It is a sad day in any country where the captain of any national sporting team is booed by that nations fans. As hard as that must be to take the player should always try and rise above that abuse and not respond with abuse of their own.
Yesterday the captain of the Socceroos did. Now many are calling for his head. A head that for the past year many sections of the media and the public have been baying for.
What many fail to remember is that the coach picks the team, not the player. The coach decides who the captain is, not the captain. The captaincy may well go to another player when the World Cup finals come around, but for the time being we have witnessed Holger Osieck, Aurelio Vidmar and now Ange Postecoglou all hand the armband to Lucas Neill. Should we not stop and think why they would all make that decision? They are far closer to Lucas Neill than most fans are and they can see first hand what he brings to the team in that role and his leadership skills. Surely by booing the captain you are in fact questioning the coach?
There are many in this country who have decided that Lucas Neill is no longer required by the national team as a player or a captain, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sadly many of Lucas’s boo-boys when faced with the question as to who should replace him in the defensive line, struggle to come up with an alternative, and therefore their views have less validity. As stated in our piece Neill Under Fire – Is It Warranted Australia currently has a lack of quality defenders to pick from, but last night against an insipid Costa Rica, it looks as if the best central pairing is indeed Rhys Williams and the experience of Lucas Neill. Time will tell if Ange Postecoglou agrees.
Lucas Neill has been hounded by many in the media in recent months as if he was solely to blame for the two 6-0 drubbings against Brazil and France, and the post match interview with Fox Sports was again full of loaded questions of a personal nature rather than discussing the game and the team’s performance.
One thing that came through in the post match interviews is that either Ange Postecoglou or the players as a group have opted for a siege mentality within the squad, one that worked exceptionally well for Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. The Australian media has a habit of chopping down its heroes when they stop winning and the Socceroos are now feeling the heat.
The responses given by Tim Cahill and Lucas Neill were similar in both their message and the way in which they answered the interviewer, both looking away into the distance and creating a barrier that is likely too exist for the unforeseeable future.
“Its not about me its about everybody and that includes the 40 that are always travelling with us.” Neill said.
“This is about a team not about an individual its about everyone sticking together This is about 30 players not just the starting eleven and what you can bring to the team,” came from Cahill soon after.
Some may say these were cliched answers, but the body language that accompanied these responses said much more than the words.
There is no doubt that Lucas Neill should not have sworn at those booing him, and no doubt he regrets it, but all those quick to judge should think how they would have coped if while doing their job, and admirably, they were being continually abused. Everyone has a breaking point, as for calling for his head, that is taking things a little too far and shows that there is a mission by some to see him lose the captaincy and be thrown off the team. That decision is no one else’s but the coach’s, so let him be the one to decide.
One thing that is clear is this new era of the Socceroos under Postecoglou, at least in the short term they are going to be far less trusting of the media, and understandably so, the criticism of certain individuals without offering alternative solutions is only going to galvanise the players as a group, and rightly so. Hopefully it ends up delivering results to make us proud off every single player.