On Sunday afternoon I sat down with two fellow West Ham United fans at my local.
We were meant to be discussing what in the world we are going to do next season when our expensive and wasteful Premier League side is relegated.
As we also kept a close eye on the clash between Western United and Brisbane Roar from Mars Stadium in Ballarat, the conversation quickly shifted to a topic of far more pleasure and hope.
The most noticeable thing from my vantage point on a cane bar stool in a noisy beer garden was the positioning of the main camera used by Fox Sports to cover the action.
Of course, we did have to ask the bar staff to find the appropriate channel on the big screen television, with the AFLW getting headline billing and football far from the minds of many patrons.
Interestingly, not a mumble was heard when the women flocking around a chip were dethroned by football and by the end of the match there was even some audible cheering and gasping from a number of people other than the three West Ham losers.
People seemed to enjoy the finish to the contest and I asked the bar manager if he would consider having the A-League on for us next Sunday. He didn’t directly say no. Ah, progress.
The camera that brought the match to life was positioned far lower than at most venues, with broadcasters usually in the lofty heights of the main and shaded stand. On Sunday afternoon it was far lower, much like the FFA Cup, and it instantly changed the perception of the game.
Thus, the television experience became much closer to that of being at the ground. Of course, there is no pure substitute for actually attending a match, however the closer proximity allows for more of a bird’s eye perception of the action and adds much weight to the intensity of tackles and crisp exchanges of passing.
The newly independent A-League could do worse than investing time into some discussions around camera positioning, as other sports do frequently. While not possible at all venues, the television spectacle was noticeably improved at Mars on Sunday.
For Robbie Fowler’s side it was another tasty win, their fifth in seven, and the 61st-minute goal to substitute Mirza Muratovic was the impetus for our shift in conversation away from the rubbish that the Hammers have produced this season.
The 20-year-old found his second A-League goal, after Brad Inman neatly played laterally to him inside the box. Western United had blundered at the back yet the men in orange remained cool as one of the most exciting young talents in the league made no mistake from close range.
It triggered our discussion. Have we ever seen such a spectacular, promising and bright group of kids making their mark on the competition?
The chat was also spurred by the events of Friday night in Adelaide where 15-year-old Mohamed Toure scored the Reds’ second goal, aided by Olyroos George Blackwood and Riley McGree.
With older brother Al Hassan being the competition’s recent poster boy and Adelaide’s obvious investment and trust in building the next generation from the ground up, United are perhaps navigating a path that other clubs would do well to emulate.
There is a hint of the same at Central Coast with Samuel Silvera receiving opportunities at just 19. His obvious talent is abundant and a pair of 21-year-olds in Wellington have been nothing short of outstanding this season. Both Reno Piscopo and Cameron Devlin have become vital cogs in Ufuk Talay’s machine. Sydney FC surely regret letting the Sydney-born Devlin leave at the expense of other players.
At 22, Melbourne City’s Thomas Glover has probably moved out the kid range, however as a keeper, he most certainly still is in a football sense. His bumbling error in Round 18 against the Victory was humbling, yet his talent is unquestionable and the long-term successor to Mathew Ryan may well have been found.
The Newcastle Jets’ new manager Carl Robinson spoke openly on the weekend about just how impressed he had immediately been with the skills and application of 20-year-old Angus Thurgate, starting him against the Wanderers in what looked like a must-win match.
Nick D’Agostino’s immense potential has finally been realised under Tony Popovic in the west and there are a host of other young men lurking on benches looking for an opportunity to claim starting status.
There are fewer opportunities at Sydney FC and Perth Glory. Both possess deep squads with experience outweighing any efforts to experiment with developmental youth. Yet for many other clubs chasing valiantly and looking towards the future, throwing the dice on youth has already proven to be a successful strategy.
The young men have contributed, their value increasing with each and every good performance. And the positive effect that has on the freshness of the competition cannot be overestimated.
I’m not sure the league has ever had such a promising crop.