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Football writer/contributor for:
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ABC Grandstand Online
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Here is the lowdown on the all the goalkeeping comings and goings
over the winter hiatus. I relish any opportunity to talk candidly about the A-League’s
often forgotten warriors and what to expect from our glove-men this season.
Picture: Courtesy of Brisbane Roar
It is less than four weeks away and already anticipation is building
for the new A-League season. The off-season has dragged on longer than a Kevin
Rudd Election concession speech and players, managers and more importantly the
fans are keen as curry for season nine to kickoff.
The growth and popularity of the game in Australia has been
impressive but unsurprising. The product is now the envy of rival codes on and
particularly off the field. The success
of the new Western Sydney Wanderers franchise on the back of their loyal
supporter base ensures the strength of football at the grass roots in the west
is in safe hands.
Season 2013-14 will see a few changes in goalkeeping personnel but
most clubs remained unchanged, pleasing most managers. The retirement of
goalkeeping icons Clint Bolton (Melbourne Heart) and Mark Paston (Wellington
Phoenix and NZ All Whites) has left their clubs with enormous gloves to fill.
However their successors have plenty of runs on the board and top-flight
experience to ensure a smooth transition. Andrew Redmayne (Heart) took over
from Bolton during last season and performed confidently despite his side’s
overall finish in ninth position. Paston’s replacement Glen Moss had some tough
times when called upon and will be looking to impress following the signing of
young Lewis Italiano from the Perth Glory as his back-up.
The big news in the off-season was the transfer of Central Coast
Mariners Grand Final winning keeper Maty Ryan to Belgium based Club Brugge. In
a positive move, Ryan has been starting as the number one keeper since the
season opener with his side sitting in third position after six matches. His
departure from Gosford will leave a large hole as his 11 clean sheets last
season was only matched by Western Sydney Wanderer’s veteran Ante Covic.
Mariner’s manager Graham Arnold sought the services of A-League journeyman Liam
Reddy to team with keeping incumbent Justin Pasfield. Pasfield stood in for
Ryan on four occasions whilst on international duty with the Socceroos and his
stats ensure he will be hard to displace as the number one after only conceding
twice. Reddy knows he is walking a career tightrope with a zero tolerance
policy being adopted by the club that threw him a lifeline.
Elsewhere in the league the goalkeeping rosters have remained intact
providing stability for clubs. This season sees the return of Ben Kennedy to
the Newcastle Jets after a lengthy stint on the sidelines following knee
surgery. Kennedy will find it tough regaining the top spot ahead of Mark Birighitti
who recently made his senior Socceroos debut against China in the final match of
the 2013 East Asian Football Cup. Birighitti is a tough customer and I’m
predicting a big year for the 22 year old as his confidence swells from his
time rubbing shoulders with the Aussie football elite.
Picture: Courtesy of Brisbane Roar
Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Michael Theo (Brisbane Roar),
Nathan Coe (Melbourne Victory and Danny Vukovic (Perth Glory) all go around
again with Galekovic continuing to improve better than an aging Barossa Shiraz.
Galekovic’s fine form last season went a long way towards being called up to
the national squad for the successful World Cup qualifiers alongside Mark
Schwarzer. His outstanding efforts at the back against South Korea in the East
Asian Football Cup match rewarded him with an impressive international clean
The upcoming season could be a giant litmus test for the many local
keepers wanting to gain a spot in the Socceroos squad for next year’s World Cup
in Brazil. With Schwarzer stating it is his last campaign, Holger Osieck or
whoever is at the helm, has a huge selection dilemma ahead of them. Do they choose
from the wonderful local talent of the A-League or venture abroad to the likes
of Mitch Langerak (Borussia Dortmund) or match hardened Maty Ryan (Club
Based on past heroics and performances it is difficult to go past the
ever-reliable Schwarzer, but consideration should also place emphasis on
picking a keeper in good form and playing solid football every week. This could
be big question mark hanging over Schwarzer as he plays second fiddle to Petr
Cech at Chelsea. With Brazil looming he could
struggle to gain valuable pitch time that helps build the sharpness and
confidence needed to excel.
For now it is time get the couch cushions fluffed and position the
all important TV remote within arms reach as this season promises to attract
plenty of interest from both here an abroad. The new “Free to Air” broadcast
deal with SBS will prove to be an important move by the FFA to bring the
A-League into more living rooms across the country each and every week. Be sure
to tune in for the first game between Sydney FC and the Newcastle Jets from
6.30pm from the Allianz Stadium. Article appears courtesy of the ongoing support and encouragement of the following cracking football websites:
Besides the FIFA World Cup, no football competition draws as much
interest from the global football community than UEFA Champions League.
Managers and players see it as club football’s Holy Grail and the most difficult prize to win.
The trophy rates highly on the priority list for players and managers
alike but to club owners the financial reward can help strengthen a
cash starved balance sheet.
Qualification to the Group Stage ensures a lucrative €8.6m windfall
with clubs receiving further cash incentives upon winning through to the
knockout phase, quarters, semis and ultimately the final.
The Champions League brand is enormously popular and last season’s
final between German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund
attracted a global audience in excess of 150 million viewers across 200
Twitter and Facebook continue to experience massive global traffic,
as multiple-platform participation becomes the norm for viewers craving
interaction with like-minded football fans.
Group draw results:
Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad. Group B
Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen. Group C
PSG, Benfica, Olympiakos, Anderlecht. Group D
Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, FC Viktoria Plzen. Group E
Chelsea, Schalke, FC Basel, Steaua Bucharest. Group F
Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli. Group G
Porto, Atlético Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna. Group H
Barcelona, Milan, Ajax, Celtic.
Arsenal, Marseille, Dortmund and Napoli arguably drew the toughest
group and progression could ultimately come down to head-to-head
Plenty of expectation awaits a group promising to entertain both off and on the pitch.
A must watch for all football ‘hipsters’ is a Borussia Dortmund home game.
Westfalenstadion in Dortmund has an atmosphere rarely seen in world
football and the ‘Yellow Wall’ of fans in the southern terrace is not to
The most open of groups is Group G with Atlético Madrid, Porto, Zenit St Petersburg and outsiders Austria Vienna.
Atlético have a strong squad and have commenced their La Liga campaign with a very top-heavy goal differential.
A match-up with Porto will be the highlight as both teams play an attacking style that will see the goalkeepers kept busy.
EPL heavyweights Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City were
dealt favourable draws and should progress through to the knockout
The Champions League always has potential for the odd ‘banana-skin’
fixture as teams can struggle with the tedious private jet travel
Current champions Bayern Munich could make life difficult for City
after their disappointing showing last season under Roberto Mancini.
Finally the Group attracting plenty of attention boasts the richest footballing talent on the planet.
The Real Madrid forward line has been bolstered by the recent world
record transfer (€100m) signing of Welsh born Gareth Bale in the
The question of many is will the marriage of Bale and star striker
Cristiano Ronaldo deliver a tenth European title to the Bernabeu
Italian Serie A titleholders Juventus will ensure another classic arm
wrestle between the two teams of vastly contrasting styles.
Both legs will draw an enormous worldwide audience that will see the
many coffee-fuelled cafes across the country filled to capacity before
the long working day begins.
Be sure to rest up well and hit the pillow early as the first group
stage fixtures kick-off in earnest from September 18 and 19 from 4.45am
With a huge thanks this story appears in: