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Sunday, November 11, 2012
By hook or bye Crook

Rob Brooks

The A-League Angle delves into the world of Australian football, providing analysis on the top-flight club competition Down Under.

By hook or bye Crook

It can't have come as much of a surprise to anyone, but it was still saddening to see Sydney FC boss Ian Crook stand down the day after his side's 3-2 loss to Melbourne Victory. As mentioned last week, Crook has operated throughout the season without the use of his first-choice defensive unit, and there have been bigger problems still in the holding midfield role. These shortcomings were made glaringly evident in last weekend's 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Central Coast Mariners, and again during the capitulation against Melbourne. However, Crook stated in a press conference on Sunday afternoon that his decision to vacate the post was not based purely on results. Instead, Crook pointed to health reasons and a willingness to admit he was not prepared to endure the rigours of a high-profile coaching job at this stage of his career. It was professional, dignified and, above all, humble; a true mark of the man. Sydney FC missing out on their top coaching target, Graham Arnold, in the off-season has now seemingly come back to haunt them. When the Mariners manager stayed on the Central Coast, Sydney scrambled to secure a tactician, and looked to the steady hand of Crook. Perhaps if both parties had their time again, they would have opted to support Steve Corica as an interim boss and done an extensive search for a long-term solution - rather than needing to do it six matches into the season. Crook's successor is not yet known, though a series of big-name English and European managers have already been linked with the job. What is certain is that the reason behind his departure alerts the football community to how far the game has come in recent years. With Alessandro Del Piero and Brett Emerton arriving at the club, the role of Sydney FC coach has been thrust into the spotlight like never before. It's no longer enough in the A-League to simply do the business on the training pitch, one must also be adept at handling the media and managing external expectations. Therein lies the silver lining for the Sky Blues, who now find themselves a recognisable brand on the Australian sporting landscape but, for the time being, without anyone to guide them on their path.

Hello kitty

Where has Brisbane's roar gone? The record-breaking side of last season now seem a meak version of their former self following another heavy defeat last Friday evening. The Roar were comprehensively outplayed in their 4-1 loss to Melbourne Heart. Glimpses of their fluent, short-passing philosophy occasionally pervade the scrappy style that has manifested their play. The link-up work through midfield which became synonomous with "Roar-celona" just isn't there, with every pass forced and every thought read by the opposition. Coach Rado Vidosic was suitably unimpressed with his charges, describing their performance on Fox Sports after the match as "garbage". Stern words indeed. While it is without doubt that Brisbane need a spark, Vidosic's words could also backfire on him. There is a fear that the man who replaced Ange Postecoglou at the helm doesn't have the aura which is needed to drill home such a message. Players, instead, could react negatively. That's speculation, though, of course. For now, it is crucial that Thomas Broich increases his involvement in the final third, while Erik Paartalu must direct the point of the attack with greater purpose. At the back, Ivan Franjic must focus on his defensive duties rather than bombing forward, and Michael Theo needs to command his area. Vidosic was always going to need time to put his own stamp on the playing group, and they certainly have the squad to play an attractive brand of football. The fear, though, is that with a few more losses, the bottom-placed Roar will have let the season slip through their grasp.

Young and the restless

Much of the talk from the past weekend will centre on the Victory's Andrew Nabbout and Joey Gibbs of the Western Sydney Wanderers scoring their first A-League goals. And it's not without good reason. Nabbout's first strike to offer Melbourne a way back into the contest while down 2-0 against Sydney was world-class. Hit with conviction, the ball fizzed off the youngster's left boot, curled beyond the reach of Ivan Necevski and slammed in off the post. Gibbs, meanwhile, finished off a free-flowing team move involving Japanese star Shinji Ono. It was a delight to watch and the kind of goal which neutral fans want to see more of in the A-League. But even with the emergence of these fresh faces, it was the wise elders who proved decisive this week. Emile Heskey continued his goalscoring run, taking his tally to five, en route to the Newcastle Jets' 2-1 triumph away to the Wanderers. The former England international is often pilloried for his record in front of goal, but he can't seem to miss in Australia. Perhaps all he ever needed was warm weather. In the Victory's stunning comeback, Archie Thompson prodded home a Mark Milligan header to add to Nabbout's strikes, while for the cross-town rivals Melbourne Heart, Richard Garcia, Josip Tadic, Patrick Gerhardt and David Williams all scored. On Sunday, veteran striker Daniel McBreen netted the winner for the Mariners in Wellington as the Phoenix slumped to a 1-0 loss. The goal comes on the back of his hat-trick against Sydney last week, as the Mariners grind their way toward the summit of the table. Meanwhile in Adelaide, Dario Vidosic continued to stake his claim for a Socceroos berth, with his second goal in as many matches helping the Reds salvage a 1-1 draw with Perth. Vidosic was hopeful of being called into Holger Osieck's squad for Wednesday's friendly in South korea, and he will need to remain consistent for the rest of the season if he wants to be part of Australia's World Cup qualifier against Oman in March.

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