Time For Deeper Analysis

So the Socceroos will play Honduras home and away to qualify for the World Cup finals in Russia next year.

Last night they eventually scraped home against a spirited Syria team. The left hand post of Mat Ryan’s goal, keeping their dream alive and shattering those of the Syrian players and fans.

The 37-year old Tim Cahill understandably grabbed the headlines, as it was his two headed goals that secured an important victory for Australia. Many have said that is all he did in the 120 minutes he was on the pitch. That may be so, but he delivered when he had to, but more importantly when those around him failed to.

When the final whistle sounded it was strange. There was no elation that is usually felt when a team wins a big game. There was a degree of relief, but the overwhelming feeling was one of sadness, tinged with disappointment.

For anyone to have expected the Socceroos to have waltzed past Syria was unrealistic. They were in the play-off game because they had earned that right and put in some strong and spirited performances. Not only that but ranked 75 against the Socceroos ranking of 50th it was always going to be a competitive match.

The disappointment probably stemmed from the way the Socceroos played. They were pedestrian, and their play was in the main predictable. They lacked a spark.

Yet the overwhelming feeling after the match, and today is one of sadness. How could Australian football have fallen so far in eleven years? People say that it is unfair to compare players from different generations but there was no player last night that would have been picked in the starting eleven against Uruguay at the same venue in 2005. Tim Cahill was in the starting line up on that day but the 2017 version of the player would never have ousted his younger self.

The sad thing is the writing has been on the wall for a while, but no one wanted to see it.

Ange Postecoglou has been the man in the firing line as the head coach. He has been lambasted for his tactics, his selections and the formations he has opted to employ. In Football everyone knows that the buck eventually stops with the coach, but is Ange solely to blame?

When the Football Federation of Australia took over the running of the game in Australia in 2005, the Socceroos were their focus to grow the game. This was the brand that they boldly proclaimed was the strongest, and would attract sponsors, television broadcasters and fans. As time has gone by their focus has shifted to the A-League. Was this because the number of players playing top flight football in Europe was the lowest it had been for several decades? Was this because the Socceroos did not have any high profile marketable players any more, with the exception of Tim Cahill?

Or was this due to the administration’s failing to build on the success of the 2006 “Golden Generation?”

Following the Socceroos qualification and performances at the 1974 World Cup Finals in Germany most people involved in the game at that time have said that the game’s administration then was not ready for the impact this would have, and never capitalised on the euphoria and interest. Many of those same people said the same post 2006, and history may well prove them right.

Before moving to Australia I recall their loss to Scotland in 1985 meaning they missed out on qualification for Mexico in 1986. The first World cup qualifying campaign I recall since moving to Australia was in 1989. There Australia drew with Israel when they needed a win, and Israel progressed to the Inter-Confederation play off where they lost 1-0 over two legs to Colombia.

In 1993 for the 1994 Finals there was the 2-1 loss to Argentina over two legs, and four years later probably the most famous loss of all to Iran. Then there was Uruguay in 2001 before the famous victory in Sydney in 2005.

In many of those games Australia were the underdogs. Yet they still had quality players on the park. If you check out the players from these teams many are names that still are regularly raised when talking about the Socceroos. As for the team from 1997, four of the starting eleven, and four of the seven substitutes went on to be a part of the historic win in Sydney eight years later.

This implies that the game in Australia was progressing. That players were improving, and we were producing players capable of competing with the best. Are we doing that now?

To blame Ange Postecoglou is taking far too narrow approach. The blame must lie with the decision makers within the FFA who restructured the coaching in this country, rather than tweaking it. Who came up with “pathways” which appear to be more about making money than actually developing players capable of playing at the highest level? Who introduced a points system in our top competitions underpinning the professional A-League, thereby giving young players more games than their ability deserves, and restricting older players who may have matured late.

Then there was the murder of the AIS, or the Centre of Excellence. This is no more, yet it had for so long polished the diamonds who went onto to become household names in Australia, Europe and around the world.

