Posts Tagged ‘BrisbaneRoar’

A thrilling victory, uphill struggles, 1000 down, corruption, increasingly confused episode.

December 10th, 2013 No comments

Stoke City’s evolution can now begin in earnest.  Saturday’s thrilling victory over Chelsea demonstrates we needn’t fear anyone in this league… it also shows fortune favours the brave.  When Jon Walters was substituted on 84 minutes Mark Hughes could have been forgiven for utilising a defensive option.  Instead he chose  Oussama Assaidi and it proved a masterstroke.  Assaidi’s winning goal was worthy of winning any match.  Sealing a victory against one of Europe’s top teams  was an appropriate backdrop for such a moment of opportunist brilliance.  There is however, still much to improve.  We still give the ball away too easily in our own third of the pitch and in the attacking third our play is often too shapeless.  Overall though we’ve now seen what our team is capable of and there is no reason not to maintain the same level of endeavour.  If we maintain the same level of ambition we can shrug off the patchy start to the season and develop into a stronger unit.  At Hull on Saturday we need to go all out to win the game.  If we are as adventurous and resilient as we were against Chelsea we have a good chance of winning any match. It was particularly pleasing that Assaidi earned his moment of glory.  Since arriving at Stoke he’s shown fleeting glimpses of skill yet failed to produce regularly.  This was especially frustrating as a player like Assaidi can provide some of the extra dimensions we need to progress.  Against Cardiff in midweek he was subdued, failing to run at defenders suggested a severe lack of confidence.  After the victory over Chelsea Mark Hughes admitted Assaidi was disappointed he’d been left out of the starting eleven but had made it clear he must make the most of any chances he gets to impress.  He certainly made the most of Saturday’s chance!  From his reaction he enjoyed the moment as much as any of us!  Great work Oussama Assaidi, more of the same please!

The World Cup draw has left England with a huge task to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.  Facing Italy Uruguay and Costa Rica will be an uphill struggle.  The campaign starts against Italy in the hot humid city of Manaus.  Prior to the draw Roy Hodgson was far too talkative regarding his wish to avoid playing in Manaus.  While hoping to dodge it was perfectly understandable his words gave an air of defeatism and excuse making before we’ve even reached 2014.  Now there’s also the possibility locals will side with Italy which isn’t crucial…. but  hardly helps our cause.  At least this time the England team won’t be dogged with the inexplicable high levels of expectation that have proved as damaging as they are groundless.  Australia  also lacked  good fortune in the draw…. their task is almost insurmountable.  Facing Chile Netherlands and Spain will be a torrid struggle.  Anything Australia achieve in Brazil will be  almost entirely based on a rigid formation and tactical discipline.  You can’t outplay them but you can outnumber them.  It will be a huge challenge for Ange Postecoglou and his players but it will prove useful experience to take into the 2015 Asian Cup.

Brisbane Roar sealed their place at the top of the table with victory in Adelaide. It’s been a productive season for Roar so far.  Generally the games have been enjoyable and a good advert for football.  The A-League reached a milestone on Sunday  when Melbourne Victory and  Newcastle Jets played the 1000th A-League match.  Since the inaugural 2005/06 season the A-League has become a solid part of  the Australian sporting landscape.  That’s not to say it’s all been a breeze.  The embarrassment of expansion clubs folding left a stain on the league and FFA’s credibility.  For all that the competition remains intact.   Eight years and a thousand games, hopefully our game will continue to grow here.

On the final day of the Brazilian Championship Atletico Paranaense met Vasco da Gama.  With Atletico chasing a place in next season’s Copa Libertdores and Vasco da Gama threatened with relegation it was always likely to be an intense affair, and so it proved.  In the opening exchanges of the game Atletico took the lead which lead to rival supporters involved in violent exchanges.  The match was delayed for over an hour while security forces attempted to seize control of the situation.  The violence was so extreme a military helicopter landed on the pitch to take some of the injured to hospital… which led to rumours circulating suggesting (erroneously) some had been killed. While it’s highly unlikely violence on this scale will erupt inside a stadium during the World Cup, it’s hardly the image they wanted to project to the world.  Combine this with the threat of protests outside the stadiums and the ongoing confusion over the completion dates for stadium construction, the 2014 World Cup is already proving to be a very confused episode for everyone involved.

The recent stories about spot fixing in football are distressing.  A point worth emphasising however is while some players may be corrupt, the vast majority aren’t. If the players concerned are charged and found guilty it could lead to any error or strange result tainted by suggestions of impropriety.  It’s crucial to football for this issue to be addressed and perpetrators exposed and punished accordingly.  A salient question is how did we ever get to this point?  Well, in recent years the finance of football has become increasingly prominent.  Broadcasters new deals for TV rights often generate countless headlines and the finance dissected.  Many players, at all levels, see contemporaries transfer to new clubs and one can reasonably assume they involve a hefty pay rise.  Some (but by no means all) of the aforementioned transfers are no doubt motivated by agents who themselves stand to gain from the moves in question.  Sponsors, betting companies, pubs, clothing manufacturers all use football for their own commercial gain.  The Championship play off final is one of the year’s annual showpieces.  Reaching football’s highest level is an achievement to celebrate yet the build up to the game is dominated by headlines regarding the financial riches at stake.  It gets billed as the 20 million 35 million or 50 million pound match… depending on which newspaper you read.  In short, football generates billions, of most currencies you choose to name, every year.  As corrupt and sickening as it is, if some players have been taking illegal payments…. are they evil or are they just a product of their environment?



