EDITORIAL: Australian football should be careful.
There's nothing the soccer clique enjoys more than piling onto individuals they deem 'not football people'. Just witness what has happened to Clive Palmer, the Gold Coast United owner, this past week. Palmer's decision to cap crowds so (horror of all horrors) he could stop the club hemorrhaging money from the ridiculous rent fees of Skilled Park was slated by - to a man - by the ex-players' brigade in the local media.
The general opinion was that Palmer's move was proof that he was not 'a true football person' and that Gold Coast had ignored the local football community because they lacked 'real football people' who are the only ones who 'really understand' what it takes to build a football club.
Palmer has since reversed his decision, but the criticism - and the lack of balance - will have stung.
While the flak was flying, there was no mention of the money he had poured into the club from the outset, all in a financial year which was the worst seen since the Great Depression. Every dollar spent on United was a dollar that could have gone to the staff at Palmer's Mineralogy. All this as Football Federation Australia was handed back Adelaide United and came within a whisker of the same at Brisbane Roar.
One of the crazy accusations was that Palmer is not a good fit for the A-League because he wants to run Gold Coast as a business. Immediately after their defeat to North Queensland Fury, the former West Ham and Southampton midfielder Robbie Slater said owners should not get involved with the A-League if they want to make money. Well, tell that to Geoff Lord, an AFL man, who has been turning a profit at Melbourne Victory since year two.
The lack of 'football people' argument is ridiculous. It's a claim that is pedaled regularly by the pundits on SBS for their audience of family and friends.
These are the same 'football people' that cheered Palmer for shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for Jason Culina, while tearing apart Don Matheson, the Fury owner, for signing Robbie Fowler. I can't see Sydney FC building a night around Culina for Gold Coast's next visit - as they did with Fowler for their biggest crowd of the season.
Imagine where the A-League would be, with crowds and ratings down, if Matheson had actually listened to these 'football people' and not signed Fowler?
The game needs more people from outside the tiny community that dictates the narrative of football in this country. Yes, more 'non-football' people.
It's listening to these 'football people' which has the A-League's growth stalling in the stands and in the ratings.
The one encouraging whisper coming from the clique is that Culina will be unsettled by the poor crowds at Skilled Park. If push comes to shove, it would be a great piece of business by Palmer if he sold the Australia midfielder back to Europe for a healthy profit and signed a marquee player worthy of the name.
Nwankwo Kanu, the Portsmouth striker, is a favourite of Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg and I'm hearing that Pompey have been hawking him to clubs in the Middle East for no fee. A player of Kanu's profile would certainly excite the local Gold Coast public - and the wider Australian SPORTING public.
That's where Gold Coast have fallen down. They may have received slaps on the back from the soccer elites for bringing back Culina, but for the rest, its Fowler and Kanu that is going to convince us to buy into the A-League.
I just hope Palmer sticks around long enough to make this happen.
Nice free pass for Culina
Where was the mea culpa from Jason Culina after Saturday's defeat?
In the post-match, immediately after the game and in the following days, there's been no mention from Culina about that pass.
The ex-players brigade queued up to congratulate Culina for criticising the club about the crowd cap, while conveniently giving him a free pass on that cross-field ball. Would they show the same leniency for someone like Fowler or Kevin Muscat?
Spiky Caravella deserved better
It was a surprise for me to see Zenon Caravella start the derby on the bench.
He was the only one amongst the Gold Coast players who kept fighting until the final whistle in their 6-0 drubbing at Wellington Phoenix the previous week. Sporting a shiner, Caravella was trading insults, thundering into tackles and showing the spirit of a leader right to the final minute.
It was noticeable that for Steve Pantelidis' penalty, while senior players turned their back on the Gold Coast defender, Caravella stepped in, put his arm around his teammate's shoulders and ruffled his hair. If Gold Coast had eleven players of the spirit of Caravella they wouldn't be in such crisis.
Tadrosse fulfilling promise
It was very pleasing to see Chris Tadrosse perform so well for North Queensland Fury on Saturday.
After a steady run of games, we're now seeing why Borussia Monchengladbach took a chance on him after his release from Melbourne Victory. He carries that extra bit of class with his crossing, always composed, even at breakneck speed, when trying to swing the ball over.
Amazing what regular first team football can mean to a player.
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