Monday, 29 August 2016

Currently joyful, pending future doom - South Melbourne 3 Hume City 0

The first surprise yesterday was having an experienced referee in the middle of the ground in Perry Mur. He's not everyone's favourite ref - I think there are times when he could be more forthcoming with the cards - but as far as keeping a game under control, there ain't much better than him around. One has to marvel for example at how a spiteful period towards the end of the first half didn't spiral out of control. The second surprise was how good we were. Now people will say and have said that Hume were going to be tired from playing three games in one week, including a midweek FFA Cup match against Melbourne Victory.

[Should we count their home loss against Bulleen where they probably rested a whole bunch of players in the lead up to that FFA Cup game? Had they beaten us yesterday would they be instead be praised for their fitness and resilience? Surely Green Gully has had a more tiring schedule, what with having to play an extra match in the form of the Dockerty Cup final as well as having a pending FFA Cup match of their own. Does the fact that our last two wins came against teams who have played midweek fixtures in the lead up to their games against us mean our relative ease of victory in those matches is distorted?]

To be honest, I didn't see it like that, and I didn't notice much tiredness on their part. I didn't even think that Hume played badly, only that we played better. That in itself is an odd remark to make in a season which has been characterised by most South fans (including yours truly) being so quick to assess the opposition as having being unlucky whether they'd won or lost against; as our team being managed atrociously, having recruited badly and only in contention for top spot for as long as it was during the season because of the kind of outrageous fortune that few opposition sides could overcome. In a nutshell then, a result like this for Hume is entirely their own fault. How could they lose so badly to a team that was according to many of its supporters apparently many orders of magnitude more mediocre?

Leigh Minopoulos gets past his Hume City opponent. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
That's for those folk to figure out I suppose, while the rest of us enjoy this brief opening of a window in which we can convince ourselves that we have a realistic shot at the title. I've said it a million times, but having the extra man up front seems to do wonders for us. What was the most predictable (albeit still relatively effective) attack in the league has all of a sudden become one that is multifaceted, variable and fun to watch. It's been an entertaining as well as successful month of soccer. Our finishing could be better, but three goals a match will win you most games - though one has to note that we won't get as many chances as we did in this game every week. Most disappointing miss of the match goes to Matt Millar, for not hitting the drone that was hovering near the goal at the Albert Road Drive end of the ground - if you're going to sky the ball ten metres over the crossbar, at least take a drone or a seagull out!

It always (usually?) helps when you score an early goal, and Marcus Schroen (that little boy whom nobody liked) has run into a bit of form. That made up for Milos Lujic failing to score when one on one with Chris Oldfield - and while I'm not against Milos taking the early shot, it seemed to be at odds with our recent practice of trying to go around the keeper.

Everyone pitched in, even the People's Champ, who worked hard and tracked back when necessary - so much so that it was being remarked upon that someone may have finally had a word with him that had made a difference, ONLY FOR THE PEOPLE'S CHAMP TO ALMOST IMMEDIATELY LOSE OUT IN A CONTEST IN MIDFIELD AND CHUCK A MASSIVE SOOK AND HAVE THE GRANDSTAND RISE AS ONE IN RESPONSE WITH FRUSTRATION AND FURY. Having said that, he managed to keep himself in check for the rest of the game even if his finishing has been in the same place it has been for most of the season, which is in the toilet. But most of us would have been pleased with the effort he put in, while acknowledging that IT IS EXACTLY THOSE MOMENTARY LAPSES WHICH COULD LEAD TO THE OPPOSITION SCORING AGAINST THE RUN OF PLAY AND GAINING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASCENDANCY. Nevertheless, his little header on the byline that lead to Norton's cross that lead to Milos' goal was commendable. He probably won't be able to rely on as true a bounce at the Village this week, but sometimes things just work.

At 2-0 up and cruising during the second half, the discussion in Clarendon Corner went all midlife crisis with people more interested in comparing different supermarkets in the northern suburbs. Thank goodness that didn't last, what with the discussion descending into what constituted the attainment of northern suburbs street cred (ie, how do you pronounce Reservoir and Mahoneys Road; gosh, it almost seemed that they were going to draw up a list for northern suburbs citizenship test) and most importantly HOW THAT DIDN'T MATTER ANYWAY BECAUSE



Attention to the match was restored upon witnessing Brad Norton collapsing in a heap towards the end of the game when it was just about wrapped up was the last thing we needed, even if he managed to walk all the way around the outer of the field unassisted after being subbed off - in an interview post-match Chris Taylor said that Norton had suffered a groin strain, and that while he could have continued playing, he was taken off as a precaution. One expects he'll be good to play this week - and with Manolo apparently flying out of the country last night, Kristian Konstantinidis performing well with Luke Adams in central defense, and Amadu Koroma not being able to force his way into the starting eleven, it's unlikely that we'll see any changes to the starting eleven, or even the match day selection as a whole.

Minopoulos' goal - it looked like an own goal but it's been credited to him, so who am I to take it off him - iced the game. It's just great to see everyone so happy. I know it won't last much longer, but instead of everyone wishing the season would just finish already, people are looking forward to going to see South Melbourne for at least one more week in 2016. The first half yesterday was about as a complete performance as we've put in all season.

Here comes the sciencey bit
The closest Hume got to scoring was in the following situations
  • Immediately after we scored, which is their specialty
  • From offside positions
Regarding the first matter, having watched the Altona East reserves during that era where they had a habit of conceding 1-3 goals within five minutes after scoring themselves, the answer to that seems to be to have the captain - ie, the most responsible, calm person - quickly get everyone back into the frame of mind of 'great we scored a goal, now let's regain our focus, and if necessary boot the ball out indiscrimately for the next few minutes to slow the game down'.

As for the second issue, each time they got free to shoot on goal, they were called back for offside - and even then they failed to beat Roganovic. It's the best we've played the offside trap all season, and considering that we're going to have the king of being offside playing against us next week, it will do us well to maintain that level of proficiency in this area.

But you can't always rely on the officials agreeing with your interpretation of offside. There was some discussion yesterday about the closeness of some offside calls, to which I blurted out something about the parallax effect without really knowing if it had any relevance to offside whatsoever. Luckily we had a qualified scientist nearby, and even if he was involved in chemistry and not physics or engineering (and I wasn't going to ask the economist, because economics is not a science) to suggest that the parallax could indeed have some bearing on the implantation of the offside rule.

This article here (with diagrams) I think provides a reasonably coherent explanation of the parallax effect on offside calls, but if like me you don't come out of it understanding how it all works, let's just assume as we have always done the linesman/woman/being/person/sentient entity gets all the decisions which go against us wrong, except when it's so obvious that he or she is right and instead we heap abuse on the incompetent player keeping everyone onside.

