The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

With the 2011/12 A-League season upon us, let’s take a look at the highlights and low points of what has been an extraordinarily protracted off-season for many clubs.

With the 2011/12 A-League season upon us, let-s take a look at the highlights and low points of what has been an extraordinarily protracted off-season for many clubs, especially those who were not involved in finals football or the ACL - namely, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne Heart and Perth Glory.

These teams have not kicked a ball in anger since mid-February, making this off season the most difficult in Hyundai A-League history to manage and plan.

That incredible eight-month break has certainly seen some of the biggest developments in A-League history; some good, some bad and some just plain ugly.

The Good It-s obvious, but we can-t go past the introduction of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton as a massive and much-needed shot in the arm for the domestic league. Let-s hope that Fred can also re-create his 2006 heroics. The boys are back in town - enough said.

The FFA remembered that the A-League needs some marketing dollars spent on it, and dusted out the advertising plans from previous years. The result has been a fan-based "We Are Football" campaign which bravely takes on the other codes. Finally, the FFA takes the fight to the other codes at domestic level.

The Bad The demise of North Queensland Fury will go down as a dark day in the history of the league, and represents the single biggest failure so far in the eyes of many by the FFA. It expanded into the wrong market, chose the wrong consortium, and then eventually left the club, players and fans in North Queensland high and dry. Poor decision-making and a generally shambolic process.

The loss of several leading players, including last season-s Johnny Warren Medal winner, Marcos Flores, goal machines Kosta Barbarouses and Matt Leckie, as well as Socceroos Matt McKay and Robbie Kruse has robbed the league of some of its brightest talents. This is a double-edged sword - it-s difficult to replace these guys, but great that our better players are being noticed and picked up by overseas clubs.

The Ugly The Culina saga is an unmitigated disaster for the Jets on the eve of the season. The terrible injury to their marquee player itself was bad enough, but was then compounded by the insurance company-s decision not to cover his large salary.

Can things get worse? Sure, you can sack your coach too. Wow. Whilst there may be those who have pointed the finger at Branko, I feel really sorry for Jason who seems to be the forgotten victim in all this.

He-s been a top Socceroo for a long time and took the brave decision to come back to the A-League at a time when he could have stayed in Europe. His reward has been a serious injury and playing his part in his dad-s sacking, inadvertent as it was.

Emotion aside, I think breaking the Culina clique and restoring the quality within the squad could be the catalyst needed to fire up a determined Jets squad. Late turmoil a blessing in disguise for a resilient Jets squad that seem to thrive on adversity.

Death by a thousand cuts in New Zealand. After saving New Zealand football when he came to the rescue of the New Zealand Knights, Terry Serepisos completed a dramatic fall from grace as his business empire crumbled around him, leaving a thread-bare and under-resourced squad to stutter through what must go down as the worst pre-season any club has experienced in the A-League.

Fingers crossed that the recent change in ownership has not come too late for Phoenix to turn things around and make a play for a finals spot. Don-t hold your breath on a Phoenix top 6 finish - recent changes may be too little, too late to save the season.