Goalless again, 100% for Brisbane, foolish expectations, Wayne’s world

October 21st, 2013 No comments

While it’d be melodramatic to describe Stoke City’s recent problems as a crisis, few can deny we have hit a dead-end.   A mere four goals in eight league games tells its own story.  Every aspect of our forward play needs work.  Too often we rely on crosses (which vary in quality) from which we rarely have enough players in the box to trouble opposition defences.  When Stephen Ireland squandered a glorious opportunity against West Brom, it was clear we’d draw another blank.  Another disappointing aspect of our play is how wasteful we usually are with set pieces.  Our corners are cleared with the minimum of fuss and free kicks rarely trouble the opposing keeper.  Asmir Begovic made a string of  saves to keep us level.  We should all be grateful to Begovic because our attacking play is so fruitless the moment we concede a goal it may well be game over.    Our decent start to the season has fizzled out as we slide closer to the relegation places.  Within our squad we have the ability to comfortably address the problems and get back to winning games of football. There is often talk of systems and strategy but the key to lifting the assembling clouds could be the result of something as simple as shooting practice.

Helgar Osieck’s removal from the Australia manager’s job is no shock.  Nobody denies Brazil and France are very good teams but to lose both 0-6, and look utterly helpless in doing so is indicative of deeper problems in the camp.  Osieck’s reign wasn’t a failure.  Reaching the final of the Asian Cup in 2011 was a substantial achievement.  Combine this with World Cup qualification and his tenure was far from a calamity.  Despite this, the national team had stagnated.  Too few youngsters gained experience and, as a collective, the old guard look a spent force.  Thoughts immediately turned to a successor.  There has been a clamour for an Australian manager to be appointed.  Understandably, Ange Postecoglou’s name had been mentioned. It should be borne in mind club and international management are two different kinds of jobs with different demands and expectations.  Postecoglou’s success at Brisbane Roar was borne of intense work with the players as a team and as  individuals.  At international level managers don’t get so much time to impose themselves.  In addition to the World Cup the new manager has to be aware of the Asian Cup in 2015.  As host nation, Australia will be expected to challenge for the trophy.  The days of Australia being a football backwater are long gone.  One thing is for certain….. the new Australia manager will have to be prepared for pressure.

Brisbane Roar have started the A-League season in style with a 100% record from the first two games.  Saturday night’s 4-0 thrashing of Sydney was a boost for everyone.  Without wanting to belittle a very good performance, the point has to be made, it’s difficult to ascertain Roar’s potential for the season from Saturday mainly because Sydney were so poor.  They looked utterly demoralised and from the moment Brisbane took the lead the result was never in doubt.  Frank Farina must feel bewildered by such a lethargic display from his players.  It’s a fantastic start to the season for Brisbane but bigger challenges lie ahead.

England have qualified for the 2014 World Cup.  Sensibly, Roy Hodgson has acknowledged England aren’t among the favourites to lift the trophy.  His words may be seen as negative or defeatist when it was merely a realistic appraisal of England’s possibilities.  The quarter finals are by any historical measure a good performance for England and the problem is  some  people seem unable to accept it. Our record since 1966* isn’t great. In the last 47 years we’ve reached a World Cup semi a Euro semi and several World Cup quarter finals. In the same period Holland have reached three WC finals, a World Cup semi final and won the European championship. Bulgaria have reached a World Cup  semi final. Sweden have got to a World Cup semi final and a European  semi final. Poland have reached a World Cup semi final and finished 3rd in 1974.  Soviet Union reached two European Finals. Belgium have reached a European  final and a World Cup semi final. Turkey have reached a World Cup semi final and a European semi final and, of course, Greece were European champions. They are all middle ranking European teams and their records  easily match England’s.  Looking at Europe’s elite, In 2002 and 2008 the Germans were considered to be poor yet still reached the final of the respective competitions. Similarly, Italy were unfancied in last years Euros yet reached the final.  France have twice been European champions as well as World Cup winners.  So since 66 our record, when compared to other European football nations, rarely rises above mediocre.  Despite this people got annoyed because, for example, we didn’t ‘win anything with Sven.’ It’s unlikely we’ll win a competition whoever the manager is! We’d all love to but  actually expecting England to win a tournament is wishful thinking. There’s no great tradition to justify that sort of demand. In a tournament, if we get past the group stage we’ve fulfilled expectancy. From that point we may or may not make progress but we certainly need the luck of the draw….. as soon as we face a side with genuine aspirations to win a tournament we get knocked out.  1990  was great fun but, with all respect, Belgium and Cameroon weren’t contenders to lift the trophy.  Next year we should enjoy the tournament and enjoy England’s presence… and leave silly groundless expectation s to one side.
*our record before 66 wasn’t great…Bela Horizonte anyone?

As required, England won the final two qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.  Both victories were put on track with goals by Wayne Rooney.  In the aftermath of qualification Rooney’s contribution has been overlooked. Some have suggested throughout his career  Rooney has failed to fulfill his potential so let’s examine the facts.  At the age of 27 Rooney has won five Premier league winners medals.  He also has a Champions League winners medal and two runners-up medals.  For England he’s scored 38 goals in 86 appearances and still has the potential to reach 100 caps and may yet  beat Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals.  His failure to score in the two World Cups he’s played in remains a source of frustration.  Hopefully in Brazil next year he’ll rectify that and make a lasting impression on football’s biggest show.  It’s ludicrous to suggest his career is anything but successful.

Dull on the road, censoring supporters, a legal battle and using technology

February 21st, 2013 No comments

On Saturday Stoke City return to league action with an away match at Fulham.   The victory over Reading lifted some of the descending gloom but Saturday presents another chapter in the aspect of our recent history that has led to many of us feeling  disillusioned….. an away game!  Our away form has  cast a dark shadow over us since promotion.    Attacking play consists of a long diagonal ball from Ryan Shawcross to Peter Crouch which may or may not be flicked on to nobody in particular.   Bizarrely, we were a bigger threat to Chelsea and Manchester United than we were to Swansea and Aston Villa.  We can only hope that on Saturday a global TV audience sees us with a fresher approach and maybe three precious points on the way to the magical 40 mark!