Next game
Heidelberg away, Saturday night. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Women's team news
Congratulations to the senior women's team for clinching the State League 1 North-West title. They secured this with a 5-0 win over Eltham Redbacks. I had intended to see most of this game, but got caught up at the pub - at least I managed to catch the most of the second half.

Those of us who didn't go for a smoke at halftime warmly congratulated the team as they were presented to the crowd at halftime of the men's game. For those wondering where the trophy was, I presume because it is a state league championship, that they'll only receive a pennant for their troubles, as seems to be de rigeur for state league teams.

Just as an aside, there was some talk of SMWFC adding another star to their club crest because of this title. Surely that would only apply in the event that they won a top tier state title, not a second tier title? This is just one of the reasons why I hate stars on logos, but we're stuck with them I suppose.

There has been talk around the traps about the WNPL expanding to nine or ten teams, something which the current eight licensees are against because they do not believe the talent is there, and that such an expansion would dilute the quality of the league. There is even the view that the only reason that expansion is even being looked at is because of South Melbourne.

Now our ambition to return to local top flight women's football is no secret, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The current licensees may be right about the shallowness of the talent pool (especially now that everyone's leaving to play footy), but one feels that our inferred clout - as well as the facilities that we could devote to women's soccer - may get us over the line.

Nevertheless, while I wish I'd managed to get to a few more games this season, it's a huge congratulations from South of the Border to all the players and coaching staff for a successful season.

Around the grounds
The second last time
In 1981, after 34 years of wandering around a whole bunch of grounds in Melbourne, George Cross arrived in Sunshine - namely Chaplin Reserve, previously known as the Railway Reserve, Gardens Reserve (possibly also Sunshine Park) and perhaps more colloquially as McKay's ground, after HV McKay of Sunshine Harvester and minimum wage fame, effectively the town's founder and long time patrician. There they shared the ground with Sunshine City, an Anglo-Australian club. At the end of the 1982 season, Sunshine City and George Cross amalgamated, with City's yellow and black being incorporated into Sunshine George Cross' away strip.

In 2009, Sunshine George Cross played its final ever match at Chaplin Reserve, after selling the land to developers (though I'm not sure how it came to be that the land was owned by George Cross). Seven years later they did so again, although this time it seems to be for good, as the sale of the land gets finalised once and for all, probably turning one of Sunshine's earliest public spaces into apartments whose occupants will have their sleep interrupted by Sunbury, Ballarat, Geelong, and Bendigo trains. The ground's location, at the junction of two railway lines was no accident. The town itself was situated there for that purpose - and like the nearby HV McKay Gardens and the church next door, the reserve was situated for the optimum convenience of the local community.

(other factory sites in Sunshine also had their own sporting grounds, such as Nettlefolds which had a ground which backed onto the back of the factory, roughly on the present site of Harvey Norman)

Unlike some people, I liked Chaplin Reserve. Granted, I never got to see it at its best, which was probably during the 1970s when state league soccer still mattered and before the then still nomadic George Cross had moved there, or in the 1980s where thousands of mad Maltese would create a hostile atmosphere (see Paul Wade's account of one particular match there in his autobiography), but it had a rough working class charm that is a reminder that the de-suburbanisation of top flight sport in Melbourne wasn't just an VFL/AFL matter - it had a significant impact on soccer as well, socially and economically.

Michael Weinstein, Theo Marmaras and Tommy Burns watch a match a
match at Chaplin Reserve, during a Channel 9 broadcast in 1975.
Photo courtesy of Mrs Weinstein.
To that end, visiting the ground one was struck by the fact that national league soccer was played here - that games would have been broadcast from Sunshine to homes across the nation, or at least those watching SBS. Speaking to former George Cross player and coach Chris Taylor yesterday about this ground, he told me the story of how when he first arrived at Chaplin Reserve, he assumed it was the training ground; only to be told that, no, that was what they would train and play on.

No, I only got to see it during its decline. On my return to watching South and local soccer in general in 2006, I visited the ground for the first time and saw a match where we got done by a Trent Waterson header, and then got done by signing Waterson not once but twice. That day some nutbag George Cross fans in my vicinity called me 'Brooksy's love child', though I never did find out who the hell Brooksy was. I actually met up with those guys again in the Lakeside social club after the game with that goal by Fernando, where they were clearly not in as a good a mood.

The trip there in 2007 was my favourite South experience at the ground, but we've already spoken about that before. Earlier that same year, the greatest South Melbourne Hellas libero that never was pulled out two 360s in a pre-season game there. We also played a pre-season match against Knights there on a rock hard ground in 2008. Usually games for us there meant ugly, low scoring affairs, which we seldom won. Georgies getting relegated meant that we didn't get many chances to improve upon what was a pretty lousy record there, with our biggest win against them during our post-NSL era - a 4-0 mauling in the last round of 2010 - being played at Somers Street.

The entry to the dilapidated bocci/bocce club, which was being used by
some kids for a kickaround. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
The last game we played there was in 2014 - when the early rounds of what was FFA Cup qualification was still called the Dockerty Cup, and Robert Santilli gave away as daft a penalty as you'll ever see, gifting us a win we probably didn't deserve. The crowd for that game was perhaps just a tenth of what it was on my first visit there in 2006; Ozfootball says 1,000 for the 2006 league match - I reckon there would have been barely 100 for the 2014 cup match.

The best game that I ever saw there - and what with the ground being so compact, the surface usually rubbish, and Georgies teams more keen on playing rugby than soccer, that's not saying much - was the 2011 Langwarrin vs Whittlesea Ranges state 1/2 playoff game, a match with lots of goals and a bit of controversy. Despite its excellent positioning regarding public transport, I didn't get to nearly enough matches there, even after I moved to Sunshine last year, just a short bus trip and walk to the ground. Even when I lived in Altona North, one of the buses that went past my house would get me to within a stone's throw of the ground, and yet I never found myself there as often as I would more out of the way places.

To be fair, the shoddy football that George Cross played, the fact that the Geelong portion of the regional rail link works had seen the outer terracing removed - previously the best place to watch a match there from, aside perhaps from the bridge over the Bendigo line - and the dwindling crowds all contributed to diminishing the appeal of going there, when on any given Saturday there were so many more appealing soccer options across Melbourne.

Arriving at the ground on Saturday, there wasn't a huge crowd in attendance, perhaps 300-400 or so, mostly inside the social club pavilion under the adjoining shed, and clearly there to catch up with old friends rather than watch the game. Kevin Muscat, Andrew Marth and Paul Trimboli were just some of the old faces who'd turned up for the final hurrah. As for me, the most interesting thing I noticed during this time was the playing of a Sunshine George Cross Maltese language theme song over the PA system, which I would love to get a copy of.

