AUCKLAND - The ASB Premiership Team of the Decade debate touches on who the competition's Striker of the Decade is.
Terry Maddaford, Gordon Glen Watson and Michael Burgess give their opinions as the Summer Road Trip prize chase comes to a head.
The long list of top ASB Premiership strikers comprises top foreign talent and some unsung local heroes as well as young up-and-comers whose brief but vital spell catapulted them on to bigger and better things.
Former New Zealand Herald football writer Terry Maddaford believes there is only one man for whom the title ASB Premiership Striker of the Decade belongs: Roy Krishna.
"Anyone who saw Krishna burst on the scene for Fiji in the OFC U20 Championship tournament at Trusts Stadium a few years ago quickly recognised a special talent," he says.
"For Chris James to be named as the Player of the Tournament was one of the worst possible decisions and a slight on Krishna who was simply outstanding. For reasons best known by Ricki Herbert and Brian Turner, Krishna did not get his chance at the Phoenix but now has the opportunity to show that special skill he has in combining pace with goalscoring ability."
Gordon Glen Watson and Michael Burgess could not find fault and picked Krishna as the best in what is an extremely difficult choice. A New Zealand Football Writer of the Year, Burgess says Krishna's goalscoring record and Waitakere United's unrelenting domination of the ASB Premiership title in the past four seasons was a persuasive argument for the Fijian marksman to take top slot.
"It's a simple equation — if you had taken Krishna out of the mix over the last few seasons the suspicion remains that the destination of the ASB Premiership league titles (and many Super City derby results) may have been slightly different," Burgess says.
"The west Auckland franchise always had an extremely solid team but the Fijian provided that X factor, his pace and precise finishing able to unlock the best defences."
Watson likewise picked Krishna for the top striker slot but believes any one of six others had compelling cases for the award.
"I pick Roy based on his goals-to-games ratio and the fact Waitakere have won four titles in a row. But when you look at the early years of the ASB Premiership and the impact players like Paul Urlovic and Grant Young had for Auckland City when they lifted three in a row, then you immediately see a dilemma," he says.
"We're almost comparing two very different eras and it comes down to small details — winning domestic trophies and scoring top quality and important goals. I have to mention Keryn Jordan who for me stands out as a very special footballer with Allan Pearce another who may not be the most glamourous choice on the list but his longevity, goalscoring prowess and title success is, in its own right, worthy of mention."
Terry Maddaford agreed narrowing the selection down to just one player was extremely difficult.
"This is probably the most difficult selection, given the wide variety of players who have led their respective attacks, Krishna gets the nod ahead of South African Keryn Jordan and the always-popular Solomon Islander Benjamin Totori," he says.
"Allan Pearce and Grant Young are the unlucky attackers while not enough was seen of Marco Rojas and Kosta Barbarouses at this level."
The likes of Leon Birnie who played in struggling Hawke's Bay United sides yet still managed a healthy haul of nearly 30 career goals speaks of his relative strengths while the same can be said of Aaron Burgess of Otago United and Seule Soromon who turned out for Hawke's Bay and Young Heart Manawatu.
Totori lit up the ASB Premiership in his first season by banging in 24 goals in just 21 games, a record that looks likely to stand for sometime yet. Totori, like Krishna, perhaps deserved an earlier shot at professional football although two spells — one with Portland Timbers, the other with the Wellington Phoenix — never quite worked out for him.
A raft of foreign talent including the charismatic Manel Exposito, Luis Corrales, Graham Little, Henry Fa'arodo and Emiliano Tade reveal some top scoring records. Exposito, the former Barcelona player, is ranked fourth in Auckland City's list of all-time top scorers, while Corrales — an ASB Premiership Golden Boot winner with Team Wellington — also contributed much in his spell with the capital men. Tade, plucked from a backpacking holiday in the capital by Wellington, has scored a goal every two games on average, although like the two players already mentioned has yet to win an ASB Premiership title.
Another unsung hero also has capital roots: Peter Halstead. Spells with Manawatu and Wellington for the big centre forward may not have seen many technical manuals rewritten but he was part of relatively successful teams and was a regular goalscorer throughout his career.
Like Halstead, another Mr Dependable on the domestic scene is Russell Kamo. Kamo shares much in common with the likes of Tade and is now in a neck-and-neck race with teammate Aaron Clapham for the title of Canterbury's all-time top scorer.
"It's important to remember that the likes of Kamo have not only played in the best era for their respective clubs, but have also appeared when their clubs have struggled," Watson says.
"Some of the more decorated players in this list like Jordan, Young, Urlovic, Krishna and Pearce have got winners' medals galore. Others on this compilation have been less fortunate to play in sides that in some cases have been dead last or racked up unwanted winless streaks. To keep scoring goals in those environments is a difficult task and speaks to a player's commitment and mental strength."
Urlovic, Commins Menapi and Stu Kelly — more of a midfielder, but with an admirable goalscoring record nonetheless — were prolific and successful strikers in their own right. Urlovic, though, became something of a talisman off the bench for Auckland, particularly in an era where the Keryn Jordan/Grant Young partnership really started to flourish. That Urlovic remains the club's third top scorer despite the bulk of his later appearances being as a substitute is an indication of his quality and that of the two strikers in front of him.