Let’s feast

By Vinnie Venezuela

Let me say from the outset that the smorgasbord is a good, good thing and only marginally better than a buffet or a yum cha trolley. For me, the smorgasbord oozes generosity, gives you more than enough to feast on, has something for everyone and pretty much says go ahead and delight in all that I have to offer. I also like that there are no rules, it’s pretty much ‘gay abandon’ dining.


The other night after the Socceroos comprehensively beat Jordan having only a few days prior made minced meat out of Tajikistan, I felt like I had feasted like a king.


Every player brought something to the table and I was gobsmacked by the variety that was placed before us. From the Kruse, Mooy, Cahill combos to the Smith, Wright, Sainsbury, Milligan tightness or the Rogic, Giannou, Leckie and Burns forays forward, it was ‘game on’ everywhere. Yes, it was smorgasbord football.


Even Ange Postecoglou did the post game interview on Fox looking like a bloke who had just had the best time at his daughter’s wedding: the tie was undone, his voice was hoarse and he was beaming. Clearly, he had a great night too.


But Ange is not the customer who doled out his coin to partake, he is the masterchef, the architect, the visionary who decided to lay it all on the table for people to savour, just like Mr. Smorgasbord did way back when.


Quite rightly, Ange has questioned why the sport loving Australian public is not more celebratory of this squad. He points to the fears of goals drying out, of leaky defences and lack lustre build up play that have all been directed to this team. He then reminds us of just how much this group continues to achieve and evolve. And he is absolutely spot on.


People often talk of our golden generation, the squad that contained the likes of Kewell, Viduka, Bresciano, Aloisi et al and question whether we will ever again see such a skill set take the pitch all at the same time. These guys remain legends and their legacy is without question.


But what Ange is cooking up, I think, is something much greater. While the golden generation comprised individuals who carved names for themselves at the highest levels all over Europe, Ange is recognising genius even before it  graces the top flights; Mooy, Rogic, Kruse, Leckie, Luongo, Ryan are players who are still on the cusp of greatness.


Like Ange, of course, many of us already know how good some of these guys are and how much more they still have to offer. What is more thrilling, however, is that he keeps finding new talent like Giannou and Smith to pop into the squad.


The games against Tajikistan and Jordan were huge not just because of the score lines but because they, yet again, reinforced the unbelievable depth Ange is cultivating. When you think of the guys that didn’t play or even get a call up: Spiranovic, Wilkinson, McLaren, Troisi, Davidson or Franjic you have to acknowledge that the Socceroos have never inhabited a territory with such a seemingly endless talent pool. The dilemma for Ange here is quite sweet.


Frankly, this is bigger than the golden generation and Ange keeps dishing up players who are rising to the opportunities he is offering. More importantly, it is not a squad built around high profiled individuals but on a philosophy of positive football and deft planning.


Not only that, the goals we have been scoring are coming from all sorts of players and places. Super Tim imposing himself or poaching, Rogic from downtown, Mooy from the edge of the box, a Burns or Leckie or Kruse burst, it is absolutely clear to me that we have a myriad of options and, quite possibly, more than the golden generation ever offered.


Listening to Cahill talk exuberantly about how Ange has moulded a team that understands not only each other’s roles, but that can fashion scoring opportunities from a number of different scenarios really is inspiring. Indeed, Super Tim’s international career is in extra time precisely because the gaffer understands how to exploit his many talents both on and off the field.


While the golden generation was dynamite, this Socceroo squad is making its own history without the household names we’re use to and that really is brilliant.


Truth be told, you may leave a smorgasbord experience feeling a little bit full and maybe even a little bit guilty because of the decadence of it all. But you are always hungry for more next time.


Me … I’m ready to make another reservation.





Word of the Week: Joy

By Vinnie Venezuela 

Let me keep it real and just say that while winning the Asian Cup is the sweet, sweet icing, watching A League football week in, week out is the actual cake. It’s back and I’m excited.


Having said that, kudos to Ange and all the Socceroos who made history and brought us such joy. And may their run in the forthcoming schedule of friendlies and qualifiers be better than that of the Wanderers who lost their mojo big time despite winning in Asia.


What I hope the Asian Cup will do for the domestic game is inspire those who love the national team to get a little more up close and personal with the A League.  It should be like realising that the girl next door always was pretty nice.


Perhaps the greatest gift Ange has given the sceptics and the luke warm football fans is the realisation that Socceroo quality can come from all sorts of places. When you look at the impact and contributions Tomi Juric, Nathan Burns, Mark Milligan and Matty McKay provided for the green and gold , you’d be a fool not give the A League respect.


The other obvious plus is that the Socceroos’ win should make every eligible A League player hungry for a piece of national team action. By now it should be absolutely clear that Ange will give anyone playing quality football a run, no matter where they play it. … even Leicester City. (Cheap shot, I know it, but Schwarzer started it…)


Metaphorically speaking, this means it’s time to start dating the girl next door.


Last week, as I saw Melbourne City play the Wanderers, I thought Mooy was genuinely impressive; his technique and distribution were a pleasure to watch. He is definitely on the cusp of getting a guernsey given his ability on set pieces and quality longer balls.  As a different sort of midfield option his star keeps rising.


I also reckon Jacob Melling is another Melbourne City player who is heading in the right direction: strong, confident and able to penetrate from midfield. He is also ‘up for it’ and I like that.


This week, Adelaide United’s Awer Mabil had two very clear moments of brilliance in the game against Central Coast Mariners. One of them put the Reds a goal up and the other was an almost identical move seconds prior. Barring injury, this guy will be a gun. I love his bursts of pace as he cuts in and sets himself up for shots on goal.


Scott Galloway for the Victory was another player whose maturity and consistency is always on the increase. It’s clear he backs himself going forward and can keep things tight on his side of the defence. That he is able to maintain his composure in front of 40 000 fantastic derby fans also bodes very well.


The other player who has really imposed himself this season is Sydney FC’s Bernie Ibini.; deft on the ball with an excellent ability to surge forward and create something from nothing.


The joy for all fans now that the A League is back is that we get to play ‘ Be the scout’ and spot all the other guys who will be on the ‘Quality player’ radar.  It’s the chance to say, “Hey, I saw him play when he was starting out, he was hot then too.”


 Just don’t try to date his sister.



Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos


Word of the Week: Patience

By Vinnie Venezuela


Call me deluded, crazy and foolish, but I have decided that I don’t really care if the Socceroos fail to win the Asian Cup. I know we forked out big bucks for the party and, so far, the place is buzzing, but whether we blow out the candles and get sung to at the end of the night, for me, is neither here nor there.


Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want us to win, it just means I can handle it if we don’t on the proviso that the national team continues to show development.