Brisbane Roar maintained their slim hopes of a place in the A-League Finals series with a steady 2-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix.  The match took place in the aftermath of Roar’s Asian Champions League exit and the unpopular decision to award interim head coach Mike Mulvey a two year contract.  During the second half a vociferous group of Roar supporters known as the River City Collective unfurled a banner parading the statement  ‘Mulvey Out’.  The stadium’s security staff dashed in to forcibly confiscate the banner.  There is a worrying precedent.   During the 1982 World Cup Poland played against the Soviet Union.  Poland’s Solidarity movement was at this stage making its presence known in the form of strike action and various forms of protest.  At the match some of Poland’s supporters unfurled Solidarity banners but the organisers removed them at the request of the Soviet government, where the national television service was covering the tournament.  This action was widely condemned as an act of oppression. Is there any great difference between the removal of the Solidarity banner  and the ‘Mulvey Out’ banner being taken away?  In 1982 the Soviet Union was a closed society that willfully withheld information and freedom of speech from it’s populace.   Brisbane Roar issued a statement and hid behind a rule that states ”All banners displayed at the stadium must first be submitted to the club to ensure they meet criteria set under the Football Federation Australia and Suncorp Stadium terms of admission to a Hyundai A-League match.” That may be a rule but it’s difficult to believe banner making an innocuous statement like ‘Come on Brisbane’ would be removed with such indecent vigour.   The nature of the football club’s response to this matter suggests they are disinterested in the concerns of supporters and interested primarily in protecting their own egos.  Nearing the end of a season of  decline, the owners can ill afford to alienate themselves from the fanbase.

Despite supporting their right to display it, I actually disagree with the sentiments of the controversial banner. At this stage Mike Mulvey needs a close season to impose himself on the team and the club. Only then will we know if he is right for the job. For football managers time is a rare and precious commodity.

The biggest story to emerge from the FA Cup 5th round was Arsenal’s exit to Championship Blackburn.  Their FA Cup exit combined with the mauling by Bayern Munich in the Champions league have made this a truly horrendous week for Arsene Wenger.  Unless Arsenal fulfill the highly unlikely feat of becoming European Champions 2013 will mark the eighth consecutive season from which Arsenal have emerged without a trophy.  Inevitably, the issue of Wenger’s job has come under scrutiny.  The question marks over the manager’s  position could hold some validity.  If the ultimate step was taken it’d be a correct course of action to wait until the end of the season.  It’s easy to forget Wenger’s considerable achievements with Arsenal.  If sacked, he should be spared the indignity of a mid season dismissal.

It was pleasing to see veteran Dider Drogba back among the European elite for Galatasaray.  Drogba left Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in January in what was a very bitter split indeed.  The Shanghai club are claiming he breached his contract in leaving and are threatening legal action.  In the Champions League tie against Schalke,  Drogba seemed oblivious to the brittle snap of lawyer’s briefcases as he constantly threatened the German defence with his power and pace.  It was endearing to see a player of his stature seem so happy to be involved in top level European action after a calamitious spell in China.  Players actually enjoying playing is a rare delight in the modern age, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s much more exciting than a drawn out legal battle!

After years of discussion and heated debate FIFA have finally confirmed that goal line technology will be used at the 2014 World cup in Brazil.  Surely if  the technology is  available it’s  foolish not to use it.  It’s unlike many topics of debate that arise that surround refereeing decisions in a game of football.  For example, last week Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for Paris Saint Germain.  It was my opinion that the red card was harsh.  However, several people I spoke with felt it was a good decision by the referee and the sending off was fully justified.  There are varying opinions and that is part of the soul of football.  The difference between a situation like that and whether a ball crosses the line or not is that whether the ball crosses the line isn’t  a subject of debate, it’s a matter of fact, and also the key factor in a match…. scoring a goal, or not as the case may be.  In these days when implementing the change would be relatively straight forward, wouldn’t it be senseless to refuse to accept it?




Recklessness, bigotry, a new boss, hope for the bereaved

December 20th, 2012 No comments

Football matches can often hinge on a moment.  On Saturday, had Leon Osman scored to put Everton 2 up on the stroke of half time, its hard to imagine the game ending in anything other than an away win.  In his post match interview Tony Pulis correctly stated that Osman’s miss was the turning point. Having taken the lead out of the blue with Ryan Shawcross’ own goal, a second at that stage would have been difficult for Stoke to come back from.  Like the opening goal, our equaliser was rather fortunate.  It was a good ball forward by Shawcross and decent header by Kenwyne Jones but you really don’t expect a goalkeeper to be caught wrongfooted as Tim Howard was.  Despite that, it’d be inaccurate to suggest we weren’t worthy of a point.  As a spectacle it lacked style but both sides displayed great endeavour and a big appetite for the game.  Overall it was an evenly contested game between two competitive teams.  Most of the post match publicity has understandably focussed on Fellaini’s headbutt on Ryan Shawcross.  To his credit David Moyes said his player deserved a ban.  Fellaini’s violent attack was reckless on several levels.  Two combative teams playing an evenly matched contest yet he chose to jeopardise his teams chances with his mindless assault… Fellaini knows he’s a very important player for the team.  The other baffling aspect is that it wasn’t just an instinctive response.  Fellaini knew exactly what he was doing.  Before the butt he actually sneaked a quick look at the ref to make sure it wouldn’t be seen.  Did he really think he could get away with it?  Surely he’s fully aware that every moment of every match is filmed.  Everton’s impressive first half of the season  has seen them challenging for a top four place… they could also be well placed for an FA Cup run.  As Saturday’s game hinged on Osman’s miss, Everton’s season could hinge on Fellaini’s idiocy, and his manager deserves better.

