Taking stock of our game
The anticipation is brewing; the excitement levels rising. It has, after all, been an incredibly long off-season. Expect the Hyundai A-League this term to soar to new heights.
I think many were relieved to have season 2011/12 done and dusted.
Not because of the football — that part of the package was great — but for the seemingly never-ending drama off the pitch.
When you think about it, the fiasco regarding the presentation of the Joe Marston medal to Jacob Burns at the end of last season-s Grand Final seemed a fitting end to a shambolic season in off-field matters.
At that point in time, as the medal was hoisted from around Thomas Broich-s neck and flung onto that of the Perth Glory captain during an uneasy press conference some 90 minutes after the initial on-stage presentation, feelings of exhilaration produced by an epic Grand Final were quickly overtaken by those of bewilderment.
It was difficult to conceive when — and if — the A-League was going to get the break it so desperately needed.
Gold Coast United had received their marching orders from the competition, joining Sunshine State colleagues North Queensland Fury in the A-League scrap heap, while noise from disgruntled club owners was gaining fever pitch with their concerns regarding a host of off-field issues.
Any thoughts containing the tiniest fragment of what we-ve witnessed over the last few weeks — that being the arrivals of Italian football legend Alessandro Del Piero, English Premier League striker Emile Heskey and Japanese star Shinji Ono — would have been the stuff of pure fantasy.
A player of Ono-s ilk would have been far from our minds during that period, let alone names such as Heskey or Del Piero.
And when you consider that Western Sydney Wanderers were seriously contemplating snapping up former Chelsea and German international Michael Ballack, one can-t help but sit back and shake their head with amazement.
Despite the negativity surrounding off-field events, the 2011/12 campaign was arguably the best on record, with players demonstrating plenty of technical flair and coaches showing off their tactical nous.
Under Ange Postecoglou, Brisbane Roar again set the benchmark with their high-tempo, possession-based game, while John van t- Schip won praise for the Heart-s tactical flexibility.
Expect the level this season to again soar to new heights.
While the A-League has attracted big names in the past, never before has the competition bundled talents like Ono, Heskey and Del Piero together.
Former Red and Johnny Warren Medallist, Marcos Flores, returns to the A-League, this time with Melbourne Victory, while the arrivals of Nick Montgomery (Mariners), Richard Garcia (Heart), Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide) and Do Dong-Hyun (Roar) blended with the likes Dario Vidosic, Archie Thompson, Paul Ifill, Thomas Broich, Brett Emerton, Tomas Rogic, Fred and Shane Smeltz lays claim to the best line-up of players ever fielded in an Australian domestic competition.
In previous seasons, the high quality aspect of the game failed to reach the mainstream for a variety of reasons, but with Season 8 of the A-League spearheaded by the likes of Del Piero and Co., expect the talking points to centre on what-s happening on the pitch rather than away from it.
The anticipation is brewing; the excitement levels rising. It has, after all, been an incredibly long off-season.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.
The Hyundai A-League 2012/13 season kicks off on Friday 5 October with the season-s first Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium. Click here for tickets to all the matches.