With the outer terracing long gone, this
Werribee City supporter improvises
 a better view next to the bench.
Photo: Paul Mavroudis
The match itself provided Sunshine George Cross with a chance to redeem the failure to win their previous 'final' match at this ground against Preston, a game they lost 1-0 to a team that had up until that point won just one game all season and were due to be relegated. But within the opening five minutes Werribee put paid to any notion of romance or sentiment. With the hosts having failed to adequately clear a corner, City managed to keep bundling the ball forward until it was put away near the goal line.

Werribee (incidentally wearing black and yellow, the colours of Sunshine City, instead of their traditional blue and yellow), kept dominating thereafter up until the half hour mark, and should have added another couple of goals to their tally. Though they were going against the wind, it seemed to be more the fact the occasion had got to the George Cross players. They managed to lift late in the half and should have equalised - one effort hit the post and somehow the rebound stayed out of reach of every George Cross player in the box, and soon after another chance at the back was squandered. One of the George Cross players on the bench had a go at the teammate who missed the chance, only to be told off by his coach for doing so. Within five minutes the same coach was not shy about telling one of his players 'and that's why you're not playing at a higher level', or words to that effect.
The scoreboard, relocated from the south-west corner of the
ground to the south-east corner, was not in operation.
Photo: Paul Mavroudis

In the second half with the assistance of the breeze and the confidence gained from their first half rally, the home side controlled the game, with Werribee unable to get out of its own half except for the occasional attempt at booting it long down the field; but George Cross could not get into the box, and for the second time in a final game at Chaplin Reserve, they lost 1-0. The theme song was blasted over the PA after the game regardless of the result, and was still clearly audible at the bus stop on Durham Road a few hundred metres away.

A case containing (one assumes) numbers for the scoreboard, which
was not in operation on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
So that's it for senior soccer at Chaplin Reserve. While it was not exclusively a soccer ground for all of its existence - a number of sports were played there, and a look at the 1945 aerial map suggests that footy and cricket were just two of the sports which used the park at some point - later on it was in its own way one of Melbourne's most iconic soccer grounds - if there can be such a thing for a state in which the game's premier or at least longest serving venues have often existed in the periphery of both the public imagination and the fringe of public amenity.

After speculation that they would end up in Caroline Springs, it appears that George Cross will move to Plumpton/Taylors Hill West. Whether that will mean a name change, I don't know.

Final thought
Did you hear that sound yesterday? No? Exactly. Glorious, wasn't it? For the record, I had nothing to do with it, and you can't prove that I did.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Report delayed because I went out to buy some thermal paste - South Melbourne 4 Green Gully 2

So at the tribunal last Wednesday we had our date with destiny regarding the poor behaviour of some of our fans away at Bentleigh earlier this season. The net result was a six month ban for one of our supporters (albeit only ending up at a length of about two actual months of NPL soccer), and a three point deduction to the senior men's team. The effect of the latter is that we fell from second to third on the ladder, and with Heidelberg taking on Victory, we were doomed to remain there regardless of what we did against Gully.

Having not been at this tribunal session myself, and having not been given a debrief by anyone - not that I'm owed one, so don't take this as a complaint - I can only rely on the result of the tribunal hearing as put up on FFV's noticeboard, and the scuttlebutt on smfcboard.

The tribunal notice unfortunately does not go into any surplus detail about the nature of the incident. There are the charges against the relevant South fan (who pleaded not guilty) and the club for failing to control club associates (the club also pleaded not guilty), but no explanation of how the tribunal came to its decisions of guilty on both counts.

This is unfortunate because apart from FFV failing here to live up to its purported organisational value of transparency, I appreciate it when serious incidents such as this and the way they are handled are described by FFV's tribunal; because even if they don't work on precedent, it's nice to get a handle on the thought processes involved.

From what I can gather, the relevant sponsor who was accused of making the most egregious of the remarks towards the assistant referee fronted the tribunal, and accepted responsibility, and for that, credit must be given. Despite this intervention, the supporter put up on the various charges however was, by some process that remains unclear to me, found guilty, possibly for other comments made.

The process of identification, in particular what evidence was produced on the night, remains unexplained. That the conduct on the night of some South fans within the vicinity of the Kingston Heath grandstand was at best less than stellar is not in doubt; how one individual was picked out of that mess, and what the security firm in charge on the night was doing we will perhaps never know.

The interpretive fallout from the penalty has been diverse, but also predictable. To my mind the worst reactions have involved the allegations of a conspiracy theory; that FFV punished us for our so thoroughly identifying the Victory hooligans from the Lakeside incident earlier his season. I find this proposition utterly absurd, without any shred of evidence.

Other supporters have fallen into various camps of blaming the board for its handling of the matter, based on party lines so to speak. So there's your run of the mill Clarendon Corner type who are distrustful of the board based on their experiences going back a decade now. The are also those who have become hardened to the board over the course of time. In both instances it can be hard to separate the preexisting ideology from the reaction.

Despite its seeming inevitability (and some have even argued relative leniency, noting also the tokenistic $500 fine) I can understand the angst caused by the decision to dock us three points. Assuming for the time being that South Melbourne co-operated as was its obligation to do so in identifying the fan it was asked to by FFV - and that there were no mischief being done out of the public eye - what more can South Melbourne or any club do to prevent such incidents occurring in the first place?

Earlier this year at the AGM, we were told that we had avoided punishment as a club after a South fan (or one designated as such on the day; that individual would be one of those associated with the Victory hooligans who attacked South supporters) lit a flare and caused an incident in amid the Heidelberg fans, due to our identification and banning of that person. It was at a South home game, the security features there are better than most other grounds, and we were able to take advantage of that situation.

Earlier this year, after a flare was lit within the area where Clarendon Corner was located at the Veneto Club, on heading out of the ground after the game I was asked by president Leo Athanasakis whether I knew who had lit the flare. I replied that I didn't, and that was true - and if I did know, I would have told him. Likewise, when things threatened to get out of control at the cup match against Altona Magic this year, me being in the role of a supporter marshal, I had to try (probably badly, but well enough thanks to another fan at a crucial moment) to prevent people from our side doing something stupid.

But as per a discussion I had with one of our regular supporter marshals prior to yesterday's match, the obvious issue with that approach is do we (that is every club) then have to provide a chaperone each and every one of our supporters?

More nuanced therefore, from both inside and outside the club, have been the discussions surrounding how normalised point deductions have become in Victorian soccer as the primary way of dealing with serious cases of individual or club misconduct. While other local/suburban sporting competitions (the ones I'm familiar with most are various footy leagues) also use point deductions, I think you'd be hard pressed to find another sporting body which is so reliant on docking points instead of punishing the individual.