Our first game against Kuwait was extremely encouraging and while the score certainly flattered us, Matty Ryan pulled off some cracking saves to help us maintain our composure when the momentum was slowly swinging towards the opposition. Spiranovic and Sainsbury were also very solid and Jedinak was a star.


The first goal we copped is a sobering reminder that we are not the complete package and that rookie mistakes may well be our undoing. I say ‘we’ because there is only so much Ange can do when the game has started and he should not pay the price for those sorts of stuff ups. His and the team’s challenge remains to get the positioning and communication working how it needs to.


The most pleasing aspect to come from the game was the awareness that it was always going to take patience to defeat Kuwait. Despite the early and inconvenient goal (mind you it did spark us up a tad) Kuwait was defending in numbers, clogging up the dance floor. Thankfully, that didn’t stop Luongo dancing his way into the box and cutting it back to Super Tim who finished sweetly.


That move was a delight.


Luongo is certainly one to watch and his goal gave us a game changing buffer that forced Kuwait to re jig its strategy.


What was terrific about the Socceroos is that they remained composed and purposeful despite conceding first. Because of this, they were both compelling to watch and dangerous. To me, this is a very positive sign.


Then, when you factor in that Tommy Oar and Matt McKay did not get a run and that Luongo started in favour of Bresciano. That Burns and Juric came on and made an immediate impact. That the pace of Robbie Kruse, Matthew Leckie and James Troisi was causing chaos. And that Milligan was ready if Jedinak wasn’t going to be able to stay on the pitch after rolling his ankle, you realise that, suddenly, we have plenty of depth.


It is also worth noting that it wasn’t just Cahill scoring the goals.


Most pundits will argue that nothing short of a Socceroo semi final berth is acceptable and, though I tend to agree, the world will not end if we don’t get that far. Nor should Postecoglou’s tenure.


The vision for the Socceroos needs to be long term and Ange remains the right option win, lose or draw.


Success can be measured in many ways and, for me, getting the Socceroos to become a squad that can threaten and defeat the best teams in the world by playing positive football is the ultimate measure.


Sure, we’ve only played one game in the Asian Cup and the quality of our opposition will certainly increase, but the match against Kuwait demonstrated that we are developing both the patience and tenacity to win with flair.  


Ange has clearly got the boys rising to the challenge and to me, that is progress.


Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

Word of the Week: Archie

By Vinnie Venezuela


Being a Melbournian and someone who has followed the game from well before I could fit into the black Dunlop Gold Star boots that are still hanging in the garage, it was inevitable that Victory was going to be my team once the A League kicked off. The fact that its colours were reminiscent of the Carlton team from the old NSL also set the trajectory.


But what made the move from Carlton to Victory so seamless for me was the fact that Archie had been signed. The fact is, he was always a gun.


There have been many fantastic Big Blue clashes and, while most will cite the one at the Docklands that drew 50 000 + spectators which was amazing, the game that does it for me was Victory’s very first home game v Sydney at Olympic Park. That one was a killer.


If you have loved this game for a while, Olympic Park in Melbourne was the spiritual home: the Socceroos almost always played there – don’t start me on the game against Scotland – and Carlton with the likes of Thompson, Colosimo, Bresciano and Grella called it home.


What I remember about that particular afternoon was the excitement and anticipation heading into the ground. I reckon the fans were salivating at the prospect of seeing Dwight Yorke play in Melbourne for the first time. Mostly, we wanted a great game, but we also got a goal fest. Archie scored two that day and his pace and finishing was breathtaking.


Archie is amazing because he has delivered the goods for 10 years. He still manages to weave his way into goal scoring situations and, as the game on the weekend so clearly displayed, is a deft finisher. Mix that with silky touches and his excellent passing ability and it is no wonder that he has captured the imagination of so many fans.


The fact of the matter is that Archie is still a player that can win, or in the case last weekend, save you a game. He may not be as potent for the full 90, but he remains a game changer. And though Berisha at the Victory has certainly added to the team’s potency (and possibly marketability), Archie has psychologically stayed in the game and seems even more intent to succeed.


Ernie Merrick once called him “un-coachable” which for me captures the idea that he is still like that kid who just wants to play. Archie is a natural.


To become a legend of the game you have to be able to deliver consistently. What impressed us all about ADP was the fact that he never came down to make up the numbers. Archie has never failed the A League and his professionalism certainly rivals that of Del Piero. I think that he could slot into any team and add substantial value; he’d even track back a bit more.


In terms of A League success and longevity, while Shane Smeltz is certainly a wizard in front of goal, Archie has an energy that is too cool.


Of the pantheon of great Australian players we have seen emerge over the last 15 years, Arch would have to be the only one playing in the A League that has been idolized as much as say a Kewell, Viduka or Cahill. In fact, even Super Tim borrowed the “beat the bejesus out of the corner post” celebration from him and we all know he is a fan of Archie.


So am I.


 Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.

Word of the Week: Believe

By Vinnie Venezuela

As I was on my way to work in a bit of bumper to bumper traffic thinking that this is what ‘touch - tight’ defending must feel like, I noticed that the sticker on the car in front of me had the word “Believe” emblazoned in red and white. I then realized I was behind a Melbourne Heart fan. That’s when I chuckled.


But I chuckled only because I can’t think of a group of supporters that has been waiting so patiently for its team to deliver on its promises. Happily, Melbourne City scored its first win for a while on the weekend. Sure, maybe it was a soft penalty that got them the goal, but you know what they say about small steps.


It has to be said, however, that as far as playing football goes, Melbourne City has always come out to give it a crack and it remains a team that is full of promise, particularly on the counter.


I even have to admit that sometimes, when watching Aaron Mooy hover in that Melbourne City midfield and then play one of his sweet through balls, I almost see an Australian Pirlo in the making; albeit with pasty skin and a bad haircut.


The important thing is that Melbourne City needs to actually believe in itself and build confidence from the victory that was such a long time in coming. The 1-zip win over the Roar is also a boost for van’t Schip whose tinkering paid off and gives him some welcomed breathing space after the shellacking City copped against Wellington last week.


“Believe” is also my word of the week on the back of Socceroo’s coach, Ange Postecoglou announcing his provisional squad of 46 for the Asian Cup. Talk about getting you just a little bit excited about receiving an invite to the biggest football party in Asia this summer!


Surely, that announcement has got to make each player on the list want to lift just that bit more. Then, after he settles on the final squad, the intensity will go up another notch. By the time the party actually starts and Ange has watched ‘Spinal Tap’ with the boys, let’s face it, we are going to “eleven” on the dial.


It’s this that gives me hope.