It has been announced today, but not confirmed by Ange Postecoglou, that he will step down as the national coach when the qualification games against Honduras have been played, whether Australia qualify for Russia 2018 or not. That is a shame, as he has done a good job with a very limited pool of talent, many of whom are not playing regular football for their clubs. As coach he will no doubt accept that he has made mistakes, and knowing Ange will admit some of those, but the administration and the decisions that they have made in the past ten years are more to blame for the situation the Socceroos find themselves in, not the coach.

Let us hope that Ange can deliver, and leaves on a positive note with the Socceroos heading to another World Cup Finals. Whether they qualify or not let us hope that sooner rather than later a committee is formed of ex players and top coaches to review the structures that have been put in place, which are clearly underachieving. The last thing the game needs is another period of 32 years without qualifying for a World Cup; then again FIFA’s expanded tournament may well assist and once again paper over the cracks in the development programs.

Time For Deeper Analysis
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10 thoughts on “Time For Deeper Analysis

  • October 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm
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    F- That literally is the million dollar question, and many far more astute with fingers than I have been trying to find out, but the annual report does not reveal the answer either.

  • October 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm
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    Pretty sure it was god awful Reebok not Nike who had the initial kit sponsorship for the league Ash but I digress

    At the end of the day mate I’m no CPA mate but some of those number….

    If FFA were provided $122M of the $150M the Govt claims to have ploughed into our game, where did the other $30M go ?
    $150M over 13/14 years equates to around $10/11M per annum. Not a great deal if you look at it in that sense against the cost of running a code as big as ours. Furthermore, given it is well publicised that pretty much all A League clubs are running at a loss in excess of 1 or 2M a year and there are 10 teams in the league I’m starting to wonder where exactly is all that money is going.

    Now, if you also factor in Lowy who, with or without scepticism, we can safely say has also weighed in with Millions AND we include Corporate sponsorship (namely the new Fox deal worth $340M !) AND any other revenue stream (betting etc) against the other side of the ledger that has a reported combined loss of over $200 Million by the Franchise owners over roughly the same period then seriously, where on earth is all this money going exactly ?????

  • October 12, 2017 at 3:21 pm
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    F, When Soccer Australia was wound up the Australia Soccer Association (ASA) was set up. On 1 January 2005 the ASA renamed itself the Football Federation Australia (FFA). Before the FFA was formed and the game was being administered by the ASA the Australian Government gave $15million to football. IN 2008 the Rudd Government gave a further $16 million over two years to support a televised national women’s league this was quoted as being “on top of existing four-year funding of $16.0 million.”

    The key sponsors were obviously Hyundai along with Foxtel ($4million) Nike who sponsored every A- League team at the start on the back of the Socceroos, Powerade, Telstra and Qantas; the latter helping with lower airfare prices for the teams, so a value deal rather than a large sum of cash. The total sum according to the FFA’s John Sullivan at the time was worth $12million. None of those companies are connected to the then President of the FFA.

    I have repeatedly asked how much Westfield and Mr Lowy have actually put into the game, and have not been able to obtain an answer. Many believe the answer is far less than the market value of the exposure his company has received.

    In 2012 Julia Gillard announced an $8 million investment in football in western Sydney. This was to be spent with $5 million going to help football increase participation at grassroots levels while also providing support to those at the elite level. Women’s football will receive $1 million of that funding while the other $3 million will be invested in the redevelopment of Football NSW headquarters at Valentine Park.

    Of course $4million of this money was ploughed into Western Sydney Wanderers to achieve these goals. Then the club was sold for $10million and the FFA shared the proceeds with the other A-League clubs.

    In fact according to a Government website since the establishment of FFA in 2004, the government has provided more than $150 million in support of football in Australia. FFA has received $122 million of that funding including $16 million from the Australian Sports Commission for High Performance and Sports Participation programs, $57 million of special assistance funding, $7 million for early work associated with hosting the 2015 Asian Cup and $42 million for the 2022 World Cup bid.

