Marco Rojas – sc Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)
A few weeks ago it was leaked from the club that Marco Rojas was available for transfer if the right offer came along. Last week Marco Rojas himself said that he intended to leave if the right offer came along. Now it appears that the right offer might have come along.
Marco was out of the squad as Heerenveen played their first game back after the holiday break, an insane 4-4 draw away to Ajax. They were 3-1 down after half an hour, came back to tie it up at 3-3, went behind again in the 83rd minute after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored but a Kik Pierie goal in injury time earned the draw. And Rojas was nowhere to be seen, having been allowed to talk with an unnamed club in Denmark ahead of a possible transfer.
It’s not yet clear which club we’re talking about but, a bit of sleuthing here, Rojas does have some common history with the Brøndby manager Alexander Zorniger who spent half a season as the Stuttgart manager in 2015 while Rojas was on the books there (albeit he went out on loan to FC Thun). A club like that would be pretty useful, Brøndby have finished second on the ladder in two straight seasons and won the Danish Cup last time out – playing Europa League qualifiers in the previous six seasons.
Up Next: Watch this space…
Stefan Marinovic – Unattached
This from a few days ago…
Hull Live: “While City aren’t actively looking to sign a new goalkeeper in this window, that hasn’t stopped them taking a look at New Zealand international stopper Stefan Marinovic this month. The goalkeeper has been training with the Tigers following his release from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps in an attempt to earn a contract.”
This from much more recently…
So clearly still on the trial wagon, Marinovic is now hanging out with Steven Gerrard at Rangers. Oddly this is a similar thing to the Hull City trial because Rangers don’t need a keeper. They signed Allan McGregor before this season and he’s been brilliant on his return to Ibrox. They also have backups Wes Foderingham and Robby McCrorie both chilling out there, each playing a half in a friendly match against HJK Helsinki this week which saw the first signs of new striker Jermain Defoe.
Not really an open opportunity for mass minutes but Big Stef might just be spreading his wings and getting the word out there, letting other clubs know that Hull and Rangers were interested thus they should be too, and picking up some experience in British footy at the same time. It’s tricky for a keeper at this stage of the season. It’s not like any teams are playing without one this deep into affairs. Although being a free agent at the moment, he wouldn’t necessarily need to complete a deal before the transfer window closes (depends on the squad sizes & player regos), so Rangers might not even be the last of these little trial excursions.
Daily Record UK: “The Rangers boss confirmed they have handed a week-long trial to former Vancouver Whitecaps keeper Stefan Marinovic who has been capped 24 times for New Zealand. The 27-year-old also had a recent trial spell at Hull City and Gerrard said: “Marinovic is on trial. It’s planned for a week at the moment.””
Up Next: Bovril and porridge
Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)
The Woodsman’s recent goal scoring run has been a massive boost for the Clarets but nobody’s had more impact on this team’s recent turnaround than keeper Tom Heaton, whose return to fitness/selection has coincided with a four game unbeaten streak in the league, taking them from second to last after Boxing Day to three points clear of the drop zone as things stand right now.
Away to Watford, this was always going to be a challenge. Watford were sitting seventh, their only loss in the last month being to Chelsea, while the Clarets’ only two wins away from home in the PL this season were against teams currently in the relegation zone (Cardiff & Huddersfield). And Heaton had to be sharp to deny Gerard Deulofeu when he broke the line early on – nearly a repeat of the early goal conceded vs Fulham last time. Then Deulofeu missed a header completely standing six yards out, which was followed by a clearance off the line by James Tarkowski and this was looking bad.
But then the rain started falling hard and Burnley settled into the match. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood began to see more action up top, Barnes whipping one wide on the volley after it’d fortuitously landed in range. Heaton then made another brilliant stop to deny Troy Deeney and we were still level at the break.
Not much happened in the second half, Sean Dyche didn’t even make a sub, the sly dog. The biggest piece of drama didn’t come until deep into stoppage time. Most of Chris Wood’s best moments here had been as a provider. Slipping a ball across to Barnes whose attempt was saved. Picking out Jeff Hendrick who also saw Ben Foster deny him. There was a great chance in the first half when he turned past Mariappa but put his shot wide of the goal. But right at the end he had the ball where it belongs after following up on Dwight McNeil’s strike from range and tapping in the rebound after Foster’s save… but the offside flag was up and to be fair it had looked like he was a mile past the second defender, no dramas at all… until the replays arrived.
Turns out there was a lagging fullback on the other side and at worst the old mate was level. At best he was onside and the goal shoulda stood… but we’re a year away from VAR in the Premier League and a nil-all draw was the result instead.
Sean Dyche: “I think it’s tight, but I don’t know how it works, the official thinking on it. I thought if it’s that tight it goes in favour of the forward, and maybe I’m incorrect. I think he was onside. I’m surprised it wasn’t given, but, in balance, I thought the officials were very good, apart from that moment.”