Fans of Zenit St Petersburg have asked their club not to buy any black or gay players.  The plea was carried out by way of a letter which contains one of the most self contradictory statements on record… “We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition,”.  Their misguided request is steeped in bigotry.  The clumsy attempt to justify the prejudice serves only to highlight how flawed their entire philosophy actually is.  One of the reasons our game is still blighted by this venomous hate is the refusal of ruling bodies to take strong decisive action.  Despite playing the usual vacuous superficial lip service, FIFA  decided back in 2010 that the votes to decide  the 2018 World Cup hosts  must not be influenced in any way by the subject of racism.  So what was the point of that campaign they have been running?   Wouldn’t the threat of being cast aside in the World Cup bid have been be a just action and a deterrent?

Brazil’s Sao Paulo were awarded the Copa Sudamericana title on their home ground, after Argentinian opponents Tigre refused to return to the field for the second half.  Trailing 2-0 Tigre stayed in the dressing room claiming to have been physically attacked and threatened with guns by security staff… the referee awarded the game to Sao Paolo. Surprisingly a major incident like this didn’t actually receive much media attention.  The scale of the story is exacerbated further bearing in mind Brazil will be hosting the World Cup in 18 months.  Had a similar brawl occurred in Europe it’s hard to believe the press would be so oblivious.

After eleven games of the A-League season Rado Vidosic has been replaced as head coach of Brisbane Roar by Mike Mulvey.  Last time out there were encouraging signs when Roar drew 1-1 away at Melbourne victory.  That may give views of Vidosic’s removal an unrealistic tint.  The fact is that since taking over from Ange Postecoglou Brisbane have undoubtedly deteriorated and currently sit second from bottom on the table. It’s only a year since this group of players  became the most formidable team in the history of Australian sport.  The key lesson to be remembered is that Fabio Capello and  Bob Paisley are exceptions that prove the rule…. promoting the assistant manager to the top job rarely brings success.  The club have made a big point of emphasising that Vidosic was not actually ‘sacked’ as he has been moved into the technical director’s role.   That may be the case but had Roar won the last six games would the same step had been taken?

The original inquest findings have been quashed and a new inquest is to take place into the deaths of the 96 who perished at Hillsborough.  This is a huge step towards justice and  testament to the work of the Hillsborough Family Support group.  We can hope this news can bring the bereaved some comfort at what must be a deeply traumatic time of year for them.


A draw, a thrashing, hosting woes, TCUP

October 18th, 2012 No comments

While the draw in Poland is far from  disastrous, England returned home with few positives. When we tried to build an attack the forwards were too static.  We struggled to keep the ball and the lack of movement led to priceless possession being given away cheaply. England need to learn to move properly and the players need to create options for each other.  In the attacking third the play was ad hoc and lacking shape.  Joe Hart’s flap led to the Polish equaliser but to blame the keeper alone is to willfully ignore a plethora of issues.  When Montenegro beat San Marino next month they will move to the top of the group.  In itself it’ll be no calamity for England but when competitive internationals resume in March there will be no more space to drop  points.  Hopefully in March Jack Wilshere will be able to unlock opposition defences.  When fully fit it’ll  certainly be time to start building the team around him.  He’s  showed that he can grow into the play makers role and develop into a top class international midfielder.  With such a dearth of English talent his skill mustn’t be wasted. For all that I still expect England to qualify for the 2014 World Cup but Spain and Brazil have nothing to fear from us.

Brisbane Roar thrashed Melbourne Victory 5-0 on Saturday.  Roar were stylish and won at a canter.  At the death Roar forward Besart Berisha hit the bar, a sixth goal would only have given the scoreline a more realistic complexion.  As impressive as Brisbane were it’s hard to reflect on the game without pointing out Victory’s hopelessness, and on Saturday Melbourne Victory were utterly, seriously, mind bogglingly hopeless.   At best they were indifferent, for large spells of the game they were truly dreadful.  Several years after his calamitous spell managing Stoke City, Chris Kamara stated that there were times after games when he’d look at his players in the dressing room knowing some of them simply hadn’t been trying.  Ange Postecoglou could be forgiven for feeling the same on Saturday.  For Ange’s own sake he must hope that was the problem, if that was an example of this team playing to full potential his task is insurmountable.

The issue of who is to host the 2020 European Championship remains a headache for UEFA.  Michel Platini’s suggestion that the tournament be played across the continent is far from final and could be refused when the member nations vote in January.  The monumental error was to expand the competition to 24 teams.  As well as diluting the quality of football on offer it makes staging the tournament much more complicated and much more expensive.  The problems finding bidders to host for the 2020 competition suggests  UEFA’s number crunchers are oblivious to the current precarious state of the global economy.

Another kerfuffle regarding a major tournament is the ongoing discussion over which season of the year the 2022 World Cup will take place in.  The debate was offered this contribution last week… “I think sometimes a change is good — it would be great to have it in the winter. Everyone will be fit, physically fit, mentally fit and I don’t see a problem with it. For the fans I think it will be great”  A ringing endorsement of a winter World Cup.  Who came out with such a passionate justification for winter?  A manager?  A player?  Neither, it was ex Dutch international Ronald De Boer…. who, believe it or not,  now works for the Qatari FA!!   Do you think he might have an agenda by any chance?

Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri’s position looks increasingly precarious.  Having only won three games all season, defeat to Inter in last weeks’ derby is hardly inspiring confidence. Last week stories circulated stating that Milan had approached Pep Guardiola to take over from Allegri.  This media speculation helps nobody.  If Milan want to remove the manager they should sack him, pay off his contract, and move on from there.  Allowing the story to be dragged through the media is undignified and disrespectful to all involved.

In football possession is 9/10 of the law.  So watching games recently it’s flabbergasting to see teams give away priceless possession by conceding so many unnecessary free kicks.  Players in their own half, and going nowhere in particular, get carelessly shoved or ankles clipped.  It’s utterly baffling that professionals can make these senseless decisions with such monotonous regularity.  The principle is TCUP…. Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.  Some players need to learn how to make the right decisions during a game.