Yes, things went pear shaped in the recent friendly game against Japan and the backline caved. Sure, it was only Super Tim who scored and more work needs to be done on coping with teams that “press” us back. 


But that’s ok. Ange will address the issues and his players will deliver. Having them in camp prior to the tournament will make a difference.


Though Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck were both experienced coaches who fulfilled their contracts and got the Socceroos to World Cups, they were possibly too detached from the spirit that made the team tick. Perhaps their need to be pragmatic increasingly hindered their ability to keep the squad passionate and ‘fired up’.


Ange is the man for the job because he blends his insight of the game with a real sense of what it means to play for the shirt. And precisely because he has as much to prove as his players, the national team will ‘turn up’ when it matters.


Just like the guy with the Heart sticker, Socceroo fans have to ‘believe’.

  Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.



Word of the Week: Respect

By Vinnie Venezuela

Most Victory fans probably think that when Musky curses and screams and maybe even kicks a ball at an opposing manager, he is just reaching out and hoping to make others see how deeply passionate he is. He does it because he cares. Clearly, Musky is a conduit, the man wants to connect. Tough love is still love, right?


Of course others, like my Diego brother Warren, argue that Musky is just a bullyboy and needs to back off, especially if the game is done and you’ve won anyway. My other Diego brother, Carlos, will say that the intensity Muscat shows is what has made him such a successful, albeit controversial, player and coach. Rodrigo just sits on the fence and tries to change the subject.


As for me, while I think that Muscat being pumped is currently working for the Victory, I worry that the constant cuts to him screaming and badgering referees by the broadcasters is not a good look. The danger is that it legitimises behaviour that is disrespectful and aggressive which then trickles down to the kiddies and then suddenly, everyone is entitled to have a crack at the ref.


If the words respect and resilience really matter to us, then surely the behaviour post a bad decision needs to change. Does anyone seriously expect a ref to reverse a poor call? And the change must come from the players and managers not the administrators.


So while I can’t stop Musky being Musky (though I wish he would try a bit harder), I think the Fox Sports people could show a bit more discretion for the good of the game.


I went to the Victory v Adelaide match last week and the crowd was awesome. There was nothing I didn’t like about how they supported their teams and when, in the 63rd minute, 22 thousand paid tribute to Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes who tragically died, there was an extraordinary sense of connection that transgressed codes. That moment was profoundly meaningful.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic aka Zlats recently won his 9th Swedish Player of the Year Award. Upon accepting the honour, he paid tribute to his brother Sapko and two other Swedish footballers, Klas Ingesson and Pontus Segerstrom who all recently lost their battles with cancer. In a moving moment, Ibrahimovic said: “I am still living my boyhood dream … All these awards [are] proof that one has done something good and that one is good at what one is doing. But it is all overshadowed by what has happened. So there is a life next to this [football life] that is much more important.”




Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.


Word of the Week: Ugly

By Vinnie Venezuela


There is winning ugly like when you play Al Hilal in an ACL final and can’t get the ball out of your own half and your keeper plays the sort of game dreams are made of and the ref makes some dodgy calls. Then, there’s the winning ugly where the game is cagey, both teams are a bit clumsy with their passing, but at least there are glimpses of promise.


Yes, the Victory won a bit ugly in its game against the Roar but there were a few moments where the spumante nearly became champagne and for me that says a lot.


After the Victory-Roar game, I was very annoyed with Mike Mulvey’s tactics and felt that his Brisbane Roar team came out to defend more than it did to play. Brisbane really choked the game up in and around its box and this clearly frustrated the Victory. Maybe a draw was all they wanted.


Interestingly, though it was an ugly game, you wouldn’t have thought that it was a coach-killing event. Mulvey, however, got taken out in a black and orange body bag the next day and, I have to say, I find that even uglier.


As annoyed as I was at the Roar on Friday, I’m not sure Mulvey deserved to go. Apart from the fact that he is dealing with the loss of big players and, you could argue, that it was his failure to replace them adequately that is part of the problem, this guy has won them things. Where’s the little bit of loyalty he deserves? Mulvey, let’s not forget, inherited a squad and kept them at a championship-winning standard. If you think that is easy, ask David Moyes.


To me, this says that something has been brewing behind the scenes for a bit.


Sometimes you do have to move gaffers on, but the trend to dump them sooner rather than later is a bit worrying. While you could make the case that Moyes at Manchester United had to go because the club lost significant financial ground after failing to qualify for Champion’s League football, I think he too had the right to build a team, but we won’t go there. The other thing Man U teaches us is that no replacement can just wave a wand and change things, unless his name is Van Dumbledore.


So take heed Brisbane.


The other big game of the round was the clash of the baby blues at AAMI park where Melbourne City met Sydney. Given that Melbourne City is a vessel taking water, it had a lot to play for. This was an open, attacking and great game to watch for the neutrals and, ultimately, for Sydney who won it. It was ugly for City though and there was more coach killing football played in that game than anywhere else on the weekend. Wielaert, I think, has a lot to answer for.


Happily, Melbourne City, has not sacked its coach and, at this point in time, that is the right response.


Gaffers don’t always have time, but some are deserving of a little more.

The sad irony is that it was Brisbane that taught us that. Just ask Ange.


Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.


By Vinnie Venezuela 


So the current Socceroos are not the greatest team we have ever produced and we don’t seem to have the quality at our disposal that we once had: Kewell gone. Viduka gone. Grella gone. Schwarzer gone. We haven’t even strung any wins together since the World Cup.


Add to that, it’s only Super Tim who is scoring for us and coach Ange Postecoglou keeps blooding players and there’s no continuity in the squad. There is certainly not enough experience. We can’t even beat teams in our region who we will be hosting the Asian Cup. OMG.


Gosh, we are in deep, deep trouble and the national team is a ‘write off’.


Pffft, don’t believe it and even if you wanted to, don’t!


What you need to believe in is the quality of the football and the possibility that sometimes you need to take a step back before you can move forward.


There is no doubt that Ange is a man that has the weight of the Socceroo loving nation on his shoulders. He knows it. He is also a coach who has re-shaped each of the last domestic teams he has coached. We know that.


So we need to give it all time and be patient. We need to look for signs that signal forward movement.


We didn’t win a game at the last World Cup, but we saw a team that was pretty much assembled on the fly show ‘something’. Watch the games against Chile and the Netherlands again, if you don’t believe it.


You have to trust in the project and give Ange the respect to see it through. It’s clear the Socceroo squad do. Keep looking for the moments you love to see: fast breaks, snappy passing, organised defending and clear communication. Add the pride that needs to accompany the strip and we will stay open for business.


Ange will do what needs to be done and so will our boys.


