There are many in Australian football who are quick on the draw to gun down Socceroos boss Holger Osciek. His tactics were wrong, he picked the wrong team, he played the wrong formation, he played so-and-so out of position. Osciek like many coaches is bound to make mistakes, but we must never forget what he has to work with. Guus Hiddink was lucky that when he took over as Coach of the Socceroos he had a golden generation of players to choose from, who were all at or close to the peak of their game. Fifteen of the squad were playing regularly for their clubs in the top leagues in Europe while the support players apart from Mark Milligan, Archie Thompson and Michael Beauchamp, were all playing for second tier sides in Europe. These same players were on the wane when Pim Verbeek took over, and many have underplayed his achievement in having the team qualify for the World Cup finals without losing a game. Sadly he is remembered for saying that the A League was not of a suitable standard from which to pick international players, and Australia’s defeat against Germany. People are quick to forget that Germany also knocked four goals past England and Argentina.
Osciek, has not been blessed with such an array of talent, and has not had the benefit of a similar crop of talented players coming through at top clubs in the top leagues in the world when he needs them. He has also had to suffer the fact that many in Australia believed once the qualifying path was through Asia the country had a right to attend every World Cup. That is why the World Cup is such a big event, not just any country qualifies, you have to earn that right.
There is already a push for Australia to appoint a coach from within and it would appear, and one East Coast journalist picked up on this at the weekend, that Ange Postecoglou has certain media outlets already in his corner lobbying for him.
Many will forget that when Frank Farina was appointed Socceroos coach in 1998, Postecoglou was on the short list along with Eddie Krncevic and Dave Mitchell. He withdrew from the race saying that he lacked the relevant experience, despite his success with South Melbourne in the old NSL.
He has shown that he has matured as a coach since then but has continued to be successful as shown by his success in no time at Brisbane Roar and the ability to win them back to back Championships. What he has achieved at Melbourne Victory this season is also nothing short of remarkable. Last year they were a club in turmoil, now they are playing in the finals and it would be a brave man to bet against them.
His achievements this season have not attracted the attention that they warranted as up in Sydney, Tony Popovic has returned from an assistant role at Crystal Palace to take on his first senior coaching job at Western Sydney Wanderers and has taken the League Premiership at the first time of asking with a squad assembled in three months. A truly amazing achievement, and one that now has some people saying that Popovic is a challenger for the national job. He may not have key media outlets on his side as was pointed out at the weekend, but he is employed by the FFA who will ultimately make the decision.
There are however several questions that need to be asked before such an appointment. The first is would both give up the day to day running of a club side, with whom they have day to day contact and can influence their style of play and replace that for the sporadic coming together of players from many different clubs and styles of play for a fortnight, and try and mould them into the side they want? It is no easy task, and that is why some of the great club managers have shied away from International positions.
Popovic and Postecoglou are beacons when it comes to coaching the A League and would Australia not be best served to have them remain where they are at the moment and work towards easing them into a national role, having them involved with the national set up whenever possible. Graham Arnold has shown how much being around Hiddink and Verbeek has assisted in his development as a coach. At this point in time the last thing Australia needs to do is promote either of these talented coaches too early. Australia will no doubt one day again be coached by an Australian, but the timing must be right for the coach and the national team for it to be a success. Let us not be too quick to push for such a move, and should we fail to qualify for Brazil let us not take such an option for financial reasons. Let us make an Australian coach of the national team because the time is right, the coach is ready, and he is the best man for the job.