Ageless Archie: Archie Thompson has battled back from a knee injury and could play a significant role for Melbourne Victory in the second half of the season. Photo: Tony Feder/Getty ImagesHe is 38 next birthday and has only been back for a couple of weeks, but it is already clear that Melbourne Victory veteran Archie Thompson could play a far more significant role in the champions’ title defence this season than anyone thought possible.
There were grave fears for Thompson’s career when he was carried off the AAMI Park turf after sustaining a serious medial ligament injury in Victory’s FFA Cup quarter-final win over Adelaide United in September.
The evergreen forward, who refers to himself as the Benjamin Button of the n game (a reference to the film character whose life goes in reverse, starting off old and growing younger as he lives longer) spent the first four months of the A-League season in recovery and then rehabilitation, hoping he could get back into action to continue his age-defying career.
Thompson made his return off the bench in a cameo in the Melbourne derby just before Christmas, when he came agonisingly close to finding Victory a late equaliser.
He then got 20 minutes in Victory’s disappointing home draw against Perth Glory in late December before starting in the scrappy 1-0 away win over Newcastle.
He again came off the bench in the classic 3-3 draw with Central Coast Mariners last Friday night, showing his predatory instincts were as sharp as ever when he swept home the rebound from Kosta Barbarouses shot for Victory’s second goal.
Age certainly does not weary Thompson, who has retained much of the pace and enthusiasm as well as the good technique and trickery that made him such a lethal striker in his younger days when he returned to Melbourne from Belgium to become one of the faces of the new club and league.
Of course Thompson cannot be expected to make the same sort of extraordinary goal-scoring contribution that he once did.
But with 216 appearances for Victory under his belt, and 91 goals to his credit there is not much he does not know about the quality and standard of the competition, nor what is needed to score regularly.
It is more likely that these days he will be used off the bench, especially when the sting has gone out of the game and his speed and ability to run directly at tiring defenders can bring his team rewards.
With so many youngsters – including young striker Conor Pain – away on Olyroos duty Thompson is likely to get plenty of opportunity during the next few weeks and months, both in the A-League and the Asian Champions League.
Fifth-placed Victory are still stuttering along in the league, seven points behind leaders Brisbane Roar who they play on Friday, and three behind cross-town rivals Melbourne City.
If Thompson continues to have an impact during the next few months then there is sure to be a lively debate about his playing future with the only club he has played for in the A-League.
Speculation about whether he would be offered a new deal hung over Victory’s finals campaign last season and was still causing friction in the lead-up to the championship decider itself against Sydney. Victory boss Kevin Muscat would probably settle for a similar outcome in the second half of the season if he knew Thompson could score seven or eight goals and help the team regain a top two spot on the ladder.
*Reports on Dutch websites have claimed Eredivisie club Feyenoord and German Bundesliga side Hamburg are tracking Victory’s young Olyroos defender Scott Galloway, who is with Tony Vidmar’s squad in Qatar trying to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games.
*Football Federation has confirmed the W-League semi-final featuring premiers Melbourne City will be played as a double-header at AAMI Park before City’s A-League game against Wellington Phoenix on Monday January 25.
On target: Filip Holosko scores a goal under pressure from Jets defender Nicholas Cowburn. Photo: Mark KolbeIt is the combination that’s taken four months in the making but Milos Ninkovic hopes his partnership with marquee Filip Holosko can lead Sydney FC to another derby success over Western Sydney Wanderers.
Three of Sydney’s last four goals have been created or scored by Holosko or Ninkovic in what is looming as one of the more deadly attacking combinations in the league. The two foreign recruits required time to not only forge an on-field partnership but adjust to new surroundings, different style of football and the most difficult obstacle to overcome – the hard n pitches.
Ninkovic believes his partnership is finally blossoming as the two have developed a unique bond that is punishing oppositions. It wasn’t just Ninkovic’s superb through-ball for Holosko to score Sydney’s first against Newcastle Jets on Saturday night but Holosko’s two assists for the Serbian attacking midfielder to score a brace the week before against Melbourne City that showed how instinctive this strike partnership is becoming.
“Filip is a good guy, very good football player. It’s the first season we play together but I can tell we understand each other. The last game against Melbourne City he gave me two assists now against Newcastle I give him one. At the moment we understand each other much better,” Ninkovic said.
The two players never played alongside one another before but have crossed paths in the UEFA Europa League, when Dynamo Kiev played Holosko’s Besiktas. However their bond is more ideological, according to Ninkovic, as the two value ball retention highly and place a strong emphasis on fluid football.
“Every training session, every game we know each other more. I think we need to continue like this, we need to keep the ball. Not only here but in the world, if you have the ball it’s easier for everything. In , after 14 games I watched many other games and I think it’s key if you keep the ball, if you have more times than the other team,” he said.
It’s a silver lining to the long-term injury for captain Alex Brosque as Ninkovic stepped up to a more creative role deployed as a central attacking midfielder. Since moving into a more traditional creative role in recent weeks, Ninkovic emerged as Sydney’s fulcrum in attack and credits the transition away from the left wing and into the centre of the park for his improved performances.
