holger played two absolute destroyers in the middle, so our left midfielder (McKay) and right midfielder (Holman) tucked in and rampaged with the safety of two-holders behind them. Matty was again the best Aussie of the night, and took three assists to his name. This is a video I watch when I'm depressed:
This is a Zonal Marking article analysing his performace:  We Won 6-0, probably helped by their suicidally high-line and playing their playmaker at center back for some stupid reason.

Then the final against Japan. Finally Aussies are starting to realise Holger isn't a dipshit, and McKay is actually, on current form, our best player. In the third minute, instrumental in a sweeping Arsenal-esque move, gets in on the end, Keeper rooted and BLASTS... his shot over the bar. We lost the game deep into injury time, which is still too painful to think about. But something everyone remembers about the game is this. Australia and Japan had players from the best leagues in the world on the park. Cahill from Everton, Kagawa from Dortmund, Schwarzer from Fulham, Honda from CSKA Moscow, etc etc. Matty McKay was the fittest mother f**ker on the pitch. He would literally NOT STOP running. Like I said he isn't the fastest bloke, but he was running those Jap blokes into the ground. and still laying on quality passes, spraying them diagonally, threading them through the defence, and once again displaying his puzzling inability to finish at point-blank range. What's even stranger is the A-League is one of the shortest leagues on the planet. We have a five month off season for f**k's sake. But Australia has the best sports science in the world, and I would bet money some of the fittest footballers (makes up for a lack of passing ability).

Latest game in the green and gold was the friendly against Germany. I can not emphasise how hungry the Aussies were for some German schnitzel. (4-0 rollicking from the World Cup.) For about 60 minutes, Australia looked like a bunch of amateurs. Gomez finds an absolute pearl. They get lazy and drop off, thinking to run down the clock. Now for that 60 minutes, McKay was again the best player in green and gold in a side including Cahill, Holman, Schwarzer, Neill and Kewell. Then somehow we switch on and stop passing straight to the Germans. McKay again instrumental in passing. Then Carney bombs down from left back, links up with McKay who is literally in the middle of three German blokes, all at least a head taller, and he lays on a first touch back heel flick into the box, Carney sweeps it up and finishes. We won 2-0.

In terms of A-League performances, Matty has always been regarded as a handy player, but only since the new gaffer (Postecouglou; remember his name. After he wins he Asian Champions League, he will conquer Europe) came in has his form stepped up to a new level altogether. you might have heard McKay captained the Brisbane Roar to their first every Premiership and Championship, acting as a lynchpin throughout the entire season. In the Grand Final, Brisbame went down 2-0 in the first period of ET. Undefeated for 29 games, (34/35 all season) about to fall at the last hurdle. He delivers an inspirational speech, Brisbane close the gap with three minutes to go. Brisbane get a corner and equalise with the LAST TOUCH of the game. Matty takes the third penalty and they win the game, withstanding the pressure from 50,000 screaming delirious orange clad fresh-from-horrific-flood-destruction Brisbaners. Now obviously the A-League can't compare with the standard of European football, but he was literally the competition's best performer.

In terms of general play, when Brisbane played a conventional 442, Matt partnered another player on the left side of the middle (LCM). After Brisbane switched to a 4-1-2-3, Matt played as the left of the '2'. In terms of physical stature, he is clearly not the biggest player. But I would put good money on him going to Rangers and being one of if the fittest players (if not the fittest). He has tidy passing range. Words used to describe him have included 'metronomic'. He is not a trequartista, nor a proper defensive midfielder. If I had to compare him to a premiership player, I'd say he's a skint man's version of Tom Huddlestone, who we all know is a hobo's version of Michael Carrick. From what I've gathered, he'd compliment Davis in terms of playing style. The national coach deploys Matty as an important creative hub on the left, linking well with our multitude of left-wingers-cum-left-backs and Harry Kewell, a left sided first choice striker. But it is important to note that Holger plays with two defensive midfielders in the centre. I'm not talking Busquets defensive or Xabi Alonso defensive. Real tough tacklers. Scotland is renowned for physical play, but Matty should deal with that fine. Australia has also garnered a well deserved reputation for physicality. And the Aussies have to do it in 35-40 degree heat. Also once again, he doesn't play as a left winger - has the crossing ability but not the pace. Plus his game is more based around short passing and positional interchange. Yes that sorta sounds like Barca. Well Brisbane consciously set themselves out to play possession based football. Nickname of 'Roarcelona'. dont laugh, Mariners just beat Celtic down under, and the Roar beat the Mariners.

