Thursday, August 31, 2006

You Off Then? Bye.

Premiership football is pretty hard to follow in Australia, thanks to the punishing time difference between here and the UK. So it was with great joy that I watched the A-League kick off last weekend, giving me the chance to see live games at a civilised hour.

For 'Strayans, football (or soccer, as it is unacceptably called here) has long been the poor relation of rugby league and AFL (that's Aussie Rules for them up in the Northern Hemisphere).
One of the sport's most vocal Australian campaigners even wrote a history of the game Down Under and felt compelled to name it after a sneering phrase that had been used to describe the game: one that was only played by 'Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters'.

Australia's performance in the World Cup went a long way towards turning public opinion around. The A-League has had a similar effect.

That said, there still aren't too many of what are referred to as 'marquee players' in the A-League. The biggest star in the entire competition is former Manchester Utd hero Dwight Yorke, whose midfield presence at Sydney FC helped them to become the inaugural A-League champions last year. He even set up the goal that won the Grand Final for the side.

Well, now he's off, it seems. After assuring his Sydney fan base he'd definitely be back to play in the competition's second year, he's away (although technically he did keep his promise - he played in the first game of the season last Sunday). The reason for this sudden shift? Old Man U mate and now manager of Sunderland, Roy Keane, has asked him to hop back to the UK and help save his struggling outfit.

Dwight will, of course, be missed - but not, I'm hoping, too much. His performance in last Sunday's match was so muted it was tempting to think he'd been subbed off without anyone telling us. Perhaps he'd already made his mind up by that stage.

Or perhaps he was worrying about what Roy Keane would do to his kneecaps if he turned him down ...


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