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Six Pack From Down Under

By Ed Wyatt



Central Coast Mariners' keeper Mat Ryan is a target for European clubs.
Central Coast Mariners' keeper Mat Ryan is a target for European clubs.

The A-League off-season has begun and with it come the rumours and conjecture about player movement, much of it in the direction of Europe. The A-League is, of course, a “selling” league so it’s no surprise when the likes of Marco Rojas head for Germany.

In the meantime, there’s no rest for the reigning champions Central Coast, who qualified for the next phase of the Asian Champions League. And with World Cup qualifying and Liverpool and Manchester United set for visits Down Under, the next few months will be far from stagnant.

1 Grand Final champions Central Coast Mariners have backed into the knockout round of the Asian Champions League and will face Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande, coached by former Italian national team boss Marcello Lippi. Central Coast was soundly beaten by Group H leaders Kashiwa Reysol 3-0 at home, but thanks to Suwon Bluewings, who drew with Guizhou Renhe, the Mariners advanced to the round of 16. Central Coast is only the third Australian team to make it to the knockout stage.

2 Liverpool’s July 24th appearance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was given a boost by Reds’ legend Ian Rush who fronted the media here last week. Rush, who had a three-match stint with Sydney Olympic in 1999, held court on a number of topics and said he was impressed with the massive MCG. Close to 80,000 tickets have already been sold for the match between Liverpool and Melbourne Victory, and with Melbourne Cricket Club members still to claim their tickets, the final crowd number could push towards 95,000.

3 Adelaide United has hired Spanish-born Josep Gombau as its new head coach. Gombau, who spent six years as a coach at Barcelona’s academy, comes from Hong Kong club Kitchee, which he led to two league titles in four years.

4 Melbourne Heart, which will turn a small profit this season, has admitted that it has knocked back a couple of takeover offers. The latest was from Victorian Premier League (and former NSL) club South Melbourne, which wanted to move Heart to its Lakeside Stadium base. Heart, which has yet to capture the imagination of the footballing public and averaged just 8,500 fans this season, narrowly avoided finishing on the bottom of the ladder. CEO Scott Munn was on the defensive this week, saying his investors are happy: “We can sustain a club, we can post a small profit and that puts us in an enviable position for investors, knowing they won’t have to reach into their pocket each year.”

5 Premiers’ Plate winners and Grand Final runners-up Western Sydney Wanderers have released four players. Croatian striker Dino Kresinger, who struggled to find the net this season, is gone along with Tarek Elrich and Rocky Visconte (both started in the Grand Final) and Joey Gibbs.

6 Midfielder Mark Milligan has won Melbourne Victory’s best-and-fairest award, outpolling A-League player of the year Marco Rojas 53-47. Milligan brought toughness and versatility to a rebuilding Victory side and was a reliable penalty taker as well.