Wheels falling off Adelaide wagon

Paul Williams Columnist

By Paul Williams, Paul Williams is a Roar Expert

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28 Have your say

    Cast your mind back to just over 12 months ago and the euphoric scenes at the Adelaide Oval when Adelaide United broke their 11-year drought to be crowned champions of Australia.

    Even as a die-hard fan of their fiercest rivals it was hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the day, as Adelaide was overrun by a sea of red, highlighting exactly why the A-League grand final should never be played at a set venue. Hosting a grand final is something unique to the A-League, something the other football codes can’t match.

    It was a day Adelaide fans and people of Adelaide in general will remember for a long time.

    But just over 12 months later the mood in Adelaide has significantly changed and the wheels appear close to coming off.

    After their championship-winning squad was torn apart, their title defence was one of the worst on record and any momentum they had post-Championship has well and truly been halted. The club is now in reverse.

    There is serious anger and frustration among the Reds’ fans, with many claiming they won’t buy memberships or attend matches until things change.

    The handling of the departure of club legend Eugene Galekovic appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Having been through this once before when Travis Dodd was forced from the club, United fans had hoped things had changed. The club’s handling of Galekovic’s departure suggests they haven’t.

    While Galekovic insists he harbours no ill-feeling towards the club, the same cannot be said of the fans.

    The subject of the fans ire is outspoken club chairman Greg Griffin. Griffin is a polarising figure, and is developing a reputation for his frequent outbursts about…well, anything and everything.

    His latest outburst has him refusing to release five Adelaide United players – Paul Izzo, Riley McGree, Jordan O’Doherty, Ben Warland and George Blackwood – for Olyroos duty after they were named by U23 coach Josep Gombau, a former Adelaide United coach, for the upcoming AFC U23 Championship Qualifiers to take place in Myanmar later this month.

    Comically, Blackwood, who signed from Sydney FC just recently, hasn’t even been officially announced by the club yet.

    “These players will be better suited remaining in Adelaide and training and learning with their new coach in July than going off to Myanmar,” Griffin told Fairfax yesterday.

    His football manager, Ante Kovacevic, went one step further when talking to News Limited.

    “We always try to get our young players to get pushed into the national team and then we get punished for, let’s be honest, a joke of a tournament. Why are we playing an Olympic (age) team when this isn’t even the Olympics? I don’t see the benefit to anybody,” he said.

    It’s not the first time someone from Adelaide United has taken aim at an AFC tournament. Griffin questioned this year why his club bothered to participate in the AFC Champions League, while also rubbishing the Olyroos possible participation in the Lunar New Year Cup, describing it as a ‘Mickey Mouse competition’.

    Adelaide United 2016 A-League Grand Final Football

    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    As Australia endeavours to show it is serious about being a member of the AFC, such outbursts do little to help our reputation in the region.

    And ask any player and they will tell you how much it means to them to represent their country at any level. How will the five Adelaide players feel about being denied the opportunity to gain important international experience and cement a place in the Olyroos squad with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon?

    And what message does that send to players who may be thinking of joining Adelaide United? Would they want to play for a club who is going to obstruct and interfere with potential national team call ups?

    There is a different game being played here though. As the face of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA), Griffin is locked in an ongoing and increasingly heated and hostile battle with FFA regarding the structure of the A-League and the FFA board.

    And that’s ultimately what Griffin’s latest outburst is about; it’s a chance to take another dig at FFA. But while he is focused on winning points in his battle with FFA, Adelaide United is at risk of falling further behind the pack. Nero fiddled as Rome burned, as the saying goes. Just what damage is being done in the process remains to be seen.

    What a difference 12 months can make.

    Paul Williams
    Paul Williams

    Paul Williams is an Adelaide-based football writer. Specialising in Asian football, he writes about the beautiful game for a host of publications including SBS The World Game, FourFourTwo Singapore and Al Jazeera, and is a regular guest on the Daily Football Show. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulWilliams_85.

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • Roar Guru

      July 6th 2017 @ 6:24am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

      Communications has never been Mr Griffin’s forte.

      Adelaide United is a case study in the value of a robust communications strategy and the costs of failing to invest in such.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 8:43am
      Fadida said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Can wheels fall off when the season hasn’t even started?

    • July 6th 2017 @ 9:04am
      mattq said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      I don’t know any fans who are unhappy Eugene has gone. granted i’m not on the ground in Adelaide but none of my friends and family are upset.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 9:25am
      Nemesis said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Fans who get upset when a player leaves make me laugh.

      This is professional football.
      Players come & players go. It’s their job, they have to do what’s best for them & their career.
      The Club has to do what’s best for the club.

      If you get hung up on a player leaving a club, my advice: don’t follow team sport. Follow a player; don’t follow a club.

