In the past week we have seen another chapter written in the testy relationship between former Socceroo team mates Graham Arnold and Kevin Muscat. Now the coaches of two of the A-League’s biggest clubs the two men locked horns in a war of words ahead of the week 1 clash between their two teams. The testy exchange played out because of the wildly different positions the pair hold in relation to the role of national team players in the A-League competition.
One of the key match ups of the A-League’s opening weekend was the mouth watering clash between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC. The match itself was to be played without three of it’s star players with James Troisi, Mark Milligan and Kosta Barbarouses all unavailable due to international commitments. Muscat spoke for many A-League fans when he bemoaned this fact and arguing that the A-League should mirror other competitions in the world, and pause it’s season for FIFA dates. Graham Arnold had a rather startling response to Muscat’s seemingly reasonable position.
Maybe they should have recruited differently.
One of the first things I do when I recruit is look at the international programming, whether it’s Socceroos or a (youth tournament) and you’re going to miss them for three or four weeks.
The league is short, it’s only 27 games. I prefer to stay away from those internationals.
While the pragmatic element of Arnold’s sentiment is understandable, the idea that the coach of one of the countries biggest teams suggesting won’t consider signing an Australian national team player is abhorrent. It could be argued that a Socceroo might not help Arnold’s squad given its rare quality but the idea that he would refuse to sign Aaron Mooy, for arguments sake, should be a warning signal to the powers that be in the A-League.
When presented with Arnold’s comments, Muscat described them as ‘archaic’ and it’s a pretty apt description. That said the fault does not lie with the Sydney FC coach but with the system that rewards him for this thinking. Arnold plays the pantomime villain very well, as anyone who saw him ham it up to the crowd during the A-League semi final last season when his image appeared on the AAMI Park screens to a cacophony of boos can attest, but it is hard to believe he wants anything other than the best for the competition. At the end of the day though, his job is to win games for Sydney FC and he will do what he can to achieve this, its up to the law makers to ensure that his priority is aligned with the long term interests of the competition.
The Socceroos are arguably one of the most beloved of Australia’s national teams and the A-League should be finding ways to encourage clubs to bring these players to the playing fields of this country not punishing them. The A-League have been at pains in the past to explain the difficulty in implementing blackouts for International dates, but it is time that the best possible product is put on the park wherever possible. The two coaches are doing their very best to build the interest in the contest, it’s time the A-League ensures that this interest isn’t rewarded with a watered down ‘Big Blue’ like we were on the weekend. It’s time they got it done.
The time for excuses is over.
The Muscat/Arnold spat, The A-League, The Socceroos World Cup Qualifying Playoff win over Syria and whole lot more discussed on The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav. Listen by clicking to the link below or subscribe via SoundCloud or I-Tunes.