The Woodsman was looking at a more diplomatic bigger picture.
Chris Wood: “I hadn’t seen a replay. It’s unfortunate but we’ll get paid back in the long run. It’s a very good result, especially when you consider where they are in the league. They’re a very good side, it’s a very good point and we’re more than happy with it. We could have had more but that’s how it goes. It’s always a point gained, always. It’s a tough place to come, they’re a very good side, they’re doing very well. “We are delighted. It’s a step in the right direction but there’s still a long way to go. We’re always looking up the table, it’s the best way to do it.”
Danny Murphy on Match of the Day did not.
DM on MOTD: “He’s clearly onside. Momentum takes him forward as the defender comes out and the linesman got it wrong.”
Up Next: Man City vs Burnley, FA Cup fourth round, 4am on Sunday (NZT)
Nik Tzanev – AFC Wimbledon (English League One)
We’re at the pointy end of January now and that’ll hopefully mean a few more transfers going on, expanding the pool of Flying Kiwis and getting a few familiar faces into better situations. Nik Tzanev is a guy who’s featured plenty in Flying Kiwis before but in terms of actual games with AFC Wimbledon… it’s been slim. He’s sat on the bench plenty for the first team but all his meaningful footy has come with the reserves/U23s. So a month out on loan at a lower league side sounds a beaut.
AFC Wimbledon: “Nik Tzanev has today joined Potters Bar Town on loan for a month to gain more first-team experience. The 22-year-old Dons goalkeeper, who is a New Zealand international, could make his debut for the Scholars in their league match at Bognor Regis Town on Saturday. There is a Wimbledon connection at Potters Bar Town with joint manager Lee O’Leary having played for the Dons back in 2007. Nik has been on the first-team bench for Wimbledon since joining us in 2017, but he will aim to get more senior experience under his belt at the Bostik Premier League club.”
Tzanev had a similar loan to Lewes back in 2015 while he was at Brentford. You’ll remember him as the main keeper for NZ in the U20 World Cup that was hosted in Aotearoa in 2015 as well as when he made his All Whites debut last year against Chinese Taipei. The Bostik Premier Division is nothing special, it’s the top division in the Isthmian League sitting as the seventh tier of English football with promotion available to the National League South (so two tiers down from where Max Crocombe has been sitting on the bench almost every week for Salford City). But this isn’t about standard, it’s about getting game time in senior football.
WH Times: “And the 22-year-old will fill the gap vacated while regular number one Berkley Laurencin serves a three-match suspension following his sending off in the defeat to Brightlingsea Regent… A spokesman for the Scholars said: “Welcome to the Pakex Nik and thanks to AFC Wimbledon for the loan of such a great asset.” He goes straight into the squad for tomorrow’s Bostik Premier Division game at Bognor Regis Town.”
Up Next: Potters Bar Town vs Dorking Wanderers (English non-league club names are the best), this one’s at 4am on Sunday (NZT)
Rebekah Stott – Melbourne City (Australian W-League)
Back to back defeats have left City in a precarious position as far as making the semis go but they did the business on the weekend with a good old fashioned thrashing of the Newcastle Jets. With an unchanged XI from the team that dominated against Brisbane but ultimately lost 1-0, City were on top from the beginning and took the lead from the penalty spot half an hour in. Tameka Butt was fouled and Yukari Kinga made no mistake. Rebekah Stott then nearly had her first of the campaign and it would have been an incredible goal, charging out of defence on a mazy run before combining with Butt and getting the return pass just inside the area. Stott unleashed one but it came back off the underside of the crossbar. So close.
Not that it mattered in the end. Steph Catley headed in from a corner five minutes later and Kinga had her second in the second half, polishing off from close range on the turn. Hailie Mace then came off the bench to score her first for the club and a 4-0 win was the end of it. Match highlights, including Stotty’s strike, available here.
The win means that City regain some ground on that top four, now only fifth on goal difference, but they have played a game more than the teams on either side of them. With only one more game to play they’re going to need some other results to go their way. This win keeps the dream alive, at least.
Up Next: Jan 31, away to Sydney FC at 9.30pm (NZT)
Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)
The Sundowns weren’t up to much with Brockie suspended for their first Champions League group stage game, going down 2-1 to Lobi Stars away in Nigeria. Anthony Laffor had given them the half-time lead but just before the break they conceded from the penalty spot and went on to lose in a game where their opponents had three times as many shots but left the door open with some messy finishing. Things were smoother in the midweek when Sundowns hosted Maritzburg United in the league and a 56th minute strike from Hlompho Kekana was the difference. The win puts the Brazilians third on the ladder only five points off Bidvest Wits at the top but with three games in hand. The title challenge is beginning to take shape.