      • July 6th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Fadida said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report


        • Roar Rookie

          July 6th 2017 @ 2:23pm
          At work said | July 6th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

          I support my club, there’s obvious some favourite players that I would be sad if they left, but players change but your support for the club shouldn’t.
          Not renewing your membership over these issues just reminds me of all the Brisbane Roar drama last year. Just renew, turn up and support the team; easy!

      • July 6th 2017 @ 10:23am
        Yue fei said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        Please look at how Barcelona treats Xavi, dani alves and others when the leave the club.
        These are legends of the club and they get treated with respect and dignity

      • July 6th 2017 @ 2:07pm
        Rob said | July 6th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

        The fans aren’t upset Galekovic is leaving and that’s not what this story is pointing out.
        His time was up, we all accept that.
        What this article is pointing out is that the fans are disappointed with the way Galekovic, among others, has been treated upon his departure.
        His departure, hardly feted with no proper farewell, was downright disrespectful to a club legend, premiership captain and a player I rate as our GOAT.

        This is just one of a number of aspects, as pointed out in the article, which has fans of the AUFC wondering what is happening at their club and what its future is.

      • July 6th 2017 @ 6:07pm
        Arto said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

        Nemesis, which team do you support? From memory, I thought it was MV, but I stand corrected if otherwise. How happy were you with their performance after the 2010-11 & 2011-12 seasons – in 2010-11 the Club bled 7,000 fans despite the introduction of the Melb Derby.

        This is what fans do, they show their approval (or lack thereof) of how the club is performing either on or off the field and usually problems off the field will translate into problems on it… Set aside the Galekovic issue, how would you rate AUs performance since winning the Championship? THAT is the core issue of this article and the main reason why AU members are threateneing/carrying out a boycott of sorts. AU have historically been a club with issues and Griffin is a major reason for the recent ones…

    • July 6th 2017 @ 9:26am
      Ken Spacey said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      Is this the risk as opposed to benefits of major reform? Griffin is a club part owner, FFA have to run all of football. While a nation can exist without a confederation, Australia has to be involved in international comps. That sir is non negotiable. Besides we all felt Amor was gone a while back, why so long to find a coach? He could have been on the ground assessing the squad etc. Have never heard an import to HAL suggest the season be shorter, but many believe it should be longer.The more competitive games they play the better. Frank Lowy’s legacy may be a mixed bag but getting AFC membership is his crowning glory. Perhaps Griff should stop giving the doubters their ammunition.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 9:46am
      Ilario Finis said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      The owners are doing something to me I never thought would happen. They are making me bitter at Adelaide United and in turn the A-league and the FFA as a whole. I’m not someone who lets the results determine my support of a team (and nor should it) but as someone who was once the head of the supporter group and having had to deal with club on a regular bases this isn’t something that is a recent thing. It has been going on since 2012 it’s just Micheal Petrillo, Josep and Amor managed to make the on field work with a core of players for a couple of seasons.

      It isn’t the fact the Eugene left but it’s the way in which it was done, it could of simple been said late last season he was leaving truth be told we all knew he was going just like Amor but Eugene did deserve a send off. Players do come and go but at Adelaide we are we replacing all these players who left with? The way things are going we will fielding a U23 NPL team and it wont be good enough and the poor kids will get slaughtered for something that really isn’t their fault.

      The other thing is Griffin threatening to send us to play our games at Norwood Oval which is barely fit for semi professional SANFL let alone for a professional competition and yes it maybe just a ploy to get AEC to lower the rent but it’s also not the first time the card has been played and eventually AEC will call his bluff. The wanting of our players picked for national team to not go, etc etc. All of these things and it being a regular thing with Griffin it is very much turning the people against Adelaide United the way things are going we will be lucky to get a 5k average this season.

      • July 6th 2017 @ 10:45am
        Fadida said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        The good people of Adelaide will do as they always do. Crowds of 8k at the start of the season, with the remaining 7k either a)going to games if they are winning b)stay away if they aren’t.

        There is nothing to suggest that works won’t do ok. They have a number of squad positions to be filled.

        For me this is an article that typifies the glass half empty approach to A-league coverage.
        It is possible that at the end of this AU have a better coach, squad (Gelakovis is on the downward slope) and stadium deal

        • July 6th 2017 @ 9:28pm
          Arto said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:28pm | ! Report

          Given how AU have gone from Champions to Chumps, your optimism is impressive – there’s absolutely no indication at present that your ‘happily ever after’ version of events will actually occur.

          I get that it’s often easier for folks to bang on about the negatives and wallow in them (and definetely see Your point given the amount of negative articles in the media & on here!), but AU really haven’t come across as a club moving forwards – and that’s my view as a neutral SFC supporter!

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