The Ramble: Blacktown, D-day and why Australia must stick to a back three

Paul Nicholls Roar Guru

By , Paul Nicholls is a Roar Guru

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    For the first time since Kevin Keegan drew 17,000 fans to the Gabbie Stadium some 30 odd years ago, football folk in Blacktown have a reason to be excited.

    Blacktown City knocked APIA Leichhardt out of the FFA Cup 3-1 on Tuesday night, giving them a spot in the quarter finals. That in itself is a job well done but it was their opponent in the next round that caught the imagination of the locals.

    Blacktown will host the Western Sydney Wanderers.

    People are even calling it the western Sydney derby. Hopefully a big contingent of Wanderers fans will pack out Lily Homes Stadium and help locals relive the glory days.

    The rest of the FFA Cup action on Tuesday was more predictable than previous rounds. The A-League sides are now getting into stride, emphasising the class gap over their NPL rivals.

    Nowhere was this more apparent than at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex where the Wanderers easily defeated Victorian NPL side, Bentleigh Greens, 4-0.

    The draw for the quarter finals to be played on 13 and 20 September is:
    Heidelberg United v Adelaide United
    Sydney FC v Melbourne City
    Blacktown City v Western Sydney
    Gold Coast City v South Melbourne

    We woke on Wednesday to the exciting news that UAE had all but handed Australia a world cup berth by defeating Saudi Arabia. Australia just had to turn up on Thursday in Saitama if you believed the buzz. And as Mike Tuckerman reminded us, all the pressure was on the home team.

    In the end, Australia’s 0-2 loss to Japan was no surprise.

    Japan shut down the Australians all night and outplayed us in most areas. They are far from world beaters but at least have some young players on the rise. The goal by 21 year-old Yosuke Ideguchi was all class. I wish Australia had a 21 year-old like that.

    In the post-match interview, Ange Postecoglou looked shattered, the swagger and confidence all gone. He could barely answer the question as to whether he was confident for the Thailand game.

    His unshaven, loose-tied appearance, seemed more ragged than hip.

    The Fox Sports panel dished it out.

    Postecoglou’s seemingly inflexible back three formation copped plenty as did his persistence on an underdone Brad Smith.

    Josh Kennedy bemoaned the amount of defensive work Matthew Leckie had to do.

    Ange Postecoglou Football Australia Socceroos 2017

    (AAP Image/Matt Roberts)

    Mark Bosnich was scathing of Ange’s tactics of playing out from the back no matter what.

    Of course there was an extra edge to Bozza’s spray given the tragic news of the passing of his colleague, Mike Cockerill.

    Adam Peacock’s emotional piece to the camera must have been tough. There was a wonderful tribute by Robbie Slater as well. Such a sad occasion handled with real dignity by the Fox Sports team.

    It was very moving television.

    Football has lost a great journalist and champion. Mike Cockerill, I dips me lid.

    In European qualifiers, the biggest story was Spain’s 3-0 drubbing of Italy at the Bernabeu, featuring a brace by Isco.

    Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored a spectacular scissor-kick against Faroe Islands. He finished up with a hat-trick as his team romped home 5-1.

    Harry Kane notched up a double as England defeated Malta 4-0.

    And just in case you’re wondering that I’m too EurAus-centric, Cape Verde Islands beat South Africa 2-1. So there.

    The deadline for the European summer transfer window closed this week. I blame the spread of fantasy football for this obsession with “D-Day.” In the old days you would just raise an eyebrow at the transfer news and move on.

    Arsenal, as usual, fared poorly. Alexis Sanchez will stay on (to the chagrin of some fans) but his teammate , Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, departed for Liverpool.

    Australia’s Jackson Irvine moved from Burton Albion to Hull City. Mitch Langerak joined Spanish club Levante from Stuttgart. Brighton signed experienced goalkeeper, Tim Krule, which puts Mat Ryan’s first team status at risk.

    With the top leagues on international break, we had to drop down to the fourth tier of English football to see some Aussies in action. Crawley Town had back-to-back wins for the first time after a winless start to the seaso. Their manager is Australian legend, Harry Kewell.

    It would be great to see Harry achieve some success. It might even help put Crawley on the map. Apparently they have a derby with Creepy United: The Creepy/Crawley derby. Come on, I’m allowed one joke aren’t I?

    Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi and new captain Harry Kewell. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    This week, the focus will be on the remaining Asian qualifiers. Surely, a desperate Saudi will win at home against Japan on Wednesday morning, so Australia are going to need a winning margin of around four goals against Thailand in Melbourne on Tuesday.

    But this is where Ange might have the last laugh. The change to a back three all those months ago will have been a dress rehearsal for this final game. For if Australia are to rack up a big score, they will have no other choice than to play with three at the back.

    Team of the week: Blacktown City
    Personality of the week: Harry Kewell