“When I came here I played on the left side. Many games I played in France was on the left side but I think my position is in the middle. I think because I am playing my position, I feel better,” Ninkovic said. “Last month [coach Graham Arnold] told me he wanted to put me in the middle and I said it was no problem. I think it’s better for me.”
Two goals and an assist in his last two games puts him in red-hot form leading into the Sydney Derby against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night. Ninkovic scored the winner the last time the two clubs met in a match that was a rare spectacle for the former Dynamo Kiev man. The passion from the stands and the tension in the build-up surpasses the biggest rivalry in Ukraine between Dynamo and Shakhtar Donetsk where it’s common for fans to drink together before and after games in a mark of a friendly rivalry.
“When I was in Ukraine you play for Dynamo against Shakhtar, it’s a big derby. You can feel this but fans will go together to drink something, that’s normal in Ukraine. This [Sydney derby] is more similar to the derby in Serbia, Red Star against Partizan. Not the same but you can feel the pressure before the game,” he said.
More than $100 billion in shareholder value has been torched on the ASX this year. Photo: Andrew QuiltyComment: Share market is a slave to clumsy ChinaWhy China’s currency moves shouldn’t cause panicRBA likely to shrug off share slump: Capital EconomicsAussie dollar heading for GFC levels, analysts say
The n sharemarket plunged to a 2½ year low and dragged the year’s losses to more than $100 billion as doubts mount over China’s economy.
The S&P/ASX 200 index hit 4880 in morning trading, its lowest point since July 2013, before recovering in the afternoon to close 1.2 per cent down at 4932.
The gloomy conditions saw beleaguered miner BHP Billiton’s share price hit an 11 year low to $15.55 and the n dollar fall deeper below US70¢ to US69.28¢.
Rio Tinto fell to a seven year low, to $40.50, while ANZ Banking Group and National Bank fell to three year lows during the session.
“This is effectively a lack of confidence from markets particularly in Chinese authorities’ ability to control their currency, their housing market, their domestic heavily retail-focused equity market,” Contango Asset Management chief investment officer George Boubouras said.
“In part it can be an unrealistic expectation from western investors on what Chinese policy makers are actually doing.”
The cutting of its currency, the renminbi, from its daily fix rate against the US dollar last week sparked the market turmoil, as well as the intervention in its sharemarkets, which were closed twice in a now-defunct circuit breaker policy that halted trading after stocks fell beyond 7 per cent.
“The problem with a system steeped in government intervention is that there is a lack of faith in allowing market mechanisms to deal with quantity and price – too often planners will to try to control both,” billionaire investor Kerr Neilson said in a note to investors.
Mr Kerr said of greater concern than Chinese markets was US stocks, which he said were overvalued.
Behind the fear on China, which has sent the n sharemarket down 7 per cent in little over a week, as well as Asian bourses, Wall Street and the n dollar down, was the reality of an economy in transition, Mr Boubouras said.
It was now in the grip of a transition from a rapidly growing, yet unsustainable, manufacturing led economy, to one driven by domestic consumption, which began three years ago, he said.
“This is an important transition for any economy, it just happens to be the world’s second largest economy”.
On Monday the People’s Bank of China marginally lifted the rate at which the renminbi is fixed to the US dollar for a second day in a row, which calmed markets somewhat after last week’s 1.5 per cent cut. Its shock cut in August last year of 2 per cent from a previously stable peg sent global markets swooning and Wall Street to post its worst day in four years.
The cut was in response to a stronger US dollar, which has risen as the US moves towards higher interest rates, and sliding inflation.
Stocks stabilised around the region throughout Monday trade, but were still well down. The Hangzhou Composite Index was down more than 3 per cent in late trade, while Japan’s Nikkei was 0.4 per cent lower.
“Global markets are still in the grips of China fears, and it is uncertain whether the Chinese government can do enough to reassure global investors,” IG market analyst Angus Nicholson said.
Markets will begin to consolidate when they find reason for confidence in China, Mr Boubouras said.
“The interpretation is that large currency devaluations aren’t helpful,” he said.
“Investors should get comfortable with being uncomfortable, the volatility’s not going to go away because of the [uncertainty].”
Some brave investors will be picking that now is the bottom of the market. China’s stock market needs to grow up.
When it comes to markets, be they equities or currencies, China is like an over-sized child with enormous power and clout but not much experience. Faced with a problem it is clumsy in trying to fix it and with little sophistication and poor communication. The trouble is its oversized influence is leaving chaos in its wake on international financial markets.
Since the New Year, China has played with its currency a few times by imposing – and then abandoning – restrictions on its stock market.
All that China central is attempting to do is mature as a financial market and as an economy; to properly manage the value of its currency and to achieve orderly movement of share prices on its equity market .
Rather than being another salvo in a currency war – which is how some have characterised it – China appears more likely to be simply (and rightly) attempting to internationalise its currency.
