Monday, October 22, 2007

Aloisi and Elrich join the party, but Milicevic causes a scene

It's perhaps a compliment to the A-League that when, over the past couple of weeks, news of the imminent arrivals of Socceroos big guns John Aloisi and Ahmad Elrich filtered through, there was some noticeable shrugging of the shoulders.

It wasn't of the 'who cares?' variety because plenty of people do, especially at Aloisi's new home on the Central Coast of New South Wales where the current league-leading Mariners can't seem to put a foot wrong despite numerous obstacles.

And it certainly wasn't in any way a reaction to the pair's perceived impact on a competition just two-and-a-bit years old after their respective times in European domestic football.

After all Elrich scored a wonderful long range strike on his full debut for Wellington Phoenix against the Mariners over the weekend.

The unenthusiastic responses are more likely attributable to Australia's recent desensitising to these latest Socceroos upping sticks and relocating back to the lucky country.

Coming on the back of the pre-season signings of former captain Craig Moore, Tony Popovic, Danny Tiatto, Paul Agostino, Hayden Foxe and Ljubo Milicevic, Aloisi and Elrich are in many ways just another two names.

Big names, certainly - especially that of Aloisi whose good fortune in scoring the penalty which sent the Socceroos into the 2006 World Cup at Uruguay's expense has burned his moniker into the memories of every Australian sports nut.

But just further vindication of the direction of Australian football under the auspices of the FFA and the A-League.

It can be debated whether any underlying complacency about the immediate future of the game should be allowed to creep back into the country's psyche.

In the current spirit of its recent strides, the facts can be easy to forget but should quickly be qualified.

Elrich was the ninth and Aloisi the 10th member of Australia's 2005 Confederations Cup squad to strike terms with an A-League club with former national team coach Frank Farina also finding a home at Queensland Roar.

When the Aussie league kicked off later that same year, not one of the country's band of downtrodden fans, journalists or football enthusiasts would have predicted that within a couple of seasons close to half the nation's first choice squad would be, if you like, working from home.

Elrich, although just 26, cut short his three-year contract in England with Fulham to pen a year-long marquee deal with Wellington after falling down the pecking order at Craven Cottage.

While for the 31-year-old Aloisi, the only Australian in history to have competed in the English Premier League, the Serie A in Italy and Spain’s La Liga, his repatriation also represents a permanent move.

"I have made my intentions clear that I have wanted to return to Australia and contribute to the A-League and I am delighted to be able to be a part of the league and look forward to getting on the pitch," he said on his arrival.

"Since the A-League began it’s been an attractive option to play in and I felt now was the right time to return as I am still intending to play for a number of years."

Unfortunately those sentiments don't appear to be shared by Melbourne's Milicevic with his chances of staying at his hometown club decreasing by the day.

A week ago, he and Archie Thompson were suspended indefinitely for missing a team breakfast but while Thompson was given an opportunity to front for the club's leadership group and apologise, Milicevic was not.

The imposing 26-year-old central defender was axed from the Victory squad to meet Perth Glory over the weekend with all indications he will be farmed back out to a European club in the New Year.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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