Monday, January 14, 2008

In Holland, age is irrelevant

SO PIM has played his latest card, assimilating the Socceroos and Olyroos into one squad for the second of his weekly camps in western Sydney;

John Aloisi (Central Coast Mariners)
Clint Bolton (Sydney FC)
Mark Bridge(Newcastle Jets)
Alex Brosque (Sydney FC)
Simon Colosimo (Perth Glory)
Steve Corica (Sydney FC)
Ante Covic (Newcastle Jets)
Jamie Coyne (Perth Glory)
Bruce Djite (Adelaide United)
Travis Dodd (Adelaide United)
Andrew Durante (Newcastle Jets)
Adam Griffiths (Newcastle Jets)
Joel Griffiths (Newcastle Jets)
James Holland (Newcastle Jets)
John Hutchinson (Central Coast Mariners)
Matt McKay (Queensland Roar)
Mark Milligan (Sydney FC)
Kevin Muscat (Melbourne Victory)
Stuart Musialik (Newcastle Jets)
Jade North (Newcastle Jets)
Lucas Pantelis (Adelaide United)
Tom Pondeljak (Central Coast Mariners)
Ufuk Talay (Sydney FC)
Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory)
Matt Thompson (Newcastle Jets)
Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Perth Glory)
Rodrigo Vargas (Melbourne Victory)
Danny Vukovic (Central Coast Mariners)
Alex Wilkinson (Central Coast Mariners)

While weeding out some of the Olyroos that were part of the first Marconi camp, Verbeek has also drafted in James Holland, one of the most promising and well-rounded talents this country has produced, proving that age is irrelevant and that the current generation of kids (including Burns, Patafta, Kruse, Zullo, Spiranovic, Vidosic and Minniecon) promises plenty.

Back in October, while a couple of Queensland kids were catching the eye and creating all the headlines, I watched on in amazement at maturity of Holland’s two performances for the Jets against Wellington and the Roar.

In round eight he made his debut against the Phoenix and while he caught the eye with the opening goal, it was his all-round contribution, continually ghosting into the box and, more importantly, barely coughing up possession, which made such an impression.

That debut was just about as good as they come, and it was meant to be his only game, for he was on a one-match contract.

Gary van Egmond, as astute a football man as there is this country, spoke glowingly in the aftermath about just how much the kid had added to his yet-to-gel front third.

‘Dutchy’, missing the creative class of Nick Carle, must have moved earth to get Holland into his starting 11 against Queensland the following week.

There, “thanks to an injury”, he stepped it up another level. He was dynamite, everywhere, the archetypical box-to-box central midfielder.

But it wasn’t just running for the sake of it. It was running combined with wonderful dexterity on the ball and an awareness and feel for the game that just seemed to come naturally. This was a footballer first and foremost.

In an age where athletes get by masquerading as footballers, here was a combo-deal, Tim Cahill meets Deco.

There was little doubt he’d made an immediate impression where it mattered most, in his manager’s mind.

After a trip away with the Young Socceroos throughout November, van Egmond, no doubt recognising he had something special on his hands (Newcastle suffered a mid-season slump after Holland’s round nine departure, winning only two of its subsequent eight games) was quick to snap Holland up till the end of the 2009/2010 season.

One of the hottest prizes in Oz football had been secured, and upon signing him van Egmond spoke of the balance it would provide his at-the-time dysfunctional front third.

True enough, it has. In the four games since his ‘signing’, the Jets have won three, culminating in them sealing a third straight semi-final spot after the weekend’s riveting derby win at Bluetongue, where Holland was a key playing in the attacking midfield role that is so vital to the way the Jets play.

Not only did he score the opener, his third in six outings, but he generally gave Mile Jedinak the run-around.

Suddenly a season that appeared to be slipping away has been re-ignited. In the past four rounds the Jets have bagged nine, compared with five in seven games without Holland.