Jeremy Brockie: “It is very difficult, games in hand don’t mean maximum points so if we look at the table too much and see the gap and read too much into the games in hand, that’s where you’re likely to slip up. So we just keep plotting away and we’ve been unbeaten in the league for a long time now but we need to concentrate on collecting three points because one point isn’t really enough, especially with the schedule that we’ve got and the travelling that we’ve got coming up.”
Brockie started that one, as he’s getting used to doing lately. Getting back to goal-scoring ways has been the main catalyst for that though the departures of Percy Tau and Khama Billiat last window helped too and since this game Toni Silva has followed on his way out too – joining Al Ittihad in Egypt after only starting four PSL games this season.
Not too much for Brockie to brag about in this one though, not much to brag about for any of the strikers on show. Heaps of rubbish finishing and a game that coulda been 4-3 ended 1-0. Brockie’s best chance was early on when he chose to pass instead of shoot. Kekana finally scored one with a rocket in the second half and Brox was subbed off about five minutes later.
Sundowns manager Pitso Mosimane: “It would be nice to get a strong one [striker] to add more power when I substitute Brockie. There's a nice one I like there somewhere in KZN but his coach has already warned me. Teams at this point don't want to release their players. Sometimes all you can do is to make deals for the end of the season because right now it's a struggle to get players to be released.”
Funny thing about that is the article where the above quote came from went on to speculate on who the gaffer was hinting at trying to sign there and it’s a fellow who will be extremely familiar to kiwi fans after his years of dominating the local scene with Auckland City…
Sowetan Live: “At KZN clubs Golden Arrows, Maritzburg United and AmaZulu there aren't too many strikers who are firing on all cylinders. While Mosimane did not name him, all indications point to in-form Argentinian Emiliano Tade at AmaZulu. Tade has scored six goals in all 18 competition games for Usuthu and has contributed two assists. He has been an instrumental figure for the team this season since his arrival in July.”
Anyway, Sundowns then hosted WAC Casablanca in their next Champs League game and held on to win 2-1 thanks to a Temba Zwane double… although the game was marred by bad blood both in the crowd and between the two teams. Coaches especially. Jeremy Brockie was an unused sub.
Up Next: Wednesday at 6.30am away to Highlands Park (NZT)
Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)
Up Next: Home to Birmingham at 3am on Monday (NZT)
Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)
Up Next: Offseason jazz
James Dunn – Woking FC (English National League South)
Lots of news from the goalkeepers union this week. 20 year old James Dunn has made the leap into the pro ranks by signing with Woking in the National League South – although the way they’re trucking they’re a good bet to get promoted to the National League proper (which they were relegated from a year ago), which is the fifth tier in England and where Max Crocombe’s Salford City are currently sitting a point off promotion to League Two.
Dunn is only being brought in as squad depth, as you’d expect at a winning club with a dude on his first pro contract. The gaffer made that clear enough with his quote in the club website’s unveiling of this signing…
Manager Alan ‘Dowse’ Dowson: “There's nobody in the squad who's guaranteed a place, including the goalkeeper, so we need competition all round the team.”
His club profile is a bit more forthcoming…
“The young goalkeeper joined the Cards on a deal until the end of the season in January 2019. Originally from New Zealand, he first came to England at the age of 17, before a shoulder injury led to him taking 18 months out of the game and returning home. He returned last year following his recovery and spent time training with the West Ham academy. After impressing with the Premier League side he was recommended to the Cards and promptly signed on to provide competition to first choice stopper Craig Ross.”
This is a real impressive deal to get done for the young fella. Dunn spent a bunch of time with Eastern Suburbs’ Premiership squad last season but didn’t actually play as Zac Speedy and Louis Caunter got all the minutes. He played for North Shore in the Northern Leagues and was an Auckland City youth team bloke. Having a British passport helps procedures (“my old man’s from Bristol”) but dude’s done bloody well to get this gig so can’t wait to see how he gets along. Next level.
Curious the bit about the trial at West Ham too. Closest a kiwi has come to playing for that club this season, aye?
Up Next: Woking v Wealdstone, Sunday at 4am (NZT)
Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)
Just another typical week for Morecambe in which they conceded an injury time winner. Kevin Allison had scored in the 70th mine to tie things up against Stevenage after Steven Old had gone in a little clumsily in the first half a conceded a penalty, oops. Ben Kennedy whacked it straight down the middle to score (that’s Ben Kennedy the 22 year old Northern Irish forward and now the 31 year old goalie for Central Coast Mariners, if you were wondering). Morecambe had more than enough chances to get a goal or two more but the finishing was pure League Two. Then they let in a late one and lost.
That makes it six games without a win now however they are at least getting a few draws which, with other results going the way they did, is a big relief because those points are the only ones keeping them clear of the second relegation spot. Gonna need some Stevie Old magic over the last seventeen games. Interesting that the Shrimps went with a back three here too, not their usual plan.
Up Next: Away to Northampton on Sunday at 3am (NZT)
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