How has the Kewell A-League experiment gone?

Davidde Corran Roar Guru

By Davidde Corran, Davidde Corran is a Roar Guru

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    Australian soccer player Harry Kewell and Melbourne Victory coach Mehmet Durakovic. AAP Image/Julian Smith

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    Harry Kewell’s debut season in the A-League will come to an early close this weekend. With the Victory out of the race for the A-League finals, Saturday’s game against Perth Glory will be the last chance fans have to see the 33-year-old until later this year.

    So how has, to rework the title of Grant Wahl’s book following the first days of David Beckham’s move to LA Galaxy, “the Kewell experiment” gone?

    The sheer scale of how bad this season has been for the Victory both on and off the pitch makes it hard to assess this question effectively. But while the club was imploding around him, Kewell often managed to inspire his team to some positive results.

    In his debut A-League campaign, we also saw the former Leeds starlet played in a range of positions and roles as first Mehmet Durakovic and then Jim Magilton tried to find the right formula for the Victory.

    It raises the question of how best to use Kewell.

    I spent the last week and a half in Russia following former Socceroos manager Guus Hiddink at his new club, Anzhi Mackhachkala.

    I bring this up because the way Hiddink is using Cameroonian super star Samuel Eto’o could well be instructive for the Victory.

    Before Hiddink took over, as Anzhi struggled to create opportunities against the many deep lying defences employed in the Russian Premier League, Eto’o would drop deep – often receiving the ball in his own half from Anzhi’s centrebacks – and try to create opportunities himself.

    While Hiddink’s early focus has been on securing the team’s defence (they’ve only conceded one goal in his three games in charge) Eto’o has been stopped from dropping deep and instead sticks right on the shoulder of the opposition centrebacks.

    Essentially, the Dutch tactician is looking to maximize his star striker’s effectiveness by putting him where he is most dangerous.

    Hiddink is on such big money in Russia because of this knack of looking at a squad and finding the key players and setting the team up to take advantage of this.

    So, is the best place to play Harry at the point of a defence, getting on the end of attacking moves and peeling wide to create or behind the striker? Or further back where he can arrive late into the box and instead allow Archie Thompson to play in his more favoured advanced position?

    These are questions the next permanent Victory coach – whether it be Magilton or otherwise – will have to find the answer to for the two-time A-League champions to succeed.

    These are difficult decisions to make and it’s why Victory must do their due diligence in appointing a permanent coach.

    In fact the whole A-League needs the Victory to get this decision right and it’s not just because the Victory are the league’s biggest club (though that’s a fair point).

    The Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar have dominated for two seasons now, but their football has failed to significantly progress in this campaign as was highlighted in the opening stages of the ACL.

    When these teams came up against more organized defences than we see in the A-League, they struggled to break them down.

    While both clubs will hopefully learn from their Asian experience, they need the rest of the competition to significantly improve to push them to keep developing – something which didn’t happen this season.

    The Roar and the Mariners have taken the first step in the development of Australian club football, now their A-League rivals must push them the rest of the way starting with Melbourne Victory.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 6:26am
      ManInBlack said | March 22nd 2012 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      I’m not sure what the expectations were – although I’ve heard MVFC officials on radio SEN admitting that they (expectations) certainly weren’t reached.

      I guess simply there would’ve been an expectation of finals and not having to replace coaches during the season. Perhaps an expectation of somewhat better attendances too – but, even the ‘Harry’ factor wasn’t enough if the on-field performance wasn’t up to speed.

      It is an interesting exercise though in ‘star power marketing’. Theory before hand vs the actual playing out. From my x-code perspective I think to a couple of disasters in the local brand of footy including a high profile recently former player (about to be dancer) and a club in Brisbane.

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 8:33am
        Kasey said | March 22nd 2012 @ 8:33am | ! Report

        If you want to use simple numbers I guess the HK experiment could be deemed a success at the gate and in the media sphere. No other domestic footballer has had as many column inches devoted to him as HK and invariably the ‘brand’ of Melbourne Victory has been positively affected.
        In terms of crowd numbers. Both MV’s home crowds and the away games are significantly up on last year. It’s no coincidence that 9 of the top 10 attendances across the league featured Melbourne Victory either as the home or the away team. The top home attendance of my team was also the visit of MVC (although MVC @ AU is always a big game in the city of churches!)
        My verdict – a success.
        Melbourne’s football season – failure.
        Overall I think MVC fans would likely consider their season a failure as football is about winning games not selling tickets and/or shirts – no matter what Kenny Dalglish thinks;)

        • March 22nd 2012 @ 10:24am
          Trent said | March 22nd 2012 @ 10:24am | ! Report

          “It’s no coincidence that 9 of the top 10 attendances across the league featured Melbourne Victory either as the home or the away team.”
          I think this is a coincidence – or at least it’s not just related to Harry Kewell. The Victory are usually over represented in the top 10 crowds list for each season. Last year it was 7 of the ten largest which includes the grand final. This year will be the same (it’s currently 8/10, not 9/10).

          In saying that, he did pull in some brilliant crowds early season, with the numbers tailing off as the season progressed. The two 40k games early season could be put down to Kewell, shame they were nil alls.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 7:04am
      TomC said | March 22nd 2012 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Hmm. This article starts by asking a question, but instead of answering it goes off on a tangent to effectively reinforce Davidde’s last article about the Victory.

      Not that I disagree with the point made; that MV need to be as thorough as possible in appointing the next coach, and figuring out the next steps for the club. But I reckon if you ask a question like ‘How was Kewell gone?’ you should at least try and answer it before saying ‘it’s too hard, so now I’ll talk about something else’.

    • Roar Guru

      March 22nd 2012 @ 8:45am
      The Cattery said | March 22nd 2012 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      I would have thought that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that HK has been a success on and off the field. Various metrics are up, and were well up early in the season, and many of these can be attributed to the Harry factor. Also, after a slow start, Harry had a very strong second half of the season, just about becoming the Victory’s best player – you can’t really ask too much more than that of a 33 year old player,

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 9:41am
      striker said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      HIs all class his definately brang the A-League up big time in ratings and crowds unfortunately that fool palmer had dampened this season which on field has been first class, watching CCM last night shows were up there among the best in ASIA.

    • Roar Guru

      March 22nd 2012 @ 9:49am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      As an MVFC member, my view is that H has been a huge success – not just at MVFC, but for HAL football in general.

      He’s ticked all the boxes:
      – on the park, watching him has been a delight – he has great 1st touch, excellent passing range, lethal shot, creative vision & he’s even good in the air … he does, probably, need to extend his 2nd penalty repertoire!
      – off the park – he has been a godsend – particularly for MVFC, but also for the HAL – increasing media exposure, attracting new sponsors & business partners, increased TV ratings
      – in the stands – well, what can I say … never in my wildest fantasies would I have expected to see the best footballer Australia has ever produced – one of the few Aussies whose face & name is recognised in every country on earth – playing football every fortnight in my home town.

      And, this is just Yr 1 .. I have 2 more years of salivating over the Harry-show.

      • March 22nd 2012 @ 5:25pm
        Paul said | March 22nd 2012 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

        As long as he sticks around. I hope he does, but there needs to be stability at managerial level. A proper manager would do wonders for Harry and the club in general.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 10:15am
      Roarchild said | March 22nd 2012 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      MV have been the most entertaining side to watch. Perhaps not the best football but there is always drama and every second game seems to be a heated rivalry.

      Afte the Roar game of the week they are the team I make the biggest effort to watch.

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