Give it time.


Vinnie Venezuela

Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.


Word of the Week: Sinking

By Vinnie Venezuela 

Predictability is often underrated; some people think it’s boring. Personally, I don’t like surprises and am still scarred on many levels by the ending to the movie The Crying Game.


Of course, the world football equivalent of The Crying Game occurs when a team blows an almighty lead: think AC Milan v Liverpool in that Champion’s League final in Turkey, or when your striker has actually hooked up with the wrong sort of hooker: think Brazilian Ronaldo a few years back and the man-lady incident. No happy ending there.


Personally, I prefer movies like Titanic. No surprises. I was also emotionally ready for the outcome.


Speaking of vessels that are taking in a bit too much water and also messing with our heads, it’s fair to say that Melbourne City fans must still be in cold, hard, shock wondering how the hell they did not beat the Mariners at home. Talk about a sinking feeling. 


Forget the rebranding, forget the UAE sugar daddy, forget the guest stint by David Villa, this is a team that needs to dig deep to convince its fans that there will be no ‘groundhog day’ and that it can find the steel to move forward.


Let’s be honest, you shouldn't give away a two-goal lead when you have controlled most of the play.


Watching that game, City clearly had the ascendancy and both of its goals were constructed deftly. Happily for fans, new signing Eric Paartalu scored one and also got the ball to Ramsey whose stinging cross found Dugandzic, who then slotted the ball into the net. Duff was also always threatening.


And even though City has struggled this season to back up in the second half, it actually came out looking pretty good.


Then came Williams miss and though it wasn't quite a shocker it was a “gimme” that should have sealed the game. Marc Marino was also unlucky and another chance went begging.


While the Mariners looked decent and were reasonably competitive, I’m not convinced that they even entertained getting a draw. Trifiro’s goal in the 80th min from a free kick that was retaken after the City wall broke the magic spray line was textbook perfect.


But the Mariners didn't look like they were in a hurry to get another.

In fact, it’s almost as if Central Coast’s lack of urgency hypnotised the City boys into relinquishing the very focus they needed to protect their lead.


Then it got messy and with seconds to go, Mariners’ captain John Hutchinson scored the Lazurus -back from the dead- goal of the week that sunk the City dream.


City has to ‘regroup’ yet again. It has to find confidence, find goals, find defensive focus and find what it feels like to win. It also needs to find more on-field leadership. There is a lot at stake.


Sinking isn't an option. Let’s hope it ends well.

Vinnie Venezuela

Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.


Word of the Week : Seriously

By Vinnie Venezuela

By now, everybody except Al Hilal fans has come to terms with the fact that the Western Sydney Wanderers victory in the Asian Champions League final was down to luck, some amazing goal keeping and referee Yuichi Nishimura who clearly was not in the mood to give any penalties.


Such was Nishimura’s performance that, apparently, Graham Poll, the ref who gave Josip Simunic three yellows before actually sending him off when the Socceroos played Croatia in the 2006 World Cup, mailed him a brochure of the most secluded retirement villages in the world.


Seriously though, being the official in charge of any game is fraught with risk and there is always a lot at stake when the progress of teams, coaches and players is on the line (I myself have had my foot stomped by a 9 yr old girl and it wasn’t even a final).


Whereas Al Hilal and even Liverpool in its game against Chelsea couldn’t get legitimate penalty calls awarded, there is still a deep, Bermuda triangle like mystery surrounding Strebre Delovski’s decision to give Newcastle a penalty in the game against the Victory on the weekend.


Perhaps Strebre – a respected and decent ref – felt he needed to restore balance and harmony to Nishimura’s universe, maybe he was just striking out at all the pushy-shovey that goes on during set pieces these days or he saw something we didn’t from his position besides the grassy knoll. If it was just because he wanted to make Musky swear, he should know by now that there are easier ways.


Whatever the reason, I seriously don’t get it. Having seen the footage a few times I can only conclude that someone’s aura was fouled.


Personally, I don’t buy the “human error” is part of the game argument and believe that we should be using as much technology as possible to get the decisions right.


Yes, we are slowly inching our way closer in this regard, but surely there is more we can do without waiting for Apple to invent it.


Why can’t we have officials sitting in front of monitors instructing match referees to bring the ball back? The ones on the field already play the advantage and then award the free kick if appropriate. People get cards after a run of play has ended. So why can’t the ref get an instruction telling him/her it was a red or it was a penalty or it was the wrong call?


You might argue that this will damage an official’s confidence, I say, it’s not about them, it’s about getting the result that is right and that is fair.


Given we’ve already had some controversial decisions in big games this year – Ben Williams sending off of Nikola Petkovic in Sydney FCs FFA cup clash against Adelaide is one that comes to mind -  we are again hearing calls for our A League referees to be full time.


This makes perfect sense and will certainly improve the quality of their work.

But the game is getting faster and faster and, these days , 3 points or a player suspended is a lot to lose.

It makes sense to use every tool at our disposal to make their job easier. Seriously.


Vinnie Venezuela

Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.


Word of the Week : WOW!

By Vinnie Venezuela

There is a rumour that, after watching the Asian Champions League final between Al Hilal and our own Western Sydney Wanderers, both Edgar Davids and Bono gave each other one of those knowing nods that silently speaks volumes and then whipped off their coloured spectacles and had them mailed to Ante Covic … care of Paramatta.

Clearly no keeper in the history of ACL finals has had so much laser light shone in his face. But apart from being an outstanding shot stopper, Ante can also squint like a legend and that he did.

Wow, what a gutsy effort from the Wanderers! What a backline, what a keeper and what magnificent resolve. Sure, they won ugly, they were lucky, but they prevailed and are now the benchmark for every other A League team in this country. That is really exciting.

Kudos to the whole Wanderers set up. After such a short history, limited funds and the loss of several key players during the campaign they did it. Add to that the pressure of playing away from home in front of 60 thousand antagonistic fans against a club that clearly felt itself entitled and the wowness just keeps rolling in.

As coach Tony Popovic said at the press conference after the game: "We were called a small club yesterday. Today we are the biggest in Asia."

 The other rumour, linked to the final is that Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura immediately entered the FIFA witness protection program and has been whisked to one of its benevolent committees that award World Cups to deserving nations. That one is clearly a lie as we all know Sepp works alone.

But Sepp, I want you to wow us by personally following up on the disgraceful antics of Nasir Alshamrani who head butted, spat and then just lost it at Matty Spiranovic after the final whistle. Shine a laser light in his eye, tell him what the world football community stands for and have him weep at your feet. Do it Sepp, you owe us that.  (You could also give us our bid money back, if you wanted to.)

