Friday, 20 November 2009 12:07 PM
By Paul Mavroudis
I can’t remember when it starts. Probably for me, it begins after the referee blows his whistle signaling the end of our season. Recriminations of another year gone by and the ultimate prize not gained, and at the very least another 12 months away. The farewelling of terrace friends you won’t see for another six months. The acknowledgment that some players I supported this year won’t be there next. But during the pre-season there is also hope. There is always hope. Hindsight is deployed as some sort of reliable predictor of the future. But if there is one thing Australian soccer fans should know, it’s that the script goes its own way.
But after two seasons of failure, there was a buzz about the place this year, on and off the field. We were promised improvements on the park, and unprecedented events off it. And the pre-season showed that perhaps there was something to that felling. Coveny was back and the coaches had more control over their choice of personnel. We won the Hellenic Cup, broke our run of outs against Heidelberg, and celebrated in style under the marquee for the season launch on the same day. Things were looking up.
And then we were quickly brought back down to reality. Losing the first two games, and looking flat as a tack. Surely not another season of this, spending a large portion of my weekends traveling around Melbourne, where nearly every game seems to be beset by howling winds and glum faces? But the destruction of Preston in round three restores some faith, and the stylish play to win the week after that against the Knights turns that outlook on its head, too. And before you know it, we’re away, ten games unbeaten, and instead of sacking coaches, firing players and digging into the transfer market, the conversations have turned to double chances and minor premierships.
And then that confidence, too, is dashed, as the South machine starts running only in fits and starts, the consistency of the first half of the season giving way to something rather too familiar in recent times; missed chances, soft goals conceded, and instead of storming into the finals, we fell over the line; a moment of guile and guilelessness saw to that. It may have given hope to some – the finals being a whole new ball game and all that. But that line of thinking was pretty much destroyed within the first minute of our first finals game in three years. And so we go back to the frustration again.
Players become frustrated because, for as long as their minds and bodies are able to get them on the field, they have some degree of control over the outcome; fans become frustrated because they have none. Sure, we can chant, cheer and abuse the opposition players as well as our own, but in most cases it is not what will decide the outcome. I don’t believe any player goes out there deliberately to lose. As fans we tend to forget that there is an opposing team, as well as how difficult it is to score in this game. It’s not just the players that are fallible. Still, we keep falling into the trap of high expectations – every club and supporter does it, but perhaps we are more prone to it – the South Melbourne clan has been defined by its obsessive desire for glory since day one, and that hasn’t changed.
So to sum up: two different heritage shirts, controversial goals for and against, one remarkable comeback, celebrating Horsey’s 100th goal in the Blue and White, Nando’s and Rama’s 100th games, the occasional belting of an old foe, remembering all that we’ve come and seen in style and locking away our future for the next forty years. Never a dull moment at South. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.