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Beyond the spin, Emmo & Harry are a good tonic

by Sebastian Hassett on Aug 26, 2011

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Here’s a question to ponder: who would you rather have in your team, Harry Kewell or Brett Emerton? It's a question some might have wondered about in the past few years, and now a heck of a lot will be thinking about. It could be a title-defining conundrum.

This season we'll get to see them go head-to-head for the first time since 2008, when Kewell was last spotted at Anfield and Emerton was forging ahead with a stay at Ewood Park that began in 2003 and continued right until the present day.

Video - Emerton talks his reasons for coming home

It's brilliant for the league that two of Australia's biggest names have decided to return. This can't be underestimated, and seeing Emerton's signing completed so swiftly brings real enthusiasm that the Sky Blues mean business this year.

The softly-spoken right-midfielder has a long-held desire to return to Australia; he still owns a residency full-time in the city's western suburbs that he likes to frequent as much as possible. His decision to return, despite still being good enough to play in the English Premier League, is great news for Sydney FC.

But will he be able to generate the same excitement as Harry Kewell for what - depending on all those percentages hammered out by Bernie Mandic - might be a similar outlay?

It's unlikely. Emerton is one of the greatest players to have ever pullled on a boot for Australia; it's just that Harry is, in my mind, probably the greatest. Kewell could not walk from one end of his nearest Westfield to the other without being mobbed. Emerton could. One has mainstream cuthrough; the other almost does. He is not part of the holy trinity: Kewell, Neill and Cahill, with Mark Schwarzer arguably stretching it out to four. Every Australian sports fan knows their stories inside out.

Really, one could argue Kewell and Emerton should have signed for opposite clubs. Kewell would have provided the excitement and profile that Sydney FC desperately lacks while Emerton - who I believe probably has more to offer from a purely football perspective due to his excellent physical condition - could have offered genuine width to a Melbourne side who have already punted on Marco Rojas and Isaka Cernak in an effort to end their wingless woes.

Emerton will blitz at this level, because the game is suited to him. He won't be judged on goals, just performance. And he is a perfectionist with plenty left to give, so you can expect him to immediately be in the league's top three.

Kewell will be judged on goals and assists as much as anything else. He needs to contribute to at least 15 goals if he wants to silence any critics. He shouldn't be aiming for anything less, especially when he's coming back from clubs where two matches per week are the norm. He claims he's in great shape - now is his chance to display this in the less physically-demanding A-League.

Regardles of who you support, it's great to have both back. Let's hope they can re-energise a competition that has plateaued in recent seasons and desperately needs a kick in the right direction.

For what it's worth, I hope Emerton wins the Johnny Warren Medal and Kewell wins the Golden Boot. That would keep everyone happy.