2016/17 Review: A-League

With many leagues across the world heading to their nail biting conclusions, Australia’s A-League is already done and dusted. Last Sunday saw Sydney FC defeat Melbourne Victory on penalties in the grand final to be crowned champions.

Let’s take a look at the English involvement down under this season. Stats below include league and playoff appearances only.

Joseph Mills

Joseph Mills. 27. Defender. Perth Glory. Appearances: 22. Goals: 1
Upon arriving down under, Joseph Mills called his move to A-League club Perth Glory an “opportunity he couldn’t turn down”.  Despite being only 27-years-old, the left back has been round the block in English football, having played for seven different clubs back at home. His move to Perth came following two seasons with Oldham Athletic in League One.

A product of the famed Southampton academy, Mills’ move to the Glory saw him team up with compatriot Kenny Lowe, who has managed the club since 2013. The 55-year-old had a lengthy playing career back in his homeland featuring for the likes of Barnet, Birmingham and Gateshead before spending four years as Barnet’s manager between 1999 and 2003.

Overall, the past season for Mills can be considered solid, if not groundbreaking. The Glory made the playoffs again, or the Finals Series as the Aussies refer to it as, and even went one stage further than last season, this time losing in the semi-finals to eventual winners Sydney 3-0. However he didn’t play in either of the club’s two playoff matches.

Mills himself played in 22 of the club’s 27 league games, starting 19. He also scored what was just his fourth senior league goal, albeit in a 4-1 loss away to Sydney.

In fact, Sydney were a consistent thorn in Mills’ and Perth’s side, as they also knocked the Glory out of the FFA Cup, beating them 2-0 after extra time, a game in which the former Reading defender played the full two hours.

The 27-year-old still has a year left on his contract with Perth so could be set for another season down under.

Wayne Brown

Wayne Brown. 28. Midfielder. Newcastle Jets. Appearances: 22. Goals: 2
Wayne Brown’s career path could not be more varied if he tried. After three seasons in Finland, the former Fulham youngster switched the brisk Scandinavian weather for Australia’s golden sands when he agreed to sign for Newcastle Jets.

The Jets have a history of recruiting Englishmen. Michael Bridges, Francis Jeffers and Emile Heskey have all worn the blue and red of Newcastle but unlike those who came before him, Brown was not coming towards the end of his career when he put pen to the Jets’ paper.

The midfielder’s move to the Jets came off the back of a very successful spell with SJK in Finland. In his first season with the club, his side finished as runners-up in the Veikkausliiga, the Finnish top flight. In his second season, they went one further, lifting the title. His time in Finland also saw him experience playing time in the Europa League.

It is therefore no wonder that his move to the Jets was considered a coup for one of the A-League’s perennial under performers.

Brown’s impact at his new side was immediate as he scored on both his cup and league debuts for the Jets.

However, despite becoming an integral part of the Newcastle side, Brown’s performances could not prevent his side from missing out on the playoffs again as the Jets finished bottom.

In total, he made 22 league appearances scoring twice and although the Jets under performed once again, Brown was sufficiently impressed with his time in Oz to extend his contract, adding one more year to the initial two year deal he signed.

Jamie Young (right)

Jamie Young. 31. Goalkeeper. Brisbane Roar. Appearances: 6. Clean sheets: 2
Here’s a tricky one, does Jamie Young count as an Englishman abroad? He’s represented England at various youth levels. He played in England for ten years. But he spent the first 17 years of his life in Australia and was born in Brisbane. For the purposes of simply extending this post, he counts as English.

After growing up in Australia, Young made the move to England in 2002 to join Reading. During his time with the Royals, Young appeared for England at U18, U19 and U20 level, for whom he competed in the 2005 Toulon Tournament alongside the likes of Steven Taylor, James Milner and future Englishman abroad, Bradley Wright-Phillips.

I’m not entirely sure how Young was eligible to play for England at youth level just a few years after his move to Reading but the fact that he was definitely makes him more English…

Young in England colours during the 2005 Toulon Tournament.

Anyway, after just one first team appearance in four years at the Madejski Stadium, the goalkeeper moved to Wycombe and then on to Aldershot, where he made 140 appearances in all competitions during his four seasons with the club.

Short stints in Conference South with Basingstoke, Whitehawk and Hayes & Yeading followed before Young returned down under in 2014 to play for his hometown club Brisbane Roar.

Young has now spent three seasons with the Roar and has made the playoffs in all three seasons but this year saw his opportunities severely limited. He made just four regular season appearances as his side finished third in the A-League table.

The 31-year-old however, did play in both of the Roar’s playoff games, including the first round win over Western Sydney Wanderers when he came on as as a substitute in the ninth minute of extra time. Following his introduction, Young was then pivotal to Brisbane’s victory, as he saved a crucial spot kick to secure a penalty shootout victory over the Wanderers.

The former Aldershot goalkeeper was also in net as his side lost 1-0 in the playoff semi-finals against Melbourne Victory.

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2015 Review: #4 Wayne Brown

4 - Brown

Heading into his third consecutive in Finnish top tier football, Wayne Brown was looking to go one further than his 2014 achievements and win the Veikkausliiga.

Last year saw him do exactly that.

Champions

Partway through the 2014 season, former Fulham midfielder Brown swapped relegation-battling with TPS for title-challenging with SJK and although he could not quite inspire his side to the title in 2014, last year, his side went one step further.

SJK won the Veikkausliiga title by just a single title, securing their first ever top division title just two years after winning the second division, the Ykkönen.

The victory also broke HJK Helsinki’s reign of dominance over Finnish football, as SJK became the first side other than HJK to win the title since 2008.

27-year-old Brown was a large part of SJK’s historic success. He played in 25 off his side’s 33 league games and chipped in with a couple of goals as well as four assists.

