Thursday, February 09, 2006

05/06 Season Wrap, New Zealand Knights

Position; Eight, last.
Leading Scorers; Jeremy Brockie and Simon Yeo, 4 goals.
Most games; Darren Bazeley and Zenon Caravella, 21 games.
Player of the season; Jeremy Brockie.
Emerging star; Brockie again.

Summary; Everywhere you look sums up what a disastrous season the inaugural one was for the NZ Knights. A solitary win against the Central Coast Mariners way back in round three, a staggering 81% of matches lost, a negative goal difference of 32, only two points picked up at home, finishing 20 points behind second last placed Melbourne Victory and average crowds of only 3,908. As the saying goes, things can only get better, both on and off the field.

Analysis; Perhaps it was the well publicised healthy problems of manager John Adshead, but for whatever reason, the Knights, along with the Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory, were the slowest of the teams to sort out their player roster, assembling the squad only a matter of weeks before the season proper. By then many of the better players around had been snapped up or, in the case of some of the New Zealand players, ignored in favour of a squad of mainly English journeymen. Clearly there was an underestimation of the levels required to compete in the A-League.

Negatives; The assembling of a squad of players chock-full of experience in the English lower leagues, as was evidenced by the poor form and departure of Ronnie Bull and Simon Yeo before the season was out. The reliance on these guys appeared to cause angst among the few New Zealand players, as highlighted by Danny Hay’s departure. A couple of crucial long-term injuries also didn’t help, particularly those to Hay and Neil Emblen early on. It appeared as though Adshead was trying to build a squad around Hay at the back and Emblen in midfield, and all his plans were shot when these two guys went down injured. Naoki Imaya also suffered a season ending knee injury just as he was looking good. Some of the other overseas signings, including Xiaobin Zhang, Frank van Eijs, Sean Devine and John Tambouras also failed to deliver.

Positives; The emergence of a couple of exciting young Kiwi prospects in Jeremy Brockie and Kris Bright. Brockie in particular set the League on fire in his debut against Newcastle in Round 11, when he scored both the Knights’ goals in a 4-2 loss. The emergence of Zenon Caravella was another good sign, as was the admission by Adshead as early as round 10 that the season was effectively over and he should start building towards next season. He did by building into the team the likes of Brockie and Bright. Another good sign was the fact they picked up draws against the top two, Sydney and Adelaide.

The future; How fitting that it was Bright’s through ball to Brockie for the Knights’ final goal of the season against the Melbourne Victory in round 21, hopefully for the Knights and the A-League the beginning of a fruitful partnership. Clearly the Knights have to add some more quality to their playing roster, with the recruitment of overseas players a particularly crucial area. In tough times, it’s often best to get back to basics, which in football means you build from the back. The appointment this week of highly qualified Paul Nevin, formerly of Fulham, to the role of head coach could prove pivotal in turning around NZ’s on field fortunes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

FFA have made a huge mistake in allowing NZ into the a-league. The writing was on the wall in the old NSL, but then who would have deserved the 8th spot...Nth Qld? Canberra? Wollongong?

Fri. Feb. 10, 12:11:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous pierre said...

NZ should stay. Every competition has its easybeats, but things change. If they can implement a youth policy, after all they have a large 'nursery' to choose from, they should expect things to turn around in years 4 and 5 of the franchise.

Mon. Feb. 13, 09:30:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

If Australian based teams were encouraged to lift the standard and quality of football, through sound organisation, professionalism, and solid playing rosters, then NZ should follow suit. This year has been an embarrasement for them! If they cannot make a significant improvement next year, they should be asked to join the Tongan domestic competition. There are several state league teams that would also beat NZ. The first year free ride is over!

Fri. Feb. 17, 01:22:00 pm AEDT  

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