While more learned folk dedicate column inches to awkwardly phrased flare jokes and a knuckle-dragging racist in BAdelaide, The Ancelottery would instead like to focus on the beautiful game being played the beautiful way.
According to Elia Santoro, SBS analyst, SMH author and epitome of smugness - Craig Foster, has finally ‘put-his-money-where-his-mouth-is’, smiled inanely whilst holding a replica shirt for a disinterested local newspaper photographer, and become St George Saints Under 20’s FC new head honcho.
This astounding news will be of particular delight to the Hungarian residents of Kogarah who can now look forward to following a team of diminutive Catalan magicians who metronomically tiki-taki their way to glory by opting not to play “long balls”, but rather “long passes”.
The team’s first training session under the watchful eye of the shiny-trousered-one will consist of observing a compilation of all of Lionel Messi’s 86 goals this calendar year, discussing the tactics Foster masterminded at Nerds FC and scheduling the end of season tour of Tahiti.
From there on, St George fans can expect to see an irate Fozzie barking “I said tiki-taka!” from the dugout before issuing the inevitable press release which cites “media commitments” as the reason behind his resignation.
Oh Craig! How could you?
Older readers may remember Ernie Merrick as a dour Scottish coach who, despite not displaying any mere resemblance of a personality, won trophies with Melbourne Victory.
Marginally younger readers will remember Ernie Merrick as a dour Scottish coach who didn’t display any resemblance of a personality, took three months to sign Ricardinho and instilled a brand of kick-and-rush football - only without the rush.
The latest version of Ernie Merrick is still a dour Scottish coach who displays little evidence of a personality, but who instead, sits around reminiscing with old photo albums, weeping whenever he sees Gary Cole’s smiling face.
Asked whether he’ll be attending his first Melbourne derby since being sacked last March, Merrick blubbered, “When you feel you’re no longer part of it any more, it’s very difficult to come to terms with.”
“I know I’m welcome and friends have asked me to go - but I won’t be. I just feel I can’t cope with being at the game,” the drab coach sobbed.
Pencil him in as a maybe.
Not for the first time, The Ancelottery is confused.
Following on from Bling FC’s comical capitulation to Melbourne Victory on Saturday night, and the subsequent white flag waving surrender by Head Coach, Ian “Mehmet” Crook, we braced ourselves for the media onslaught that was sure to follow. We rubbed our hands with glee at the thought of mouth-foaming journos and stick wielding pundits collating their mud slinging material. Which part of his shambolic tenure would they criticise the most? The abysmal team performances? The signing of useless clogger Paul Reid? The Grevious Bodily Harm inflicted on a poor unsuspecting Bunning’s chair? Or perhaps worst of all - Terry McHack? The dossier of hopelessness was overwhelming. We couldn’t wait, because let’s face it, if there was any insulting to be done, The Ancelottery wanted in.
But we were taken aback when, instead of reading a wealth of derogatory outbursts or scornful rants from the learned folk, we were presented with words of sympathy, respect and even admiration.
Twitter’s @MickLynch_Age wrote, “Feel sorry for Ian Crook,” while SMH football writer, Sebastian Hassett reckons that, “Crook is absolute class.” Fox Sports‘ Mark Bosnich has “great sympathy for him,” and FourFourTwo made special mention of a “brave standout manager” in their Team of the Week. However, perhaps the most bewildering response came from smugness’ Craigcelona Foster, who, instead of unleashing an anti-British, pro-Barca tirade about English-born Crook’s ”if it needs to go, it needs to go“ tactics and management style, congratulated “nice guy” Ian for, “the manner in which he handled a very difficult situation… what must have been an exceptionally difficult decision, but one of class.” Read it and weep Jim Magilton!
All of which, is very perplexing - mostly because we now no longer know what the accepted protocol is when someone fails at their job, crumbles under the weight of expectation, and leaves with nothing but a signed photo of Bruno Cazarine by way of recognition.
Whereas Mehm proceeded to close his eyes, stick his fingers in his ears, and mutter ‘what can you do?’ over and over again until baying journalists got bored and went away, Ian Crook decided to confirm what all of us (himself included) knew for some time - that he wasn’t much chop. And in doing so, has managed to set a new standard in inadequacy, by successfully maintaining dignity and goodwill within the football community, despite issuing the ultimate mea culpa.
That he resigned with great dignity and decency is to his credit, but quite frankly, if all Bling FC were looking for in a manager was somebody who could fail graciously, they may as well have appointed David Hasselhoff. Or Rado Vidosic.
Despite this, any Bling FC fans (sic) worried about the club’s current plight should remain calm - The Del Piero Effect™ thinks that “the most important thing right now is to go on training as much as possible,” which given his current rate, is once a fortnight.