Meanwhile back home in Round 4 of A League games there were a few other events that also had us gasping in amazement.

Perhaps the biggest was the fact that David Villa, who had already wowed us with his brilliance and then with the revelation that he was only staying for 4 games played his last match with Melbourne City. While the result was not good, I’m told the dinner he shouted was tip top.

City needed to beat Adelaide, but didn’t despite scoring first and briefly looking very good. There is certainly a lot of pressure on the City boys who must show their fans they are more than just a new coloured strip and a bit of a rebrand. Now is the time to wow.

Adelaide United who beat them confidently have certainly moved up a notch or two this season and Bruce Djite was again potent putting away a perfect cross that came at the end of some magical build up play. Kamau forced a penalty, Carusca slotted it home - all exciting to watch.

Graham Arnold is also showing that his boys in blue will be a force to be reckoned with and the spectacular goal by Terry Antonis is a testament to the fact that Dowtown.com is where the Sydney boys currently like to do their best work.

Even though Sydney did well to defeat the Mariners, it’s fair to say that the Central Coast also had a few opportunities to shake up the game and Mitchell Duke’s sweet half volley that hit the crossbar is a sign that teams should remain wary of them.

Finally, you’d think that having four key players out of your squad would bring more pain than pleasure. Unfortunately, no one told Kevin Muscat that and the Victory was excellent against a plucky Wellington Phoenix.

The crowd at AAMI park was heaving with enthusiasm and Victory’s make shift back four were impressive. As was Fahid Ben Khalfallah who seemed to be in everything. Finkler again scored from a set piece and Connor Pain’s run to receive the ball from Archie and then slot it home was gold.

Wow, what a week in A League football.

Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos 

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.




Word of the Week : Love

By Vinnie Venezuela

While it pleases me no end that Melbourne Victory’s Archie Thompson no longer beats the bejesus out of the corner flag when he celebrates a goal, I don’t think what he does these days is quite about love. I’m not judging.

What I can say, however, is that I pretty much do love him in a platonic  - “I respect your work” / “You are an A League legend” - kind of way. But love doesn’t always come easily and Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat clearly hated the free kick given for the soft foul on Damian Duff which led to Mooy’s fine delivery and Wielaert’s clinical finish to give Melbourne City an early lead. And though he certainly detested the way his defence had a bit of a kip as the ball sailed into the net, Musky would have loved, adored and delighted in Archie’s first goal, even if it was offside. No complaints there.

The Melbourne derby was indeed a beautiful thing, and while there was no love lost between the fans, the amazing 43,000 strong crowd contributed to yet another fine spectacle of A League football. Loved it.

Victory fans would also be loving the way their boys are bringing it together;

Kosta Barbarouses was exceptional and his footwork that led to Berisha poaching a goal, his marauding runs and his ball that put Archie through for their fifth were lovely. Berisha was also in the mood Saturday night and his third goal was so David Villa like that the Victory had to check his contract to make sure they have him for more than 4 games.

As for City, though it was clear that the “pass it to David” instruction they each had scrawled on their hands was working for a while, the fact that he couldn’t manufacture a goal would be a little heartbreaking. Of course, the good news was that someone other than Villa finally scored and, if the Melbourne City defenders can find the net, well the only way is up.

Brisbane Roar would be hating their start to the season and they would have to be seething that Marc Janko scored a goal from so far down town that nobody had any idea what suburb he was in. Gosh, he got onto it well. I have to say that I loved Sydney’s second by Milos Dimitrijevic a little bit more because you could tell he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball. And I do love it when they are curlers. Goals like Janko’s are gold but require a little bit more of blessing from the Soccer gods.

Wellington would be absolutely rapt that it emphatically smothered Newcastle, with “tough love”, winning 4-1 at home. Coach Ernie Merrick now has back to back wins with Nathan Burns again starring for the Phoenix.

And wasn’t the sight of Joseph Gombau kissing his bench to death and then being straddled by Awer Mabil as he came to share the love after scoring that beautiful little goal that gave Adelaide the 2 zip lead over Perth a wonderful thing?

Finally, you might shower your team with Saudi Arabian love by booking out the whole hotel because you are so loaded you can, but not even that can prepare you for a Western Sydney Wanderers team that never accepts that it isn’t good enough or rich enough to be there and is driven by steely resolve and fierce passion.

Its players, fans and coaching staff led by Tony Popovic are all doing us proud and the 1- 0 win against Al Hilal in the first leg of the Asian Champion’s League final now puts the Wanderers on the cusp of making A League and Australian football history. You just have to be loving that.

Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.







Word of the Week: B… B… B… Brilliant

Despite the fact that this word tends to get overused in British film making and was beaten to a pulp in the Harry Potter movies, I love it because it is literally linked with the idea of shining brightly and standing out for good reasons. It’s also tied to the emotional warmth that accompanies the visually spectacular which is how I feel about Consuela Venezuela and Cameron Diaz.

As such, I want to pay tribute to the brilliant sight of those amazing crowds that made the games an even greater spectacle (as if the football wasn’t enough). Hats off to ye Adelaide, Victory, Sydney FC and Wanderers fans who keep reminding the World Football deniers that our climate change is real, is happening and is awesome. 

Apropos the game in Adelaide, Brucey Djite was again dangerous and though Berisha was lurking it was Victory new signing Khalfallah who did some fancy stuff off the bench and got Musky an away point.

The Sydney derby was unbelievably intense and Bridge, Brosque, Saba certainly added to the brilliant spectacle. (I need you to notice I’m also doing something with words that start with “B” or have “B” in them, ok?)

Gameiro again played shop window football and Arnold, again, got his boys firing for the last 45. I’m starting to think you only need to show up for Sydney FC games in the second half. Big Sasa and Janjetovic were certainly targets for WSW’s frontline and then for each other. Clearly, there will be a memo about the club’s new “cramp” policy at least as far as helping the opposition is concerned. They may also need to chat about brotherly love.

And the brilliant visual splendour was no less the case for all the 16 000 ish Melbourne City fans who turned out to see the newest team in blue do their thing. I went to this game excited to see Villa and Duff and was happily rewarded.. The last time I had seen Villa live was in Brazil when he ripped apart the Socceroos but I have forgiven him and am just stoked that he is here for a bit.

City was again sharp and fast in the first half but Newcastle absorbed the pressure then scored a sweet goal in the second. Caravella should have finished the game off for The Jets. Of course he didn’t and that man, Villa conjured a goal. City clearly has still got work to do at both ends to capitalise on its investments.

The other highlight of this game was linked to the joy of being up close and personal to the play at a purpose built football stadium with a beautiful surface. Brilliant.

