Cornthwaite’s Corner: Season Preview

Well, it’s that time of year, Reds fans. Football season is finally back, and there’s plenty to look forward to too, most notably the season opener against the Mariners this Friday night at Coopers Stadium.

It feels like a lot, but also not much has changed during the off-season. At the end of every year, no matter how it ends, thoughts immediately turn to how the squad can get better and how many new players we can bring in. It’s safe to say that while there is little movement in terms of bodies in and out, it feels like there’s been a big shift since the departure of club captain Craig Goodwin.

I’ve spoken about that move at length in the past, so I don’t feel there’s a need to go into it again other than to say there’s a huge opportunity for someone to make a name for themselves this season.

We heard at length and saw at times how the next crop of young players is the future of this team, but who is actually going to go out there and take their opportunity and say to Carl Veart, “Hey, I’m your man, and I’m here to take what’s mine?”

There are a heap of guys I’m excited to watch, like Irankunda, Yull, Jovanovic, Bernardo, Madanha, Popovic, and the list goes on, but who is going to make it impossible for Carl to leave them out of the starting lineup?

It’s easy to see that that’s where the greatest upside and probably improvement will come from this season, but there’s more than one senior player who was well below their best last season.

I spoke about it on the podcast “The Round Table.” – If you haven’t checked it out, please do – but Ben Halloran is the one player who I think is capable of reaching great heights again this year. From what I’ve heard, he’s taken this pre-season very seriously and is looking super fit and ready.

Obviously, Hiroshi Ibusuki couldn’t get his body right last season and was in and out of the starting lineup, particularly in the back half of the campaign. I was with him at the club’s recent fan day, and he said he’s feeling really good, so hopefully we can see the Japanese big man back banging in the headers.

Pre-season form

While the Australia Cup run came to an abrupt end at the hands of Western Sydney, the rest of the results in the lead-up to the season have been quite positive. Back-to-back 1-nil wins against Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney were followed up with a nil-all draw against Western United last week in the final pre-season game. 

While these games can mean little, three clean sheets in a row show the side must have at least done something right in the short term. I was at the Western game, and although they rode their luck at times, there was a desperation that hasn’t always been there in the past. This absolutely must continue if Adelaide United are to be in the top half of the table this season.

Joe Gauci spoke about celebrating goal line clearances like goals, and that want and will is important in being successful at the back. You hear it all the time, but you have to want to defend to be a good defence. Do I think Adelaide will have the best defence in the league, probably not, but they have to be better than they’ve been in the past.

Hard to predict

The one word that comes to mind when I think about this season is “unsure.” I’m unsure where I think this team will go. It’s easy to think they’ll drop off from where they’ve been the last few years, but I’ve thought that before, and you only need to look back to last season to think about the fact not a soul tipped Central Coast to win the title. It won’t always be smooth sailing this year, but Carl Veart is a competitor and will be aiming for the top. His team has never been boring to watch, and I expect a lot of exciting attacking football again this season.

There’s no better place to be in the A-League than Coopers Stadium on a balmy summer night with the Reds in full flight. It’s been the envy of every other team and fan base since the league began. I’ll see you there in 2023/24.

I also just want to say how good it was to see the Liberty A-League kick off last weekend, and let’s not forget that this Friday night is a double header with the women taking on the Central Coast before the A-League season opener.

What a match it was on Sunday, with Emilia Murray’s stoppage time equaliser securing a 4-4 draw against Canberra United. It’s crazy to think Adrian Stenta’s team could barely find the back of the net last campaign, so there were some great signs in the attacking third. Of course, the team will feel they gifted Canberra a few cheap ones, but with all the cobwebs out, get behind the women on Friday evening as they look to secure their first win of the season.

The wait is over. Football is back. Let’s go!

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