Time to call on Kewell
Against all odds a recent stint in Qatar has done Harry Kewell plenty of good. He's still a class player and can help the Socceroos out of their current funk.
The Persian Gulf is where good footballers go to die. It-s dim and dingy, much like The Elephant-s Graveyard in The Lion King, where the bones of players who used to be great lie strewn across the ground.
For one such example look no further than recent visitor to Sydney, Fabio Cannavaro. That the former Italy captain was brilliant is not in doubt, but he went to the Gulf for that one last pay cheque, with Saudi side Al Ahli, played 16 games, struggled with a knee injury and ended a glittering career in an ignominious manner. It wasn-t a fitting end for someone of his stature.
Now it is, Harry Kewell, just a few years younger than Cannavaro, who has tried to resurrect his tattered career in the Persian Gulf with a stint at Qatari side Al Gharafa.
And with one goal from three games for the AFC Champions League quarter-finalists, Kewell had found some form, whether he has the requisite fitness to make the national team is in question, but he-s in a better place than he has been for a while.
Without a club since he left Melbourne Victory, Kewell went back to England and no club wanted to touch him, Australia-s greatest football export. He even headed unannounced to Stoke City training only to be given a curt ‘thanks but no thanks- from manager Tony Pulis.
It seemed a reputation for being injury-prone and somewhat difficult had caught up to Kewell, whether it was deserved or not. Al Gharafa threw him a line when fellow Aussie Mark Bresciano went down with injury and Kewell repaid them and helped himself in the process, showing that despite being in the relative footballing backwater of Qatar he still has what it takes.
He even went on to mention he still wants to be a part of the Socceroos World Cup plans, in an interview with The World Game.
"I have talked with Holger and I know he's keeping an eye on things and it's down to him," Kewell said.
"I've told him I would love to be involved again with the national team and I certainly feel I still have plenty to contribute - but it's his call and I'll respect whatever decision he comes to.
"I can only do my bit and no player can argue with what the manager wants to do. I am feeling good and I'm grateful to Al Gharafa for giving me the chance to put myself out there again and pick up some match fitness."
So, Harry Kewell wants back in the national fold. But can he fit in?
Anyone who watched the last Socceroos debacle against Oman could tell you they were missing that driving skilful quality in the midfield. That Brett Holman scored the equaliser is largely irrelevant; for the rest of the match he was invisible, and with James Holland and Mile Jedinak also turning in weak performances there is a need for highly-skilled and experienced footballers in the national team.
If anyone proved that it was Tim Cahill, far and away the Socceroos- best against Oman. He showed that those of the golden generation still have their value.
And if Lucas Neill, our national captain and currently without a club, can get into a training camp why not Kewell?
Recently Kewell has played more football than the injury plagued Socceroos skipper. Neill barely got on the park for Sydney FC in his guest stint, yet he-s at the current training camp; why not invite Harry and see what he has? He-s younger than Neill and is arguably now and also historically a more valuable player to the Socceroos cause.
Make no mistake our position in Asia is dire.
I-m not being an alarmist. The media box, to a man, at ANZ Stadium couldn-t believe what we witnessed against Oman. The consensus is that it was one of the worst performances by a Socceroos side on home soil in many a year. Robbie Kruse even told me “If we play like that against Japan they will put five past us”.
Jordan shocking the Samurai Blue just amplified the problem, qualification is no longer assured and as much as we all want to see the next generation come through and Australian football stop living off the glory of that one qualifier against Uruguay back in 2005, maybe the experience Kewell brings is needed.
Maybe it-s time to give him a chance? Surely our greatest ever is not yet past it at 34 years of age.
Here-s the evidence: Harry Kewell has been a vital member of the national team since 1996. And statistics reveal that starting with the home and away qualifiers against Uruguay in 2005 and going up to the recent draw with Oman the Socceroos are better off with Kewell in the side.
With Kewell they have won 62 per cent of their matches; without him that drops to just 43 per cent.
Why not bring him into a training squad and back in the national fold? The way we-re playing right now taking a chance on a moderately fit Kewell is better than serving up what we have of late. If he doesn-t fit, at least we gave it a crack. To simply ignore a player of his talent and experience and to not give him a chance to help the cause would be foolish, especially if we continue to serve up poor performances and fail to qualify for Brazil as a result.