I don’t know about you, but I think the A League boys are all passing harder and faster and more accurately which is even making the cagier games great to watch. The Nix were excellent this week and Burns, Brockie and McGlinchey gave Ernie a very happy ending, though I reckon I saw the team defibrillator come out with about 10 minutes to go as the Mariners managed to find something and get the Nix on the back foot and in runny poo mode. Great game.

And the light certainly continues to shine on The Glory who stole victory in front of a decent home crowd with new Irish signing, Andy Keogh finding the net with a hatrick that broke the back of Brisbane Roar in the dying minutes. Unbelievable.

Yep, another brilliant round of A League football with each team bringing something beautiful to the table. Which is why you don’t need to despair even if your team did lose … unless you also barrack for Sunderland … and are Brazilian.

Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.


by Rodrigo Rodriguez

I love the media, I love that I am a very small (albeit for over 25 years) part of broadcast media and communications, I love the business side of media, I love the people who have a crack at media and I am even warming to social media, even though it should be called “open, sometimes anti-social media”.

As a Diego I have been lucky enough to talk on the radio every week for over 15 years about a game that I have grown to love.  I get to voice my opinion (when I can get a word in…), even though I am an unashamed fence sitter and can always see two sides to the story. I get to work with three guys, mates, whose motivation is nothing more than wanting to promote a game that has been under promoted (until now).   I love that!

In Rodrigo’s Media World, I’ll look at an aspect of football media (on-air and off-air) and share with you my thoughts, observations and will welcome your take on what you’ve noticed about our football media people and its landscape.

So, let’s start.

I am often amazed at how the great commentators like Martin Tyler keep us in the palm of their hand without distracting us from the main event and how they can hold it together, word perfectly (mostly) for over 2 hours.

Australia’s Martin Tyler is Simon Hill from Fox Sports and while he may not be comfortable that I should put him in the same sentence as the great man, he is a real pro and I would tell him to stop being so modest.

In keeping with Carlos’ Casual Observations……Have you ever noticed that at the start of every A-League game or International the broadcast goes something like this?

Adam Peacock throws to the broadcast……

“Now let’s cross to Simon Hill and Robbie Slater at The Adelaide Oval for the big game between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory”.


Then for the next 3 - 5 minutes or more, ONLY Simon Hill talks, he paints a picture of the battle we are about to watch, throwing in some statistics about previous encounters, the history between the two States or Countries, talks us through the teams and reminds us of the important match-ups and the players we need to look out for. I also like the off-the-wall stats he gives us as well.  There is a team in the background helping him out with great graphics and crowd shots but Simon brings it to us, calmly yet excitedly, he puts us in the zone.

Take it from me….Talking for 5 minutes live to air on your own and filling the space is not an easy thing to do and is probably one of the reasons that his co-commentators would admire him and look to him to set the scene and ease them into it.

Once the match starts….He says “Welcome to you Robbie Slater”, then its game on… Robbie feels comfortable that his anchor has led him to comfortable space…The Game.

Just a small thing but I just want to say to Simon Hill and guys like Brenton Speed, I notice that stuff so well played and keep up the good work.

So let’s take a break and we’ll be back with more “Rodrigo’s Media World” next time in the Four Diegos e-Newsletter brought to you by……..Hey Carlos have we got a sponsor yet??.....anyway we’ll be back next time.

Keep Listening!

Why our game is not #thebeautifulgame

by Carlos Alberto Diego

For me the spin doctors who came up with #thebeautifulgame campaign for the FFA have got it all wrong.

Sure our game is wonderful, enthralling, tough, uncompromising, riveting, exhilarating, fair, unfair and sometimes unscrupulous.

It is breathtaking, sad, boastful, honest, compelling, mostly on the side good but sometimes evil. It is definitely all these things and much more but for me it is not ‘beautiful’.

What compels me to watch football is not  a mythical aesthetic of what the game should be but instead those raw moments that touch me as a lover of sport.

It’s the dour contest of a nil-all draw, the human frailty of a ball playing centre half, the cocksureness of a high priced recruit, an FFA Cup parking the bus win against all odds, the public shame of a failed drug test and exultant adulation of the next Harry Kewell.

These moments for me are football epiphanies or in pub league terms my #GeeILoveThisGame moments.

I don’t look for these moments and there is no way some highly paid marketing spin doctor is going to tell me what these moments are. They just emanate, capture all my senses in a milli-second and give me ‘gooseys’ all over.

#GeeILoveThisGame moments remind me that humans play this game, not ballet dancers.

They show that the game is a reflection of the personality and values of the protagonists who are playing at any point in time.

Take for example football formations. Having many superstar ‘prongs’ in your line up, some may say is beautiful, but it’s the hapless ‘prong’ who misses the unmissable chance or the unheralded ‘prong’ who scores the match winner with a toe poke that stretches every fibre in his body, which moves me most.

I don’t see beauty in these moments I just see inconsolable heartbreak and blissful triumph.

These are feelings that many of us can grasp and have experienced in life. We can relate to the imperfection and the battle to want to one day come out on top.

For me when someone refers to football as #thebeautifulgame I can only conjure images of the all conquering Brazil 1970 World Cup winning team, the royal whiteness of a Real Madrid shirt on the back of the wonderful Alfredo Di Stefano and the soft hands and warm touch of Chelsea physio, Eva Caneiro.

I don’t see beauty in Kevin Muscat’s Victory or Poppa’s Wanderers. A-League goal king Besart Berisha is a great player but his play is hardly gorgeous. The best footballer in the league Thomas Broich for me is a rock star but the way he works his magic, at best , can be described as ruggedly handsome.  

Australian football is not beautiful, pretty, a good sort or a sight for sore eyes.

There is no ‘beautiful’ Australian Pele, Socrates or Zico playing in the A-League. The way our teams play football does not resemble the beauty of a Mozart symphony, a Picasso masterpiece or Charlize Theron in Sweet November. So let’s not pretend like it does.

I love Australian football because of the journey it is on to earn respect, credibility and recognition. I live for those authentic moments in our game that move me to jump up and kiss an unshaved and unwashed Diego brother, marvelling at what I just witnessed.

I also feel for the A-League battler who has scored an own goal or let his team down for losing his head and getting a red card.

I say forget the manufactured slogans and disingenuous marketing stunts – Australian football is not beautiful but #GeeILoveThisGame.


Word of the Week: Shweeeet

By Vinnie Venezuela

My apologies to any Grease purists out there but “shweeet is the word that you heard, its got groove it’s got meaning’” especially when the A League season kicked off the way it did with goals, near misses and some plucky pieces of play.

