Home > An Englishman In Australia > A win at last, anticipation, a new season arrives and a loss to the football menu

A win at last, anticipation, a new season arrives and a loss to the football menu

Statistics can be deceptive.  Data shows that on Saturday Swansea had 61% possession over Stoke’s 39%. Swansea may have seen more of the ball than us  but rarely looked capable of gaining anything from the game.  In fact, from the moment Peter Crouch headed us into the lead we were in total control of the game.  When Crouch doubled our lead in the 36th minute it sealed the points.  To have three points in the bag by half time was a rare luxury for Stoke.  Swansea started the second half with more urgency but rarely looked likely to trouble us too much.  We weathered the storm and comfortably played the game out.  It was slightly disappointing not to score again, we’d have all loved Crouch to grab our first Premier League hat trick, but it was a thoroughly deserved and much needed victory. …. and the statistics can say whatever they like!

Our victory was crucial.  We hadn’t won since April 7th.  The green shoots of our evolution are refreshing but we maintain our status with points.  It’s unlikely we’ll get much at all from the next two fixtures, at Anfield and Old Trafford, so it was crucial to  deposit points in the bank.  Anfield next, the kind of game in recent years in which we’ve seemed unwilling to break forward.  With out recent acquisitions and the memory of giving Chelsea a tough game there is no reason not to set up to ensure we impose ourselves on the game.  If we emerge defeated it shouldn’t be due to an over cautious approach.

The goal of the weekend came in Serie A.  Fabrizio Miccoli’s strike for Palermo against Chievo was a magical piece of opportunism combining skill and grace.  Watch it here then watch it again.  And again and again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYcKqoDjVys

The coming weekend will see the start of the most eagerly anticipated A-League season yet.  The arrival of Alessandro Del Piero has thrown domestic football in Australia into the spotlight like never before.  Since landing here a fortnight ago, Del Piero has behaved with ambassadorial dignity.  Exuding charm and humility he’s absorbed the attention with statesmanlike grace.  Emile Heskey arrived with considerably less fanfare than the Italian but the Newcastle Jets club shop has sold thousands of shirts bearing his name.  So pre season  we’ve had some much needed fresh interest in the game.  Sydney and Newcastle have the men, but the key question is, do they have the team?  Risking accusations of bias, it’s worth remembering that Brisbane Roar are the current champions and will again be a team to fear. The team that has emerged as champions twice in a row has been kept together with the addition of  some promising new faces.  Losing manager Ange Postecoglou to Melbourne Victory was a blow but the nucleus of the team remains. If Postecoglou’s successor, Rado Vidosic, can maintain the style and grace of recent seasons his promotion could yet prove to be a seamless transition.  The big names are exciting and provide a welcome drawcard, but that isn’t the only way forward.

Behind the scenes documentary ‘Being Liverpool’ has recently been televised here in Australia.  Try though I may it’s hard to see the point behind this programme.  It carries little insight and has the aura of a huge PR stunt.  The most illuminating discovery from the first episode was the staggering revelation that Steve Gerrard invites his mates round to his house to watch football matches on television.  The best fly on the wall look at a football club was Hunter Davies ‘The Glory Game’.  The author was granted access to the inner workings of Tottenham Hotspur football club for a season and the results were controversial, enlightening and for many involved deeply embarrassing.  Perhaps the most telling fact is that few outsiders have been allowed such free access since.  However, if Being Liverpool was produced in book form it’d carry all the cutting edge potency of an IKEA catalogue.

One of the weekend’s major surprises was Manchester United’s home defeat to Spurs.  It was Spurs first victory at Old Trafford since December 1989.  I attended that game many years ago and it was a memorable day for several reasons.  It was the game I knew for sure that Paul Gascoigne could become a star and had to be in England’s World Cup squad.  Another abiding memory is the anti Alex Ferguson sentiments among the home fans. In the pub pre match there was ongoing fury over Ferguson having been there for ‘four years’ and nothing had improved and sacking the manager was the only course of action.  History has proven them all wrong of course, but that perception is all the more baffling when bearing in mind that, at that stage,  Ferguson had been there for three years!!  Manchester United are a different club and Alex Ferguson is a different manager than on that chilly day nearly 23 years ago, but Saturday’s improved second half performance suggests he’s still got his half time hairdryer!

On Sunday one of world football’s most eagerly anticipated fixtures will take place when Real Madrid face Barcelona at the Nou Camp.  From Santiago to Tokyo, hundreds of millions throughout the world will tune in….. but not in Australia.  ESPN televised the Spanish league in recent years but the increased cost of broadcast rights have led to La Liga being dropped from the station’s schedule.  In consequence, for the first time in many years, this compelling war of footballing attrition won’t be shown here.  The sun will continue to rise, the earth will continue to spin, but it’s a sad loss to the Australian football menu.

In the League Cup tie last week Nicolas Yennaris played for Arsenal against Coventry.  As unremarkable as that may seem there was a quirky aside involved.  The last time Arsenal hosted  Coventry in 2000, Nicolas Yennaris  was the mascot!



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