In terms of how he'll adapt to life at Ibrox... absolutely no trouble off the field, family man. He is 28 after all, hardly the age to make sex tapes and such. For the national team, he has a defensive shield of two tough tacklers in front of the defence, so he's more or less free to create. But he is also very much aware of his defensive responsibilities, which was how our first choice left back had such a great Asian Cup campaign, as he was allowed to bomb down the flank when Matty covered. The weather could be an issue - its apparently bloody cold in Scotland. Then again every footballer these days wear skins and thermals. Loyalty wise, well he is 28, so he's got next to no re-sale value, which is part of the reason his moving to Europe was questioned. We all figured at best a big money move to Korea, Japan or even a loan spell in China during our gaping hole of an off-season. And he's been a one club man all his life. He's been at Brisbane since his teen years, and now the captain of his hometown club. It's safe to say he won't be fluttering eyelashes and lifting his skirt/kilt to Celtic.

The thing to love about Matty is this. He's the quintessential underdog. He's been doubted - and been proving those doubters wrong his entire life. No one thought he could make it in the A-league; too small and it was too physical. he responds by becoming captain, talisman and lynchpin of the greatest club side to ever be assembled in Australia. There was little thought he could even make the bench for the national team. He displaced one of our longest-serving, most loyal and most talented servants, in Brett Emerton. No one thought he could make a meaningful contribution on the field for Australia. Five assists in the Asian Cup, one against Japan and another dazzling performance against an admittedly under-par German side, with an assist and he proved 'em all wrong.

If I had to give odds I'd say 1/5 he does to Ibrox and absolutely flops. Can't adapt to the demands, to the weather, to his team mates, to not being captain and centre of attention, to the peculiar Scottish accent etc etc. 2/5 he becomes a handy squad player with odd flashes of brilliance and is quickly forgotten. BUT... 2/5 he goes to Ibrox, proves himself central to Rangers, becomes a leader in the dressing room after winning over players who sneered at this tiny s**t from the Antipodes and gets a hat-trick of assists in the Old Firm derby. Bet on it.
PPS. For the love of god, get a fan campaign started now to prohibit McKay from taking corners and free kicks. Strange for a player whos greatest strenghth is passing ability, he is absolutely useless at dead ball situations. You'd be better off getting a training dummy to take corner kicks. Holger let him take two corners kicks during the Asian cup, horrible shanked both, was promptly yanked off set-piece duty.

PPPS. Use him to defend the posts at corners. He has a handy knack for making goal line clearances, even in open play.

Good luck at Rangers mate. We'll miss ya. Keep an eye on the boys in orange. And some time down the track... well, we'll have you back any time.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


The other week I listed ten reasons why it is brilliant to be a Brisbane Roar fan right now. Here's another one: the media about our team is endless, and pretty much all flattering. Here's just a few of the headlines from the last few days:

Possession statistics compare A-League's Brisbane Roar to La Liga and European champions Barcelona

Brisbane, That Was Football Porn

Who Can Stop Brisbane Roar

The Roar Effect

Brisbane Roar are a Gift for the A-League

That really is only a few, and they're not by Roar partisans. I admit I chose them for their sexy headlines.

You can only imagine, with Brisbane's team causing the waves that it is, undefeated now for 32 games, breaking records every week, and most recently stunning the League by trouncing one of the favourite teams 7:1... You can only imagine how Brisbane's own flagship newspaper The Courier Mail, not known for its lack of sport coverage, or jingoism for that matter, must have gone bonkers with this story. With the Rugby and AFL seasons over, here is NEWS! Great news, of Brisbane showing up all the bigwig southern teams and looking like clear favourites for the comp. You can only imagine!

Well, three stories came out of the Courier Mail actually. One of course was about the game. Apparently it was on page 6 of the sport pages. I don't even know what came in front of it as I haven't managed to get a hard copy.

