South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

South vs. Knights – Preview

South vs. Knights – Preview

Thursday, 29 January 2004 12:00 AM

By Michael Tsoukalis

The Melbourne derby is always an emotional and passionate affair; this season’s incarnation however has special significance. With the Knights announcing their intentions to continue in the Victorian Premier League, this encounter potentially looms as the final derby between the two powerhouses of Victorian football in top flight domestic competition.

Form wise both sides offer an immense contrast. South are near the league’s pinnacle, whereas the Ian Dobson coached Knights are languishing near the bottom. Severe financial constraints have seen the Knight’s opt for a stringent youth policy which has seen promising future talents such as Bill Natsioulas, Isyan Erdogan, Steve Pantelidis, Adrian Leijer and Serkan Oksuz emerge.

The experience of the Vargas brothers Andy and Rodrigo adds much needed stability to the Knight’s line-up with seasoned veteran Andrew Marth providing some steel in the middle of the park. Ultimately however, the lack of quality experienced players and a proven goal-scorer – Anthony Pelikan has the best return with 5 goals (at the time of print) – has seen the Knights struggle for consistency and results.

Struggles aside the Knights have shown that on their day they can emerge with a solid result, their round 14 away 0-1 victory against Marconi showed that the Sunshine outfit does possess enough talent and competitiveness to grind out decent results, however, whether or not such a combination of luck and cohesion can be achieved in front of a packed and parochial Bob Jane Stadium remains to be seen.

Conversely South’s squad is almost perfectly balanced with experience and promising talent, Coach Munro has an abundance of options to choose from with nearly every player in the squad having made a decent contribution to South’s plight so far this season. Munro has throughout the season continued to experiment with line-up changes with the most competition occurring in the centre of the park where the Lakeside outfit is particularly blessed with a plethora of quality options. Kristian Sarkies, Massimo Murdocca, Vince Lia, Michael Panopoulos, Con Boutsianis and Marcus Stergiopoulos have all distinguished themselves at various moments during the season and are all considered crucial players to Albert Park based club, hence, finding the right mix in the South engine-room will be crucial not only for the Knight’s game but for also the run in to the finals.

Selection headaches aside, the significance of the day cannot be forgotten, a rivalry which has lasted for decades in the spotlight of the local game will perhaps be coming to an end. Emotions will be high for both sets of supporters with the only genuine winner being football as a passionate atmosphere rarely seen in the local game is bound to evolve. Hopefully the enormity of the occasion will rub off on the competing players who with a touch of luck will be able to give us an encounter to match the spectacle and prestige of the occasion.

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