After much speculation, the most likely candidate has been chosen to lead Australian football into the future. Whether you think the fact he was most likely means that Football Federation Australia has been hasty in making this decision, and has stamped their 5-year-contract seal of approval to make it look more considered, or whether you just don’t like the guy, what nobody should deny, are the man’s credentials.
In assessing this appointment, one must first ask what is the job? This is not something everyone agrees on. There has been a lot of talk about restoring pride in the national team jersey. This is something that would have previously smacked of over-simplification with somewhat anti-football undertones (these soccer players aren’t proud to be Australian, and the coach is German!). Thankfully, we have come a long way since then, and while it is still over-simplifying the problem, it is not too far wide of the mark.
Never for a second should we doubt the players’ pride in representing their country, doing something they love. What is more to the point, is that it is hard to have pride in what you’re doing when you don’t know what that is. (This is why Holger Osieck had to go). In all fairness to the man, this is not entirely his fault, he had been given the wrong mandate; get us to the World Cup. He did that, and he got us to the final of the Asian Cup as well. How did he do it? Firstly, by resorting to as physical, long-ball oriented tactics as possible, something he knew we had over our Asian opponents. Secondly, with very little re-generation of the squad, with Robbie Kruse and Mitchell Langerak the exceptions who simply banged on the door too hard to be denied. And last but not least, by playing players out of position, namely Matt McKay at left-back and left-wing and Luke Wilkshire and Mark Bresciano at holding-midfield, though the latter did still manage to make him look good occasionally. The silver-lining is that this period has presented the FFA with some pretty clear lessons to learn.
So to the new man, Ange Postecoglou. On paper, by choosing him, the powers at be share the opinion that those already mentioned were Osieck’s principal downfalls, and more importantly their mandate has now changed. In response to the first one, the tactics, Postecoglou will not play the long-ball game. I stood in the crowd throughout his 2-year tenure in charge of Brisbane Roar, and there wasn’t a single game where they diverted from the exciting brand of football he holds dear. Not only was it a joy to watch, but it got results; breaking the all-time Australian sporting record with 36 games undefeated.
Now to the second issue, that of re-generation, whether SBS Chief Football Analyst Craig Foster liked it or not, Postecoglou coached the Australian under-20s from 2000-2007, and has now plied his trade in the A-league for 4 years, work Foster is far more appreciative of. Therefore, it could be argued that nobody knows Australia’s talented youth quite like Postecoglou, and as such he is ideal for making the necessary changes. Finally, whether he’ll play players out of their accustomed positions or not is to be seen, but one thing he will do is play Matt McKay in central-midfield as he did to great effect with Brisbane, where McKay resumed that role in some style last Saturday.
All in all, those in the football community whose number one desire is our best possible showing at next year’s World Cup may have had their hearts set on an international appointment of the profile of Guus Hiddink. However the evidence suggests that the majority want to see more proactive, entertaining and coordinated football from their team building into the future.
If we are right in assuming that this is what the FFA wants too, then Postecoglou should be given the necessary time and support. Then we will see an honourable showing in Brazil next year, and most excitingly a team with a good chance of winning the 2015 Asian Cup here in Australia. Hopefully with some style, that will be enough pride for me.