The second story came out yesterday. In the Courier Mail's soccer feed the headline is, "Japanese Giants Want Roar Boss", but upon going to the page it is more carefully titled, Japanese heavyweights Urawa Red Diamonds rumoured to have sights set on Brisbane Roar coach Ange Postecoglou. It was written by Marco Monteverde and Val Migliaccio. I'm going to analyse it a bit, and then tell the story of how it continued and grew as the rest of the media got hold of it, so I'll quote it in full here first so it's easy to reference:

STRUGGLING Japanese heavyweights Urawa Red Diamonds want an Australian coach next season, with Brisbane Roar master mentor Ange Postecoglou rumoured to be at the top of their wish list.
Despite being contracted to the Roar until 2013, Postecoglou is one of two A-League coaches tipped to be chased by J-League outfit Urawa, the other being Central Coast Mariners boss Graham Arnold.
Urawa, the home of Australian defender Matthew Spiranovic and formerly coached by current Socceroos mentor Holger Osieck, are hovering just about the relegation zone and fired manager Zeljko Petrovic on October 20,
Petrovic was replaced by former player Takafumi Hori, but Japanese sources close to the Asian Football Confederation's most popular club have told The Courier-Mail Urawa are chasing an Australian coach next year.
Reigning A-League coach of the year Postecoglou yesterday said he had not heard from Urawa officials, but confirmed previous interest from Asian clubs.
"If they did make me an offer, I'd think about it then," Postecoglou said.
"I've never made plans too far in the future with coaching because things are always changing.
"All I'm focused on is being successful as I can with Brisbane, and keep building what we've started."
Under Postecoglou, the Roar lost just once in 33 matches last season to clinch the A-League premiership-championship double.
Currently on a 32-game record A-League unbeaten streak, Brisbane continued their perfect start to the defence of their title with a 7-1 thrashing of Adelaide United at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night.
But Postecoglou, a former Australian under-17 and under-20 coach, isn't only chasing further domestic success.
He is also aiming for glory with the Roar in the 2012 Asian Football Confederation Champions League.
"Our goal is to match it with the best teams in Asia," Postecoglou said.
"Our players have already been recognised, and if that (Champions League success) happens, I'm sure our coaches will as well."
Arnold's Mariners side are the A-League's other representatives in next year's AFC Champions League courtesy of their effort to reach last season's grand final.
It's the second time within days Arnold has been linked with a move abroad.
Currently negotiating a contract extension with the Mariners, Arnold last week denied claims he was on the verge of taking over at Scottish Premier League club St Johnstone.
But sources close to Arnold - who played in the J-League with Hiroshima Sanfrecce - said he would consider offers from Japan.

Now this was a scoop! It was all over the Australian mediascape within half an hour. So all those stories we may have read, on The World Game, The ABC, the Fairfax papers, Fox, the other Murdoch papers and any number of amateur sites and blogs - came from Marco Monteverde and Val Migliaccio of the Courier Mail.

The first point of interest here is that the journalists - crucial to the story - are completely left out. Not one media outlet reported, "Marco Monteverde and Val Migliaccio of the Courier Mail allege that they have sources close to the Urawa Reds..." Instead it is just repeated endlessly, "Ange linked to Urawa Reds." One might think, given the reputation News Limited, and the Courier Mail, has for antagonism and ignorance toward soccer, that someone might have thought to include this reference to the source. It would just be good journalism in any case.

Now via a Facebook friend who is Japanese and happens to be a Reds fan, I have confirmed that Ange Postecoglou is indeed on a list of coaches that the Reds have compiled. No Japanese media have taken it up though apparently. It's a list. As for being "rumoured to be at the top of their wish list", it's a fair question where such information comes from.

Wading through the fill of factoids gleaned from Wikipedia, we find that the source is, "Japanese sources close to (The Urawa Reds)". Interesting they didn't tell the Japanese media, or any other of Australia's dedicated football media. The Urawa Reds are well known to many of them through the Asian Champions League (which the CM has virtually ignored so far). The Courier Mail? Anyway, moving on...

It's hard to disect. We assume that this source is the one mentioning Ange's name, and I do independently know of a list with his name on it, but apparently the source told the Courier Mail that "Urawa are chasing an Australian coach next year." An Australian coach.