Now another Dutch-man, Verbeek, has recognised the obvious talent, adding Holland to the latest 29 man list which featured the original list of 22 non-Olyroo A-Leaguers and a revised list of six Olyroos (Milligan, Vukovic, Topor-Stanley, Djite, Musalik and Bridge).

So while the likes of Broxham, Boogaard, Cornthwaite, Zadkovich, Zullo, Kruse, Sarkies, Ward and Velaphi have been left out, either through injury or not making enough of an impression, Holland is a left-field inclusion, proving Verbeek will judge a player on his quality, first and foremost.

If your good enough, you’re old enough, and if it works for Barcelona, why not the Socceroos!

Of the Olyroos to miss out, perhaps the most surprising omissions are Zadkovich and Ward, the former said to have impressed in the hit-out last Tuesday and the latter very impressive in the Victory’s win over Wellington on Friday.

The other surprise is that Nathan Burns isn’t in, but after returning only yesterday from a long term injury, perhaps treading cautiously is the best bet with him. After all, it was his heavy schedule throughout ’07 that at least contributed to his injury in the first place.

Of the 22 non-Olyroos, who extended their cause after the weekend?

Covic, Bolton and Vukovic all did some great stuff between the sticks, North and Durante were solid for the Jets, Muscat was poise personified on Friday night, Vargas played one sublime 50 metre ball to create one goal, while Thompson and Joel Griffiths continued to be dynamite in the front third.

Australian football certainly appears to have something dynamic at its disposal in the shape of James Holland, and watching his development throughout ’08 will make for fascinating viewing.


ON the subject of all things Dutch, what a great job Dutchy van Egmond has done to get to the Jets into the finals yet again.

In my pre-season preview, I left the Jets out of my four, mainly because I felt they didn’t have the quality to replace the likes of Carle, Okon, Coveny and Rodriguez, some spine.

At the time I noted van Egmond was the key to their season, and along with Joel Griffiths, and the central defensive trio of Covic, North and Durante, van Egmond has been excellent, proving he is fast emerging as the best of the local managers.

At this rate, and given Verbeek appears to be in love with the Jets style, who’s to say he won’t one day be a Verbeek offsider, or eventual successor? That would be double-Dutch indeed.

While he erred in signing Steve Laybutt, most of his other work this season has been spot on, including his development of the likes of Tarek Elrich, Adam D’Apuzzo, Troy Hearfield and Jason Hoffman.

There’s no doubt van Egmond has chopped and changed, using more players than most, but that is a reflection of his limited resources.

The off-season purchases from South America, seemingly out of his control, didn’t do him any favours, but Dutchy has still been able to mould a competitive unit, built from the back.

Given the job he has done with the resources at his disposal and the pressure from Con Constantine to play Jardel, the FFA could do a lot worse than reward van Egmond with the manager of the year award.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


like the look of the squad, i am happy Verbeek can pick from the Olyroos, he should have first right to pick them.. i mean thats the whole point of the Olyroos squad anyway.. to be future socceroos.

As for Holland, the kid certainly has talent, still doesnt really come close to what Carle offered.. but he is more like a 'Cahill' type player... this isnt a bad thing at all.. its just i hope we also can produce more Carle type players.

As for the Jets, they certainly toughed it out.. they definetly havent been playing the great football we saw from them last season but its understandable with the way the league is now (more physical in my opinion, referees letting alot go) and the obvious loss of Carle and Rodriguez.

Agreed, the imports they got didnt really help... i didnt think Denni was too bad its just he was physically outclassed alot of the times..... its important for these clubs to get the right sort of players.. of course we can still invest in South American talent... but they should make sure htey get the right person who can handle the physical nature of our league as well as provide that creative spark.

Tue. Jan. 15, 11:38:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous no more dick said...

like the squad too. more importantly, I like Pim's philosophy about picking the right players. Getting really excited about Feb 6 - I actually hope that Pim goes the A-League path as I'd like to see some new talent. We already know what Bresh, Tim, Vinnie et al can do.
Now if only the FFA will support him properly by giving Pim the time with players that he wants (as opposed to what he is allowed to ask for)

Tue. Jan. 15, 02:47:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Scotty said...

