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Manton St Tales

The one thing we learned from FFA's Twitter account

Manton St Tales

The FFA needs to fix its bizarre A-League schedule, argues Paul Marcuccitti.

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On Friday, after English Premier League club Chelsea and manager Jose Mourinho “parted company by mutual consent”, the Socceroos’ Twitter account wished good luck to “our former boss” Guus Hiddink who “has taken charge at @ChelseaFC”.

Which is lovely but the appointment hadn’t been made (though it would be two days later).

In the (often silly) world of social media, two days is quite a long time – enough for UK papers to lampoon Football Federation Australia for making it appear the Hiddink-to-Chelsea move was already official.

So what happened?

Perhaps FFA’s comms gurus got their copy from other media that erred in reporting that the appointment had been made.

Perhaps someone in Australia, where Hiddink is well-connected, knew it was almost a done deal, talked to someone at FFA about it, and the story snowballed from there.

Or perhaps some of the people employed to do FFA’s media aren’t too bright.

We saw some strong evidence that this might be the case during the Women’s World Cup when, after Australia played USA, they published the following under the headline, “The USA, well, they just aren’t that good”:

“The US certainly like to talk a good game. The reality is they play a fairly rudimentary, bog-standard 4-4-2, were short of ideas going forward and outmanoeuvred tactically. ‘Play it long and look for the head of Wambach’ seems the default game-plan for a team stuck in the past.”

Reading that, you might think the Matildas thrashed the Americans. But Australia lost 1-3 and, not surprisingly, stories appeared all over the States suggesting a lack of grace in defeat.

But I have another theory (even though I’m not dismissing the last one).

No doubt our governors would say there are commercial reasons that explain their scheduling; no doubt their rationale is questionable.

Jose Mourinho and Chelsea “parted company” once before – in 2007. And Guus Hiddink has had a stint as the London club’s interim manager once before as well, in 2009.

Maybe one of FFA’s media types was looking for news in the midst of speculation about Hiddink being the new Chelsea boss and found a story confirming his appointment without realising it was from 2009. It’s not implausible – dates on webpages are often faint or small. Add in a rush of excitement and you have enough ingredients for a mistake.

So, as a public service, let me assure you that if you read that Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets drew 0-0 on Friday night, it is in fact the second time they’ve played out a goalless 90 minutes together in the 2015/16 A-League and not a confused report referring to the teams’ first meeting this season.

I wouldn’t blame casual observers for being a little puzzled because the second match occurred only 26 days after the first.

Which tells you a lot about the A-League’s bizarre fixture list.

In most countries, teams face every opponent the same number of times (usually twice) and the second league meeting between two clubs doesn’t occur before those teams have played all the others.

In Italy and Germany, the first weekend of matches after everyone has played each other mirrors the opening weekend of the season.

Indeed, in those countries, the two halves of the season are so compartmentalised that each has a name.

Germany has the Hinrunde (first round) and the Rückrunde (second round) while Italy has the andata (going) and the ritorno (return).

We don’t need to be that formal here but, goodness, the A-League draw goes to the other extreme.

So much so that Adelaide United and Newcastle meeting twice in five weekends isn’t its strangest feature.

When week 14 (of 27) ends, the Reds will have played their three matches against Perth Glory. In week 15, they’ll face Central Coast Mariners for the first time in 2015/16.

You got that? All three Adelaide v Perth games will have been played when the season’s middle weekend concludes and all three Adelaide v Central Coast matches will be after that.

It makes you wonder if the people who look after FFA’s social media are also responsible for the A-League fixtures.

No doubt our governors would say there are commercial reasons that explain their scheduling; no doubt their rationale is questionable.

And surely having our own Hinrunde, giving us a point in the season where every team has played every opponent once, would add interest. Sporting media would go into overdrive producing analyses and that supports the goal every code has – getting more and more column inches. Just one extra page in a major daily would be a success, even if it subjects us to that ghastly headline, “(insert number) things we learned from…”.

The little milestone would have been at the end of the A-League’s ninth weekend but, thanks to the weird scheduling, it passed with no more fanfare than any other.

We didn’t learn much from the 0-0 draw between Adelaide United and Newcastle (the second one) so the numbers chosen for that dreadful aforementioned headline aren’t likely to be high.

The Reds played well but were rarely incisive enough to threaten. When they did manage to fire on goal, Jets ‘keeper Mark Birighitti denied them as he did when the teams first met this season.

United’s frustration was completed by Marcelo Carrusca hitting the frame of the goal twice from free kicks. Newcastle also hit a post with a header just before half time.

The Reds have scored just four goals from their last five games but, encouragingly, only conceded three over the same period – impressive given they allowed 14 in the four matches before that.

But treat those statistics with some caution … because 40% of United’s last five games have been against Newcastle.

In case you were wondering (at the time of publication), the Socceroos’ Twitter account hasn’t congratulated Guus Hiddink on the Chelsea job since he officially got the nod, having removed Friday’s tweet wishing him good luck.

And the link to the story criticising the USA women’s team’s play is now broken. As you probably know, the Americans would go on to win the tournament.

What a pity we can’t fix A-League scheduling by just pressing the delete button.

Paul Marcuccitti is InDaily’s soccer columnist. He is a co-presenter of 5RTI’s Soccer on 531 program which can be heard from 11am on Saturdays. 

Manton St Tales is normally published on Mondays during the A-League season.

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