Yes, it was delicious, sweet, sweet manna to see the crowds back and buzzing across the weekend and maybe, just maybe, it was the Victory and Wanderers’ fans that were pumped the most? Having said that, the Sydney FC /Melbourne City pundits also made plenty of noise.

Victory with Berisha looked pretty good and you could tell that he was ‘up for it’ by the way he was not going to allow anyone to tear the ball from his pincer like grip once Melbourne was awarded the penalty. Apparently, he is still clutching it. Though the Wanderers were robbed of a chance from the spot, all the stars in the world football galaxy were aligned for the Victory who also had Monsieur Laa Dee Del Pierre finish sweetly on debut, Broxham get some joy and Archie also slot one home. Have to say, I think Archie may well find new fire in his goal scoring loins with Berisha beside him this season.

Melbourne City was also amazingly good for a half and the tempo of that game all up was a delight. While every A League fan was hankering to see Villa who certainly made the most of his chance (take note Mate Dugandzic), just as big a talking point was the cracker from Antonis that hit the crossbar. Sweet … but also sour. Hats off to Graham Arnold for getting his boys back in the game and saving a point.

The F3 derby between Central Coast and Newcastle had its critics and, yes, it was cagey and maybe even a bit lack lustre, but the Mariner’s new man Mane` looks like he’ll be great to watch. Though Newcastle was always dangerous on the counter , the 1 zip win for the Mariners was fair.

Kudos to The Glory who stole the points away from home v the Phoenix. Mitch Nichols was back in A league action for Perth who also now have the irrepressible Hersi on their books as well as new signing Keogh who scored on debut. Clearly, Ernie will need to do more work in the prong end of Phoenix town to make the most of his solid midfield.

The other big game was Adelaide United’s efforts away v The Roar (or was it Blackpool or was it Holland??) Great game: excellent technique, plenty of passion, though maybe too much verbal punch from Matty McKay who got a red for getting lippy (btw he was tripped). Golden boy Broich was as commanding as ever and his goal was a tribute to what a clever dummy from their new man Mensur Kurtishi can do. Given how the game ended, Mensur and The Roar have since asked the media never to say the word “Berisha” in their presence again. The Reds, however, were determined and just as plucky and my word of the week certainly applies to Djite’s finish that nearly broke the ball.

All up, I think the A League made a sweet start.

Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

This article first appeared on the excellent and must have A-League Live app by Sportsmate.

Who’s hungry?

by Vinnie Venezuela

It’s fair to say that I was quite gutted at the end of the 2013/14 season as no where in my head could I make sense of ADP wanting to leave the A League.

I know he said the word “project”, but in my book that’s bigger than giving someone a rose at one of those ceremonies. He was pretty special.

But then I thought about it and realised he was just an ingredient and not the whole meal … and that’s when I decided to metaphorically let him out of the boot of my car and drive him to the airport.

The season that lies before us is going to be huge for many reasons and the converted already know this. I think coming off a World Cup always adds something to an A League season and there will be a palpable buzz from the fans hanging out to see their boys kick off.

Couple this, with those Socceroo fans who got an insight into the world game and want to get a taste of the atmosphere on home soil and we can start cooking.

Then, to keep things sizzling, the fact that Ange will give any Australian playing regular and outstanding football a “look in” means that with an Asian Cup looming there is even more to play for.

Season 10 is a fantastic milestone for the A League and when you think about how well the Wanderers and Poppa have already done in the ACL, the fact that Melbourne City found a sugar daddy and are bringing Villa to kick it around, that Arnie is back with plenty to do to make Sydney FC actually “show up” and that Musky needs to win things with Berisha, it’s clear that the game is producing a plethora of compelling narratives for us all to savour. 

Let’s also remember that the Roar has well and truly rediscovered its mojo and that Gombau now struts the streets of Adelaide like a man who almost beat Juventus. And as for the pressure of delivering the goods, would you really want to be John van 't Schip?

 So many things to look forward to.

 Quite simply, I cannot wait.

 Vinnie Venezuela

The Four Diegos

Happy Endings: Why Moyes needs more time at Man U

Happy Endings: Why Moyes needs more time at Man U

by Vinnie Venezuela

In the lead up to the 2010 Coppa Italia final against Inter, the then Roma coach Claudio Ranieri  was happy to sit down with his team and watch the film Gladiator in order to make the boys feel a  bit more ruthless, a bit more hungry and just that bit more connected. The Special One, José Mourinho coaching Inter at the time, scoffed at him, believing that Hollywood was not the way to a player’s heart, stating Ranieri was treating his players like children and not professionals. Though history may well show that the Special One couldn't get his hands on the Godfather box set at the time, he does, apparently, like to keep his compilation of great refereeing gaffes handy in order to galvanise his teams when necessary. So I've heard.

As it turns out, the movie night didn't really pan out for Claudio and Roma lost 1 zip to Mourinho's Inter. Things then got worse and the committee eventually did to Ranieri what Commodus did to Maximus in the colosseum that awful day and it ended badly for Claudio. Of course, at that level of the game, even when things "end badly", the handshake is still golden and your next job is pretty choice too.

As we speak, Ranieri' s future at Monaco is on the line; despite having resurrected the club and scored them a Champions League berth in its first year back in the French top flight, he may well need to make his way back into the arena with nothing but his signed Russell Crowe poster and a screenshot of where Monaco came from. Claudio, however, is calm and prepared for the worst.

Personally, I don't reckon he should get sacked just yet. He's earnt at least one more year.

For some reason, when I think of David Moyes, the movie Titanic comes to mind. Sir Alex is Rose, who we remember fondly as the girl who had it all and Moyes is Jack, the guy who has punched above his weight and is left scrambling to stay alive. In the end, Jack sacrifices everything for Sir Alex .... I mean Rose.

In 2014, as the Man U ship sinks to its lowest point for a long while and Liverpool is on the cusp of making the Devil's demise even more excruciating by winning the EPL for the first time in eons, there is talk of Moyes being left to float away on a piece of timber in the cold, cold waters of the Reject sea far sooner than anticipated.

While the appointment of Moyes came as a huge surprise to many - they say Mourinho's sobs were heard across the Bay of Biscay - the reality is that he came with the blessing of Sir Alex. That Moyes also secured a 6 year contract was a firm declaration by Man U that they would back him, no matter what. Of course, six years never really means six years, but you'd hope it did mean two or one and a half, at the very least.

Man U has been forgettable this season. The players don't seem to respond to Moyes, Van Persie has been injured, its back line is tired and there certainly isn't any consistent snap in their counters. I know Moyes needs to take responsibility for the team's ordinariness, but how such expensive players can switch off and lose their EPL winning mojo is also beyond me.