It has become so normalised that one can go through several divisions of the FFV league tables and see where point deductions have been applied. But the other punitive option employed by FFV over the years, namely fines, have also been controversial. Not being terribly imaginative, I'd like to know what the other disciplinary options are from people who don't like the way the current system operates. What course of action should FFV take instead to curb incidents of poor on and off field behaviour, especially in the case where a club refuses to identify individuals or cooperate with FFV?

Don't get me wrong: even if I'm one of a very small minority of people who thinks we got what we deserved, I get the frustration relating to the inconsistency of punishments dished out. We copped three points for failing to prevent comments that varied from stupid to offensive to outright vile. Heidelberg got nine points for for something worse - including alleged damage to an official's car - but got that down to three but also a hefty fine. Victory got six points and no fine for 30 odd blokes streaming across hundred metres to punch on with opposition supporters. Other teams get docked points after repeated infractions, when expulsion could be seen as the more appropriate answer.

But most of these things seem to me to miss the most crucial point - that without the first cause of the incident itself, there would be no need for the board to clean up this mess whether poorly or well; nor would be tribunal sessions where FFV would be asked to dispense summary or actual justice. This is where I feel sorry for people at the club - even if I think that they could or should handle such situations better, the point is that they shouldn't have to deal with such situations in the first place. In addition to that, there is only so much any club can do to prevent these sorts of incidents from occurring.

And the FFV, too, has a duty of care to its officials. Those officials are the branch of FFV that the Victorian soccer public most comes into contact with. The competency or otherwise of these officials is a matter for consideration on its own terms; it is not a line that can be used as a pretext for arguing that officiating mistakes are a justifiable pretext for fans or players to vent bilious hatred or even violence. As I argued last week, the supreme irony is that so often it's the fans who get it wrong seems lost on the people making these arguments - should the officials then get the chance to cry 'instigation' at the supporters?

Not that it should make any difference. The officials across any number of team sports expect a vocal home crowd to particularly scathing towards decisions that go against the home side, but there are lines that just shouldn't be crossed, not because of common sense but because of common decency, or failing that, respect for our club. For South fans who get targeted by opposition players, who have over the past decade or so taken the opportunity to celebrate goals in front of us instead of their own supporters, the best thing to do is not give those players the satisfaction of retaliating. As one of our more passionate but also level headed supporters noted yesterday and has been noting for years, attention at those moments should be paid to supporting our team

There are people who are still going out on the all or nothing approach on the matter of abuse, as if their entire right to be passionate at the soccer has been taken away. They are doing this I assume either because they are ignorant of the vile nature of the comments that were made on the night in question, or because they are on some sort of free speech, anti-PC brigade bandwagon. If it is the former, than I wonder how they would justify comments made to the official which included references to rape; if the latter, then it's the kind of absolutist position that is impossible to negotiate with, and which is an ideological which will never be accepted by FFV or any other similar sporting body, unless by chance you become an Australian test cricketer.

Rocking up to the ground yesterday, I was concerned that the game would be marred by further crass stupidity liable to get the club in trouble; instead a more humorous turn was taken, both in the stands and after the game, when the supporters ironically clapped off the officials as they left the field. I get that that kind of approach is not hardcore enough for some people, but I always find that a subversive, clever attitude is what we should be aiming for rather than crass macho bullshit. But then again since I could never pull the latter off, I would say that, wouldn't I?

The laughs keep on coming...
The suggestion was made yesterday by some supporters that the club had decided to take up its option of making an appeal. Should that be true, I can't say that I agree with this course of action. In part this is because of the lessons which one hoped would have been learned from South Melbourne vs FFV 2010; namely, that FFV can dock us more points, points which would be applied next season, and done so for no other reason than the the tribunal would consider our appeal to be frivolous.

Now of course an appeal could be successful - after all, Heidelberg got their nine point punishment reduced to three points - but I don't see the point in taking that risk.

Update: The club will not appeal the decision.

A casual reminder of other forum options
Some people on smfcboard once again noted the locking of threads, the clamping down of discussions etc, and once again came up with the idea of starting up another South Melbourne supporters forum. Of course these things have been tried before, both in the fashion of a forum that quickly ended up in gimmick territory, but also one that was started up this year, and fell out of use due to a lack of traffic.

So if you are fed up with smfcboard, organise your buddies and go here and register and vent in the way that you think you're not allowed to do so right now. Create a critical mass and see what you can do.

For the record, I registered on there ages ago mostly to secure my preferred username.

After all that...
There was a game to be played in front of a small and initially fairly sombre crowd. With Clarendon Corner taking the pisstake route by employing 19th Century style upper class polite disagreement to its logical conclusion, and the rest of the crowd probably assuming the worst that Heidelberg would beat Victory, there didn't seem much to be enthused about. Even less so when after South had pressed for most of the contest, Gully took the lead when an unmarked player on the far side of the six yard box smashed the ball into the back of the net uncontested.

At least the poor finishing of the first half was turned into some quality finishing in the second, and we eventually romped this game in. Of course we had to let Gully score another goal because our defense remains a sieve; as one of our favourite cynical forumites noted, we're probably going to have to score three or four goals a game to give ourselves a chance of winning the title from here. If that's the case, at least now we look like a team that not only can score three or four goals, but also one that seems to want to score that many instead of relying on grinding out a result from the opening minute.

Though neither team was probably at full strength or demonstrating full aturmbition, there are some things South can try and claim as hopeful omens leading into the finals. First, that Leigh Minopoulos playing alongside Milos Lujic is such an obviously good idea that one wonders why no one thought of it before. Second, that by hook or crook, we've managed to win three in a row. Third, that for the first time since the last time we beat Gully, we actually managed to one of the teams currently sitting inside the top six.

I assume that no one who was at risk of getting a fifth yellow card and therefore missing out on the first week of finals, did so. To that end the squad yesterday used Chris Irwin in place of the the People's Champ, and Andy Kecojevic and Joshua Hodes, the latter making his senior debut, also came on off the bench during the latter stages of the game. Apart from the People's Champ, one assumes that Amadu Koroma will be the other possible player to come into the starting eleven, probably at the expense of Tim Mala.

I'm not expecting miracles, but I don't see the point quite yet of writing off the team before the season is officially done. The nature of this finals system in particular is that with just one good performance and a couple of arsey results, you can find yourself with a title. Failing that, let's all fire away with who should be kept, who we should sack, and who deserves to be shot from a cannon into the sun.

I know who'd I'd like to see put into that cannon by the way.

