Once again Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou shows his class, as he quite rightly parried the parochial clamour by some media outlets for an Australian coach of the Socceroos following the sacking of Holger Osieck. “I don’t like this whole ‘let’s go local as opposed to lets go overseas,’ its our national team, whoever the best person for the job is that’s who should get it. its too important. I have never been into tokenism or just doing things because it seems right.” He said after his team’s opening game draw against Melbourne Heart. He is of course right, the job should go to the best man, and if that happens to be a local coach then so be it.
There are some who are already fearful that the FFA will opt for an overseas high profile coach, such as Guus Hiddink should he take it, for the short term, the World Cup and the Asia Cup in early 2015. Then they will opt for a local coach, partly for political reasons and also to save money; unfortunately a local coach is going to struggle to receive the same remuneration as a coach like Hiddink.
Postecoglou withdrew from the race for the national team job back in 1999 when despite being the first eliminated in the voting Frank Farina was made Australia’s first home grown coach. Farina faced the same problem that the next incumbent will face, maintaining results on the international stage so that Australia continues to enjoy a high ranking, but trying to juggle that with brining in new players. Soccer Australia wanted Farina to bring in new players but expected him to still manage a winning team, which is a tough ask of any coach.
When Graham Arnold took over from Guus Hiddink for the Asia Cup campaign in 2007 he too faced issues that may repeat if a local coach is appointed. Rightly or wrongly Arnold found it increasingly difficult to get European based players released from their clubs for Socceroos games in Asia. Sadly without the international profile of a Hiddink or Verbeek, clubs tried to bully the national coach and the players. Arnold having been a player himself, faced with the club v country issue knew the pressure the players were placed under, and was stuck between a rock and a hard place! The FFA rather than backing their man, did not want to upset the senior players or the big clubs in Europe and failed to support their coach. Although with very few players playing in the top leagues in Europe at this point in time this issue will be a lot easier for the coach.
If Australia opts for a home grown coach the successful candidate would be wise to talk to Messrs Arnold and Farina before accepting the role and ensuring that they are assured of the FFA’s full support. Support in line with a foreign high profile coach. If has happened in the past, the FFA look to skimp on spending for camps and fixtures purely because the home-grown coach does not have the clout of a Hiddink, then they will be doomed to fail.
The big question is are the FFA ready to concede to these demands from a local coach? Bringing in a foreign coach in the short term will be costly financially, and may be of little benefit to the team or the game as a whole, but to appoint a home-grown coach as a cost saving measure after this would be foolish in the extreme.
One has to admit that the three names being bandied about, Arnold, Popovic and Postecoglou have all done well on the local scene, but there is a massive difference between the A-League and international football. It would be nice to see all three spread their wings and have a spell coaching overseas before being given the top job. So far few Australian coaches have gained experience coaching in top class foreign leagues, and those who have gone overseas have not shone. Maybe our coaches need to be looking to gain that exposure first before taking on the national job?
Despite the clamouring for a home grown coach, it may still be a little premature, as Ange Postecoglou quite rightly stated whoever is given the job, foreign or Australian, must be the best person suited to the position.