Don’t whinge about contact, Miron, it’s a man’s game

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    There’s no doubt about Gold Coast United coach Miron Bleiberg’s value as a character of the A-League, and as a football journalist, I licked my lips in glee listening to his rant following the 2-0 loss to Melbourne Victory on Sunday. But sadly for him he’s got this one all wrong.

    If you missed it, Bleiberg – AKA the walking headline – blasted Victory for their physical and ‘dirty’ style of play, claiming they ‘fixed up’ Bas van den Brink who was injured early in the game and physically targetted other players including new Korean signing Kim Sung-Kil.

    To be honest, I hadn’t seen the rant coming. The game appeared no more physical than any other.

    But Bleiberg insisted: “What happened today was a war in the first half. It was dirty, it wasn’t the A-League the way I want to see it.”

    This about a side who committed only nine fouls throughout the 90 minutes (in comparison to Gold Coast’s 15) and picked up only two yellow cards – one for dissent.

    Bleiberg was particularly angry with the van den Brink injury, but after consulting the TV replay it’s hard to lay much blame to tackler Grant Brebner who won the ball before the Dutchman got locked under his legs.

    You could hardly say on that evidence there was much malice in it. Moreso a hard-nosed challenge early in the game to set the standard, as you see in every match as players try to establish the physical upper hand in their personal battles.

    That’s part of football, it happens everywhere.

    Unfortunately for Bleiberg, the best way to deal with it is not by whinging to the media or the referees about it, but rather his players rising to the challenge, engaging in the physical battle and not being intimitated.

    When asked ‘is it not the responsibility of your side to be as physical when there could be intimidation from the opposition?’ Bleiberg struggled for an answer, before admitting his side got intimidated and then adding the referees shouldn’t have let it happen.

    Gold Coast’s players failed here and that’s where Bleiberg should be disappointed rather than whinging to the media about the referees or Victory’s culture.

    Indeed, it’s interesting to ponder his motivation on this whole issue. Bleiberg initiated the discussion on Victory’s physicality at the conference and spoke about it for over eight minutes.

    And this was, of course, in the wake of last week’s Kevin Muscat incident where the Victory skipper was sent off for a horrible tackle on Heart’s Adrian Zahra and subsequently suspended for eight weeks.

    Bleiberg was asked if it was all a bit of calculated gamesmanship ahead of a likely finals clash between the two clubs, but the United coach deflected the question. But you sense there’s an element of truth to it, considering the wily Bleiberg’s history.

    And he added later on: “I will do everything in my power, including propaganda before the game, everything, to ensure they will get yellow cards in the future if they play like this,” which was a bit of a giveaway, really!

    Victory coach Ernie Merrick responded during the week: “I think Miron’s comments were a surprise because they didn’t reflect the game whatsoever, it was either an attempt at deflection or some sort of mind games – either way he failed miserably.”

    It remains to be seen if he has failed in what he set out to achieve, but Victory have come out of this looking the better, despite the recent scrutiny they’ve received following the Muscat incident.

    Bleiberg’s rant was essentially a dummy spit and wasn’t a good look. And it’d be hard to believe the rant could get into the officials’ heads prior to the finals.

    Unfortunately for Bleiberg it was all rather ill-conceived and with Merrick stating his side will use the rant as motivation in the future, he may have made matters worse.

    But more than anything, Bleiberg shouldn’t forget his own team first and foremost, as it is a man’s game, contact is permitted and his side got beaten by Victory.

    If they meet again in the finals – which looks likely with the two sides sitting fourth and fifth – he’ll need to find some better answers than this episode provided.