THE LOWEDOWN: Roar come calling at a good time

I start my column today fighting desperately with the ‘‘I won’t affliction’’ that so often highlights a character flaw. Certainly I get results against ‘‘do the dishes’’, ‘‘make my bed’’ and the other easybeats like ‘‘pay my credit card on time’’, but geez I struggle with the big guns like ‘‘have another piece of cake’’ and ‘‘bet in every race’’.
Nanjing Night Net

Today I’m determined not to use the cliche ‘‘a week’s a long time in football’’ and, given the events of the last 168 hours, it’s not going to be an easy assignment.

This time last week, Sydney FC coach Frank Farina was under enormous pressure, Jets coach Gary van Egmond was searching for his first win of the season, and Mark Schwarzer was the Socceroos goalkeeper.

Seven sleeps later, and Sydney are suddenly a team completely together, united for the cause, playing for the boss.

The frustration of opportunities lost in consecutive games for the Jets became building blocks for a good performance and three points in Adelaide.

Adelaide’s switch to a possession-based game promised much in the early rounds but is a loss or two away from inviting serious inspection.

If Melbourne Victory lose to the Wanderers at Parramatta on Saturday night, you can be sure many will be questioning their plight post Ange, and Kevin Muscat will suddenly have the spotlight shining on his rookie coaching status.

Point being, as I’ve opined on many occasions, things are seldom as bad as they seem, or are made out to be, and on the flipside, one good result does not translate to a permanent solution being found.

What has been resoundingly emphasised is that results dictate everything – from harmony to confidence, from scrutiny to perception, from employment to ‘‘looking at other opportunities’’, from criticism to praise. And just as quickly, one or two results can change everything again.

There was a lot to like about the Jets’ victory in Adelaide on Saturday, not the least of which was hearing their coach Gary van Egmond state at the end of the match, ‘‘today we controlled the game without the ball’’. Surely many saw some irony in that?

In truth, they did exactly that, and given Adelaide’s structured, methodical build-up, and van Egmond’s devotion to analysis of just such details, I suspected they might come up with the right answers.

For the second time in a week, I allowed a host of external factors and other statistics and opinions to cloud my judgment, and Fiorente and the Jets both delivered without my cash as extra handicap.

To be fair, the Jets have been building to this victory and have looked a better side since the introduction of Andrew Hoole as an attacking focal point on the right flank, and since van Egmond introduced Ben Kantarovski to anchor the midfield and allow Ruben Zadkovich and Josh Brillante to operate further up the pitch.

In essence, van Egmond has added an extra midfield player at the expense of an attacking type of player in the No.10 role. The Jets are pressing and winning the ball selectively and effectively and disrupting the opposition.

Many will see the irony in the Jets winning their first game of the season when having less than 40per cent of the ball, given the mantra of controlling games through possession. But it didn’t surprise your columnist.

As noted before on these pages, the Jets set up perfectly as a counter-attacking force. They have high pace in their front three players, power out of midfield in Zadkovich and Brillante, and fullbacks in Neville and Galloway who would run all day on a bowl of rice.

What they did exceptionally well on Saturday was force Adelaide to one side of the pitch, lock them in and dispossess or force an errant pass. The only time Adelaide threatened was when they were chasing the game, played the ball forward earlier, ad-libbed a little, and asked questions of individual Newcastle defenders, rather than the structure of the whole unit.

It will be interesting to see if Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey is thinking along similar lines given Newcastle’s performances in their past two matches.

The Roar have looked like the benchmark in the competition in the early rounds, although van Egmond will no doubt remember the problems Melbourne Heart caused Brisbane in the first 45 minutes at Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago by unexpectedly pressing them high with consistency and aggression. (Heart did eventually succumb 3-0.)

In the last two visits to Hunter Stadium, Brisbane have stuck resolutely to their play on the ground and to feet principles, and on both occasions the Jets played with a high defensive line and with forwards dropping off, effectively clogging the game in midfield.

If Brisbane, like Adelaide, stick rigidly on Sunday to what they always do, there is every chance the Jets will have the answers tactically and can hurt them in transition.

I think it’s a really good time for the Jets to be playing the Roar. Confidence is on the rise, Besart Berisha has been on the injured list, and Matt McKay is in camp with the Socceroos.

Van Egmond’s only problems may be in areas of team selection, with Emile Heskey playing his first minutes of the season on Saturday and Adam Taggart notching his first goal of the season against Adelaide.

That will be an interesting call on a night that promises plenty of intrigue, and perhaps some answers, on how well the Jets are really going.

And speaking of going, in a very different sense, Mark Schwarzer has called time on two decades of sterling service to the national team.

His reasons will be debated and second-guessed, but not in this column.

He leaves the national team set-up in the way he conducted himself while part of it: with honesty, dignity and a great sense of pride.

He leaves while still the best goalkeeper we have, in my humble opinion, on his terms, and while still a most valuable player, and who can argue with that?

Well, I can have a little gripe, because he was the last link for we old codgers from the halcyon days at Marconi in the late 80s and 90s to the current national team.

One last time for my son Alex: ‘‘Used to bend them past Schwarzy for fun at training mate!’’

Seriously, what a joy to have watched someone develop from the gangly kid with huge potential to the wonderful professional and national team hero he became.

Last word to one of his great rivals and contemporaries Mark Bosnich, who I once asked in an interview: ‘‘Who was Australia’s best ever goalkeeper, leaving humility to one side?’’

Bozza thought for a moment, and told the audience that consistency and longevity made Schwarzer the No.1, adding that to be still playing in the EPL at 40 was an amazing effort.

(Bozza did say to me privately that what he wanted to say was that Schwarzer was Australia’s best, but he was the best keeper in the world at one stage. Then he brought out that laugh!)

But his admiration for Schwarzer was absolutely genuine and warranted.

Top bloke, great pro and a fantastic goalkeeper for Australia. Thanks a million, big man.

RESULTS: Jets Adam Taggart celebrates a goal against the Mariners. Picture: Getty Images

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