It seems Postecoglou and Graham Arnold are very much in the mix to take charge.
Ange Postecoglou doesn’t want tokenism but I’m okay with that.
Seriously, Postecoglou is right when he says the choice of the next Socceroos coach shouldn’t be about ‘going local’ for the sake of it. He’s also right when he says it must be the best man for the job. And yet you can’t help feel we need to indulge in some positive discrimination if we want to see an Australian in charge of the Australian team at a World Cup for the first time. In the wake of Holger Osieck’s swift departure in the hours after the crushing defeat in Paris, it’s clear the cultural cringe among key stakeholders remains alive and well. How do we break through the glass ceiling? By a leap of faith. That’s always been the case, but history tells us how hard it’s been to convince the powerbrokers to take the jump.
I’ve been banging on about the rights, the qualities, and the intelligence of the local coaching fraternity for the best part of two decades. It remains a national shame that in the 50 years since we rejoined FIFA, Frank Farina remains the only homegrown coach the national team has had. And I mean shame.
Fortunately, David Gallop seems to have his eyes, ears and mind open. Maybe we’ve needed someone from outside the sport to see things from a different perspective. Either way, at the time of writing, it seems Postecoglou and Graham Arnold are very much in the mix to take charge. From where I sit the toughest decision is not whether a local deserves the job, but which one. I honestly can’t split the claims of Postecoglou and Arnold, who are both perfectly equipped to give a dispirited, shapeless, directionless, national team a turbo-charge of confidence, and expertise. I’m glad it’s not my choice.
Which doesn’t mean, of course, that either of them are over the line. Gallop’s challenge is to win the culture war as much as anything else. Why so many people within the game continue to believe the cream of our coaching crop aren’t yet ‘ready’ for the biggest job in the game astonishes me. If Arnold and Postecoglou aren’t ready now, they’ll never be.
Lately, it’s become more fashionable to talk in positive terms about the homegrown coaching fraternity. Truth is, we’ve had good coaches for decades, but for many years circumstance conspired against them. Han Berger’s drive to upskill local coaches has undoubtedly raised the bar, but education is not the only prerequisite of a good coach. The immeasurables such as man management, motivation, personal drive, and honesty don’t necessarily figure prominently in the Pro License, but they remain important factors. And at a time when so many ex-players are questioning the pride in the green and gold shirt, having Arnold or Postecoglou in charge would be the quickest way to rekindle the famed Socceroos’ spirit. Why? Because they’ve worn the shirt themselves, and all these years later they still get misty-eyed when they talk about what it means to them.
If that sounds old-fashioned, so be it. In an era of overpaid, overblown, overrated footballers, there’s no reason why the national team can’t still be a refuge for patriotism, and passion. Brazil and Argentina have some of the most highly-paid footballers on earth, yet their team spirit is legendary. How many foreign coaches have they had? None.
Foreign coaches have, over the years, given the Socceroos some sterling service. For differing reasons, the likes of Joe Venglos, Rale Rasic, Frank Arok, Raul Blanco, Eddie Thomson, Terry Venables and Guus Hiddink have contributed significantly to the narrative. But the advent of the Hyundai A-League as a hothouse for coaching development has changed everything. Between them, Arnold and Postecoglou have won the last three championships. In the wings, the likes of Tony Popovic and Alistair Edwards are showing real potential.
What do we gain from delaying, yet again, the only sensible course of action? Does appointing yet another foreign coach on a short-term, results-driven, basis really give us that much peace of mind?
Hard decisions are often the right ones. With just eight months until the World Cup, this ranks up there with one of the toughest decisions the FFA has ever made.
Foreign or local? Either way, there’s no guarantees the Socceroos will be able to turn their fortunes around. But I’m sure there’s only one way to guarantee they’ll give it their best shot.