Top 10 reasons to watch the 2012/13 A-League (Part 2)
Seven – The title defence.
Getting to the top is easy, staying there is the hard part. It’s an old saying that has an all too familiar truth for A-League clubs. Only once in the competition’s history has a club managed to successfully defend its title.
Brisbane Roar achieved the feat with successive Grand Final victories in 2011 and 2012, playing an impressive brand of football that would also set a new benchmark for performance and style, whilst accumulating an Australian record of 36 matches unbeaten along the way. The mastermind behind Brisbane’s A-League dominance, Ange Postecoglou, has since left the club, choosing to return to his home city and join Melbourne Victory as their new head coach.
The reigns have been handed to Rado Vidosic, who has been the clubs’ assistant coach since the Roar’s inaugural season in 2005. Vidosic has managed to retain the bulk of the Championship winning side, with last seasons Golden Boot winner, Albanian striker Besart Berisha and 2011/12 Johnny Warren medalist Thomas Broich set to once again play an integral part in the Roar’s success.
Vidosic has recruited three potential young stars with former Gold Coast United attacker Ben Halloran joining the club, as well as South Korean Do Dong-Hyun and Japanese defender Yuji Takahashi who joins on loan from J2 side Kyoto Sanga.
With a disappointing Asian Champions League campaign behind them, the Roar will start their new era by travelling to Perth for a Grand Final re-match against the Glory. It will be a tough test for Vidosic, and expectations will be on Brisbane to retain the playing style formulated under former mentor Ange Postecoglou.
Vidosic’s men will no doubt begin the new season with a single goal in mind and, with the history books once again within their sight, they will attempt to become the first A-League club to win three titles in a row.
Six – The Continued Glory Revival.
Perth Glory finished the National Soccer League era as champions, winning two grand finals and finishing runners up twice in eight seasons in the old NSL. The Glory was seen as a template for future clubs to replicate when a new era of football was ushered in and the A-League was created in 2004.
The Glory started the inaugural A-League season with former Liverpool star Steve McMahon as their coach, hoping to translate their success in the NSL to the new professional football competition. However, Perth found the transition difficult, and McMahon left the club with six rounds remaining in the A-Leagues first season, in which Perth would go on to finish seventh – their worse season since 1998. The following seasons saw the Glory continue to under perform on the pitch, with off field issues surrounding the club compounding supporters miseries.
In 2009 Tony Sage gained sole ownership of the club, promising to invest more money into the club and bring about changes to ensure Perth’s future. The Glory finished the 2009-2010 season with their first A-League finals appearance. The following season saw Perth finish near the foot of the table and again the club was searching for a new coach.
Ian Ferguson was appointed coach for 2011/12 with star New Zealand striker Shane Smeltz and former Manchester United midfielder Liam Miller also joining the club. The Glory started the season strong however off the field problems again surfaced with owner Tony Sage threating to quit the club and a mid-season slump saw Perth fans staring down an all too familiar road. Nine wins in the clubs last 15 games of the season saw Perth Glory remarkably finish third before marching their way to their first A-League Grand Final, where they would ultimately lose in controversial circumstances.
Perth Glory will start the new A-League season as one of the competition favourites, adding Michael Thwaite, Scott Jamieson and Japanese forward Ryo Nagai to an already impressive squad. It’s no doubt a title that will make a lot of Perth Glory fans nervous as they hope that this season Ian Ferguson’s team is able to go one step further and be crowned A-League Champions for the first time.
Five – Gameplay.
One of the great criticisms leveled at the A-League by many of those outside of the game, and by those who don’t follow the league closely or indeed by some that do, is that the standard of play is below par and in many cases, not worth watching.
It’s a debate that is likely to continue into season eight and beyond and there are certainly components of the A-League that still need improving, both from a technical viewpoint but also in player and coach development.
What is often overlooked however, is that year on year the general standard of play in the A-League has risen. With each passing season a new level has been set, either by a singular club pushing new boundaries with style and ability, or equally by an influx of higher quality players and coaches.
Over the past two seasons, Brisbane Roar, under the tutelage of Ange Postecoglou, has driven the A-League forward, proving that winning can be combined with a stylish and technical game. The Roar’s success has made it hard for A-League teams to be just content with winning; it has raised the expectations on how a team should win.
Season eight will see an array of new coaches, plus some of the older guard, push their teams to compete with style and panache. Getting new fans through the turnstiles can be hard enough, retaining them requires good football. Season 2012/13 looks set to take Australian football to the next level. With ambitious coaches determined to provide entertaining football, and many different styles and tactics set to be employed, the upcoming season is set to be the most compelling yet.
Four – Ange Postecoglou and the Melbourne Victory.
Having won two National Soccer League trophies in the late nineties as coach of South Melbourne, and back-to-back A-League Championships with Brisbane Roar, there is little doubt that Ange Postecoglou knows what it takes to win titles.
Postecoglou’s tenure at the Roar started in October 2009, halfway through the 2009 /10 season replacing former Socceroos coach Frank Farina who was dramatically sacked by the club. Brisbane ended up finishing 9th, bettering last placed Adelaide by a single point. Postecoglou was criticised by fans and media and raised further eyebrows by clearing out experienced players such as Craig Moore, Danny Tiatto and Charlie Miller. Postecoglou, however, had a vision and set about creating a team that would go on to dominate the A-League for the next two seasons with an entertaining and exciting style of football that has seen some commentators label Postecoglou’s Brisbane Roar as one of the best club footballing sides in Australian history.
Moving back to his hometown of Melbourne in the offseason, Ange Postecoglou has taken on one of the highest profile coaching jobs in the A-League. There is little argument that Melbourne Victory is one of the biggest clubs in the A-League, both on and off the field, and the pressure will be on the new coach to recreate his success, and more importantly bring the sort of playing style that has seen Brisbane dominate the A-League for the past two seasons.
Last season saw Melbourne Victory grab the spotlight with the high profile signing of Socceroo Harry Kewell along with the appointment of a new coach in Mehmet Durakovic. Many expected the Victory to challenge for the title, however with only three wins in the first thirteen games, Durakovic was sacked and replaced with Jim Magilton. But the Victory’s season continued to falter, with the club ending the season out of the finals race.
Postecoglou’s appointment has seen renewed optimism surround the club, and with Kewell’s departure leading to the capture of former Adelaide United midfield star Marco Flores, many pundits are expecting a much more fluid and cohesive Melbourne Victory than last season. Results may not come instantly, as adjusting to a new system and style usually takes time, but Postecoglou’s influence will no doubt be evident from early on.
So that’s ten through four now covered! Join us tomorrow for the final three reasons to watch the 2012/13 A-League season.