I read that Football Federation Australia (FFA) Chief Executive, David Gallop said there had been ‘huge’ amounts of interest in the
Socceroos coaching position from local and overseas candidates. One wouldn’t need to be a Rhodes scholar to understand such a level of interest in the position recently left vacant with the resignation of Ange Postecoglou. After all, the hard work has already been done given that the Socceroos have already qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
With at least fourteen candidates on the list of potential coaches, I note there are only two Australians – Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic. Aside from Postecoglou, the Socceroo’s recent past is littered with International coaches such as Guus Hiddink, Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck. The difference between Postecoglou and the other three is that Postecoglou cared about the future of Australian soccer, the Socceroos and the A League. To the others is was just a job with one simple task – to qualify for the World Cup with no real interest in much else.
Talk has it that Dutchman, Bert Van Marwijk is a short priced favourite for the job. Van Marwijk’s recent claim to fame is coaching Saudi Arabia to qualification for this year’s World Cup. He is back on the shelf after the Saudi Football Federation couldn’t agree with him on the terms of a new contract.
For Australian soccer’s continued growth, the FFA need to appoint a
local person and Graham Arnold would be the perfect choice. He has the qualifications for the job. For a start he has already been in charge of the National squad back in 2006 and 2007. He has gained more experience in the intervening ten years and is currently the coach of the very successful Sydney FC. Postecoglou proved conclusively that Australian coaches are up to the task of coaching at International level so there should be no impediment to appointing Arnold.
However, I have no confidence that the FFA will get this most important of decisions correct. After all this is an organisation that squandered $45.6 million of Federal assistance in an ill fated (some would say impossible) attempt to convince FIFA to award the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to Australia and we all know how that turned out.
I have been a longtime supporter of Ange Postecoglou and was especially pleased when he was appointed as Socceroos coach to replace Holger Osieck. There can be no doubt that Ange has turned the team’s fortunes around as at one stage the Socceroos had slumped to number 100 in the FIFA world rankings but he now has them back at 39 after qualifying for the World Cup. Ange also managed to win an Asian Championship along the way so he is definitely leaving the National team in a lot better shape than when he took over. Given that success I was most disappointed that he decided to pull the pin on his time as the manager of the team. A bit like David Gallup, I am puzzled as to why you would walk away after having scaled the mountain the hard way. It reminds me of David Hall, who was the original trainer of Maykbe Diva. After the first Melbourne Cup win he went overseas to pursue a training career leaving the Diva with Lee Freedman to chalk up two more wins. At least he had the first win! The search is now on for a new manager and I have heard many names mentioned including current Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold, Brisbane Roar coach John Aloisi, former Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic, Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat and, in a blast from the past, Aussie Guus Hiddink. I hope the powers that be stick with a well credentialled Aussie coach. Personally I think Arnold has the ability to do the top job. He already knows the difficulties having been the Socceroos coach from 2006-2007 and he has been a success in the national competition with his A League side currently holding all three trophies.
Great to see the Ashes series has started as it is the most anticipated series in world cricket. In the recently completed First Test, the Australians gained the ascendancy after being able to scratch out a slim first innings lead then managed to take some crucial, early second innings wickets. The Aussie speed trio of Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc were wonderful and had the English on the back foot in both innings. Providing the three can stay fit, they will be more than a handful for the English over the final four tests. A special mention to the skipper too. Steve Smith’s innings was the real difference between the sides and the only reason the Aussies had a first innings lead. Without his contribution we would have been facing a sizeable deficit to make up and that would have completely turned the tables. Our top order needs to take a leaf out of Smith’s book and seek to occupy the crease rather than go after quick runs all the time. After all it is a ‘Test’ not a 20/20 game.
On a recent Sportzfan Radio show we discussed at length with our soccer expert, Mark Fiorenti, the notion that the Socceroos coach should be appointed for a period well beyond the next World Cup. The rationale behind such an appointment was to encourage the coach to rejuvenate the playing squad at regular intervals with younger players so as to not be left with what we have now……a lot of players that are past their use by date. The average age of the team that lost 6-0 to Brazil several weeks ago was 32.7 years. The average age of the Brazilian team was 26.3.
In fact, the Sportzfan Radio panel has been discussing the average age of the Socceroos players since the qualifying rounds for the last World Cup and said way back then that youth needed to be infused. This didn’t happen and now we are left with the sad reality that, whilst Australia is going to the World Cup, we look like we are simply making up the numbers.
Who then to appoint to replace Osieck? This will depend on whether the FFA has learnt anything from the current situation. I have heard calls to bring back Guus Hiddink or to insert a credentialed coach from Europe. Both suggestions are not the answer. Guus at 66 years of age (67 when next year’s World Cup is on) is yesterday’s man and also past his use by date. He will only be thinking about achieving something in the World Cup (like Osieck) that will not take care of the Socceroo’s future. Same could be said for any profiled European coach.
I am all for giving one of the current Australian A League coaches a shot with the mandate to coach for the future of the Socceroos and not be blinkered to think the future only extends as far as next year’s World Cup. As an example, look at the great building job Tony Popovic has achieved at Western Sydney Wanderers in one season.
The FFA needs to insert KPI’s into the contract that reflect the need for identification of young talent and the need for youth to be injected into the squad. Only then, will the national team be capable of approaching the past glories that the Australian public has become accustomed to!