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

October 2nd, 2012 No comments

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.

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!



A late point, Spanish stand off, Harry’s hype and a get well soon.

August 24th, 2011 No comments

Eventually, our injury depleted travel weary warriors emerged from Carrow Road with another  point.  We attacked  early on in the game but, as is the current way, rarely threatened to open the scoring.  Our enterprising start soon fizzled away as Norwich settled and pressed us back.  Lacking the quick feet to operate in tight areas, we too often squandered precious possession by hopelessly hitting long balls.  Jonesy can win a ball in the air but if he’s isolated it merely gives the ball back to the opposition.  For much of the first half   Kenwyne received little support. It was  tortuous  for Stokies to watch at times.  Pennant’s substitution after half an hour only increased our  despondecy… in all fairness to Danny Pugh, seeing him replace Pennant hardly boosted confidence.   When De Laet scored with a classy header it looked bleak.  Half time was a miserable place.  To our relief the second  half saw an improvement. Shorter more precise balls led to us building attacks gradually.  As a result, our midfield could support the front two. Tony Pulis was right when he stated in his post match comments that we had posed a threat before the red card was given.  It was nevertheless infuriating that we couldn’t capitalise on an outrageous piece of luck.  Barnett tussled with Walters outside the box and it’s even questionable whether it was a foul let alone a penalty.  The red card was fortuitous to say the least.  Failing to take advantage of the penalty award was frustrating.  Ruddy’s save wasn’t particularly impressive, Walters penalty was dreadful.  We continued to toil away but for all but the last two minutes of stoppage time it seemed Walters miss would prove costly.  Ryan Shotton’s introduction gave our play a much needed new dimension.  His ability to overlap on the right and put quality crosses into the box was crucial to the late pressure that culminated in our equaliser.  Jonesy’s late header finally dragged us a point from what, at times, looked a desperate situation. 

The performance of Ryan Shotton was a huge positive to take from the game.  There’s no real reason why he shouldn’t start at right back at WBA.  If you’re good enough you’re old enough.  Not that age should be a problem.  Shotton is 22.  By the age of 22 Ryan Giggs had won two Premier League winners medals and an FA Cup.  Huth is a colossus in the centre and will be certain to start.   Of course this means that Shawcross or  Woodgate would have to warm the bench.  That’s a difficult decision for the manager but it’s his job to make those decisions.  The main thought we take from the game is a simple one, one so glaringly obvious it’s almost an embarrassment to say it…. we really need to buy some new players.

Liverpool’s victory at the Emirates was just reward for a complete performance.  They bossed the game and used their extra man to good advantage following Frimpong’s dismissal.  Three points well earned.  Some sections of the media have fancifully suggested that this could be the year Liverpool finally get the monkey off their back and win the league.  Kenny Dalglish will be aware of the dangers of such misplaced optimism.  To build a structure which provides a title winning platform will take several seasons.  A huge step for that structure would be provided by winning a cup or two.  Liverpool’s cup tie at Exeter this week takes extra significance.  The days are gone when they can regard this competition as a hindrance and send out a half baked team.  Liverpool need to start winning trophies again….. that would be a meaningful step towards the big one.

While the English Premier League is underway the Spanish League has been stalled by a players strike.  The issue at stake is unpaid wages.  In the lower leagues 200 players are owed in the region of 50m Euros.  A mind boggling statistic.  Before starting the season the players are demanding assurances that the outstanding wages will be paid in full.  It’s understandable that the supporters are keen to see their teams in action again. The point has to be made though that it’s refreshing to see footballers making a stand to support their poorer brethren.  And, contrary to popular belief, not all footballers are multi millionaires.

The saga is over.  Harry Kewell has finally joined Melbourne Victory. It’s a big football story here and when the A-League season starts in October the hype surrounding Kewell will be huge.  It’s sure to guarantee increased crowds and generate interest in the league.   However, as a Brisbane Roar enthusiast, I can’t say I envy Melbourne Victory their new acquisition.  The finance involved will be astronomical for an Australian club and if, for whatever reason, the signing is a flop it’d mean a lot of money has been thrown away.  It would also discourage other overseas based Australian players from returning to play.  It’s much more substantial for Brisbane (Whose spending needs to be frugal) to invest money in building the football club. Long term stability is crucial to a club of Brisbane’s limited resources.  The luxurious distraction of a hyperbolic juggernaut can roll on elsewhere!

After the recent pandemonium over the machinations of FIFA we could be forgiven for believing that the games governing body spends it’s time carrying money around in carrier bags.  But they also organise the Word Cup, it couldn’t possibly take place without them.   Recently they carried out the draw for the qualifying stages on the 2014 World Cup.  Australia were drawn against Saudi Arabia, Oman and Thailand.   Sections of the Australian media analysed the possibilities and the Socceroos’s chances of reaching the next stage.  Surely the aforementioned analysis was carried out to be polite to forthcoming opponents.  Does anyone seriously believe Australia won’t get through?  With all respect to everyone involved they should ease through with the minimum of fuss.  On a completely different note it was surprising that so much English media seem to believe England’s passage to Brazil will be straight forward.  Poland Montenegro and Ukraine are good sides who can cause significant problems.  Hopefully the England manager (whoever it is at that point) won’t be as dismissive of opponents as the press have been.  

