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PLAY IT SHORT (A-LEAGUE): Rules made by those who hate Australia, Victory's half-paced kids, Portsmouth's Aussies

VICTORY KIDS JUST DON'T HAVE IT IN 'EMOn Saturday's performance, Melbourne Victory's young players just aren't up to it. It's a sorry state when Harry Kewell and Danny Allsopp, both at 33, are competing for the ball at full pelt, while teammates more than ten years their junior can't raise themselves beyond half-pace to close down opponents. Isak Cernak, Marco Rojas, Matthew Foschini and Petar Franjic, may be struggling for confidence, but that shouldn't prevent them diving into tackles and shutting people down. In the handful of minutes Allsopp was on the pitch, he won more ball than the lot of them combined. It's not like they're missing role models in this area of the game - Mark Milligan isn't even a long-term prospect, yet he showed more desperation than any of these young lads.There is some excitement brewing a step down with the youth team. Former Bayern Munich junior Julius Davies now looks like a nailed on signing for next season and Australia U17 international Kwabena Boahene has been coaxed back from the AIS.

A-LEAGUE NEEDS TO STOP LISTENING TO PEOPLE WHO HATE AUSSIE SPORTBen Williams had a good game on Saturday. It was great to see him put the whistle away when Jimmy Jeggo and Nick Carle came together in the first-half. The only thing that squealed was the ball - but another ref would have shown red to Jeggo.The A-League need to get tackling and 50-50 challenges like the one at the Allianz back into the game. The popularity of AFL and NRL shows Aussies love big hits. For too long our code's rules have been influenced by people who hate Australian sport. They're the same who brand the players and supporters of these rival codes 'Neanderthals' and are completely disconnected to what makes the local sports fan ticks. If we want more people through the gates and watching the game on TV, the A-League's rules needs to reflect the majority's opinion on physical challenges.

PORTSMOUTH'S AUSSIES LEFT IN LURCH?Are A-League clubs in contact with the quartet at Portsmouth? With the Championship club on the brink, you'd like to think there's local football people reaching out to the four teens in the Blues academy about returning home and playing in the A-League. Ex-Joondalup lads Alex Grant and Andy Higgins, along with Jordan Fitzharris and Pat Antelmi, both from Blacktown, are all regarded highly on the south coast. If Pompey is teetering, Australian football should already be in touch with these lads offering them a safety net of coming home.I'm hearing their senior teammate, Billy Tsovolos, has already left in the last month and returned home to Sydney.

18K NOTHING TO CELEBRATE SYDNEYSydney FC need an international marquee. To celebrate getting 18,000 as their biggest season gate on Saturday isn't good enough for a club of Sydney's ambitions. They were irresistible in the first-half and Kewell's return - just as Robbie Fowler did a couple of seasons ago - shows the public will respond if Sydney build their games up as an 'event'. A bit of international gold dust to go alongside Brett Emerton would keep the momentum rolling next season. And you fancy that bit of extra quality - like a Hernan Crespo - would also be appreciated by Emerton.

ANOTHER CHANCE TO SEE THESE IRAQI STARSHappy we get the chance to see Iraq in action again. It's a tough World Cup group, but Australia should expect to go through in the top two along with Japan. Iraq will prove a tough nut to crack, however. Since their humiliation of Australia at the 2007 Asian Cup their players have always been able to lift when the two teams have met. Though they're now getting on a bit, Nashat Akram, Qusay Munir, Younis Mahmoud and Hawar Mulla Mohammed are all fantastic footballers and well worth seeing.

HO-HUM ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUEFirst round of the Asian Champions League was on last week. Did you catch it? FoxSports reported Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold didn't realise he was facing his old coach, Josip Kuze, with Tianjin Teda until the pre-match media conference. When there's such a lack of preparation coming from our own teams, is it any wonder the ACL hasn't caught on amongst the general public?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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