Ange right man but wrong time
What legacy will coach leave now?
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.
FALL GUY? Ange Postecoglou is set to quit the Socceroos whatever the results of the playoff against Honduras in November.