Top 10 reasons to watch the 2012/13 A-League (Part 1)
Ten – Foreign Recruits.
New signings are always exciting for fans of the A-League. In what seems an impossibly long off-season, small respites are often offered up in the excitement and anticipation of player recruitment, no more so than the announcement from an A-League club that a new foreign recruit has arrived.
The A-League has had what some may consider a patchy history of success when it comes visa players, with limited resources and scouting networks, clubs have all too often been at the mercy of YouTube video highlight reels. Thankfully, much like the competition itself, foreign recruitment has improved with each passing season. With players such as Carlos Hernandez, Besart Berisha, Thomas Broich and Marcos Flores having set the standard for foreign signings in recent seasons, version eight of the A-League looks set to continue the upward trend with an array of impressive foreign recruits lined up to make their Australian football debuts
Adelaide United have secured the services of attacking Argentine duo, Marcelo Carrusca and Jeronimo Neumann. Carrusca has played over 100 games for Argentine club Estudiantes as well as a stint in Turkey with Galatasaray, whilst Neumann has had a slightly more nomadic career including a brief stint with English club Barnsley.
Across the ditch, the Wellington Phoenix have also bolstered their attacking stocks with the signing of former Belgian international Stein Huysagems, whose impressive career has spanned clubs in his homeland as well as Dutch clubs such as Feyennord and FC Twente. Phoenix fans will be hoping Huysagmes settles quickly and a mouthwatering partnership with current star Paul Iffil could see the Phoenix again flying high.
Reigning champions Brisbane Roar will be hoping they have unearthed an attacking gem themselves, with the arrival of South Korea under-20 international Do Dong-Hyun. Brisbane have signed Do to a three year deal indicating just how much faith new Brisbane coach Rado Vidosic has in the young South Korean.
In their inaugural season, foreign recruitment could well prove to be critical to the success for A-League new boys Western Sydney Wanderers. With a short lead in time and a limited pool of Australian players available, Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has chosen to fill five squad spots with visa players. Possibly the most intriguing is the signing of former Dutch under 21 player Youssouf Hersi. The exciting attacking midfielder has played for Dutch clubs Ajax and FC Twente along with a spell at Greek club AEK Athens.
Other new recruits set to leave their mark on Season eight include the Panamanian international Yairo Yau (Sydney FC), Croatian Josip Tadic (Melbourne Heart), Scotsman Nick Montgomery (Central Coast Mariners) and Brazilians Bernardo Ribeiro (Newcastle Jets) and Guilherme Finkler (Melbourne Victory). Oh, and a couple of marquees, but we’ll get to them later.
Nine – The Youth.
Each year, a new crop of emerging young talent lace up their boots and prepare to take on the A-League. The introduction of the National Youth League in 2008 has helped provide a pathway for young talented footballers into the A-League. Most have served apprenticeships in the various state league competitions, and many have come through the ranks of local state league clubs. It’s a journey that has prepared many of them to take their raw talent and become professional footballers in Australia’s top domestic competition.
It’s proven to be one of the great joys for A-League fans, watching young stars like Tommy Oar, Nikita Rukavytsya, Matthew Leckie and more recently Mustafa Amini all light up the league before securing moves to some of Europe’s top leagues. The coming season promises much of the same for football fans, with the next brigade including Sydney FC playmaker Terry Antonis, Central Coast Mariner Tommy Rogic and Newcastle Jets midfielder Jacob Pepper all looking to cement themselves as A-League stars after breakthrough seasons last term.
Newcastle Jets recruit Craig Goodwin will be hoping to build on his impressive cameo appearances in the closing rounds of last season with Melbourne Heart. The exciting young left back lit up the 2011/12 A-League season with a stunning debut performance against Melbourne Victory in Round 18. Newcastle Jets fans will be hoping Goodwin’s form continues with his new club, and that the talented young defender will soon be igniting the left hand touchline of Hunter Stadium.
Sydney FC attacking duo Joel Chianese and Mitchell Mallia burst onto the A-League scene last season with an abundance of speed and attacking prowess. Chianese made his Sydney FC debut against the Newcastle Jets in round 18, and was soon causing opposition defenders headaches. He finished the 2011/12 season with 6 goals from 9 appearances and looks set to challenge for a starting berth again this season. Mallia may have scored just the one goal in his 6 appearances last term, however his pace and positioning across Sydney FC’s front line gave the Sky Blues some much needed extra impetus in attack. With new coach Ian Crook looking to play a quicker style of attack in the coming season, both Chianese and Mallia are likely to feature heavily.
Eight – The Fans.
Despite being relatively young in the world of football, fan culture within the A-League has established itself as a major part of the match day experience. The atmosphere created by the passionate supporter groups and fans of each club around the country has come to rival that of some of football’s more recongnised leagues.
Football in Australia is often criticised for its attendances, with averages often below those of most of its rival codes. Whilst participation numbers at the grassroots level has not traditionally translated into numbers at the gates, an upturn in average attendances in season 2011/12, and the arrival of some big name signings in the off-season along with predictions of several sell out matches across the country, have fans and administrators hopeful that season eight of the Hyundai A-League may be the biggest yet.
With the expected lifts in crowds, new fans to the competition will not only be introduced to the A-League on the pitch, but they will also be introduced to an experience, created by those in the stands. Football support is unique, its passion and vibrancy cannot be replicated. It’s drawn from many cultures the world over and its global nature distinguishes it from any other.
Well, that’s 10, 9 and 8 taken care of. In tomorrow’s part two, we continue to count down from 7 through to 4.