Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Archie Shows His Class

While the consensus is that the A-League has powered off to a fast start, for Melbourne Victory's headline-grabber Archie Thompson it's been full throttle. Marc Fox reports on the man with the Midas touch.

For anyone reading this outside Australia, hands up if you've heard of Archie Thompson.

If he's not already a household name outside Australian shores, the prolific Melbourne Victory striker - a centre forward in every sense of the expression - surely soon will be. Thompson has run into such a rich vein of form that, whisper it, he has even knocked pinup boy Dwight Yorke from the mantel of A-League's most wanted. He is the archetypal homegrown Aussie face of the new competition.

Why all the fuss? For starters, Thompson has failed to find the back of the net just twice this season for both club and country. He leads the domestic scoring charts with six goals from seven Melbourne Victory appearances with nine rounds of the inaugural campaign completed. The two rounds in which Thompson, who turned 27 last Sunday, didn’t feature for his club, he was representing the Socceroos in first the World Cup qualifying double-header against the Solomon Islands and then this month's friendly with Jamaica.

But that didn’t stop him. Thompson, who was a second-half substitute in the first match of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink's reign but went on to start the subsequent two - scored in every one. Not bad going for the player Frank Farina used only fleetingly during June's overwhelmingly disappointing Confederations Cup in Germany. It all adds up to nine goals in as many starts and that's with Victory captain Kevin Muscat taking all the penalties (current tally: 3).

It was probably Thompson's double strike against pre-season favourites Sydney FC which catapulted him clear of the bevy of other star players currently on show. The manner of the first of those goals, which helped Melbourne rout Sydney 5-0 to register four wins on the bounce, also added to the Archie Thompson hype. Receiving the ball surrounded by defenders in the penalty area, the striker bamboozled his helpless opponents with two drag-backs scoring blasting past fringe Socceroo 'keeper Clint Bolton. That moment in addition to a five-star performance when Australia had tackled the Jamaicans in London the week before, sent the local media into a frenzy.

The only downside to all Thompson's panache, perhaps, is the constant speculation and rumour-mongering linking Melbourne Victory's first-ever signing with a move back to Europe when January's transfer window opens. Few doubt he is up to task of playing with a club in Europe's higher echelons, but the 27-year-old has developed the kind of cult status in Melbourne unlikely to be replicated overseas. What's more, his wife Emmy and young family are just re-establishing their roots in the Thompsons' hometown.

Archie insists he has no regrets about moving back but with a starring role in the forthcoming World Cup decider with Uruguay beckoning, European clubs with significant financial clout might just start to force the Victory's hand.

"I did question my move back but I'm definitely not questioning my move again," Thompson told the club website after the hammering of Sydney. "It’s been a great couple of months. The support has been unbelievable. Everything has fallen into place and it’s good to be part of something so special.”

Hyundai A-League Round Nine Summary

Adelaide United (17 points) are still leading the league despite losing top spot for one round to Melbourne (15 points in third). Sydney FC is sandwiched between the pair on 16 with Newcastle Jets making up the top four one point adrift. The New Zealand Knights (3 points) continue to prop up the others having not managed a win since round three.

Australian A-League Football News & Reports

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