His solid displays in midfield provided an excellent platform for his side’s more attacking forces to burst forward.


Wayne Brown scoring against his future team-mates at SJK during the 2014 season with former side TPS.


Return to Scandinavia 

When Brown joined TPS on a permanent deal in 2013 after four seasons with Bristol Rovers, he was no stranger to Finnish football.

In 2009, Brown joined TPS on loan from Fulham whose manager at the time was Roy Hodgson. His contacts in Scandinavian secured the move.

In his first season in Finnish football, Brown was an absolute revelation. The then 21-year-old was in scintillating form as he fired home nine goals and contributed eight assists in 26 games.

His sensational run of from, including a goal on his debut, saw him voted as Finland’s Player of the Year for 2009 and also guided TPS to their best ever finish in top tier football as they finished third.

After the loan move, Brown could not force his way into Fulham’s first team and after making just two Premier League appearances, he moved to Bristol Rovers on a free transfer.

2015 saw Brown and his SJK team-mates do the (almost) unthinkable and finally break HJK’s dominance over Finnish football to the delight of many a neutral fan.

2016 will see him and his side as the top team in Finland. They will be the marked side in the country and Brown’s good form will have to continue if they are to match their successes of 2015 against sides determined to upset the champions.

2015 Season Preview (April Edition)

A few weeks back now, I previewed the leagues which featured Englishmen which started in March. Well now it’s time for a preview of the leagues which start this month…

Finland: Veikkausliiga & Kakkonen
Opening match: 12th April & 24th April
This year, there are two Englishmen flying the flag in the Veikkausliiga (Finland’s top tier) and three in the Kakkonen (the country’s third tier). The nation’s second tier, the Ykkonen, begins next month.

Former Southampton youngster Josh Mulvany will be featuring in Finland’s premier division for the first time after his KTP side won promotion from the second tier last year after finishing as runners-up. When KTP travel to Lahti for the opening game of the season, Mulvany will complete a hat-trick of featuring in all of Finland’s top three tiers. Now in his fourth season in the country, the 26-year-old began his Scandanavian adventure with Kakkonen side Ekenäs IF in 2012, before moving to KTP where he played two seasons in the Ykkonen.

Elsewhere in the top division, former Fulham and Bristol Rovers midfielder Wayne Brown will be starting his fourth consecutive season in the country’s top tier as he prepares to represent SJK. Brown, who has seen league appearances limited in recent season, will be hoping his performances in the League Cup so far this year will earn him a starting spot in the first game of the season away to Inter Turku. The 26-year-old also has Europa League action to look forward to after SJK finished second last season.

The third division begins in three weeks time. The Kakkonen is split into four regional divisions, with the top team in each division entering the promotion play-offs, from which two teams can be promoted.

Squad lists have yet to be announced for the third tier but there is a strong possibility there could be several Englishmen plying their trade in the competition.

Norway: 1. Division
Opening match: 6th April
Norway’s top tier, the Eliteserien, also starts next Monday but only the second tier, 1. Division, features an Englishman. Netan Sansara will be starting his second season with Fredrikstad next week and it will be his first as captain, having been announced as the club’s skipper recently. The 25-year-old defender featured for Walsall in England before featuring for Cypriot side PAEEK and Danish side FC Vestsjælland and finally moving to Norway.

Last season, Fredrikstad reached the promotion play-offs but were knocked out at the semi-final stage. Sansara contributed three goals in 15 games from defence and will be hoping he can lead his team a stage further this year and gain promotion.

Sweden: AllsvenskanSuperettan & Division 1
Opening match: 4th April, 3rd April & 11th April
All three of Sweden’s top tiers are set to feature Englishmen this year. The top tier, the Allsvenskan, begins this weekend and will feature three expatriates. One of those is legendary Brit abroad Kenny Pavey, who has played in Sweden since 1998. One of the few Englishmen to have successful carved an entire career abroad, the left winger/wingback will be featuring for AIK again this year.

At the opposite end of the scale though are Lloyd Saxton and Hakeem Araba, who will both be undertaking their first seasons in Sweden with GIF Sundsvall and Falkenberg respectively. Goalkeeper Saxton moves to the country have previously played in his homeland for Bradford City, whilst forward Araba attempts to settle in a new country once again after spells in Cyprus and Greece.

There are three more ex-pats in second tier. 22-year-old Jamie Hopcutt will be hoping to match his tally of nine goals from last season as he features for Östersunds FK, where he’s joined by former Bolton defender James Sinclair, who secured a move from Ljungskile. Finally, Kieron Cadogan will begin his first full season at GAIS, having joined partway through last season from Barnet.

The country’s third tier is split into north and south divisions, with the top team in each earning promotion plus an additional promotion spot up for grabs between the two second place teams. There are currently five Englishmen registered to feature in Division 1, which starts a week after the other two tiers. They included former Forest Green Rovers defender James Baldwin, who has dropped down a tier to join IFK Luleå from Östersunds FK and ex-Northampton Town midfielder Ryan Gilligan, who begins his fifth season in Sweden with new club Umeå.

USA: North American Soccer League (NASL)
Opening match: 5th April
Following the start of the other professional domestic leagues, the MLS and USL, the NASL begins this weekend along with its two English players.

26-year-old midfielder Mark Anderson will be starting his fourth season in the States but at a new side. After three seasons with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who he guided to the Championship Final last year, Anderson will be featuring for the Carolina RailHawks this season.

Elsewhere, 25-year-old Paul Black will be competing in his first ever season in the States. The defender joins the Atlanta Silverbacks after seven seasons in the English game with Oldham Athletic, Tranmere Rovers, Carlise United and most recently, Cheltenham Town.

There are also some divisions which begin in May. There will be a preview for them too.