Tiatto slow to change ways
Love him or hate him, Danny Tiatto is almost guaranteed to provoke a strong reaction for any manager for whom he plays or opposes.
After the Queensland Roar midfielder was suspended for the start of last season's A-League Finals Series, Sydney FC coach John Kosmina claimed that Tiatto's history for violence had prevented him from being considered one of Australian football's great players.
And after his sixth red card in five seasons in 2002, his then Manchester City manager Kevin Keegan in the English Premier League famously said: 'As far as I'm concerned, Danny Tiatto doesn't exist.'
But Tiatto's feisty nature and all-action approach - sometimes his worst enemy - have also earned him forgiveness from his bosses and ensure that he's still going strong at the age of 35.
Frank Farina, who once coached him in the Australian national team, is happy to roll the dice with the pocket dynamo as Queensland prepare for the A-League's fourth season and their second with Tiatto.
Back in 2004 during his time in charge of the Socceroos, Farina said of Tiatto: 'I have always had a soft spot for him in terms of passion and commitment. At times he might go over the top, but I believe in him.'
Tiatto's reputation preceded him as he made his Queensland Roar debut against Adelaide United in round-one of the 2007-2008 season and it took him just seven minutes to make the wrong kind of impression.
A two-footed challenge on Adelaide defender Richie Alagich saw Tiatto cited for serious conduct and given a two-match ban (with one game suspended) even though the tackle didn't earn a free kick at the time.
And against the same opponents in round 21 with Queensland having a chance to win the minor premiership, Tiatto was red-carded just before halftime for an off-the-ball incident on Reds captain Travis Dodd in a costly 2-0 defeat to earn his third suspension of the season.
But when he was on the field, Tiatto was often one of the Roar's best players, with his years of experience in the English Premier League shining through. He was also an inspirational figure - albeit not always the best role model - for the crop of exceptional local youngsters in the Roar squad.
As always, Tiatto is promising to reform his ways, although a subtropical snow storm in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall is probably more likely to happen.
He said: "This season I have to try and be a little more controlled. I need to not get myself in situations where referees can give me yellow cards and be on my case."
At his best during a decade in English football - making more than 200 appearances for Manchester City and Leicester City - fans will remember Tiatto's incisive dashes down the wing, in the best traditions of other outstanding left-sided Aussies like Harry Kewell, Stan Lazaridis and Scott Chipperfield. He was Player of the Year at Maine Road in 2001 and voted Supporters' Players of the 2005 season at the Walkers' Stadium where he also enjoyed a stint as Leicester's club captain.
Appearing in the 1996 Olympic Games, his international career spanned a decade but failed to live up to its early promise and ended in retirement just six weeks before Australia qualified for their first World Cup in 32 years. Tiatto never played under Guus Hiddink, making his 25th and final appearance for Frank Farina's Socceroos against South Africa in February 2005.
Significantly, he was replaced early in the second half in Durban by Chipperfield whose spectacular equaliser earned a 1-1 draw with Bafana and helped cement the FC Basel man's place in the Socceroo squad.
Even so, Tiatto tells ESPNsoccernet that he has no regrets today about his decision to put club football ahead of a chance to play in a World Cup finals. He adds the Queensland Roar are aiming for the Grand Final in version four of the A-League.
The passing years may not have brought any particular wisdom to the follically-challenged flyer but he brings the kind of entertainment, unpredictability and excitement that has helped the A-League prosper.
Q: Danny, what are your personal goals for the coming season with Queensland Roar?
A: The personal goals are to be a part of improving what achieved last season. We want to end up on top of the table and make it all the way to the grand final, taking it one step further. We want to be there at the end of the season and win it.
Q: As a 35-year-old veteran with such a long background in England, how would you sum up your experience so far in the A-League?
A: It's been quite good. It's been a new challenge. It has been good to come back and play a few years before I decided to hang up my boots. It has been a good experience to come back, play in the A-League and enjoy it for a few more years.
Q: Given your run-ins with officials last season, how will you amend your renowned fiery style this season? What do you still have to offer as a player?
A: This season I have to try and be a little more controlled. I need to not get myself into situations where referees can give me yellow cards and be on my case a little bit. So it is basically a slight adjustment in the way I play. I'm still very committed and still like to get about the park. Hopefully some of the younger boys in the side can follow my lead. It really is about helping them. I still want to win games. I still have that hunger and passion to get about and play and enjoy my football.
Q: What do you consider the highlights of more than a decade playing overseas?
A: Just being over there and playing as a professional footballer was a highlight. I got to play in some really big games, especially the Manchester City and Manchester United games were big. Probably one game that sticks out is when we beat them 3-1 at the old Maine Road ground in the last season we were there in 2002. That was definitely one of the highlights of my time over there.
Q: Why did you retire so close to the last World Cup? Any regrets about not having the chance of going to Germany 2006?
A: I thought long and hard about the situation with the Aussie team and decided to concentrate on my club football. I took the option to go that way. I concentrated on my club football in the UK and that was the reason why I didn't push through with the Aussie team to the World Cup. I have no regrets. Once I make a decision I don't really like going back on what I said. I played a few games with the Australian team and really enjoyed it, but decided to concentrate on my club football at the time.
Q: Finally, as you live on the Gold Coast, is there a chance we might see Danny Tiatto playing for the new A-League franchise next year?
A: There's no chance of me going to the Gold Coast.
* Sydney-born Jason Dasey ( www.jasondasey.com ) is a host for Soccernet SportsCenter and SportsCenter. He covered the 2006 World Cup and 2007 Asian Cup for ESPN.