It was announced last week that Brazilian great Socrates is in intensive care in a Sao Paolo hospital.  Socrates was part of the magical Brazil team of 1982.  They played football from the Gods.  He initiated moves whilst surrounded by colourful brilliance.  Opposition sides were mesmerised by breathtaking skill and kaleidoscopic movement.  Poor defending led to their elimination by Italy, losing 3-2 in one of the most gripping encounters in football history.  I don’t doubt that had Brazil gone on to lift the trophy in 1982, that side would be as revered as their predecessors from twelve years before.  Socrates was something of a football bohemian.  He refused to play for the national team until the age of 25 so he could complete his studies to be a doctor. Since finishing playing in 1989 he has become a doctor of philosophy.  Get well soon Socrates.

And they’re off! Clean sheets, a law of my own, Brisbane’s next challenge,

August 17th, 2011 No comments

Welcome back into my life football. My friend, my strength, my passion and of course, my eternal frustration!  Weekends are  inconsequential without you football my darling.   The big kick off symbolises a  return to midnight (or 1am) kick offs before retiring to bed usually accompanied by liberal doses of fatigue and deflation.   It’s August, time to start all over again.  

Stoke City’s 4th consecutive Premier League season started with characteristic tenacity.  In our hard earned draw at home to Chelsea, we displayed many of the positive factors that have underpinned our recent success.  While we rarely looked likely to score, our rugged defensive play and overall workrate ensured we got a point.  As expected against a team of Chelsea’s undoubted quality, we were  pegged  back for much of the game.  We handled their threat by outnumbering them, cutting down angles and stifling their movement.  Shawcross showed why his international credentials still need to be questioned when he was caught out by Torres’ quick feet early on.  It’s to Ryan’s credit that despite playing so long with a yellow card he was rarely flustered.  Woodgate  looked as impressive as he did in Split, if he can stay fit he could prove to be a great piece of business.  The man of the match for me though was Begovic.   In the second half phase where we were overran it was Begovic who saved us the precious point with a spate of impressive saves. 

One worrying aspect of the game was to see Matty Etherington taken off with an injury.  It emphasised further how paperthinour options are.  When Matty painfully struggled off the pitch, with him went a huge portion of our attacking armory.  This season we have played three games and emerged with three clean sheets, which is impressive.  The other end of the park however is a concern.  Lack of numbers and lack of quality limit our possibilities.  Pulis Rudge and Coates will all know this area needs hefty investment.  Securing the right players, at a cost which won’t endanger our clubs financial stability, is a monotonous often fruitless task.  It’s one part of their job we don’t envy.  here’s hoping that by the end of the month we have some fresh attacking personnel.

Where does that result leave Chelsea?   Well Torres certainly seems to be regaining some his old vitality.  While they lack the ruthless swagger of a few years ago, Villa Boas will be imposing his own philosophy on the team which, being a stickler for detail, will involve more thought than flair.  At the moment though they will be painfully aware, as Arsenal will, that the season is barely underway …and already they are two points behind Man United.

The next league game is at Norwich.  In all fairness it’s a game we should set out to win.   The away form must improve and Sunday will be a good way to send the message out that we are no longer a soft touch on our travels.  It’d be a relief if we have some new personnel in time for that game. 

During the close season I invented a new law.  Whilst listening to a phone in on Talksport after England’s 2-2 draw with Switzerland it was apparent that legislation was required.   Somewhat narcissistically I named this new rule after myself and hereby announce Joe’s law!   Some may be aware of ‘Godwins Law’.  An American lawyer Mike Godwin created his own law  which declares that as online discussions grow longer, the likelihood of a comparison with Hitler and the nazis increases.  When the aforementioned subjects do enter the conversation the discussion loses all relevance. I have a lot to thank QI for!  The Joe in oz law hereby states that whilst discussing the England football team, as soon as the word ‘passion’ is mentioned, the comment loses all relevance and is deemed null and void.  Sven was unpopular because he didn’t stand on the touchline with contorted face and clenched fists displaying the ‘passion’ the English crave.   What’s the thing always thrown at the  England set up?  Passion. England lack ‘passion’. ‘Passion’ manifests itself by way of crashing tackles and sticking your bonce amongst the boots to win a header. These aren’t bad attributes but at international level you need more than blood and thunder. Englands players are lacking because many have never had to consider a wider range to their game. Partly because of the nature of English football.  That’s not to say it can’t change.  Spain have proven that a football culture can evolve.  If England are to develop into a side capable of challenging the worlds best physical clashes and gritted teeth won’t be the primary requirement.

The start of the A-League season here in Australia still two months away.  Brisbane Roar captain Matty Mckay has agreed terms to join Rangers.  The move is dependent on a work permit being secured.   Whether the transfer goes through or not it’s indicative of the respect the reigning Australian champions command.  Striker Kosta Barbarouses has already left for Russian club Alania Vladikavkaz.  It’s beyond doubt that coach Ange Postecoglou would have loved to keep the championship winning team together to have a shot at the Asian Champi0ns league.  There are some cold hard truths of football life to contend with though.  If one of the players gets the chance to play overseas could he really afford to refuse that opportunity?  Similarly, would it be right of the club to hold the player back?  How the club addresses these issues will be instrumental in building on current success… or fading back into mediocrity.  Good luck Ange.

Making the difference, surly egos, and a big Sunday with beautiful football

March 8th, 2011 No comments

As with most runs of poor results at a football club, Stoke City’s current situation isn’t anything that a win or two wouldn’t put right.  But there are times when you look at our form and wonder where a win could possibly come from.  We aren’t quite at crisis point yet, but if this continues we soon will be.  Despite a bright start at West Ham on Saturday, we conceded a goal as soft an any you are likely to see, then fell apart immediately.   Confidence visibly drained from our players, one moment we were carrying the game forward the next we were merely fulfilling a fixture and waiting for the final whistle…. and when you give up that early in a game that’s a lot of time to play out.      Any lingering hopes we had of salvaging something from the game departed a few minutes later when we politely allowed them to double their lead.  In the second half we were a bit more positive, looked a bit more willing and tried to drag ourselves back into the match but we all knew it was a hopeless task.  Because of a slightly brighter second half some of us might feel slightly aggrieved, but we got what we deserved from the game.  As a result we slide ever closer to the relegation zone, seemingly bereft of any variation to our  moribund play.  Since January we have de-generated from a pragmatic team to an out and out long ball side and modern defences  deal with that threat with the minimum of fuss.  The positive qualities of recent years have faded away, the spirit and drive which underpinned our rise have fizzled out to leave us  exposed.

