I decided to venture into unchartered territory over this holiday break and drive the family from Sydney to Surfers Paradise – and back, which proved the hard part – for our annual family holiday.
With more hours than expected of calm – thank God for iPads and portable DVD players – I had time to reflect as I virtually took a tour of the A-League’s past and future.
Leaving from Western Sydney we left in the cloak of early morning darkness, it was much like the darkness that has engulfed the Wanderer’s 2014-15 A-League campaign.
“Im not too fussed about our current predicament” ran through my head.
Granted, I did expect these sort of results in our first A-League season – not our third – but it has been a spectacular three years. You can only take the highs as a supporter if you are willing to take the lows as well. I’m a bit concerned about recent rumours of player disharmony on the back of the Moroccan standoff between players and club, and I am seriously starting to fret about our position over the next three years. Purely on the basis of what he has achieved, however, it is always a case of ‘in Popa I trust’, but I just hope his players feel the same way.
Next stop was the Eastern Distributor, leading me right past the home of that team from the other side of town. They started like a house on fire, but that seems to have cooled of late. The master of media manipulation, Mr Graham Arnold, has been performing his usual tricks of illusion – leaking stories bemoaning an actually quite shocking injury count, peppered with rants at referees, winding up opposition coaches and even threatening his own team with redundancy notices.
All have quite efficiently deflected attention away from a very poor recent run of form. In contrast to my mob, he has the next three years well planned out. He has a free month to regroup his team for an assault at the title, and a chance to have the city as Sky Blue for a while yet, as much as it pains me to admit it.
Next exit reads North Sydney, surely the new home of the North Sydney Mariners? I don’t agree with the concept at all. I feel all it will do is lose the existing support they have in Gosford and they won’t accept a transplanted team in the North of Sydney. The Northern Beaches like their own (Northern Eagles anyone?) and I can’t see them flocking to a team that has lobbed into the area from Gosford. The North Shore may be different but they will never provide a hardcore support base – exactly the kind that they will be ditching in Gosford.
By the time I hit the Gosford exit I believe that I solved the problem – wake up to yourself Mr Charlesworth. Not every club can be a powerhouse, for every Manchester United there is a Burnley, Southhampton or West Ham. They have a great youth setup and a centre of excellence that has produced many a great youngster – with many more to come.
As long as they live within their means and take their fans with them on their journey than they can continue to succeed. They may not be able to compete every year, but can plan their assaults every few years as their development players come through. They may then become what some would call a ‘feeder club’, but so are all clubs in the Premier League bar the top five.
Next is Newcastle, the once great football heartland of the country. For years holding the highest attendance record for a national league match in this country. What has become of them? How could no one have seen the Nathan Tinkler situation emerging? I’m not talking about his financial predicament, rather when has one of these billionaires ever walked into a club and left it with anything but debts and problems? Clive Palmer anyone?
I lived through the five White Knights of Sydney Olympic in the old NSL days. Sure we got a premiership out of it but they were never going to stick around. And who can blame them? Keep forking out money from your own pocket and cop the abuse of a fickle fan-base on top of it. I don’t care how much you love the club or the game, if you can’t see progression you get out – that’s what makes them successful businessmen in the first place.
With over 10,000 in members, the basis is surely there for a very successful club. A stable head office and some more excitement on the field and the future can be very rosy for them. My mind started to wander (no pun intended). If the big investor model rarely works, maybe the Melbourne City-New York City model is the way to go. Not Middle East investment, but how about clubs possibly being bought out (at least a portion of) by larger European clubs?
But then the word is that a $5 million price tag scared off suitors like Dundee United. What the hell? This is less than a normal transfer fee for a lot of European clubs, how can they not see the logic to invest down here? Like all things, it will need to get done diligently and with patience.
I go back to the days of the Olympic Sharks. They moved to the Shire – home of the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest junior association. Word was that Leeds United – the giant at the time not the Championship club they are now – were giving them the come hither look. But things happened and they went belly up before the purchase had time to go through, probably the best thing for Olympic in the end.
Then there was the Northern Spirit’s brief dalliance with Glasgow Rangers, again maybe not the best example. But I still think it can be done, maybe it is the solution for the Jets. I can’t understand how Newcastle United – the Geordie version – have not had a look yet.
By the time my mind had gone through all the various possibilities and pitfalls of the club owning club model I had reached the Gold Coast. While thanking God that their demise led to the creation of the Wanderers I was stunned when harking back to when I first ventured to the Gold Coast some 20 years ago – and how much it had grown as a region from then.
The sprawl of new estates left me thinking as to whether or not Clive killed off the area for the A-League for good? It brought me back to similar thoughts that I had about the Mariners. Of course there is a place for the Gold Coast in the A-League. Demographics, population and sporting landscape may mean that it will never be an absolute powerhouse like Melbourne Victory, but to be truly national it deserves a spot in the A-League.
I personally would love to head out to Robina to watch some football while on holidays. A well run organisation with proper community engagement is surely a better bet than the second Brisbane team I hear bandied about. Rugby league couldn’t sustain two Brisbane teams, what the hell hope does football have?
By the time I checked into the apartment, I put all thoughts aside and chased the kids around for a week before we did it all again on the drive back. I managed to get out to the Wanderers’ game against the Victory – another tough night at the office for all involved. But I was smiling. Why you ask?
Because on a Tuesday night there were 15,000 people at Parramatta to watch the team coming stone motherless last, without a win all season, surrounded by rumours of discontent. So all things considered we are well ahead of where I thought we, and the A-League, would have been three years ago.
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