There can be many parallels drawn between the dying days of Pim Verbeek’s reign in charge of Australia to today. The most obvious of which is the overwhelming feeling that the team is playing uninspired football with little to no cohesion. Adding to the frustration is the void of a clear plan in place to introduce new talent moving to the Asian Cup in 2015 and beyond to Russia 2018. The FFA made their bed by appointing another foreign coach whose sole objective is World Cup qualification. It demonstrates how far we have come but if we wish to go further, surely we need far more from a head coach than just the next 4-year cycle.
The fact Holger Osieck is not Australian does not inform a critique of his managerial performance, it merely provides a context in which to understand where the Socceroos currently stand and where the national team should be going. Any situation whereby Ruben Zadkovich starts the two most important games of the East Asian Cup whilst our most promising centre back since Lucas Neill (Trent Sainsbury) plays zero minutes throughout the tournament tells us there is a breakdown in the system. There is no other conclusion that can be reached. Supporters should not take the easy path of heaping scorn on the likes of Zadkovich. He doesn’t select himself. This is about the Socceroos as an organisation- are they making the most out of the talent pool available?
Another strong case for the prosecution is the continual experimentation of Matt McKay at left fullback. Adama Traore and Josh Rose must wonder what they did to the German to miss out on selection time and time again to a man who has openly admitted to not being comfortable in the position. McKay was a serviceable central midfielder for the Roar who tried his luck overseas. Out of all the clubs to go to, he chose the only one that was about to be diagnosed as terminally ill at Glasgow Rangers. Like the captain Lucas Neill, it seems selection is not predicated on regular first team football or even a minor detail such as playing in the position as selected. Despite Holger’s utterances in public, the Socceroos are far harder to get dropped than picked. I have made the point on social media numerous times, but I am 100% convinced Jade North knows where the FFA hide the bodies. Until I see evidence to the contrary I will not be changing my opinion.
Logistically Osieck was dealt a rough hand in relation to the EAFF. With Manchester United and Liverpool scheduling trips after the itinerary was drafted up, as well as the European-based players beginning pre seasons, it was not ideal. Yet the exact same scenario applied to Japan and Korea. We weren’t facing Kagawa or Honda. Only China put out an experienced outfit, but with a world ranking in triple digits it was hard for them to do anything else. Many avid A-League viewers knew with the right coaching and backing from management there was a healthy crop of youngsters who wouldn’t necessarily get the results to win the tournament, but at least put a strong statement forward that Australian football does have a bright future. Instead, we end up scratching our heads and wondering what the hell happened.
Holger’s post match comments after the China defeat was more or less telling us this was about giving young players a chance. Excuse me? Once the tournament was over, he gave us the first indication of the purpose of the exercise. After players were continually played out of position and the regular fringe players were selected in front of promising talent, it was about the next gen. Despite evidence to the contrary, the coach virtually shrugged the shoulders and basically said “they’re kids, I threw them in there- what are you gonna do?” To be fair to him, when you aren’t given any job parameters from your boss, what are you going to do?
In football it is not good enough to sack a coach without a suitable enough replacement. I don’t see any evidence to suggest that Ange Postecoglu is an inferior coach to Holger Osicek. His knowledge of the league, his ability to operate under pressure and play exciting football are qualities severely lacking under current management. Coming back to the original point- where do the Socceroos want to go? Ange inherently knows the need to transition to a younger group and the machinations involved in such circumstances. He would bring a level of foresight to the role and understand the importance of specialist positions.
Before killing everyone’s buzz and being the reason for cancelling any flights to Rio, let’s face facts- on the current path, the Socceroos are headed for a fairly underwhelming group stage exit. I’m sure like 2010 we will show a great fighting spirit and maybe pull off a big upset or two, but from previous outings it really is grasping at the perennial straw. So why fear change? The FFA will get its big payday. But there will come a time after selecting yet another coach far removed from Australia for yet another World Cup cycle that reality hits. The shifting demographic to more A-League based Socceroos is already happening. Eventually the FFA will need to have a coach who not only understands the A-League, but trusts it.Google+