  • October 12, 2017 at 1:59 pm
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    Feel free to correct me but I believe the 2006 era of the World Cup and inauguration of the A League was bankrolled by Lowy and his Corporate partners. The hugely publicised disastrous 2022 World Cup bid that saw $46 Million disappearing into (I’ll be nice here) “thin air” however was near fully Federally funded. Guess that was a harsh lesson for people/media in this country in that they sat at the big gamblers table wanting to win big and if that’s the case you need to know how to lose big as well.
    I think I have mentioned this before but I simply see Football as a top 4 sport here in Oz. It will always have its peaks and troughs but ultimately it will always sit behind the sports that are part and parcel of the Australian culture. People need to respect that. You don’t see the American sporting marketing machine waltzing into England and asking them to put aside 150 years of footballing tradition that is ingrained into the culture because hey, NFL is “awesome”.
    I know that may hurt some but to me it is what it is and I certainly think it should by no means not stop us from working with what we have.

  • October 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm
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    F, I agree it was a gamble worth taking, I am not sure that Mr Lowy actually put that much into the pot, I think you will find it was the Government, but aside from that, as you say it was a great time for Football in the country. We had a new administration, we were going to the World Cup after 32 years and we had a brand new league which was looking good and being marketed well. The sad thing was the cash dried up so the marketing was cut, and we rode the wave for a few great years. So was it O’Neill or was it the players who got us there. Was it Hiddink or a combination of all? Probably the latter. My regret is that we did not grow from that moment, instead our development system was systematically scrapped and remodelled and that is why we are where we are now.

  • October 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm
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    Hmm, I’m not so sure we can claim it was ‘mismanagement’ around the 2006 campaign and really I’m not so fussed about the enormous outlay of funds either because let’s be honest, it was predominantly Lowy’s money so he was free to do what he wanted with it. Christ knows when you’re worth around 6 Billion…
    You may recall we were also at a crossroads here Ash’, we needed to do something, anything as the old NSL had gone stale/outright died and the code was in all sorts of mess. We did however have one and only one asset and that was a golden generation of players playing overseas and in my opinion we rightly took a gamble and spent the cash, brought in the absolute best possible (available) coach at the time and did whatever we needed to do in order to qualify with what is proved to be the greatest and most talented Socceroos team ever. We rolled that dice so to speak and we won and I guess it’s exactly what we needed to do at the time.

    Ultimately as we know it paid off and for a few years there Football in this country was top of the pile.

    But that was 2006……..

  • October 12, 2017 at 11:41 am
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    Thanks as always for your comments. I was trying to say that it is a combination of factors as to why the team has struggled and only some responsibility lies with the coach.

    I agree F that some of the media – especially those who have no idea about football – have bigged up the A-League and the players, and now the public have unrealistic expectations. This is why the media should not be influenced by clubs or the league.

    As for John O’Neill I have to say, and if you read earlier posts, I have never been a fan. He was just a front man. He did what all the previous heads of Soccer Australia did and gambled on qualification with Hiddink. Had that not been achieved it would have been a very different story. What with the costs of leasing the Qantas aircraft to Uruguay and the bonuses to the players and Hiddink there was next to no money left to be invested into the game from the World Cup windfall. Is that prudent management. The man who did all the work was his number two Matt Carroll, who has received few accolades.

    I also agree re the future. I personally believe that it will take at least ten years to get our development back to where it was, possibly even longer.

  • October 12, 2017 at 9:29 am
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    Mate, please allow me to jog your memory regarding O’Neill. Firstly, he was and always will be a ruggers man. He was just a puppet CEO who knew little (if anything) of football and was, as rumours had it at the time, just in the gig til he found something better or more interesting which he did just a couple of years later when he went back to, surprise surprise, the ARU (Remind you of anyone more local ?). Furthermore a number of things he oversaw in which some believe were of his doing, such as wiping out the enormous debt and overseeing the initial steps of the A League, were actually down to a chap called Frank Lowy and his money and business nouse…but more so his money.
    In fact the ONLY thing of note in which O’Neill did was endorse the signing of Guus Hiddink. Again, with Lowy’s money….

