There's a lot to look forward to as the fifth ever A-League season approaches.....
With just over three months to go before the season begins, the saying 'time is an unwanted distraction between football matches' has never been more true as excitement builds for the new season.
What a refreshing sight it is to look at the A-league draw and see all those extra teams and extra games. A-League season five will be a defining moment in the growth of Australian football.
Version four of the A-League - I’m sure you will agree with me unless you are a Melbourne Victory fan - fizzled out.
The novelty had seemed to wear off with some fans last season, as Version Four was characterised with poor recruitment (particularly from Sydney, Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory), a weak marketing campaign (which ended up de-railing John Aloisi’s year as he got injured making the A-League commercial before the start of the season) and a downturn in crowds compared to the exponential growth in the previous three seasons.
Although I don’t believe that the A-League bubble had burst, even the supreme football optimist would admit that the novelty had worn off somewhat last year.
John Aloisi was booed at every ground he went to, the loudest by the Sydney supporters group 'The Cove' as he continued to miss the ball with embarrassing air swings.
Sydney failed to make the finals for the first time and the team everyone loves to hate was disappointing on and off the pitch.
Wellington Phoenix’s position in the A-league was brought into question by the leader of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohammad Bin Hamman, last year and that is still to be resolved. Wellington could be booted out of the competition in 2011.
Newcastle Jets, champions of the A-league in its third season and proud proponents of total football were the basket case of the A-league last season.
Unable to keep their best players after they won the championship, poor recruitment from overseas and poor form earned the Novocastrians the wooden spoon.
Perth Glory’s team was so old; the fittest person in the club was the masseur as he tended to all those hamstrings.
Central Coast lost their best player, Mile Jedinak, and the team forgot how to defend.That grinding, in your face style soon proved to be ineffective without the Jedi in the middle of the park breaking and starting attacks.
Adelaide United where the best story of the year as they made the final of the Asian Champions League and did very well at the Club World Cup.
Aurelio Vidmar was the star of the show as his description of Adelaide as a “pissant town” made television and newspaper headlines around the country, helping promote the A-League better than any half baked TV ad.
Queensland Roar did come good at the end of the season but even they brought out a yawn. Frank Farina has no charisma at all.
Season Five –A New Beginning
So to the new season of the A-League. And the word new is everywhere - new teams, new rivalries and new stadiums.
Gold Coast United are a breath of fresh air. The buzz created around the team by the billionaire owner Clive Palmer and the league’s most charismatic coach, Miron Blieberg, has been engaging.
The first training session photo’s attracted over 30,000 hits on an Australian football website.'
Mad' Miron Blieberg, as he is sometimes known because of his eccentricity, has promised sexy football and the recruitment of PSV superstar Jason Culina, gun striker Shane Smeltz, and not forgetting the three Brazilians (getting one can be painful enough - ask the ladies), should see some sensual play up on the coast this season.
The first game against Queensland (Brisbane) Roar in Brisbane will test Clive Palmer's prediction that the Gold Coast will win the championship and remain undefeated throughout the season - nothing like a bit of hubris to spice things up.
So if the Gold Coast has made a splash, what about the other new boys, North Queensland Fury?
Well everyone has heard that Robbie Fowler (or 'God' to his mates) will be sweating and huffing and puffing up in the Townsville heat this year.
The first training session God attended attracted over 66,000 hits on the internet.
Even for God those are huge numbers.
The first game against Sydney up in Townsville will be massive, especially since that game will follow the Brisbane Roar – Gold Coast United game - a Queensland double-header that should send the banana benders football crazy.
The 27 games this season will allow teams to create greater familiarisation with playing style, tactics and also an opportunity for coaches to try younger players.
Because the season was only 21 rounds, the coaches took less risks with blooding young players and, if a player got injured for any length of time, that was his season gone.
Fans also are yearning for a cup competition and the FA Cup semi-finals played over the weekend, which featured Australia’s uberstar, Tim Cahill,has not dampened the enthusiasm for a national cup competition.
So this A-league season, I’m sure most fans will welcome exciting prospect of facing new teams, attending more games, a chance to cheer on new heroes and boo the latest villain - and maybe, just maybe, a bit of sexy football as well.
Bring it on.
Con Stamocostas, Goal.com