I try to stay positive, I really do. But when the team coming first has played four more games than the team coming third, it’s safe to say the A-League fixture list is nothing short of a shambles. There are mitigating circumstances.
A lop-sided competition featuring eleven teams means one side was always going to miss out every round, but we can thank Football Federation Australia for butchering the entry of a team from western Sydney for that.
I bet they’re having sleepless nights in Townsville, and not just because of the humidity, as rumours circulate the FFA will cull North Queensland Fury to create a ten-team competition next season.
There are other external factors as well. Newcastle Jets had their clash with North Queensland Fury postponed because an ill-timed motorcross event tore up the Energy Australia Stadium pitch.
It’s not the only pitch feeling the strain, with Bluetongue Stadium and the Sydney Football Stadium both returfed during the current A-League campaign, forcing Sydney FC to play their most recent ‘home’ game at Parramatta Stadium.
That’s because the FFA scheduled a friendly with Paraguay at the Sydney Football Stadium when returfing was originally organised to take place.
But in the case of the Mariners, the lengthy returfing of their pitch took place in the middle of the A-League season, with Graham Arnold’s side subsequently forced to play four games in ten days while other teams enjoy the benefit of a rest.
We talk about the need for quality football in the A-League, yet a fixture list which crams three games in a week for certain teams while others sit on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs does little to encourage it, not least because A-League squad sizes are so small.
And even when unforeseen circumstances forces clubs to reschedule matches, such as the umpteenth visit from those off-key caterwaulers U2, we’re still left to rue missed opportunities.
It’s clear Brisbane Roar have no desire to play at Ballymore Stadium – the corporate facilities may not be up to scratch, but try telling that to the 10,000-strong fans who create the atmosphere at Suncorp – but did anyone think to encourage travelling English cricket fans to attend Wednesday night’s clash against Perth Glory?
He may have only started on the bench, but the visitors had a player virtually every member of the Barmy Army has heard of – Robbie Fowler – so it’s a shame only 6,836 fans bothered to turn out to watch an entertaining affair.
But what really bugs me about the A-League fixture list are not the circumstances beyond FFA’s control.
It’s the fact Adelaide United have already played Brisbane Roar twice – in Brisbane.
It’s that Newcastle Jets have four scheduled home games in a row, and will meet North Queensland Fury twice in the space of three days in January.
Meanwhile, Fury’s upcoming clash with Perth Glory is the third meeting between the pair this season, yet the Fury’s first match against Brisbane Roar took place just last weekend.
Pin your A-League fixture list to the wall, throw a dart and you’ll find yet another piece of scheduling with no rhyme or reason to it.
A-League chief Lyall Gorman claimed midweek fixtures are a “financial disaster” for clubs, but did he ever consider that fans would appreciate some semblance of a home-away-home schedule?
Let’s just hope common sense prevails next season, and we don’t see the same teams playing each other within weeks, while others endure long waits between matches.
At least FFA are not alone in their bungling – the Asian Football Conferation’s insistence players must attend their annual awards ceremony to win the Asian Player of the Year robbed Keisuke Honda of a deserved gong – but the event shouldn’t pass unnoticed.
So congratulations to Sasa Ognenovski and Kate Gill for winning their respective Asian Player of the Year awards and proudly flying the flag for Australia.