    In short, he had, quite literally, no effect on our game full stop and in respect to the current state of the game, even if you employed the entire German footballing administration they still couldn’t do anything with the quality of footballers we have in this country at both Junior and Senior level or the fact that the A League is of poor quality and poorly attended.

  • October 11, 2017 at 3:59 pm
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    Welcome back Ashley.

    In my humble opinion there are 3 notable failings in this and recent campaigns.
    The first being the players – You see, a few of us football fans have long stated that the Aussie football media of the likes of Hill, Harper, Slater, the late Cockerill, Bosnich etc along with certain members of the prominent newspapers have long OVER exaggerated the capabilities of Aussie footballers. They carry on about so many footballers like they were certain next-best-things in Europe and X amount of years down the track we have none. You look at the entire current squad and there are but a few walk-up starts in any team and lets not pretend these are top end teams either. The rest are either fighting for a start or plying their trade in some lower league in Europe or Asia. These same players then roll into the international camps and as we have seen all campaign, put in a half-hearted/lacklustre effort and that’s to put it mildly.

    The second failing is Ange. Yes, he needs to take a heap of criticism here because arrogantly persisting with a back 3 that has left the side vulnerable in every game, dodgy squad rotations and playing players that are either not match fit or struggling at club level when it was he, himself that declared years ago that he would only play players that are playing regularly at club level (didn’t that come back to haunt you Ange) just underpinned the underachievement of the last 3, 4 years. His squad rotation is as frustrating as it is perplexing. Mooy, MOM for the Socceroos in the 1st leg v Syria….benched for the return game ?!??!? Brad Smith ?? Ruka ?? barely match fit and injured Sainsbury ?? Risdon ??. No spark, no urgency, no enthusiasm. Ange is a wonderful club manager but seriously, I think the A League is his niche stage.

    The overarching problem however is the media and football fans. For everything that was wonderful about Australia’s qualification and participation in the 2006 World Cup it has now left an unrealistic legacy in the sport here in Australia. We’re all aware Aussies are sports mad but Christ, if thinking they can emulate the achievement of that campaign every 4 years than someone needs to tell them that they will be left hugely disappointed. To reiterate what I stated in the first part – the players that are coming through are simply just not that good, sorry. Dig deeper and look at the national youth teams and you will see that it has been decades since any of them have achieved anything of note. Then look at the A League and the state of that and compare it with some of the comments made by the likes of Hill, Harper, Bozza et al. Are we all watching the same game ? yes I understand they are doing their jobs and Fox has a vested interest in the success of the A League but a bit of realism wouldn’t go astray..

    At the end of the day I will always support the game here in Oz but I do firmly believe the overall Aussie football public needs a good reality check.

    And that’s whether we make the World Cup or not….

  • October 11, 2017 at 3:38 pm
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    In 2005 when the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup , the CEO was an ex Rugby CEO who was very successful in runing the rugby World Cup . He had a contract with FFA for few years , successfuly managed the World Cup campaign and everyone was on a high . When the dust settled on that campaign O’Neill , the CEO resigned . For me that was a sign that something is wrong with the people that run the game . Unfortunatley i was right , except for Asian Cup , everything went downhill . Ange has his faults to , a coach should be able to change the course of a game when the game is not going well . He is to stubborn to change or not able to read the game . Socceroos game is very easley red by any smart coach and the proof is the results against average teams . The pool of good players is diminishing fast so it’s a combination of all factors . And it will take hard work and long time to change everything . I hope i will live the day to see a Socceroos team , if not better at least , at same level as Socceroos 2006.

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