Now, Ange has proved himself perhaps, or he is in the process of doing so, but there is a reason the past few Socceroos coaches have been from overseas and a reason most A-League coaches are foreigners. Right or wrong, it's because Australian coaches are considered crap. They do not have any reputation at all overseas. Urawa Reds are one of Asia's biggest clubs and they're in trouble. And we are asked to believe that this unknown source says that they are after an Australian coach. Ange, maybe. But an Australian - I don't believe it.

The other coach on the list, apparently (and I haven't had confirmed from Japan either way), is Graham Arnold. I don't believe this, at all. I think the Urawa Reds have ambition, and Arnold hasn't won anything or proved himself especially. Reaching the finals in the A-League is not that great on the international stage.

Before I get to the interview with Ange - a real source at least - in passing I'll note that the Courier Mail confirmed, not that there had been any communication whatsoever with Arnold, but that "sources close to Arnold" said he would "consider offers from Japan." According to the journalists though, "It's the second time within days Arnold has been linked with a move abroad." It is these journalists who made the link that they are now reporting on. At this point, with Arnold, they have completely fabricated a link and then 'reported on it'.

Then there is the call to Ange of course, getting his response. That's only fair after all.

What's not recorded are the questions. Did the journalist ask, after Ange told them that, No, the Reds had not been in touch and this is the first he'd heard of it, "Well, if they did ask you tomorrow, would you consider it?" or "Would you ever coach in Asia do you think?"?

It makes an enormous difference to what Ange was getting at when he said, "I've never made plans too far in the future with coaching because things are always changing. All I'm focused on is being successful as I can with Brisbane, and keep building what we've started." The latter part - the commitment to the Roar and seeing out the vision that he has articulated - remains unambiguous.

Since then other media outlets have also clearly talked to Ange, and he has said nothing different.

Anyway, my suspicion was, and still is, that the Courier Mail made this story up in order to cash in on the Roar's success. They succeeded.

By Twitter I asked the two journalists, "Did you guys make up the story about Urawa seeking Ange as coach? No reports in Japan. You scooped that? Ha!"

Val Migliaccio tweeted back, with what I can only interpret as contempt, "here. Jリーグ1部(J1)の浦和は来季の新監督候補にAリーグのブリスベン・ロアーを率いるアンジェ・ポステコグルー監督を挙げているようだ。浦和に近い日本人関係者の話として、ポステコグルー"


I tweeted back, "That quote is a vague as yours and is not a source. Are you being funny now?", but only after using Google Translate to come up with, "The J-League 1 (J1) Urawa coach seems to raise the groupco-led by Poste Angeles Lower Brisbane A-League next seasonProposed new coach. Japanese officials as saying that close toUrawa, Posutekoguru".

For all I know it could be from a report some Japanese press discovered through their Australian connections.

Today, I note The Herald Sun has added the word, "heavily", presumably because so many news outlets have repeated the story. So now Ange is "heavily linked" with the Uwara Reds. Even though he's never heard of such a link and he has clearly restated his commitment to The Roar and finishing what he has several times outlined as his mission.

Sorry that one took so long to go through. As I said, there is a third story that came out in the Courier Mail yesterday. But it is in the Rugby League pages (far more prominent even though the off season has just got going). It is titled, "NRL scheduling blunder leaves Brisbane Broncos without home for opening round of 2012", and included the following curious passage:
There should be 50,000 league fans packing the stadium on Friday night, March 2, to celebrate the new rugby league season.
But the NRL's late decision to push their season forward a week means there will instead be 10,000 Roar diehards watching their side taking on Melbourne Heart.
(Same game last year got 20,000 incidentally, and last game (fourth of the season) got 11,500.)

It's a non-story by the way, with a happy ending. It seems the NRL made a boo boo and didn't tell Suncorp about a change in plans, so the opening NRL game will not be in Brisbane but in Sydney instead. By the end we know that the NRL is happy, seeing the positives in fact, Suncorp is happy. Everyone is happy. The complaint, clearly antagonistic to the Roar, comes from the Courier Mail alone. This is on the very day when the entire sporting world is ogling over Brisbane's own champion team.

Now, there are no doubt many reasons that the Roar struggles with crowd numbers. One reason is probably that Brisbane folk are slack, or stupid, or broke. But the local media is not helping us out.

Nb. Of course News Limited would never be so sloppy when it came to news about politics or the economy. From those matters their commercial interests are properly and professionally divorced. :)

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