The Chairman of the Football Federation of Australia Frank Lowy has come out today and stated that he wants the next Socceroos coach to be an Australian, and as most people in football know, what Frank wants he usually gets.
Not surprisingly he has declared that it will be a three-horse race between A-League coaches Tony Popovic, already employed by the FFA at Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne Victory’s Ange Postecoglou, and Central Coat Mariners Graham Arnold, with a decision set to be made in the next fortnight.
“When we appointed Holger (Osieck) coach three years ago, I recall I said words to the effect ‘I hope the next coach will be an Australian’,that was the plan and is still the plan. Our preference is clearly for an Australian coach.” Lowy is quoted as saying.
However his latter comments are the ones the three candidates would want to be paying more attention to. Lowy confirmed that sacked coach Holger Osieck failed on one of the key criteria in his job description, to rebuild the team and develop the younger players. Lowy has said that the FFA would ensure the chosen candidate was well aware of their responsibilities; developing younger players, and rebuilding the Socceroos.
This will be no easy task to whoever takes on the role. The past eight years have found the FFA’s revamped player development programs to have been less successful than those they inherited. Despite the hot air that accompanies the Hyundai A-League, international games have shown that only a few A-League players are ready to step up and play international football, many A-League players are still well below the standard required; as Osieck and his predecessor Pim Verbeek pointed out, and to which many took offence.
The new coach will suffer in the same way as Australia’s first home grown international coach Frank Farina did, they will be expected to still achieve respectable international results, win games, and at the same time give internationally inexperienced players opportunities. It has to be made clear to the coach in charge what exactly the powers that be want. If he is allowed time to rebuild the team, then results should be secondary. If however the FFA want to compromise that development for fear of the Socceroos brand being damaged and the team slipping down the world rankings, then the new coach faces an impossible task.
With Australia having the least number of players playing in Europe’s top leagues in over a decade, this rebuilding is going to take time. Finding which players despite their form in the A-League have the ability to step up and hold their own at international level is going to take time. As mentioned previously the scouting done by the coach’s assistants is going to need to be first class, as he is going to have to look at players who headed to Europe off their own backs and did not necessarily choose the A-League as a route to bigger and better things. There are bound to be some of these players far better suited to international football than some currently playing in the A-League.
If this is the new coach’s brief, to develop younger players it should be a death knell for the likes of Harry Kewell and Patrick Kisnorbo – who should have been picked several years ago when at his peak – who have according to some commentators returned to Australia in order to force their way back into the national team. While the likes of James Troisi, Micahel Zullo and Ryan Edwards on loan back to the A-League from European clubs, will want to do enough to ensure a return to Europe and secure regular higher standard football, in order to stamp their claims on being a part of the new Socceroos set up.
The new coach should be given the time to find his 25-30 players on which he is to build the team, and results should be secondary. In addition he should have input into the player development programs in Australia, and not have to accept that the way things currently are is the best for him to achieve his goals. Will the FFA grant the new coach all of this? Time will tell, but one would have to say on past history it is unlikely.
We should be learning from the mistakes made last time around. Farina was asked to do the impossible, bring in new players and keep winning. When he did try to bring in new players and the team failed to gel, he was lambasted by the media. Will the same media who have campaigned so hard for another home grown coach be more understanding the second time around? Graham Arnold was not given the same tools to work with as his foreign predecessors, which clearly impacted on what he was able to do in the role. The new home grown coach needs to be given the same budget and support as a Hiddink, Verbeek or Osieck demanded. If the FFA is not prepared to do this and see a home grown coach as a coast-saving exercise, then why would anyone take the job?
All three men need to be strong in their demands and be clear on how long they have to rebuild, if they are not, as happened to Farina, come the eleventh hour and World Cup Qualification for Russia in 2018, they too may find another coach parachuted in to ensure Australia attends its fourth world cup finals in a row.