THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

5 December ~ Moving in around the corner from Shane Warne may turn out to be the best career move Harry Kewell ever made. The two have recently become neighbours in a Melbourne beachside suburb and Warne has seemingly been giving his new neighbour some advice. Step one has involved Kewell dumping long-term manager Bernie Mandic for Warne's own agent. Even before Kewell signed his recent contract with Melbourne Victory, the goodwill about his return to Australia had begun to sour.

It should have been celebrated as one of the country's brightest talents coming home to boost the struggling domestic league. But as the negotiations dragged out, the club began to look incompetent and the player greedy. The deal, which sees Kewell take a massive cut of any increase in revenue he generates, has been criticised by many mistrusting fans. As journalist Michael Cockerill wrote, Kewell is "either an idealist who is taking all the risks… or a greedy bastard looking to hold the competition to ransom".

Kewell has had a positive effect at the turnstiles. But the common thread of this A-League season has been his and his club's lack of potency. Victory have an attacking line-up that should be the envy of the other sides, yet at one stage a suspended central defender had hit more shots on target than most of the club's strikers and attacking midfielders combined. In a matter of weeks, Kewell went from being the country's poster boy to the tired old man of Australian football – a 33-year-old left exposed for a lack of pace and influence.

Victory's most insipid performance of all came at home against a ten-man Perth Glory. The coach and his side were booed from the pitch after giving up a two goal lead to draw 2-2. Kewell missed the game through injury but he was soon at the centre of a major row as it emerged that Kewell had signed former Argentina striker Abel Balbo as his own personal coach.

The appointment could have signalled Kewell's preparedness to get back to his best ahead of World Cup qualifiers. Instead, it was painted as a player living by his own rules, with no faith in the Victory's inexperienced coach, the Montenegrin Mehmet Durakovic.

Australia's A-League is fast becoming a career graveyard for Socceroo stars. Brett Emerton has not had a successful homecoming to Sydney FC, the club where John Aloisi sunk from national hero to supporter whipping boy. While at Perth Glory, former Derby winger Mile Sterjovski is playing with the youth side.

Mark Schwarzer is poised to become the second-oldest player at a World Cup – he will be 41 by the time of Brazil 2014 – but he won't be playing his club football in Australia by then. "I have seen too many players go back home and it has not worked out," the Fulham keeper said in August. "You are up there to be shot down very, very quickly. I don't want to give anyone the opportunity to do that to me." If Warne's manager can put an end to that, all aging Socceroos would be grateful. Jack Kerr

Comments (1)
Comment by djw 2011-12-06 00:18:43

Excellent article. I think that there is an element of underestimation of the league's standard involved here. Kewell's star had been on the wane for several injury-abridged seasons and having watched him play for Victory I think it is a case of a player who is not as good as we thought playing in a league that is better than we thought. As you said, Aloisi was another example.
After following the A League closely since its inception I've seen the standard pick up each year to the point we we now have one team - Brisbane - who are good enough in my opinion to compete against some of the best in Europe.

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