Our seasons ambitions from now are straight forward.  From whispers of Europe in the build up to Christmas, at the start of March it’s actually about scraping the points together to assure safety.  In the close season we have the chance to draw breath and regroup but major surgery is required.  Amongst other things, the entire philosophy of the team has to change. By this time next year we need to have different styles of players at the club. This can be partly achieved by offloading some of the squad who are clearly not going to play a role in the first team, many of which are merely clogging up the wage bill.  We must start to build a  balanced squad, too many of our players are the same.  Of course you do need grafters and grinders and tactical discipline, but without an element of craft and technical skill those positive qualities prove fruitless.  Any team needs balance.  On Sunday there was a  perfect example of how crucial it is to have  variation in a team ……Liverpool v Man Utd, Liverpool on top but Man Utd were holding firm. They were unlocked by some brilliant skill by Suarez. A quality player ‘making the difference’.  Defenders hate nothing more that players running straight at them…especially in the box. We drastically lack that difference  making factor.  Acquiring that vital factor can be achieved, but ruthlessness is required… and getting the right balance could prove an expensive exercise.   But first things first, we need to ensure safety. 

Fortune favours the brave.  The Juventus v Milan game was 0-0 at half time.  Realising that, despite their illustrious heritage, Juventus simply aren’t very good,  Allegri withdrew Kevin-Prince Boateng and threw on Robinho to really go for it and get the points.  The change worked.  Gattuso’s winning goal was a scuffed shot the keeper should have saved but when alls said and done, Milan won an away game and edged three points closer to their 18th Scudetto.   The game could have fizzled out into a 0-0 draw but some ambitious alterations have put Milan in a very strong position.  They are the kind of victories that titles are built on.  One point becomes three, and it must be a big psychological advantage to know that Inter’s second half obliteration  of Genoa meant no dent was made in their lead in Serie A.  Fortune favours the brave.

Louis van Gaal will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season.  He’s a notoriously difficult man to get on with, I can’t help wondering if the powers that be have just taken this slump as an opportunity  to oust him.  Bayern chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge isn’t known for peace and love either, the meetings must have been a fest of surly egos!  As it stands Bayern have a great chance of reaching the European Cup quarter final, would they feel foolish lifting the trophy after squeezing the gaffer out?   Where will Van Gaal turn up next season?  

I watched The Damned United again.  A splendid film.  It encapsulates the earthy unglamorous working mans club essence of 1970’s football clubs perfectly.  Like many dramatisations, if you remember that it’s not the entire absolute truth a pleasant time is had.  I was however struck by the dragging out of the tiresome cliche at the end that ‘Brian Clough is the best manager England never had’.  That gets stated almost as fact yet nobody can know for sure whether  he’d have been successful or not.  My own view is that he wouldn’t have proved any more or less successful than Ron Greenwood who was appointed instead.  It also stands out that while Bobby Robson became a national treasure, the man who actually did it… Sir Alf Ramsey, is so often overlooked.  We know that he was the manager on July 30th 1966 but he is rarely discussed with affection.  It’s a sad fact that the most successful England manager there’s ever been (ever will be?) seems to be way down the order when the England team is discussed.  The notion of the best manager England never had gets more attention than the best manager England ever had… and Alf’s achievements deserves better than that. 

Sunday will be a big one.  A big day with two big games.   In the afternoon at 4pm it’s the A-League Grand Final between Brisbane Roar and Central Coast. It’s LIVE on SKY in the UK KO at 6am!!  If Brisbane play anything like they have done this season it’ll be well worth getting out of bed for.  37,000 tickets had been sold by Monday lunchtime.  It will be good to get the whole city turn orange for a week.  It’s pleasing to see that football is making headlines here for a change, and if any team is worthy of headlines it’s the current Brisbane team.  Finishing the job on Sunday will lead to long loud celebrations.  Come on Brisbane!!

Then at midnight on Sunday, the post match celebrations (optimistic eh?) will be brought to a halt as there’s our FA Cup quarter final against West Ham to agonise over.  Reflecting on recent form it’s hard to really imagine Stoke being able to win this game.  But we can cling to the adage that the form book goes out of the window for cup games (football cliche 781) and remember that surely  we have to play well again at some point!  It’s feasible that victory in the FA cup will actually  lead to an upturn of form in the league.   Winning is just a great habit to have and there is a lot at stake.  Last year  at this stage we knew that we had little chance of knocking Chelsea out but this is one entirely feasible.   We might not get this chance for another 39 years.  COME ON STOKE!!

Infuriatingly craftless, shameless nostalgia, Brisbane’s excitement

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

Arsenal away wasn’t the catastrophe some of us feared.  After going behind so early it seemed we could easily be on the wrong end of a thrashing.  Admittedly, we were fortunate to only be one down after the first fifteen minutes but we grew into the game and stifled their constant stream of creativity and went in 0-1 down at half time.  Then in the second half something strange happened… Stoke City attacked and put Arsenal on the backfoot.  Instead of bleakly clinging on to nothing and seemingly defending a 0-1 deficit we got forward and gave our illustrious opponents something to worry about. It was such a refreshing change to give one of the big boys a headache.  That final defence unlocking ball was lacking but periods of sustained pressure in the the half of an opponent so famous was a thrill in itself.  The real lesson to be learned from that second half is that we now know it is possible to play away to top quality sides and have a plan to attack.  With a bit of luck and some opportunism we can get something.  When we face Chelsea there is no excuse not to have a gameplan with attacking potential.  The other good thing now we reflect on Arsenal away is that we know we don’t have to go there again this season!  So plenty of reasons for optimism as we faced WBA at home…. yeah right.

