South Melbourne: ‘We’ve hit rock bottom’
South Melbourne Head Coach Peter Tsolakis reflects on the season so far.
Season 2012 was supposed to be a turning point for Oceania Club of the Century South Melbourne. A redeveloped Lakeside Stadium offering financially viable world class facilities along with impressive signings in the form of 2010 Golden Boot Trent Rixon, 2011 Gold Medal Winner Jason Trifiro, Billy Vojtek Medal winner Glen Trifiro and midfield lynchpin Dimitri Tsiaras.
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The mood around the club was one of anticipation; not since the successful days of the National Soccer League had South Melbourne felt such a buzz. New grounds, new strip, new players, new coach – it was a Premiership in the making and 2012 was going to be a year of celebration and a return to glory.
Fast forward to now, almost half way through the season and the reality paints a very different story. South are languishing in 9th spot; a mere four points away from the relegation zone, while the star recruits have yet to light the league with Rixon in particular only managing to find the net twice so far.
With expectant fans not happy and rival supporters always willing to twist the knife, the pressure is building for players and staff alike. A loss two weeks ago to Northcote City – Head Coach Peter Tsolakis’ club last season – was the final straw for many South fans.
Conceding that the season has not been a success, Tsolakis is trying to put his finger on what is going wrong and what can be done about it.
“It’s been pretty disappointing, we don’t seem to have that many positives; our home form has been bad, we’re not finishing chances, we’ve had our fair share on injuries. We’ve hit rock bottom.
“We’re far behind where we thought we’d be at this stage of the season, we’re not scoring goals and we’re losing against the lesser teams at home.”
Despite often dominating possession and field position, South home matches seem to follow a similar pattern, one which isn’t followed away from home.
“Teams have come to our place and don’t try to play football at all; they just park the bus in front of the 18 yard box and we can’t break them down.
“Whereas away from home teams are more inclined to try and play and that suits us. We have to come up with a Plan B to combat that at home.
“Playing at home is our number one priority and trying to pick up points there. At Lakeside we have our sponsors coming to matches, our home crowd and so far we haven’t lived up to the mark.
“We’re losing by sucker-punch goals against teams like Southern Stars, Melbourne Knights and Northcote, and no disrespect to those clubs but this is unacceptable.
“We’ve all sat down, looked each other in the eye and said we have to pull our finger out and come up with a couple of different strategies, come up with a new formula.”
South Melbourne is one of the biggest clubs in terms of history and culture, and with past success comes expectations from fans; and they expect every South team to live up to the culture of playing well and scoring goals. Standards that South have yet to live up to this season.
Playing under such pressure can take its toll, but no matter the demands it is not an excuse for bad performances according to Tsolakis.
“We have identified playing at home as an issue, and maybe we do feel the pressure playing in front of the expectant supporters, but in their defence they have got every right to complain when the product we’re bringing out isn’t up to the standards of the club.
“We’re at a professional level and if you can’t handle that little bit of pressure then you shouldn’t be playing this sport. We’re not going to use pressure and expectation as an excuse.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as players return from injury – especially in the backline – the team will start to find improved continuity, and history shows that clubs can come from anywhere to win the Victorian Premier League.
“Our away form hasn’t been too bad; we’ve got points off the top three or four away from home and if we can bring that into our home fixtures then we might get some reward.
“Green Gully were exactly where we are at this stage of the season for the past two years, and both times they went on to win the thing. If that’s anything to go by there is scope to move up the table.
“There’s 36 points to be played for, we are going to try and rectify our season, try to pick up some points early on and hopefully the results start to go our way.”
Whatever happens it will be another rollercoaster season for the South Melbourne supporters, and with the prospect of the transfer window opening soon – there is reason for optimism as there could be a chance to pick up a well needed attacking player to take some pressure off of the forwards.
South Melbourne continue their season this weekend with the Traditional Derby against Heidelberg United this Sunday at Lakeside Stadium, kick-off at 5pm.