First off Tony thanks for this amazing blog. I've only recently discovered it but I must say it is regularly a fantastic read.

I must say I'm pretty happy with the squad and Verbeek's early performance.

...Of the Olyroos to miss out, perhaps the most surprising omissions are Zadkovich and Ward, the former said to have impressed in the hit-out last Tuesday and the latter very impressive in the Victory’s win over Wellington on Friday.

As a Victory fan I'm amazed Ward has missed out. He's been one of the better performed Olyroos during their campaign and much has been made of the Victory's recent and ultimately futile resurgence and he's been as vital a cog as Hernandez. I've been amazed by his first touch and ability to bring others around him into the game. There have been the odd occasion where he's tried to do too much, or for lack of a better term been too 'tricky' with back heels and over ambitious through balls and perhaps those mistakes have cooled Pim on him as he's certainly (and rightly) concerned about being mistakes being punished on the counter attack. It may even be a case of his position being earmarked for some overseas based players (Culina, Valeri, Grella, Carle). I'm not as high on Zadkovich as others but he does seem to play his best football on the international stage.

I've always been of the belief that the majority of the Olyroo team would be walk up starts in an A-League based Roo team but perhaps despite Pim's murmurings to the contrary there is a concern about such a young squad across the entire park. Add to that the likelihood (In my opinion anyway) that the starting XI will contain at least 3 or 4 overseas players and maybe only those likely to press for starting spots have been brought in.

...But it wasn’t just running for the sake of it. It was running combined with wonderful dexterity on the ball and an awareness and feel for the game that just seemed to come naturally. This was a footballer first and foremost.

I too have been wowed by this kid, I must admit to missing his earliest appearances but more and more he impresses me. His game is so versatile for such a young player. I've liked the look of his set pieces too (An area our game is consistently weak in, both in the attacking and defensive sense), the delivery for the first goal against Adelaide 2 weeks ago was superb.

I must say I'm feeling more and more confident about this fixture with the initial squad Pim picked, and those he's trimmed from it. There are good noises coming out the camp, and the suspension of Sebastian Quintana is going to greatly hurt the Qatar side. Its a much brighter picture in just a few short weeks!

Tue. Jan. 15, 05:09:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

All, thanks very much for your interest and comments...I'm constantly amazed by the insight, intelligence and football know-how of the TRBA readership and Scotty, gotta say, welcome aboard, that's gotta be one of the most in-depth comments yet in the almost 2 yrs this blog...

Thanks for mentioning Holland's set pieces. I forgot to mention it this time around, but remember doing so in an earlier piece after being stunned to see him taking them on debut. Another young Jet handy over the set piece is d' for ward, yes, he and Hernandez have really made an impression over the past few weeks, but I did notice he is struggling with an injury, so perhaps that counted against him...

No more dick, thanks again for your comment, but I gotta say, I’d be a little more confident if there were a few of the euro based guys to fill a couple of gaps such as the fullback areas and maybe the holding midfield given that Musialik has been struggling with injury and from...

Ultimately, in a world cup qualifier, esp an important first-up qualifier, it’s not really the greatest place to experiment, so unless Pim is totally convinced a local guy can do the job, he’ll probably plump for what he knows from Europe.

Anonymous, some good points about the jets and their recruitment and style this season. Holland is definitely different from Carle. He is more a driver, rather than a link-man, but he also has the ability on the ball, which makes him well-rounded. He’s no carle, but he’s definitely provided some functionality to NJ’s front third, linking well with the front three. Spot on re the recruitment of players who can handle the physical aspects of the league. Agree about Denni, and I guess that’s why van Egmond has been using him away from the middle of late – sadly, he was getting smashed in there.

Tue. Jan. 15, 09:42:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am impressed with Verbeek

but does anyone else get the feeling at times he is being put into line?

For instance.. with the training camps... its strange that they are so short, surely he would want longer training camps? is he being told that he cannot?

