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Time for Sydney to find its soul

by Sebastian Hassett on Jul 22, 2011

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And so as A-League clubs return to training, our focus is slowly turning back to the domestic competition. It’s been such a long off-season already, made all the more dreary by the thought of another two-and-a-half months of pre-season.

My thoughts have recently turned back to Sydney FC and where this club now stands. As ever, the Sky Blues remain a constant source of conversation among football fans in this country even if their mainstream appeal has dried up under the stewardship of Vitezslav Lavicka.

How did Sydney become so boring? It’s a sad and sorry tale, and one which has reflected the malaise of the A-League in recent times.

I’ve written about this before but I must make the point again. Until it sticks. Until something is done. Sydney FC cannot afford to be so bland when it has a stated aim to stand out.

I’ve long-maintained that Sydney is the A-League’s most important club. That’s not because I live here, or because it’s my job to cover them. It’s just the truth. A strong A-League needs a strong team from its biggest city.

Like the place it represents, Sydney FC will be in and out of fashion. The challenge is to be in fashion more than out of it. To do so, you must be exciting. Sydney used to have a monopoly on glamour in the A-League but all that’s left is the whiff of Dwight Yorke’s Armani suits.

The Sky Blues are the A-League’s best barometer. When the league is up, Sydney FC is up. When the league is down, so to, inevitably, are Sydney FC. Rarely does one seem to succeed without the other.

To succeed you need the right structure off the field and on it. Is David Traktovenko doing a good job as owner? That’s debatable on many levels. He might have a vision that claims to make Sydney great, but has he really followed through on this? The championship in 2009-10 already seems like another lifetime ago.

All Traktovenko has done is sign Nicky Carle, reluctantly, as his Australian marquee. Crowds have plummeted since he took charge, and there’s a dreadful feeling among the Sky Blues’ rank and file that each time they arrive at the SFS, they’re simply going through the motions.

The Sydney fans still hold Lavicka in high regard for taking the team to the title but most accept that he has fallen behind the competition. His rudimentary tactics and unwillingness to experiment frustrated the hell out of the fan base last season.

Equally galling was his inability to develop talent. Name more than a few Sydney players in their current squad that have improved under his reign. It’s a serious question.

He is under huge pressure to keep his job, and rightfully so. The playing group will not admit to it publicly but privately they wonder if they are being led by the right man.

Equally problematic are the decisions in the transfer market. Karol Kisel and Michael Beauchamp are good signings, but do not represent the long-term future of the club. Sydney fans must be confused at the sight of Dario Vidosic heading to Adelaide and potential-laden players like Isaka Cernak, Jean Carlos Solorzano, Marco Rojas and David Williams now calling Victoria home.

With a full pre-season, Williams could be a real X-factor for the Heart. He didn’t shine for Sydney during the Asian Champions League but he was battling injury all through it. Why he didn’t sign permanently is a mystery.

Sydney will lift this season if their run with injury improves but it won’t be enough to see them make a run at the title. And it almost certainly won’t be enough for Lavicka to save his job.

Radical improvement needs to come but the real question is this: from where will they find the inspiration?