Harry Kewell’s impact will be bigger than expected

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    Harry Kewell

    Melbourne Victory's Harry Kewell runs away with the ball against Aelaide United in a pre-season friendly in Adelaide (AAP Image/James Elsby)

    If what we saw at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide Friday night translates into the 2011/12 A-League season, then Harry Kewell’s impact on domestic football in this country will far exceed the already lofty expectations around his arrival.

    In one half of football in a pre-season friendly against Adelaide United – his first match for Melbourne Victory – Kewell showed glimpses of what he brings to the table.

    There were elegant back heel passes, deft touches that created space and led to attacking runs, and numerous through balls to his attacking partners – chiefly Archie Thompson – that threatened Adelaide’s defenses on several occasions.

    It was only a taste of what he’s capable of, but the class was very much there to see.

    Adelaide United coach, Rini Coolen, summed it up best: “You could just see, his movements and touches, how he created space for himself… how he puts some very good balls through for players around.”

    More importantly for the sceptics, Kewell looked committed, fit and hungry.

    He looked every bit the Victory player – already linking well with teammates, particularly Thompson, who played as if he was already in season. And there were already signs that the Kewell-Thompson combo will have defenses across the A-League on edge.

    Then factor in Danny Allsopp; Jean Carlos Solórzano, who looked dangerous in his half of football for his new club; the exciting Marco Rojas; and Carlos Hernandez, looking portly as ever but still with the quality to bury the equaliser late in the match. Even if he can’t be relied on for serious minutes, he’ll be a very dangerous impact player off the bench.

    When coach Mehmet Durakovic figures out how to best utilise this armory of attacking options, the competition could be in some trouble.

    They may leak goals with a defensive structure missing its chief marshal, Kevin Muscat, but they have more than enough ammunition to compensate for it at the other end.

    While I thought they would close the gap to yet fall just short of challenging last season’s pacesetters, Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners, I’m prepared to tip Victory as my favourites following Friday night. They showed enough glimpses of what they can produce – the movement, passing and attacking endeavour. It’ll be fun to watch.

    Then there was the crowd – 9543… for a pre-season match, remember. Put that into the context of the following: higher than the crowd average of all but two A-League clubs last season (Victory and Adelaide those two clubs); 1150 up on the league’s crowd average last season; and 7274 more than were at Hindmarsh to see Adelaide versus Gold Coast United a fortnight earlier.

    (Note: Friday night’s crowd wasn’t inflated by a large contingent of travelling Victory supporters. There were only around 10 to 20 Victory fans in the away supporters’ bay, although there would have been some more spread throughout the rest of Hindmarsh.)

    There were boos, hisses and angry chants directed at Kewell from Adelaide’s active supporter group – what you’d expect to their biggest rivals’ new star – but there were also the gasps of approval at his movement, not to mention the constant question, “Is that him?” from those unable to pick him out from his teammates.

    Those numbers (remember, a pre-season match – not even within a pre-season competition) would have Football Federation Australia rubbing their hands together with glee for what’s to come when the Kewell-show hits the league.

    Yes, there was little to no competition within Adelaide that weekend – no Adelaide clubs in the AFL finals series or other distractions worthy of mentioning – so coverage in the local media was very strong (there was even a ‘Kewell-countdown’ in the local paper).

    But that will also be the case when the A-League season kicks into gear across the country; such is the necessity of the later season start.

    Do the math and multiply that increase across the league. Kewell-mania could be bigger than we expect.

    Follow Adrian on twitter @AdrianMusolino

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • Roar Guru

      September 26th 2011 @ 8:36am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | September 26th 2011 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      Nice article, Adrian.

      Yes, I have no doubt, Harry’s move to the HAL will far exceed the expectations. But, this is partly due to many people – apart from True Believers from the football community – seeming to have forgotten how good Harry Kewell is as a footballer and parroted the ignorant tabloid sports analyst’s line of “he’s too old and always injured”.

      Whilst I expect the non-football community to be ignorant and poorly-researched, I have been truly surprised by how many alleged football commentators and analysts – mainly from the Australian print media – seemed to forget or conveniently ignore Harry’s excellent form for the past 3 season in Turkey and his outstanding international form in the 2011 Asian Cup.

