Are you sore? Have you “sustained a knock”?
Well, if that’s the case, you can forget being named in Adelaide United’s squad later this week.
Actually no, you could be included, but it’ll be on the understanding that the public won’t be told until an hour before the match kicks off.
As far as I know, that practice is perfectly within the rules. In fact, normal procedures in naming A-League squads help it.
Before each round begins, the competition’s website publishes an 18-player squad for each club. But that has to be whittled down to 16 for the match. Consequently, each week, every team has two more “ins” than “outs”.
It usually isn’t too hard to work out which two players will be cut for match day. Unless there are late injuries, it’ll be fringe players. Sometimes only two are promoted into the extended squad and go straight back out when the final teams are announced.
But not in Adelaide.
You could run a match day sweep for who United’s omissions will be and, unlike in the Melbourne Cup, there’d only be a few tickets that would give you little hope of winning.
This season, the bizarreness began immediately. With round one approaching, it was known that Ryan Kitto, Nikola Mileusnic, George Blackwood and Baba Diawara were either injured or were, at least, in doubt.
Of the four, only Diawara was named in the 18-player squad the day before United hosted Sydney FC. While it’s a trifling point, the other three were not listed as being unavailable.
Less than four hours before kick off, the club sent out a media release saying that Diawara was no longer available due to soreness and that he’d been replaced (in the 18) by Lachlan Brook.
When the team sheets were provided with the final 16-man team, Brook (a promising youth player) wasn’t listed. He was in the squad – certainly as far as it was known publicly – for around two and a half hours.
The Reds were genuinely unlucky the following week.
With Mirko Boland missing because of a hip injury, Mileusnic, Blackwood and Diawara were added to the squad to face Newcastle.
Mileusnic didn’t make the final 16 but, during the match, Blackwood and Diawara – both strikers – came on as substitutes only to suffer long-term injuries.
The Senegalese forward has just gone under the knife and it’s hard to see him wearing the red again. Blackwood, fortunately, is reportedly recovering well from the broken collarbone he suffered that evening (from a collision with Jets’ keeper Glen Moss).
Boland would play in United’s next match – the FFA Cup final – and he was named in the squad for round three along with Ryan Kitto. But when the club revealed its line up on Twitter, we learned that the German midfielder “pulled up sore following the Cup Final” and that Vince Lia was ill.
For round four against Perth, the two players culled from the original 18 were Mileusnic and defender Taylor Regan. There was no suggestion of injury then but normal service resumed for round five’s trip to Wellington.
Mirko Boland’s hamstring had given way against the Glory so he was never going to be named in the extended squad for the trip to Wellington. But defender Michael Jakobsen was. On game day, however, the Dane wasn’t in the Reds’ line up. You guessed… soreness.
And Jakobsen was still “sore” for the following game against Brisbane. Given that there was a break for international matches after the Perth game, that was his third weekend without a match. On what planet could an injury simply be “soreness” for such a long period of time?
Injury bingo continued for Saturday’s match against Melbourne Victory. Before the game kicked off, we were told that the withdrawals were Ken Ilsø (abdominal pain) and Ryan Kitto who “sustained a knock to his foot”.
Abdominal pain is quite specific and has some nasty causes – definitely not a catch-all term like soreness.
But a “knock” to the foot? Not a little fracture perhaps? Or a bruise or a sprain?
I might be jumping the gun and perhaps the exact nature of the injury is unknown. But we’re surely at the boy-who-cried-wolf stage.
Soreness and knocks are not exactly commonly-stated reasons for players missing matches in the A-League. I haven’t seen either used by any other club this season.
I’m not pointing any fingers at United’s media staff; that would almost certainly be shooting messengers. Indeed, while these last-minute descriptions are, well, not particularly descriptive, what’s far more concerning is that the run of injuries just keeps on rolling.
We saw it last season as well. And it got out of hand in January when the Reds faced high-flying Sydney FC. You could have named a full 11 who were injured or (in three cases) unavailable due to international duty. One of the players out was Nathan Konstandopoulos and the reason was (drumroll please) a knock. The team news didn’t even mention where the player had received his knock.
It may be simplistic to link this continuation of injuries to coach Marco Kurz’s double training sessions. Some of them, such as George Blackwood’s, are clearly unrelated. Also, the nature of the training is probably more important than its frequency.
But we have to ask the question. And, frankly, if we were to take everything we read on face value – that we seem to have the only club that has players suffering from soreness and knocks – it would be remiss of us not to.
The club, as I have noted in recent weeks, assembled an excellent squad for this season. It would be a real shame if injuries ruined its promise.
Paul Marcuccitti is InDaily’s soccer columnist.
We value local independent journalism. We hope you do too.
InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.