WBA’s late equaliser was slightly offside but to focus solely on that is to dismiss some crucial factors.  Throughout the game our attacking play was so shapeless we were unable to craft any worthwhile opportunities.  OK, we did put them under pressure for much of the first half but balls lumped forward time after time were dealt with in relative comfort by the WBA defence.  WBA were much more physical than we could have expected and were up to the challengeof the Britannia battering ram.  When the battering ram lacks subtle accompaniments it de-generates to an artless lottery.  After huffing and puffing we took the lead through a well worked corner (what was Carson actually diving after?) and that goal should have been a signal to shake off the inhibitions, attack and finish them off.  As Woy made changes to salvage something and leave space at the back we should have been able to exploit those areas and snatch a points assuring second.  Instead, we got pegged back and eventually got what we deserved by conceding a late equaliser.  It’s only the brilliance of Begovic that secured us a draw.  Had we emerged from this game empty handed we’d have nobody to blame but ourselves.  Before the game we were 7   points from 40.  Now are 6 points away from that magical mark so it wasn’t a complete tragedy but, as far as forward play is concerned, it is infuriating to look so creatively hopeless.  Carew and Jonesy are too similar and chasing flck ons can be easily dealt with by any competent defenders, especially after the 328th time it’s been tried.  It makes no sense to start the one player we have who can carry the ball into the box and turn defenders inside out on the bench.   If we play like we did against WBA and West Ham played like they did against Liverpool we’ll get hammered (excuse the pun) and talk cup semi finals will be forgotten.. perhaps for another 39 years.  

Our attention on Wests now shifts from the Bromwich Albion to the Ham United variety.  In fact, West Ham will dominate our thoughts for a fortnight, the league game followed the week after by an FA Cup quarter final.  Any cup tie with West Ham will evoke memories of our titanic League Cup semi final en route to winning the trophy way back in 1972.  The first leg at home was a deflating 1-2 defeat. We’d confidently expected to take a lead to Upton Park but after taking an early lead found ourselves pegged back at 1-1 by a Geoff Hurst penalty.  The point has to be made though that their winner from Clyde Best was an absolute beauty.  These were the days before away goals proved decisive so all was not lost.  The second leg saw us 1-0 ahead and as the game was heading for a replay, a communication error between Pejic and Banks led to West Ham being awarded a heartbreaker penalty.  It was Geoff Hurst again to take the penalty, he  smashed it to the top corner and Gordon Banks, the greatest keeper ever, whose reflexes miraculously managed to tip Hurst’s piledriver over the top and our Wembley dreams were rescued.  Banks himself has described that penalty save as the best he ever made…. even better than this one…  Banksy’s miracle set up a replay (League Cup replays… remember them?) at  Hillsborough.  A tense affair which we had the better of but couldn’t conquer the hammers keeper Bobby Ferguson… goalkeepers making great saves was a characteristic of the tie!  The 0-0 stalemate led to another replay, this time at Old Trafford.  I know several West Ham fans here and some of them still detest Terry Conroy for injuring Bobby Ferguson after half an hour!  England World Cup legend Bobby Moore replaced Ferguson in goal and just to add to the thrills and madness of this rollercoaster of a cup tie, his first job was to face a penalty from Mick Bernard… and he saved it… only for Bernard to score the rebound! By half time the score had twisted and turned it’s way to 2-2 and anything could have happened at that point.  Shortly after the interval Terry Conroy restored our lead and the crowd must have been wondering what would happen next. What did happen next was that no more goals came next and we held on.  Finally, after 109 years of trying, Stoke City had reached a major final.  If the events of winter 1972 are anything to go by we know one thing for certain about the forthcoming encounter….  if we succeed we won’t be doing it the easy way!  The only question is about whether our nerves will be able to stand it all! 

After spending some of last weeks blog typing excitedly about the first set of European Cup knockout matches it was obvious the second lot would be as turgid as they were.  If a pack of clubs allegedly amongst Europe’s elite can churn out a pile of dross as rubbish as that they should all pack in football to go and dig roads.  

Arsenal’s long journey to a trophy continues.  The League Cup wasn’t their priority but losing after being such overwhelming favourites has got to hurt.  It might not make Arsenal feel any better but it’s healthy to diversify the trophy winning gene pool.  Man of the match was Ben Foster, making several impressive saves to keep Birmingham level.  This is a special achievement for Alex McCleish.  Could he be a contender to replace Alex Ferguson when he eventually decides to spend his time playing golf and cleaning his garage out?  The real calamity of the match was the linesman who made the inexplicable error of calling Bowyer offside early in the game.  Had the lino not made such and indefensible mistake Szczesny would have to have seen red for taking Bowyer down and the game would have been very different indeed.  The scale of the error is all the more glaring when you realise the deep defender playing Bowyer on was next to the lino.  While Richard Keys and Andy Gray are on Talksport promoting tiles or haemorrhoid cream they should take note that the official in question was male.

After winning the first leg of the finals 2-0 Brisbane Roar reached the A-League Grand Final with a thrilling 2-2 draw against Central Coast.   It was a fantastic game which contained some great stylish football, a gutsy fightback, some drama and the right result!    0-2 down at half time was a real shock as the game was meant be a little more than chance to meet friends for a beer and a chat.  Brisbane displayed the character and the stylish silky football that has led to them beiong the greatest team in the history of Australian football by bouncing back to draw 2-2.   Grand Final, 4pm Sunday March 13th Suncorp Stadium.   Whatever happens, it’ll be a great occasion for Brisbane football …. but a sell out and lifting the trophy would be most welcome!!