There is much discussion that Moyes has lost his dressing room and probably the board, but the truth is, he needs a second year to own everything that takes place at the club. He needs to be allowed to buy the players he wants and to offload the ones that are not meeting expectations. If they are not going to play for the shirt or for him or for themselves then so be it, he can tweet them their goodbye. Sir Alex and Mourinho would certainly not hesitate. (Although tweeting is for the kiddies.)

Brendan Rodgers started the 2013/2014 season with a very disgruntled Suarez, some questioning the signing of Sturridge and others wondering whether young players like Sterling and Coutinho   would rise. It's  fair to say that things have panned out well for him. While I don't necessarily rate Moyes, I do think that he must be supported in getting the players aligning to his and the club's philosophy and that means he needs another year to prove his worth. If he doesn't deserve to be there then he and whoever hired him will have to pay.

As the speculation mounts as to which "winning" coach will replace him (Klopp, Van Gaal, Blanc, Ancelotti, Simeone), it is again very apparent that winning things matters. My guess is that Sir Alex or Mourinho or Rodgers or any of the guys just mentioned, however, would attest to the fact that even in the modern game, you actually need to be given the time to win things.


Top 10 sure signs not to see a marquee player

Carlos Alberto Diego BLOG EXCLUSIVE!


The exciting news that former England international, Emile Heskey, Japanese legend, Shini Ono and one of world football’s all time greats, former king of Juventus and the Azzurri, Alessandro Del Piero, are playing in the A-League this season, has most definitely sent A-League clubs and the FFA into a marquee player frenzy.

Everyone, it seems, must have one and they must have one now. The Diegos are calling for calm though. Signing a world football great in the twilight of his career is costly and fraught with danger. The strictest due diligence must be adhered to and no stone should be left unturned to determine whether football royalty from another generation is worth the risk.

Happily for A-League clubs and the FFA, the Diegos have done the ground work, conducted many many minutes of in-depth and thorough research and produced a list of failsafe criteria that the game should use to help us make a decision whether a potential marquee player will put a snap in everyone’s shorts. Here they are...

Top 10 Sure Signs Not to Sign a Marquee Player

  1. He has a double chin.
  2. He says ‘I will be your Del Piero...’ in the interview.
  3. As leverage in talks, he retires.
  4. Anyone who has strained a love handle in the last five years.
  5. He was a product of the Barcelona youth set up with Messi but has played his professional football in Cyprus, Thailand, Morocco, New Zealand,  Malta and the U.S College system in-between..
  6. Anyone who has listed as hobbies on his CV, dancing and watching Entourage. 
  7. Anyone who says that he ‘always dreamt of playing his professional football in Australia’
  8. Anyone who has sent you his highlights package on a BETA tape
  9. Anyone recommended by the bloke who recommended Mario Jardel
  10. If Clive Palmer promised to pay for him. 

The Other Guy: Holger, honeymoons and 2014 Socceroo glory

The Other Guy: Holger, honeymoons and 2014 Socceroo glory

by Vinnie Venezuela

While in my secret man crush- brain crush moments, I quietly yearn to be sitting beside the Special One as he doles out words of world football wisdom to the Real boys about game plans, media scams and why he’s still “da man” (all with a thick accent and a cool suit) I can sometimes be tempted by the thought of Guus Hiddink.

The baby face, the salt and pepper parted locks, the incomplete tax returns and his deft ability to turn the fortunes of a side around so quickly press my aspirational buttons. Let’s face it, when he coached the Socceroos to their first world cup in the new century, it was pretty titillating (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

In fact, when I think of the 2006 World Cup campaign it’s like reliving the perfect honeymoon; our big players were at the top of their game, the conditions suited us and Guus was working from the bench like a Dutch master orchestrating a truly wonderful spectacle. While they were good, good times – except for the Grosso ‘Leg of God’ moment that cruelly sealed the game for Italy in the dying seconds – I think the best thing Guus did was educate the many new fans who were following the national team’s fortunes. They learnt that he, in fact, had a game plan that was mesmerising and bold: Super Tim/John Aloisi as  impact players, the emergence of Wilkshire, the runs of Chippers, the poise of Neill and Moore, the presence of Grella. So many cool things were going on.

But, alas, honeymoons have to end.

Sure we could be crushed by the reality that Jose will never coach the Socceroos, that Guus left us for better looking international opportunities and that Pim never really turned us on, but that would be to ignore the fact that Holger Osieck is here for us in our time of need. Clearly, all is not well with the Socceroos and recent losses to Scotland and Jordan suggest there’s trouble in paradise.

We have a national team that is in the deep ravine of transition with the stars of Bresciano, Neill, Schwartzer, Kewell and Cahill in a natural decline and few truly convincing big name replacements; Holman, Federici and maybe Kennedy being three of our highest profile players abroad.

The reality is that Holger signed up knowing that such were the stakes and the challenge was always going to be to flourish despite an ever ageing core squad. Unlike Pim, who it seems was invested with the task of only getting us through the Asian qualifiers and to South Africa, Holger has to do that and deliver the quality the fans expect. Clearly, the biggest concern is whether he has the talent on the pitch and the presence off it to make things take shape. I think he has.

Despite our recent misadventures, our early qualifying games and our performance against Japan in the Asian Cup were outstanding and the quality was obvious. The running of McKay, the role of Holman, the work rate of Kruse and the continued contributions of Bresciano, Cahill, Neill and the odd Archie cameo should provide optimism. Valeri is also stepping up and, in terms of new faces up front, Alex Brosque has been great.

Holger has certainly been giving players opportunities and my view is that he is building depth as he draws from players both international and domestic to structure the squad. The bottom line is that he believes in every player that he selects and, perhaps, the lesson coming from the game against Jordan is that they need to believe in him. If the gaffer wants a short passing game, the players’ task is to stay cool and deliver it. For me, Holger is trying to construct a system of play that does not require stars to make it deliver and that requires a mindset that has hitherto been unseen. The German national team is known more for its ability to remain organised, break quickly and maintain its poise than for any single player in its ranks. That’s what Holger is offering the Socceroos and if they cop a serve from him, maybe that’s what he’ll remind them of.

There is no doubt the Socceroos, even with the best of line ups can play ordinary football, driving us to distraction with some cringe worthy outcomes; it happened under Pim, Arnold and Holger. But it’s what you do about it that matters. In the short term, Holger needs to address what went wrong in Jordan and reinforce his expectations. Then he needs to get the team consistently working at its best, ensuring we qualify in the manner that the fans expect. At some point, he will then settle on who will comprise the core squad and then they can train their hearts away and deliver what we all know they are capable of.

Personally, I think that’s hotter than a honeymoon …

Copyright Four Diegos Media 1993