But the suck-it-and-see approach is resulting in gyrations around the world that are so large and international investors are in turmoil – fixated on the trillions of dollars that have been wiped of share markets.
Thus the developed, mature financial markets have become hostage. As one commentator noted this week, “China needs to fit decades of capital market learning into a handful of years and there is no doubt that the road from a planned economy will be a little bumpy.”
What started out as an ugly new year week on the stock market got decidedly uglier this week and already $103 billion has been wiped off the value of the n market.
On Mondaythe People’s Bank of China moved to strengthen the currency in an attempt to shore up the market. A small glimmer of improvement in the n market at lunch time on Monday was short lived and it started to fall again on the back of another slide in the Chinese equity index as the news of its weaker than expected consumer inflation numbers hit trader screens.
By late afternoon n stocks started to pare back some of the losses but closed down 1.2 per cent.
China is now such an integral part of the world economy that the devaluation of its currency is seen as a signal of a weakening of its economy. (To be fair the fact that China is slowing is not new. It has been doing this for a couple of years as it moves to a consumer-led economy. Like the management of its financial markets – this process has not been particularly smooth.)
The latest panic has come on the back of fears that China may experience a hard landing.
Such an outcome is scary for most economies and in particular those like whose engines are the export of commodities that China soaks up.
And this explains why ‘s large producers of iron ore, like BHP BIlliton (which is now at an 11 year low), Rio Tinto and Fortescue have borne the brunt of the share price plunge. And fears of a continued slow down in China’s growth has also fed into the collapse in the oil price which was already in free fall thanks to over supply. This accounts for the share price pressure on the likes of Origin.
From a currency perspective – is seen as a proxy for China which explains why the n dollar is under pressure and has now tested levels below 70 cents.
The question that always emerges for investors in the midst of a share price rout is whether they should jump on the bandwagon and sell, hold on for the ride or double up their bets.
For those that subscribe to the China hard landing view, selling out of the stock market would be the safest outcome.
It is generally about now that the gurus of investment pop up and tell investors that the market is looking cheap and it’s time to invest. Maybe they are still sitting around the beach on deckchairs butthere are not too many out there pushing the buy-now barrow.
If one blacks out the part of the n market that is directly involved in selling commodities to China – the remainder of the economy is not in bad shape..
Macquarie Equities was one of the few institutions to go out on a limb yesterday and call an improvement in the ASX over the next 12 months.
“Despite an abundance of risks (Chinese growth and currency, US interest rates and credit markets) we think the market can finish 2016 meaningfully higher.”
It makes the point that the time to sell was when the ASX200 was 5900 not when it was 5000. In other words, those that didn’t sell then have missed the boat.
Some brave investors will be picking that now is the bottom of the market and be on the hunt for bargains.
The Brumbies paused pre-season training to pay tribute to Robbie Abel’s nephew and family. Photo: Jay Cronan Brumbies lock Sam Carter hopes he can be a leader in the 2016 Super Rugby season. Photo: Graham Tidy
Waratahs’ incredible bargain nabs Palu
They have conquered ‘s highest peak and have their sights on climbing even higher in the Super Rugby season, but the ACT Brumbies stepped away from their title ambitions to pay a touching tribute to a teammate on Monday.
The Brumbies put their pre-season preparations on hold to rally around hooker Robbie Abel and his family after the death of his nephew two weeks ago.
River Arama Parry, who was 21 months old, drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Canberra.
To pay their respects, Brumbies players gathered for a moment’s silence before their afternoon training and wore black armbands for the session.
Abel only returned to training on Monday after being granted extended leave to grieve with his family.
It was the first step in his hopes of winning his first Super Rugby cap after joining the Brumbies’ extended player squad this season.
The Brumbies are aiming high this year after making the finals in the past three seasons, but are trying to avoid getting caught up in the pre-season hype and expectations.
They could boast as many as 12 internationals in their starting XV for the opening game of the season against the Wellington Hurricanes on February 26.
Wallabies lock Sam Carter has taken on the extra responsibility of being the sole lineout caller, and hopes his World Cup experience drives him to become a better player this year.
Carter was called into the Wallabies squad as an injury replacement for Will Skelton, but did not get to play a game as charged into the World Cup final.
Failing to get any game time has done little to dampen Carter’s enthusiasm.
“A lot of guys have a lot of experience now and I’m one of those people. A few guys are looking to step up this year and make their mark on the team, and lead around the park,” Carter said.
“I’m looking to further my game in all aspects and what I want to bring in 2016 is having a bit more responsibility in that lineout role.
“I made sure I did everything possible to put myself in the position to have an opportunity [at the World Cup]. It was tough not to get a game, but I know I did everything I could.
“Everyone wants to play at the highest level and the World Cup is the pinnacle of rugby. That’s definitely my focus … I’m looking forward to the next one.”
The Brumbies will play two pre-season trials against the NSW Waratahs on February 6 and the Queensland Reds on February 12.
Carter will almost certainly be the Brumbies’ starting second-rower for the beginning of the season, with Rory Arnold, Blake Enever and Jordan Smiler battling for a chance to join him.