Next week
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, we're playing Hume City at home this Sunday evening in an elimination final. Now not that I keep up with these things, but I'm told that Hume may have an FFA Cup match this week, which one hopes may tire them out a little as the midweek duties of Green Gully probably took the edge off as well.

Your South Melbourne membership will get you free entry into this game; otherwise tickets are $15/$10.

Senior women's team on verge of title
Our senior women have yet to wrap up their State League 1 North-West title after they lost to Melbourne University yesterday. This sets up a grand finish to their season this week in the final round. They'll be playing fourth placed Eltham Redbacks on Sunday, and with South Yarra playing Melbourne University, only a win absolutely guarantee South the title. The senior women's match against Eltham will kick off at 3:00PM, acting as a curtain raiser to the senior men's match.

Should they win the title, I assume, but am not sure, that they will play a match against the winner of the south-east side of the competition. I suppose we should cross that bridge when we come to it.

Futsalroos news
Just in case you were wondering what Fernando De Moraes was up to these days, he will be the Futsalroos' assistant coach when they head off the World Cup later this year. Which reminds me, I really should update the Futsalroos page on OzFootball.

Final thought
"Convicted of a crime I didn't even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Good times, bad times (including edit) and reasoning - Pascoe Vale 1 South Melbourne 4

Good times
Everything was going wrong.

I was hungry when I got to the game, but the cevapi was being served on focaccia, and I wasn't in the mood for pretending I was in a 1990s food court.

Then we went 1-0 down to what looked like a soft goal.

Then we almost went 2-0 down. Looking at the replay, we should've been 2-0 down.

Then we had a potential goal cleared off the line.

Then worst worst of all, we got a penalty which also saw Pascoe Vale go down to ten men. Deja vu anyone?

Milos Lujic even had his penalty saved, but thankfully the ball spilled favourably and he was able to mop up.

So, things started turning around from that point on. Davey Van't Schip going off injured certainly didn't hurt us

And our second goal was super - no ifs or buts or about it.

Had a goal denied for offside, but things were looking up.

And they stayed up.

Another penalty, another send off, another goal.

Another penalty, this time hit onto the post by Nick Epifano, another goal disallowed for offside, a host of chances missed but the game was done.

Marcus Schroen made up for a point a blank shot which hit the post, with a goal made after he won possession from a tiring Pascoe Vale defender.

The full time whistle went, and the rain stopped. Two wins in a row, albeit against two teams out of the finals running. Things could be worse.

Next game and final standing calculations
Green Gully at home on Sunday to close out the home and away season.

We are three points behind Bentleigh, but we also trail them by a ton of goal difference that we will be unable to catch up. So the minor premiership is all but officially sorted, seeing us miss out on the national NPL finals.

Looking towards the race for second place, we're currently three points ahead of Heidelberg - courtesy of their three point penalty from last season - but we also have a significantly inferior goal difference compared to the Bergers, who play Victory in the final round.

A draw for us against Gully will see us finish up in second and get a week off; a loss will see us almost certainly slip to third.

Of course, there may be other matters out of our direct control which could affect our standing...

Bad times - edited since original publication for further clarity.
Some of you - those of you who are able to access smfcboard at least - will have become aware of a reasonably distressing issue that's arisen over the past couple of days.

After our most recent game against Bentleigh, there were reports on soccer-forum.net by some people in attendance that there were some pretty hideous remarks directed towards the female assistant referee by a South fan.

As I noted at the time, I wasn't in the vicinity of the area of those comments to hear them, so at the time I could not personally verify whether they had been said or by whom they may have been said.

Now the issue seems to have come to a head with a South fan identified by FFV as being responsible for making the remarks, and the club has been asked to identify the supporter, which they have done. This person has now received a summons to appear before the FFV tribunal on Wednesday.

But there's a catch - the person identified is adamant that they are innocent, and what's more, they are alleging that the real culprit is one of the club's sponsors. There is even the assertion being made that the club knows who made the comments, yet they are preferring to throw this fan under the bus.

While I very much doubt that the latter part of the preceding paragraph is true, this is a demonstration of both the feeling as it relates to this specific discussion, and the way the relationships between the board and some of the members have deteriorated over time. It is as much an issue of imperfect communication as anything else - something none of us who conduct written correspondence will ever be immune from, but upon which we must always remain vigilant - hence the edits here and in the inclusion of a subsequent section attempting to further clarify certain details.

Apparently corroborating at least parts of that version of events are several people on smfcboard who are saying that they know that the South fan brought up on the charge is innocent, with some saying that they know who is responsible, agreeing with the currently accused that it was the relevant sponsor.

For the time being, even though the sponsor has been named in other web spaces, South of the Border will not name names, in order to allow said sponsor to own up to their behaviour - provided they are guilty, of course - and ensure that an innocent South fan is not punished for something they did not do.

I should have made it clear earlier also in a previous edit of this page, that the relevant sponsor may not even be aware of this situation and the way it has unfolded.

I hope that those who can verify the relevant fan's innocence are able to attend the tribunal hearing, and if worst comes to worst, implicate the person or persons actually responsible, whoever that might be. A failure for natural justice to be served here is the last thing the club needs.

There is also the matter of the process of identification, which one thinks will be sorted out by the tribunal upon hearing the matter. Quite how this fan was identified is a matter of supreme importance to the case - with so many people in and around that grandstand, it will be interesting to see how FFV, the host club and security came to identify this individual as the one responsible for making those comments.

Just for this week, South of the Border will not allow comments for this blog post. Any corrections or updates on the situation can be emailed to me at blackmissionary@hotmail.com.

Reasoning - this is a supplementary edit to the original post
Those who have an issue with the publication of this matter into the public sphere are entitled to know my reasoning for publishing this post. The matter of the abusive remarks originally came up immediately after the game against Bentleigh on soccer-forum.net. FFV has used screenshots from that soccer-forum discussion as part of its gathering of evidence, along with the ambient crowd noise which was captured by FFV's radio commentary team that evening. In that regard, the abusive remarks are already a matter of public record.

The genie was already out of the bottle. Furthermore, while some people consider the locked down smfcboard to be a private forum, the truth of the matter is that there are still people leaking information to people outside of the forum. The same is true of this matter, which people had begun discussing outside of smfcboard even before the publication of this blog post. Neither is this a new phenomenon regarding smfcboard.

This post then is in part an attempt to use plain language to cut through the rumours and innuendo that are floating about. Furthermore, to have ignored the matter would leave myself and South of the Border open to accusations of censorship or collusion. I also like to think, that upon approaching nine years of doing this thing, that there is a level of trust that I have earned among South supporters and the wider Victorian soccer public - and that the intent when covering serious matters such as this is never to cause harm or distress, but to inform.

