Seven years have gone since the inception of the Hyundai A-League, but what lessons have been learned and how has the game grown?
The concept of life being divided into seven-year cycles goes back to Ancient Greece and the teaching of Hippocrates.
I won-t bore you with the details but the general theory is that the first seven years are the most formative and what is learnt in those years will resonate longest through the lifecycle.
While it-s a bit of an esoteric stretch to liken the birth and development of the Hyundai A-League to human growth cycles, Perth-s trip to Brisbane this weekend will bring the seventh year of the Hyundai A-League to a close.
How formative have those years been? How much independence has been gained and how much has been learned?
The news from head office is that the seventh season has been a success – crowd numbers were up, there was an increase in TV viewing figures, and the announcement of a long-awaited foray into western Sydney, the icing on the cake.
Success though is relative, and not all clubs will look back on 2011/2012 with the same slightly rose-tinted gaze.
For Brisbane and Perth the final chapter is yet to be written, and if Perth can snatch the trophy from “the best club in the League” it will be a moment for the history books. Their redevelopment as a club in the past seven years will truly have come full circle.
Ange Postecoglou, though, has no plans to relinquish the trophy. It-s not quite seven years since he was publicly lambasted on national television for the failure of the youth teams in his charge. And whether the attack was warranted or not is not the point here.
There is no question about the spectacular reincarnation Postecoglou has effected in the interim years. His growth as both coach and man-manager now sees him with his pick of the vacant positions.
With the Phoenix rising from the flames of the New Zealand Knights, Ricki Herbert has also come a long way and continues to keep Wellington (and the All-Whites) punching above their weight. His job at the Nix is secure, unless it-s Herbert himself who decides he needs a new challenge?
If the whispers are to be believed, then Graham Arnold also has plenty of offers on the table. He too has had a long journey in the last seven years, which began with the high of Hiddink and World Cup finals qualification, closely followed by the disappointing Asian Cup campaign of 2007.
Arnold is a tough operator, though; he continues to evolve as a coach and his work to take the Mariners from eighth in 2009/2010 to the Premiers’ Plate this year while battling multiple off-field issues was nothing short of miraculous.
So for four clubs at least, season seven has brought joy.
It-s unlikely though that the small but loyal band of Gold Coast United supporters will recall this season with much, if any fondness, though they can be proud of the way Mike Mulvey and the team completed their matches in such a professional manner.
Newcastle Jets, in turn, probably care little for the cumulative crowd figures on the spread-sheets at Whitlam Square. The figure looming largest for these lads is their salary amount and how long they can expect it to keep appearing in their bank accounts.
Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory who started the season with such hoopla, have ended it rueing missed opportunities and remain in limbo, as the powers that be decide on a direction for the future.
The Sky Blues farewelled the genial Viteslav Lavicka last week, with many players yet to be re-signed and his replacement still TBA. While further south, Harry headed “home” to England, saying he would “like” to return to the Victory. Reading between the lines one suspects he, like all of us, is waiting to see who picks up the top job at the Victory.
The Red side of Melbourne are also without a boss, though after finishing in the top six, the season itself won-t have the bitter aftertaste experienced by their cross-town rivals. For the Heart too, though, a signature to replace Van -t Schip-s cannot come soon enough in their preparations for the future.
As for the Reds across the border, it-s a case of “what A-League season?”
Kossie-s men have their collective gaze on the AFC Champions League and with their requisite coaching rotation completed early on, they can settle into some sort of stability and repeat their earlier success at this level.
Making mistakes is part of development and goodness knows there have been plenty of them across the board. Growing up can be a painful process and what matters now is how the experience gained, is used for the future.
If these philosophers are to be believed, though, then things bode well for Western Sydney.
If the first phase is for laying a foundation, then the second seven-year phase of development is the supposed time of……. you guessed it…expansion!