Ange right man but wrong time

What legacy will coach leave now?

Stanthorpe Border Post - - SPORT | DIGEST - DAVID DAVUTOVIC ANAL­Y­SIS

FOOT­BALL: Ange Postecoglou was a breath of fresh air for Aus­tralian soc­cer, but yet again his chance came at the wrong time.

His Soc­ceroos legacy will in many ways be shaped by next month’s play­offs against Hon­duras.

Coaches are judged on results and Rus­sia 2018 qual­i­fi­ca­tion would cap off an im­pres­sive in­ter­na­tional CV.

But can 180 min­utes de­fine a legacy? World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion won’t change the fact that Aus­tralia’s soc­cer ecosys­tem is pol­luted. Postecoglou, as the Soc­ceroos boss, is the face of it.

It’s a rough co­in­ci­dence that a lo­cal was deemed good enough to take charge of the Soc­ceroos when Aus­tralia’s play­ing stocks were at an all-time low.

Aus­tralia did not see its youth de­vel­op­ment demise com­ing ei­ther, when Postecoglou was blamed for fail­ing to qual­ify the Young Soc­ceroos for the 2006 Un­der 20 World Cup for the first time since 1989.

Since, Aus­tralia has bombed eight of 14 youth World Cup qual­i­fiers – this is the Soc­ceroos’ pro­duc­tion line. Postecoglou’s shock de­ci­sion to quit is an­other bomb­shell for Aus­tralian soc­cer amid the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cri­sis en­gulf­ing the game. The Soc­ceroos’ suc­cess was pa­per­ing over the game’s cracks and now, with the game in cri­sis mode, Postecoglou has be­come the fall guy. The Postecoglou era can only be ac­cu­rately as­sessed by rewind­ing four years.

When he took over in Oc­to­ber 2013, the Soc­ceroos were on the nose and Hol­ger Osieck had bred an en­vi­ron­ment of en­ti­tle­ment, re­luc­tant to even ex­per­i­ment in friendlies.

Postecoglou, with broom in hand, was in­stantly un­pop­u­lar with the old guard. Only Tim Cahill and Mark Bres­ciano sur­vived.

Some golden gen­er­a­tion play­ers were pushed, oth­ers walked. None of those, per­haps Brett Hol­man aside, would be left to­day.

One won­ders where the team would be if not for his over­haul. Postecoglou worked around the clock – watch­ing games, scout­ing over­seas youth tour­na­ments and trav­el­ling to Can­berra to watch Aus­tralia’s next gen­er­a­tion, look­ing for the slight­est open­ing to blood a kid. Un­for­tu­nately the con­veyor belt has al­most ground to a halt.

Could the Soc­ceroos have qual­i­fied adopt­ing a more prag­matic ap­proach? Per­haps.

He has been lam­basted for adopt­ing the back three, and they have looked more sus­pect de­fen­sively, but the pre­ced­ing four-man defence was hardly wa­ter­tight. A 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 won’t solve Aus­tralia’s woes.

No one be­lieved in this rag-tag bunch of play­ers like Postecoglou, throw­ing Aaron Mooy, Trent Sains­bury, Tomi Juric and co. in ahead of time. His de­meanour had changed, and cracks did be­gin to ap­pear, feel­ing the bur­den of a na­tion amid the po­lit­i­cal fi­asco.

Per­haps he’s guilty of car­ing too much in a code that has a habit of burn­ing you.

Was he a suc­cess?

It’s im­prac­ti­cal to judge a coach with­out view­ing the en­tire land­scape, specif­i­cally the qual­ity of play­ers at one’s dis­posal and the qual­ity of the op­po­si­tion.

Aus­tralia has never been weaker, yet the rest of Asia never stronger.

Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and John Aloisi would’ve rel­ished play­ing in a Postecoglou sys­tem, while young­sters of yes­ter­year would’ve also thrived.

In a salary cap en­vi­ron­ment such as the A-League, he man­aged to eke out an edge with his rev­o­lu­tion­ary at­tack­ing ways.

He was on the verge of do­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things with the Soc­ceroos, but with one of the shal­low­est play­ers pools in world soc­cer, each in­jury or club bench­ing is com­pounded.

Postecoglou be­lieved in this group of play­ers, but he won’t see out his mis­sion if Aus­tralia qual­i­fies for Rus­sia 2018. He will at least leave on his terms.

PHOTO: RYAN PIERSE/GETTY IMAGES

FALL GUY? Ange Postecoglou is set to quit the Soc­ceroos what­ever the results of the play­off against Hon­duras in Novem­ber.

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