With many ethical and even legal considerations to make, it is not an easy post to make. At the same time, this matter is not about me - it is primarily about the ordeal being endured by the fan accused of making abusive remarks that they claim they absolutely did not make, and the process which has lead to them being accused of doing so.

In addition, this incident, regardless of its outcome, needs to be discussed for its wider ramifications. It is a reminder to every South supporter that we are all responsible for the club's welfare. Though some sections of a South crowd are rowdier than others, the potential to go too far in either word or deed exists in every part of the ground. While one may not wish to 'rat out' a friend or fellow South supporter, there will be occasions where the greater good of the club may require such an action, or at the very least action taken which sees people take to task those who step out of line.

This should be done not out of a sense of 'the nanny state' - it should be done out of a sense of protecting the club, protecting the person or persons responsible from their own actions, as well as out of respect for the officials. By all means jeer or boo a decision you think is unjust or wrong, even heckle an opposition player - but be aware that there are lines which can be crossed that should never be crossed. This includes trying to bait opposition supporters, a course of action which may lead to more than just the offending supporter getting into trouble.

There are times when I have seen South fans take the initiative and prevent such behaviour get out of hand. I have seen this within Clarendon Corner and in other parts of the ground. I have even had to do it myself on the rare occasion I have been designated to act as a club appointed supporter marshal. It's not a pleasant job, but sometimes it has to be done.

The abuse directed at the assistant referee by certain South fans at this game, during the sending off of Luke Adams, was disgraceful. There is no context which can justify it. Neither the competence or otherwise of the officials justifies it, nor does the fact that you are at a suburban soccer ground instead of the MCG. We all get emotional at the soccer, and while some of us are better at handling ourselves during exciting or heated moments, we need to be aware of the consequences of the entirety of our behaviour. We owe it to ourselves, to our mates, and to the club - remembering that the club is not the board, nor the players, nor a select group of supporters, but the nearly intangible sum of its parts.



Final thought

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

'A little piece of home' artefact Wednesday - Middle Park soil and turf

This week's handcrafted South Melbourne Hellas artefact - a jar of soil and turf taken from Middle Park Stadium after the final match there - comes courtesy of one of our readers, the 'Lakeside Spy'. Lakeside Spy had previously sent us a photo of one of his Philips Soccer League NSL plates, which we used for an artefact article earlier this year.

After I asked Lakeside Spy whether the club sold these items or whether they made it themselves - admittedly a naive question, but as an old teacher of mine who ended up working in the light department at Bunnings Altona North once said, 'ask a question, look like an idiot for three minutes; don't ask the question, be an idiot forever' - Lakeside Spy noted in correspondence with South of the Border:
The soil I did myself. It's a bit clumsy / amateurish but I still treasure it as a piece of history. As a lot of people did I walked on the ground after the last match played there. I scooped up a patch of grass sand/dirt with a small implement and put it into my jacket pocket. I'd also be fascinated to hear what other mementos fans took from the ground. I'm sure people connected with the Club also have some great items in their own private collections.
One doesn't doubt that there are some remarkable items out there - I read once on Facebook an account by someone claiming to have the sign from outside the old Middle Park Stadium car park - but for now let's embrace this piece of handcrafted nostalgia which reminds us of our spiritual home, and the reason we came to exist as we did. Here's hoping it encourages a few more people to share the artefacts in their collections.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Are you not entertained? Well, now that you mention it... - South Melbourne 2 Melbourne Knights 1

One South fan decided to come up with their own
hospital treatment plan. Who said watching
South Melbourne was bad for your health?
OK, look. It wasn't great, I think we can all agree with that. The effort was there for the most part, even from some of those who we love to single out when they don't put in. You know who I'm talking about. Yeah, that guy, but not only that guy, but especially that guy.

Anyway, apart from some stupid tackles - and congratulations to Knights' Damien Miskulin for getting himself sent off against us for the second time this season - this didn't have much of a 'derby' feel. Everyone at South seems too jaded to care, while Knights were out of the running for finals, and have a much more important game (to them at least) coming up on Wednesday.

There was even cross-cultural happenings between a couple of MCF who wandered over to Clarendon Corner for a very friendly chat - and there is absolutely no euphemism, allegory, metaphor or other reality distorting literary double meaning on there.

We had the better of the contest as you'd expect. Our first goal seemed, to me at least, more or less inevitable, even if Milos Lujic had missed a sitter just before it. Things were going along much as you'd expect - though the bizarre indifference of the entire South team to an injured Manolo was there for everyone to notice - and then the Knights went down to ten men.

Of course that's the cue for someone to press the self-destruct button, and we copped a goal within minutes. From a free kick on the edge of the box no less - and not even a particularly well taken one - which if we had such an opportunity ourselves we would butcher, but it's no use crying over it especially when the only continuing contributor to South of the Border at this time also supports a team with Travis Cloke in it. The world is full of disappointments.

Then we ran around like headless chooks for a bit, like we were trying trying to find our bearings like we'd just going on the tea cup ride a dozen times. Eventually we either kind of remembered that Knights weren't really trying, or the team reacted to the building hostility of the crowd, or someone pressed ctrl-alt-del, and shut down Windows Explorer in the Task Manager and got everything going again. The second goal however still seemed unlikely, until someone - Marcus Schroen, in this case - did something unlikely, that being putting in a decent cross, with Matthew Millar on hand to nod it home.

We still tried to throw the game away in what little time was left, but wouldn't you know it, we didn't. A win's a win and those of us without black holes for hearts will enjoy it, even if one has to go back all the way to round 13 for the last time we picked up a win against a fellow top six side. At the end of the game as we were walking out, one of the uniformed police officers at the game - I assumed initially that they were they there as an overhang from the old boy Socceroos vs Copperoos curtain raiser - was on the phone, or radio or Krusty brand walky-talky, saying 'no flares, and no incidents'. Everyone happy then, or close enough to what can reasonably expect.

An artist's conception of two Chris Taylor hating South fans attempting to
 have a possible 2016 South Melbourne grand final victory end up in a forfeit.
We're gonna lose!
Now some people - not me, mind you - seem to be very close to crossing that line where they want us to lose, because they may deem that such a happening will hasten the end of Chris Taylor's tenure as South manager, and perhaps take down a whole bunch of people with him. Hey, it's their call, and what with South of the Border being too scared to oppress people for having contrary opinions the way we should be oppressing them, we're not going to be too judgmental. It's been a long week. Hell, it's been a long season. Which would make it all the more hilarious if somehow pull off a Portugal and storm stumble accidentally pull off a grand final win despite performances of abject mediocrity. And there will be few gladder about such a win than yours truly, not out of any sense of jaded hipster misanthropy, but because it'll mean another notch on the South title belt. That it would be done via second or third or fourth place would just make it that much sweeter. Any saltiness - is that how the kids say it these days, saltiness? - would be a bonus.