Also his recent comments about the A-league's poor defending (which i happened to agree with) in his latest article(,8659,23057057-23215,00.html) he was all like ""Yeah if it's 5-4, it's not good and if it's 0-0 that's not good also because the strikers were not good so you can always find something to complain about.

"I know we Dutch always complain - I know that, we have a reputation."

I mean thats all well and good, i am happy he gave a classy response, but i particularly liked that he was very straight-forward.. i sincerely hope they aren't trying to gag him or anything...

I could be totally wrong though lol...

Tue. Jan. 15, 10:16:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

The Roar wanted Laybutt (he had played with the strikers) - perhaps a lucky miss.

Tue. Jan. 15, 11:30:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that Milligan doesn't get a run. As far as I'm concerned he is a liability in the backline. How many times has he been at fault for letting the opposition score? (Watch Japan v Aust in Asian Cup and Sydney v Perth in A-league if you want to see). And before anyone goes on about him being the Olympic captain and getting us through to the Olympics you should be thanking the ref for not sending him off here against Iraq when he elbowed their keeper. I doubt we would've won that game or drawn the next to qualify. He has been reading too much of his own press and now thinks he is better than what he actually is.

Wed. Jan. 16, 09:43:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Mike said...

I would also like to echo the sentiments of some of the other comments before me - thanks for the great blog. It hard to find pieces with such insight (and especially on the A-League!).

I am a Jets supporter living in exile (Sydney) and have been very impressed with the achievements of GVE. As for Holland, that has been such a shrewd piece of business in ensuring that he will be sticking around for a while longer.

I would personally like to see some more Africans inducted into the A-League. I believe the general physical strength, combined with the more recently found ball skills and technical aptitude of players coming from the region would suit the A-League very well.

Thanks again for the fantastic read and keep up the good work!

Wed. Jan. 16, 10:49:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Neil said...

I have never understood why in the past we have never picked players from the Olyroos and below to play for the senior team. Only one I can think of is Harry Kewell and I'm not even sure if played in any junior national teams. You don't see Argentina not playing Lionel Messi in the senior squad just because he could be part of their Olympic squad. If they are good enough - play them. And on the Nick Ward issue I think he needs some more game time under his belt - otherwise I think he would be in the squad.
In Pim we trust!

Thu. Jan. 17, 12:49:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous tfo said...

Great analysis again Tony, with some great insights from the posters above.

I'm starting to like Pim as well, and his straight shooting style is most refreshing. His reaction to China's scheduling of their qualifier was almost a "so what deal with it, there's nothing we can do" attitude, and a real contrast to Arnold who undoubtedly would be talking about having to prepare at NASA HQ. Great to see.

He did well with South Korea after limited preparation, as has been described in this blog before.

It would be interesting to see if Holland makes the final squad, but even if he doesn't this is terrific experience at the very least.

I'm feeling a tad more optimistic about our chances now, especially if we were to have Chippers/Carney and Emerton for those vital fullback positions. Neill in central defence would be a real boost as well.

Don't forget that, it's a very tough ask for Qatar. We haven't lost a WC qualifier since 1981, so we're not easy to beat here.

Can they win here? Maybe not.

But can they return home with a draw? Absolutely, and that would be as good as a win in the bigger picture.

Thu. Jan. 17, 03:15:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

I enjoyed the interview with Pim on Total Football the other day, he can certainly handle himself in these sorts of situations (although, let's be honest, in terms of the media, we are not England or Italy).

It's now quite clear that Pim will take a risk with at least a few players from overseas.

When asked about the quality of the A-League, he only talked about the stadia and the crowds - he really didn't have to much to say about the quality of the players.

At the end of the day, I agree with his central point: it's not about whether they are good enough to pull on the gold shirt or not - it's about formulating a team structure and game plan to defeat Qatar - some will fit into that plan - many will not (and we are likely to be surprised by the inclusions and ommissions).

Sat. Jan. 19, 05:44:00 pm AEDT  

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