Over the years, Ancelottery has gained a reputation for being a glass-half-empty kind of a blog. Misanthropic. Pessimistic. Even wildly cynical, some may say. It’s a notoriety achieved by being an A-league blog that on face value, doesn’t seemingly like the A-league all that much. A site which, given any chance, will take any opportunity to formulate a tenuous, yet caustic, whinge about Etihad Stadium’s over-zealous security, TV’s ‘expert’ analysts (sic), the static queues for dishevelled half-time sausage rolls or; Leigh Broxham.
Imagine then, Dear Reader, the lack of enthusiasm we displayed last week at the prospect of watching the league’s most under-achieving team entertain Australia’s most underwhelming team. We simply could wait.
To our, and pretty much everyone else’s surprise, a resurgent Melbourne Victory not only outplayed the Mariners, but also held on to win against them on Friday night. This, the very latest in a long line of must-win, make-or-break, do-or-die, so-important-that-FoxSports-have-insisted-on-pre-match-FOX-FIELD-super-awesome-graphics-with-extra-Andy-Harper clash.
“I’m chuffed, but I’m not getting carried away,” cheered Jim Magilton post-game. “I like energy in my team and people who take care of the ball and youthful exuberance,” the Norn Oirish coach explained, as Tom Pondeljak limped sheepishly towards the door.
Of course most fans will now conclude that Victory’s much improved performance means that Magilton is a football genius and that Craig Foster should be filling the kettle and asking Jim if he takes sugar. But whilst The Ancelottery loves a happy ending, we suspect that this story is far from over. In the meantime, we’ll reserve judgement and not get “carried away,” but instead be thankful that for one brief moment, Melbourne Victory FC reminded us that we do, on occasion, actually like the game of Association Football.
Next weekend Victory face another must-win, make-or-break, do-or-die, etc., etc. test of their top six credentials when we face a Brisbane Roar side now firing after Bratwurst loving, Thomas Broich recovered from heel thwack. The Ancelottery would usually predict that the boys in blue might just park their air-conditioned 60-seater team bus in front of the Suncorp goals and wait for Sayed Mohamed Adnan to bore his teammates to death with a series of sideways passes to Ivan Franjic and Matt Smith. But then, that’d be a tad pessimistic.
Meanwhile… over in Morwell… Victory’s Old Boys are doing a very good job of proving that they aren’t, as some people would believe, a “one man team,” by failing to win eight consecutive games with a variety of hopeless individuals out on the park. Speaking to The Age, Carpenters fan and Heart Football Manager, John Didulica completed Heart’s fine transmogrification from go-getting free-wheeling Championship chasers to desperate bottled-it knee-jerk specialists, by pleading, “It’s no use wrapping them (Fred and Matt Thompson) in cotton wool and saying we will save them for a rainy day. It’s a rainy day now.”
How times change.
The Ancelottery has never been good at relationship break-ups. The difficult phone calls, the awkward silences, the arguments littered with expletives which never seem to end. Not to mention the incessant The Smiths playlist on constant looped repeat.
It would seem, not everyone struggles with separation with such blatant disdain. Sycophantic Sydney FC CEO, Dirk Melton today announced that he and touch typist’s dream, Vitezslav Lavicka, are no longer ‘an item.’ “Vitezslav as a man is beyond reproach,” Melton gushed. “He has incredible integrity, humility and honour and his warm smile, welcoming handshake and delicate touch have set a standard for everyone,” he almost said.
Like Shane and Simone Warne, Melton and Lavicka will attempt to maintain a warped sense of dignity and will continue to provide the facade of a functional relationship right up until Sydney’s predictable exit from the finals, at which point we’re guessing the “mutual agreement” will suddenly seem less mutual on Lavicka’s part.
“The boss has been fantastic since he came to the club,” babbled Sydney hacker, Terry McFlynn as he began to bolt the door shut behind Lavicka.
But Lavicka isn’t the only one heading back to Europe with a mediocre coaching career behind him. As Victory Old Boys made the announcement that Head Coach, John van’t Schip was to return to his homeland (after Heart’s predictable exit from the finals) to spend more time with Armin van Buuren, Rutger Hauer, Mr. Heineken and some blood relatives, sub-editors across the land consulted their Big Book of Painfully Predictable Headline Puns, and truly went for it.
“Schip… loses it’s captain/sails off/set to sail/to leave heart-ship!,” they screamed as the Dutch coach searched for his toolkit to begin the painstaking process of dismantling his Soltron XL-70 High Comfort Turbo Plus.
This shocking news has been pretty hard to take for the manly, testosterone filled, Morwell players. “They cried,” van’t Schip explained, when asked how his players reacted to the news. The Ancelottery can only imagine how Jon Bon Jovi is feeling.
What this means of course, is that there’s going to be a significant coaching vacancy at a minimum of four A-league clubs at season’s close. The question on everyone’s lips is: will Craig Foster put his money where his mouth is and throw his hat in the ring? Or, will he continue to fold his arms, wear shiny tight trousers, belittle David Zdrilic at every given opportunity, and offer the kind of narcolepsy-inducing tactical insight that his name has now become synonymous with?