Having said that, everyone knows we're going to tank in the finals, so there's no point getting our hopes up. There, covered all the bases.

Next game
Pascoe Vale away on Friday night.

Marketing idea no. 8733b
So in the early part of the season, we get what, one or two marketable warm weather home games where people turn up like it's Orthodox Easter in Melbourne - that is, their one obligatory appearance at church, or in South's case, to pick up their memberships. But after that comes the grand prix, and we get locked out of Lakeside for several weeks, and whatever whatever momentum we may have had. So how do create a sense of momentum again? I'm thinking we lobby for two home games at the start of April after the grand prix, and market our matches as being part of the Comedy Festival. It'll be avant garde (read, improvisational), interactive (get to feel like you're at a soccer match) and totally meta what with the match being the play within the play so to speak. And let's not undersell the comedy value of a South match day experience.

The answer to one of my questions
I asked, and got no answer, but then I asked again - or maybe overheard a conversation - and found out all I needed to know. Remember how I was banging on about the mystery of the split paths leading out of the players race? Well, it was apparently done because the area of the pitch where the players came onto the field had gotten very muddy or something, and they didn't want the players treading all over that. Makes sense, even if it's a bit anti-climactic.

Around the grounds
If you get one up his butt, it's a million points
Headed to the Δόξα Yarraville vs East Altona ΠΑΟΚ match on Saturday afternoon. Tried to work out what was wrong with South in 2016 with some of the locals. Reminisced, too, about the first time I used a media pass - or was it just a standard FFV pass? - to get into Paisley Park. Copped some indirect grief from one of the blokes manning the gate about people coming in with freebies. Freebies! Do they not know how hard it is to make such dire contests read like a Homeric epic? There were no moments of 'Mighty Sonny Kul, midfielder relentless' or 'Whoever Yarraville's number 7 was, ingenious creator of destruction'. Hmm, maybe I should give up applying Homer to soccer and leave that Fay Zwicky? This was a terrible game of soccer, lacking skill, entertainment, aggression or any of the other qualities that make soccer worthwhile for spectators. It made one feel utterly apologetic for suggesting to one's friends that attendance at this match, part of the relegation scramble, would be a worthwhile experience. The two teams couldn't even manage to hit the Rolls Royce parked adjacent to the field - didn't they get the memo from FFV that the team that knocked off the hood ornament would get a immunity from relegation?

Time for FFV to get serious on insidious scam
I don't care if they're rigged - in fact I just about expect it - but if clubs are going to sell raffle tickets for bottles of scotch and such, then the very least they can do is announce the winning ticket over a public address system, or get someone with a white-board to walk around the terraces announcing the winning number. Time to start docking points for non-compliance with this royal decree I reckon. Before any South people come hunting after me, I'm talking about pleb suburban Greek clubs here, not Hellas, OK? OK.

Scanning news, of a sort
Nothing new to share, but they tell me Victoria University's new ultra deluxe scanning machine is almost here... looking forward to scanning some stuff that deserves better treatment than what my old Canon 3-in-1 can provide.

Hooped socks
Got gifted a pair of BLK blue and white hooped socks by a reader of South of the Border and fellow South fan at the game, and let me say, that they are a quality product. Cheers!

Final thought
In 50 years time this match will be known as the place where the South Melbourne Hellas and Melbourne Croatia merger talks started taking place. Good grief, you think you've seen everything.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Book review - Roy Hay's 'Football and War: Australia and Vietnam 1967-1972'

To coincide with the opening of a new exhibition at the National Museum of Canberra focusing on the 1967 Socceroo tour of Vietnam, the doyen of Australia soccer scholarship Roy Hay has a released a companion book.

With the long and unwieldy title of 'Football and War, Australia and Vietnam 1967-1972: A Missing Part of the National Narrative', Hay seeks to achieve three things: first and most obviously, creating a concise and accessible overview of that tour, as well as the events leading up to that tour and the events which followed; second, to 'encourage FFA to recognise the boys of 1967 next year on the 50th anniversary'; and third, to provide a practical demonstration to the Australian soccer community of how to produce books like this.

The basics of the 1967 South Vietnam tour - and especially the tour's status as the first time an Australian soccer team won an international trophy - are probably familiar to a good portion of Australian soccer followers. This book goes further than that simple historical soundbite however, by looking at the wider context of the tour.

This approach includes, among other things, analysis of Australian soccer's fledgling attempts to compete in international soccer following the end of its FIFA ban in 1963; Australian soccer's attempts to engage with Asian football, including the steep learning curve of the health, safety and playing hazards of touring South-East Asia; the hard lessons of not underestimating Asian opposition; an attempt to figure out who came up with the idea and purpose of the tour, including analysis of the tour's political and commercial contexts; and perhaps as importantly, a chance to move away from the singular narrative of the story as told in various contexts by the late Johnny Warren. While the specifics of this tour have been covered by Warren in Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters, and the doomed 1965 tour in Jesse Fink's 15 Days in June - which includes coach Tiko Jelisavcic's morale destroying antics - Hay provides a wider range of first person accounts of the 1967 tour and those tours of South-East Asia which followed it.

Much of the enjoyment of this book is in reveling in the sheer audacity and recklessness of taking on the expedition. The dangers the squad faced on the 1967 and subsequent tours of Vietnam (and Hay does well to add details of those lesser known tours) are palpable. Plonked into the middle of a war zone, even if the case is true that they were generally safer than most of the locals, the players were well aware of the political and social situation. In those difficult circumstances, it is often argued that the groundwork was laid for the team solidarity that lead to qualification of the 1974 World Cup.

Despite the lessons learned from the tour, Hay ponders the question of what impacts, if any, the tour had both within the limits of its immediate propaganda, team preparation and fundraising aims, as well as Australia's attempts to join the Asian confederation. Already reticent to let Australia join the AFC, Australia's success in this and the subsequent tours may have actively put off nervous Asian nations, who already had limited international clout and avenues to the World Cup from qualifying. If that is the case then Australia's success, while a marker of the improvement of the national team both on and off the field, may have indirectly lead to its becoming part of Oceania and its nightmarish qualification paths.

The book's achievement as a demonstration of cheap and efficient publication methods is worth noting. Befitting the author's background as a scholar, the book is fully referenced, including the dozens of photos used in the book. In covering a relatively niche topic, Hay combines thorough scholarship, along with interviews with those involved in the tour, and turns it all into a neat, efficient package. Clocking in at just 91 pages, most of which have at least one photograph and often several, the book is an example of what can be achieved even by amateur soccer historians. You don't need to go all out on design and paper costs - good research driven by diverse sources, combined with efficient writing, can see you produce histories that can cover both niche topics and longer histories.