      12 Days, 5 hours 40 minutes to Season 7 kick-off – the anticipation is similar to how I felt in the 2 weeks before the events of Jun-Jul 2006 and I never thought I’d ever replicate that anticipation.

      • September 26th 2011 @ 9:47am
        Michael said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Yeah, nice positive piece Adrian. I just *knew* Fuss would love this article!

    • September 26th 2011 @ 8:42am
      whiskeymac said | September 26th 2011 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      i know of many people interested in watching HK. good stuff indeed.
      but do the math? oh if you do use that most annoying of phrases at least say do the maths.

      • September 26th 2011 @ 8:59am
        Realfootball said | September 26th 2011 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Agreed. We’ve already got their television and junk food. Like, do we have to fully have the cliches too?

        Just taking the p… Adrian. It’s a good piece and if you could just collapse time now so that we fast forward to the first game of the season…

      • September 26th 2011 @ 9:27am
        BigAl said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Yes, but often these cliches sound better as they are created – eg. ‘kick-ass!’ sounds much better than ‘kick-arse!’ . . . . if you have to use that sort of language.

        • Roar Guru

          September 26th 2011 @ 9:33am
          Ben of Phnom Penh said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          “man, that away top really boots-donkey!” 🙂

          We could be onto something

        • September 26th 2011 @ 9:56am
          punter said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:56am | ! Report

          Looks like even BigAl is excited about the ‘H’.

    • September 26th 2011 @ 8:56am
      Tor said | September 26th 2011 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      So we’ve signed Madaschi then? Quite frankly if we don’t win any trophies this season with the squad we have it will be a failure.

      • September 26th 2011 @ 11:44am
        Football United said | September 26th 2011 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        imagine if we had this squad in asia…..

    • September 26th 2011 @ 9:24am
      Matt F said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      I liked the line in the media that “10,000 people turned up for a pre-season friendly just to tell Harry Kewell that he was a waste of money!”

      The publicity generated by HK was never in doubt and those who follow the sport closely know how good of a player he still can be. The only question mark over him is his injury record. If (hopefully) he is managed well and plays in the majority of matches then it will be a raging success, if not, it will still be a success, just slightly less.

    • Roar Guru

      September 26th 2011 @ 9:26am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      The FFA will indeed be excited by the prospect of Harry and Emmo, and so they should be. But the bosses at AUFC will be pleased also as another solid, crowd filled season at Hindmarsh looms.

      The change of the start of the season may have resulted in a terribly painful wait however ultimately it is shaping as a clever move on behalf of the FFA

      • September 26th 2011 @ 10:01am
        TomC said | September 26th 2011 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Yeah, its certainly building the anticipation.

        The timing has worked incredibly well. Particularly in the Melbourne market.

    • September 26th 2011 @ 9:58am
      Simon said | September 26th 2011 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      I was on the right wing on Friday night. He looks in fine form, Archie should have knocked in a couple. One chance he had Cassio & another defender on HK and he still managed a perfect cross in the box. AUFC will still smash MV though. 12 Days #wearefootball

      • September 26th 2011 @ 10:49am
        Kasey said | September 26th 2011 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        I’m not sure AUFC will have a good year this year. In the 2 pre-season games I’ve watched(vs GCU and MV) we’ve looked a little unimaginative around the attacking 18yd box D, the area that Marcos Flores used to patrol and then conjure up a sublime pass to split a defence. I think we are in for a year of trying hard but with a lot of huffing & puffing to blow the door down rather than using the locksmithery of a proper #10 to unlock the defence as in last year. Then again, it is only pre-season and I will of course be at every home game and as many away games as I can afford just incase the lads surprise me:) Harry will be great for the profile of football. One only has to see the amount of press he game is getting in the middle of AFL finals to understand that. We seem to be getting almost the same amount of press right now as we did at the same time last year(when our season was 2 weeks in) Once the real stuff starts, if the first weekend of games gets its MVFC v SFC blockbuster then I can only see the number of column inches going up.

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