Joel Chianese: Who Are Ya?
Australian based Swindon Town fan and illustrator David Squires gives a first-hand account of watching new trialist Joel Chianese, a striker who is looking for a new club after being released from Sydney FC.
When I saw that Swindon had taken on trial the Australian forward, Joel Chianese, I experienced that feeling of mild anxiety usually reserved for occasions when your work friends meet your real friends. Your two worlds collide and you stand there, smiling nervously, hoping that everyone gets on.
I’ve been a season ticket holder at Sydney FC since I moved here in 2009. Whilst I haven’t quite developed the emotional attachment I have for Swindon, I enjoy the football, the atmosphere and the ability to drink beer in the stadium. I attend matches with a fellow Swindon exile and given our common interest, we often talk whimsically (I mentioned you can drink in the stadium, right?) about the possibility of Sydney signing a former Swindon player, perhaps someone with local connections. This daydreaming usually focuses on Danny Invincibile or Rory Fallon making a glorious return to their Oceania roots. Depending on how many trips to the bar we have made, we may even discuss Royce Brownlie. However, we’ve never really entertained the idea that Swindon would take the Championship Manager route of mining the talent of the A-League to snap up a Sydney player.
Chainese came through the youth ranks and made an immediate impact upon his promotion to the first team at the end of the 2011/12 season. He scored six goals in 10 appearances and looking composed, quick and dangerous; a genuine highlight in an otherwise disappointing season for Sydney. The arrival of Alessandro Del Piero was not enough to improve Sydney’s fortunes the following season, and Chianese was unable to hold down a regular starting place in the team. His situation wasn’t helped by a series of injuries and a loss of form, nor by a disruptive change of managers as Sydney lived up to its reputation of being the basket case club of the A-League (not quite up there with Swindon, but routinely shambolic nonetheless).
Last season began more positively for Joel, as he forced his way into the team and stayed there. Rather than a target man, he would usually play wide on the right, often benefitting from the defence-splitting passes of the visionary (if creaking) Del Piero and linking up well with the excellently-named Serbian forward, Ranko Despotovic (someone I’d be delighted to see Swindon take on).
While unspectacular, his work rate couldn’t be faulted and he did enough to retain his place. However, he seemed to lack the assurance he’d displayed in that first season, becoming more wasteful in front of goal, and his propensity to be outmuscled became and increasing source of frustration for the notoriously demanding Sydney fans. He still managed to stick away a few goals, but a particularly astonishing howler in a defeat at bottom club Wellington Phoenix effectively ended his season. He vanished from the team sheet, only appearing sporadically at the tail end of another poor campaign, after which he was released.
A comparison between the attributes of the A-League and League One may help to assess his suitability for Swindon. At the top level, football in Australia is a summer sport (strange as that may seem, it helps to avoid clashes with the more popular sports of rugby league and Aussie Rules). Consequently,. it is played at a slower pace, with less emphasis on physicality. That’s not to say that there aren’t some Neanderthals still stalking the A-League (Kevin Muscat enjoyed a long and happy career here, remember), but most teams try to play neat, possession-based football. Chasing long hopeful punts into the channels isn’t really practical on days when the mere exertion of swiping away flies shrivels your lungs to small dried walnuts. It’s fair to assume then, that someone who has come through this system would be attractive to Mark Cooper, given his football philosophy. However, whether Chianese would be able to cope with the physicality of League One is questionable.
Will he fit into the Swindon side? It’s hard for me to say; living down here, I’ve only see the occasional televised match and the only Town game I’ve physically attended in the last five years was at Shrewsbury last year, where most of my attention was focused on their fine cottage pies and catching up with old friends. Also, my scouting credentials are sketchy, given that my assessment of Alex Pritchard that day was that Spurs had fobbed us off with a “Gen Y Steve Cowe”. You’ll probably have a better idea than me as to whether Swindon need a slightly lightweight wide player who is technically proficient but lost his way.
On a purely selfish level, I hope he does sign, as it would make it easier for me to explain to the locals which team I support. At present, this process usually requires a diagram of the English football structure and a lengthy justification of why I don’t care about the outcome of “The EPL”. Also, have we had a player called Joel before? Worth a look on that basis alone, I’d say.