Revamped Sydney FC set for a big 2012/13
Newly appointed Sydney FC head coach Ian Crook speaks to the media during a press conference announcing his appointment in Sydney, Monday, May 14, 2012. Crook has signed a two year deal with Sydney FC. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
A new coach, CEO and seven new players will be part of the new-look Sydney FC readying for the eighth season of the A-League.
The Sky Blues will be a very different beast when they take the field on October 6.
Gone is Vitezslav Lavicka, replaced by Ian Crook as head coach. Gone too are Liam Reddy, Jamie Coyne, Michael Beauchamp, Bruno Cazarine, Shannon Cole, Juho Makela, Mark Bridge and Scott Jamieson.
Incoming are Fabio, Alia Abbas, Yairo Yau, Krunoslav Lovrek, Adam Griffiths and Vedran Janjetović, with another signing a possibility.
Also certain to feature more in 2012/2013 is Sydney FC’s young brigade. Crook was previously the club’s NYL coach and knows the youth ranks well.
Nathan Sherlock, Mitchell Mallia, Joel Chianese all got some starts last season and are certain to feature more this season. Talented midfield star Hagi Gligor should make his first-team debut, and be one to watch, along with 18-year-old Young Socceroo defender Daniel Petkovski. Attacker Blake Powell has also made the step up.
What can we expect from Crook’s team?
More entertaining and attacking football is the Englishman’s aim. Under Lavicka the Sky Blues were formulaic and a tad predictable for the past two years. Lavicka rarely employed youth apart from teenage star Terry Antonis.
Crook will rely on speed and youth to get his team going, with attacking fullbacks and an all-star midfield of Nicky Carle, Brett Emerton, Terry McFlynn, Ali Abbas and Antonis.
Emerton may end up at right back and the Crook could employ a 4-3-3. Unknowns Yau and Lovrek will certainly play big roles in igniting the Sydney FC attack.
The Sky Blues’ forward line has been in weak in recent years, so these two will have a fair bit of pressure on them.
Off the field, the club are looking different as well.
Gone is CEO Dirk Melton and in the top job is former Wellington Phoenix and Football Federation Victoria boss Tony Pignata. The chief executive’s position, like the head coaching role, has been a revolving door at Sydney FC. Both have changed nearly every year. But in Pignata they have a passionate football die-hard with a history in the game and success in building up an A-League club.
A former player for Victoria’s Box Hill, Pignata has had a life-time of involvement with the world game. He comes to Sydney after a successful stint in football administration across the pond.
Pignata built a good rapport with the media and fans in New Zealand, and left the Phoenix in better shape than he found it. However, the executive with the marketing background recognises that he faces a big challenge in the Harbour City.
“There’s a lot of expectations on Sydney and where Sydney should be, etc,” he says.
“And it’s really a lot of work now to get that expectation, harness them, and really make a push. Sydney have won two championships, the last couple of years haven’t been great. The A-League needs a strong Sydney and we want to give them a strong Sydney FC, that’s the aim.”
Pignata’s plan to build attendances at the club is to connect with the grassroots, get Sydney FC involved in the community and to give fans an entertainment experience when they come to matches. He also wants to be open, honest, transparent and accessible to supporters and media – which would be seen as a fresh breath of air by many.
A key plank in the strategy is the Sky Blues playing entertaining football.
“Speaking with Ian, he’s of the same mindset about playing entertaining football,” Pignata says.
“He’s building the squad around that. Ian’s going to be fantastic. He’s got a big, big role here to play. I think he’s on the right path to play entertaining football. Sometimes you have to be backs against the wall and ground out a result – that’s football. But the style of play has to be entertaining and he acknowledges that.”
Pignata believes that the Croatian Lovrek, a 31-year-old striker, could become a star in the A-League.
“He’s a great character, down to earth, and we’re looking for big things from him,” Pignata says.
“Now fans are always going to expect a big name player but Berisha wasn’t a big name player when he came, Broich wasn’t a big name, Flores wasn’t, Hernandez wasn’t and look what they’ve become. Fans will identify these sorts of players. Kruno could be the next big thing in the A-League.”
Brisbane Roar will be strong again next season, Central Coast thereabouts, and Perth Glory will be looking to build on its impressive 2011/2012. Melbourne Victory have rebuilt in style and the pressure will be on Sydney FC to lift its game, particularly with a new rival on its doorstop in the form of the Western Sydney Wanderers.
But the early signs are positive that the Sky Blues are doing just that. With an experienced CEO in charge, a promising coach with the reins and some new personnel on the park, it won’t be a case of same-old same-old for the A-League’s first ever champions.
Whatever the new season brings, the Sydney FC story will be worth following.