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PLAY IT SHORT: A-League fall-out

HOW CAN YOU TURN DOWN A HARLEY?Melbourne Heart made it obvious. Fabio looks a defensive liability for Melbourne Victory and the Heart targeted the Brazilian left-back every chance they had. Plenty's been said about Fabio after the first three weeks of the season - but what of the player he 'beat' for the gig? 24 hours before the derby, Jon Harley made his debut for Rotherham United, and was outstanding. Millers boss Andy Scott said: "He's a great lad. He plays with a smile on his face and he's been a breath of fresh air this week. For someone who has played at the level he has and the clubs he has he's very humble."

Now who was it at Victory who chose Fabio over the former Chelsea and Fulham left-back?

MATE, HE'S DECENTMate Dugandzic could be anything. Kewell, Thompson, Terra ... they look good on paper. But Mate was the best player on the pitch at Etihad. If he could get an extra 20 per cent out of his game, he would be a worldbeater. I don't know if he needs to do a Joey Barton and smash himself in preseason with extra MMA training, or if it's simply up to the Heart management finding a way to get him on the ball more. Whatever it is, if Mate feels he can do better, strength and conditioning wise, then he's gotta do it. He doesn't want to get to 26 or 27 thinking 'what could have been'.

WHOSE IN CHARGE?So who takes hold of the situation at Melbourne Victory? The new board? The rookie coach? The philospher? Victory need someone to bring everyone together, including the squad, with talk of unhappy personalities inside the locker room. But if the biggest personality at the club (Muscat) is to speak up, does he undermine the head coach in the process? Merrick and Cole were always able to bounce off eachother, along with Muscat, but now the ship appears rudderless and the players' moaning is getting to the press. It's threatening to become a Perth Glory situation.

RICHARD CRANIUM POLICYSimple question for the Newcastle Jets: How does the new gaffer demand his players respect their contracts given the manner of his original departure? Are you watching Troy Hearfield?

NOW YOU WANT TO KNOW ME?Gutted for Chris Herd after his dismissal against the Baggies. The lad's done well to convince Big Eck of his quality after Gerard Houllier's departure from Villa Park. I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd committed himself to Scotland. Ignored for so long by Australian soccer, it's almost taking the mick to demand loyalty from lads like Herd when they're suddenly coming good in Europe. Where was Australian soccer when he was battling the sleet at Port Vale or wondering if he'd being handed a new deal at Villa by O'Neill? Now suddenly he's the next big thing because Houllier saw something that Australia's national junior coaches failed to spot.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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