Why were the goalkeepers voted the best in the A-League?
The 2011-2012 A-League Season is over and we’ve also moved through the period of annual club award nights and the announcement of each club’s ‘Player of the Year’.
All clubs, with the exception of Perth, (to be held in June) and GCU (unknown), have announced their season’s best as follows.
- Brisbane Roar: Besart Berisha
- Central Coast Mariners: Matt Ryan
- Wellington Phoenix: Ben Sigmund
- Sydney FC: Ivan Necevski
- Melbourne Heart: Clint Bolton
- Newcastle Jets: Ben Kennedy
- Melbourne Victory: Ante Covic
- Adelaide United: Zenon Caravella
There is something decidedly disturbing about this list, but it isn’t that any of the players are undeserving of the award. The problem is that five out of eight recipients are goalkeepers.
With Danny Vukovic having a stand out season for Perth it is entirely possible that the number could jump to six out of nine.
Statistically that is an alarming figure. The goalkeeper is outnumbered by outfield players by a ratio of ten to one, which would translate to goal keepers winning one player of the year award on a pro-rata basis.
For goalkeepers to win five from eight suggests something is not quite right with their outfield counterparts.
The problem seems to be the lack of consistency of the outfield players during the past season.
On the forward line, Berisha shone all season and was a standout so it’s no wonder he took out all of the Roar’s awards.
Archie Thompson kept pace in the first half of the season but couldn’t buy a goal in the last eleven matches and while Smeltz popped up here and there he only stood out with two big bags at the end of the year.
In the midfield Broich and Fred both played major roles for their respective teams but they did so in injury-plagued seasons which saw them missing for considerable periods of time.
Kewell shone in half a dozen matches only. Nichols and Dugandzic had good periods but were invisible at other times or on Olyroos duty.
Hernandez scored three of the top six goals of the season, displaying his extraordinary skills, but he never did enough work to earn a single man-of-the-match award.
Standing in front of the keepers, Zwaanswijk for my money was the best and most consistent defender of the year.
Bojic and Sigmund also had consistent seasons but weren’t match winners or match savers – Sigmund being the Wellington Player of the Year winner would suggest he was more consistent than any other Phoenix player.
You could throw a blanket over half a dozen or more other defenders who had reasonable seasons but none shone.
That brings us back to the goalkeepers. They have the benefit of usually being consistently on the park throughout the season so they have the maximum number of games in which to pick up points.
Combine that with a few shots stopped, a goal saved here or there, and they remain in memory even if they have done little else for eighty eight of the ninety minutes.
Maybe it says something of those appointed to score the awards that they remember a great save but fail to recall a series of unselfish runs.
Perhaps we rate an instinctive micro-second reaction to palm a ball wide of the goals more highly than a mazy dribble past three defenders that finishes with a shot going over the bar.
Probably the awards reflect the reality that last season the outfield players lack the overall consistency of their goal keeping counterparts.
But here’s the rub, I’ve never met anybody who went to a match to watch a goal keeper play and I don’t think it is a great advertisement for the game to tell an uninitiated or casual viewer that five of the eight A-League club’s ‘Player of the Year’ were the guys standing in the goals.
Whatever the reason for last season’s anomaly, it’s clear that we need more class from our outfielders and we need them to shine more often in games.