Photos (Top to Bottom): Former Socceroo Eddie Krncevic has lost none of his skills; South Melbourne coach Eddie Krncevic waiting for his players to warm up; Krncevic talks to an assistant; South Hobart coach Ken Morton (left) with South Melbourne Director of Football Ange Dallas and coach Eddie Krncevic; Eddie Krncevic can still strike a ball with accuracy; Krncevic and one of his coaches talking to the South Melbourne squad; A little juggling does not go astray; Krncevic watches the warm-up; Krncevic talks to Dallas as the players limber up at Cornelian Bay; Krncevic and Tasmania United Taskforce member Martyn Wells (they did some radio work together in the old NSL days, and Krncevic is a big supporter of a Tasmanian team in the A-League [PlessPix]
South Melbourne Hellas held a light training session at Cornelian Bay this afternoon after their scheduled squad game against South Hobart, at South Hobart, was cancelled because of the wet ground.
I took the opportunity to have a chat with South Melbourne’s coach, Eddie Krncevic.
Krncevic, 50, was born in Geelong of Croatian parents. He played professionally in Croatia, Germany and Belgium and represented the Socceroos 35 times, scoring 17 goals for his country.
Walter Pless: It’s been a while since you were last in Tasmania and the weather is, unfortunately, a little bleak, but what are your initial observations?
Eddie Krncevic: I think it might have been bleak when I was here 35 years ago, but it’s certainly very peaceful and tranquil. We saw a couple of grounds today. We saw South Hobart’s ground and I was very impressed. It looked like someone had been on the ground painting it green. The colour is magnificent and the facilities are great. We’re looking forward to it.
The weather is not really a concern to us. It’s actually good football weather. I think if you ask any footballer, they’d rather play in weather that’s 18 or 19 degrees rather than 35 or 40 degrees, which we can get in Melbourne at times.
We’re excited about being here. It’s good for the bonding, as well. We’re a part-time club and four days away with the team is good for bonding.
WP: Are you disappointed that tonight’s game was called off?
EK: Yes, we are. But, having said that, I’m also not disappointed in one way because it gives a couple of the boys who are carrying niggling injuries time to recover. Another 24 hours.
We were prepared to play tonight, but we’ll have a training session and a light session tomorrow morning and tomorrow night we play Olympia.
WP: Will you be training on Saturday?
EK: Yes, we will. We’ll have a light session on Saturday and prepare for Sunday’s game.
WP: Tell me about these youngsters training here now.
EK: We’ve got seven under-21 players, which means five of them are 18 and one is 19, and we’ve got one 16-year-old, Nick Jacobs. He comes from an AFL background. His brother has just been picked up by Port Adelaide in the draft, but he [Nick] has decided to play the real game and, at 16, he’s got quite a good future. He’s quick and mobile, but still a bit raw. He’s going to be an exciting player.
Then you’ve got some good senior players there and you’ve got my son there, Jesse. He knows he’s got to play well or he won’t get fed at home when he comes back.
All in all, we’ve got a team that likes to play football. Technically, it’s quite gifted.
But, it’s pre-season for us. We’re tuning up and we’ve been going since November. The only down side is we haven’t had our full squad. We’ve had a lot of young players. Some of the senior players are injured. We had Ramazan Tavsancioglu in Queensland, and Joe Keenan in Adelaide, who’s fractured his foot, so he’ll be out for five months, and we’re missing two other senior players - a boy by the name of Yannis Galanos from Heidelberg - he was the runner-up in the player-of-the-year last year - and Gianni De Nittis, who has been with the club for five years as a striker. Yannis will be out for about six or seven weeks and Gianni will be back by the end of the month.
On Saturday morning we have Fernando de Moreas, Danny Vasilevski and Rhodri Payne, three senior squad members, arriving. Due to work, they couldn’t be here earlier. On Sunday, we’ll have our full squad.
WP: Have you been watching the Socceroos at the Asian Cup?
EK: I’m sad to say, no, I haven’t. I didn’t watch the India game, but I wasn’t surprised [by the result]. It’s like India playing Brazil at cricket. I’d heard they were in camp for six months. But, it’s good that they won and I hope they do well against Korea.
There’s a lot of experience in our team. The one thing that’s concerning for me is, is the Asian Cup really that important? Why aren’t we blooding our young players like so many other countries are doing? Your Olympic squad, for example, is the next team that’s going to come up for the World Cup. They’re the ones who should be playing. Don’t worry about the result so much. What’s it worth? A couple of million dollars? We’re not going to have a Harry Kewell at the next World Cup, for argument’s sake. You’re not going to have a Mark Schwarzer, and you’re possibly not going to have Timmy Cahill or Culina. They’re not going to be there. So, where do we get our next crop from? That’s of concern to me. For someone who loves the game dearly, that’s my major concern. We saw it in the last World Cup, where it was a very ageing team, and we’re looking for answers. They weren’t really there.
WP: What do you think of the A-League?
EK: I think it’s progressed. It’s been going for five years. Like anything, it’s taken its time. I think it can only get better, quality wise. I think, initially, at the beginning, it was a bit sluggish because I think they had a lot of ex-National League players who were playing. But, slowly, I think there’s some good young players coming through. I think it’s something for the youngsters to strive for as a goal before possibly going overseas. If they play well, get into an A-League club somewhere, and then head overseas. Maybe that’s a good process.
But, I’m waiting to see if Tasmania gets a gig because I think it’s probably better than going up to north Queensland, and it would be an area the FFA should really look at. I’m sure if it’s an attractive team, with maybe a really good marquee player, you’d be able to attract anywhere between 8,000 and 12,000 people.
WP: In Europe, there’s a tradition of so-called sports clubs. For example, Real Madrid and Barcelona are not just football clubs. They have basketball teams, volleyball teams and other sports, all under the one club umbrella. That was tried in Australia with Carlton and you were intimately involved in that. What went wrong, and is there a place for such sports clubs in Australia?
EK: There is. What went wrong with Carlton was that we were too advanced for that time. And, it showed. We had an amazing result after just one year. We had a full-time club and the players we produced in that short period of time, Vince Grella, Bresciano, Simon Colosimo, then Archie Thompson, and a few down the line, but it was remarkable because the set-up was right, but, we were associated with an AFL club who didn’t understand the culture of the game and so they didn’t understand the long-term process, on the Grellas and the Brescianos going and getting the finances and so on. It would have been a good wheel to be on, but it was a completely different code.
I feel there is room for it. Why not? Have a basketball team. Basketball is a popular sport in Australia. As a sporting nation, I think we’re one of the best nations in the world but, somehow, we need to get that concept right. I feel, why not? Ideal. Let’s say Hobart, Tasmania, for example. Why couldn’t you have a multi sports club, the basketball, netball, volleyball. You could have a club like that. Real Madrid, Dinamo Zagreb have that sort of thing. I think it’s a great idea, so why not? Maybe. Whether they could do it here in Australia, where it’s more Anglo-Saxon, I don’t know.