For those interested either in Australian national team history, or looking for an example of a cheap and efficient method of publishing a sports history book, this volume is well worth the effort of tracking down.

The exhibition focusing on the 1967 Vietnam tour by the Socceroos is now on at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, as part of the 'Journeys' section of the museum. The exhibition will run for four years. Copies of the book (RRP $19.95) are available from:
  • National Museum of Australia, where the exhibition is being held.
  • All good book stores via Dennis Jones and Associates (that is, you can get your local bookstore to order it in if they don't have it in stock)
  • Melbourne Sports Books 
  • By post from Roy Hay via the Sports and Editorial Services Australia website.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Yesterday, today, tomorrow - South Melbourne 1 Avondale Heights 3

Yesterday
As The Eels once noted, life is funny, but not haha funny.

Every now and again, it comes to a point like this. Even if you can see it in the distance though, it still usually manages to surprise you when it actually hits.

The day seemed to start innocuously enough. The small group that was at Clarendon Corner was visited by the head of security for the day, who had a brief chat about watching some of the language and stuff like that. Nothing untoward, no malice.

Then a State Sports Centres Trust employee came out and set up a go pro camera on the running track in front of Clarendon Corner in order to film Clarendon Corner, including it seems capturing audio. Clarendon Corner were upset at this seemingly unnecessary escalation, and moved across to the small bay closest to the 1926 Stand.

When the camera was pointed in that direction by the SSCT employee, Clarendon Corner then moved more or less en masse to the other end of the grandstand. The SSCT employee and his camera followed. Clarendon Corner then went up to the back of the stand, then back to Clarendon Corner itself, and sat down mostly quiet for the rest of the half. Things picked up marginally during the second half, but the whole experience of watching South Melbourne at Lakeside felt utterly devalued.

No amount of gimmick chants and songs can make up for being made to feel like a criminal at your 'own' home ground. All this of course after the Victory incident, where we weren't consulted about anything, got attacked.

While all this was happening, on the field we were already down 2-0 within ten minutes, a free kick from out wide not dealt with properly, followed up a by comical effort by Marcus Schroen who somehow dribbled backwards 30 metres towards midfield, lost the ball, and allowed Avondale an easy chance on goal. After having to fight and scrap for even basic possession against Northcote a week and a half before, the visitors must have been pinching themselves.

Fair to say the mood around the ground was at a low ebb. Personal circumstances meant that I wasn't at the home game against Port Melbourne in 2013 - Gus Tsolakis' last game in charge - but I can imagine that it bore at least some similarity in terms if the feeling of having reached a point of no return. When Nikola Roganovic was subbed off before halftime after coming off second best when coming off his line to collect a through ball, the day just got worse.

The worst part was that, despite imploding defensively for the umpteenth time this season, we still could have lead at the break. Poor finishing from an array of players kept the crowd interested, in that it was in some way conceivable that we may make a comeback, but Avondale's third goal put paid to that. Manolo came on and looked more dangerous than everyone else, and scored. That only served to infuriate, as Manolo's tenure at South has done, by asking again the obvious question of why the most skillful player in the squad is not getting a starting berth.

Morale across the club is stuffed. Iqi Jawadi was not even on the bench, adding heft to the rumour that he walked out of the club during the week. By their body language alone, several others seem to be coasting at best to the finish line, and that includes Chris Taylor. That doesn't even take into account increasingly persistent talk about change room schisms - which even if they aren't true, gather legs because of the disjointed performances of the team. Whatever naive hope I may have had that we could get to the end of the season in good enough shape to rebuild under Taylor and a core of players from this squad, while undertaking desperately need renewal, is gone.

While a surprise finals run is not out of the question - the intrinsic lottery of the finals means that just about anything can happen - one gets the feeling that we are rapidly coming to the end of the Chris Taylor era. It was fun while it lasted

Today
It doesn't seem so bad today. We're still third on the ladder. The antics by the SSCT bloke just seem absurd. Everything about yesterday seems absurd. Why were we singing 'Heal the World'? And how bad was that ref? Was the whole point of the exchange programme with the English refs to bring over people who are as bad as our refs? As for Iqi, is he really gone, or is there something else going on there? Can we really believe rumours about what goes on in the change rooms if it mostly comes from people who are anti this coach and several of the players? Is Manolo not getting a starting berth because CT hates him, or because Manolo is unfit?

Look, everyone's upset. Everyone just wants this season over one way or another. Let's try and enjoy what's left of it. Do most of you really have somewhere better to be? Don't answer that question.

Tomorrow
Tomorrow I'm going to see an animated documentary about a bloke who tried curing male infertility and impotency by performing transplants involving goat testicles. Puts all our problems in perspective doesn't it?

Next week
Melbourne Knights at home on Sunday afternoon.

The new normal
Meanwhile another match during this round was postponed ostensibly because one team can't control a small group of its supporters, and no one from the mainstream soccer press could give a toss.

Studs Up and South Melbourne match programmes
It's been awhile since I did a significant update on this front, so here's what's happened lately.

I have now scanned and uploaded what I assume is every edition of Studs Up, except for no. 34. Check them out in the library.

I also got through a small stack of South Melbourne match programmes, adding material mostly from 1996/97 onwards. Check them out in the usual place. Thanks again to The Agitator for lending me thus material. I also added the 'byes' in that section where they needed to go. Hooray for procrastination.

Around the grounds
Can't we just relegate all of them?
Out of all the teams fighting to get out of the relegation zone, who do we want gone the most? Some hate Richmond, because of their poor facilities. Others choose Northcote, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on anymore. Some (OK, me) hate Bulleen because of Monday nights in the middle of public transport nowhere. And then there's Port, with their blocked off outer side and tasteless souvs with pita containing the texture of a sponge. Even if Port get relegated, their main (only?) appeal for me will still be there - a convenient Friday night soccer option. Port of course shouldn't be in this mess - they may not have the league's strongest line up, but the team is still capable. They had four good chances in the first half - a Kearney shot from the edge of the box which hit the right hand post flush, with Griffin McMaster stranded; an off balance Stirton shot cleared off the line; another, more desperate line clearance by McMaster; and some other attempt I can't remember, but I swear it happened! Bulleen rarely ventured into its final third, which is a shame, because Port's defense looked rattled when they did. During a halftime conversation one observer, who happened to be a member of a rival club trying to avoid relegation, reckoned that there was a goal in this game somewhere; I reckoned there wasn't, and I was proven correct. The yelling coming from the Port bench as the game wore on indicates that the tension is mounting.

Final thought
Ah, you know the answer, but do you know the question?