At long last Holger Osieck has been relieved of his post as manager of the Socceroos. I, along with many others who follow the game closely, thought the move should have been made some time in 2012, when we looked decidedly unimpressive in several World Cup qualifiers against lowly-ranked opposition. Osieck’s just-good-enough results at the Asian Cup and in World Cup qualifying gave him more breathing room than his poor man management and youth development deserved. The Australian team that played against France yesterday was a three-year-slower version of the team Osieck inherited from Pim Verbeek three years ago, and it’s clear the next Socceroo manager needs to do a lot better.
So, who should be next? Here are a few of my thoughts..
1. It’s all about development
You won’t hear David Gallop saying this, but the next Australian coach should be told to go out and win the Asian Cup. Australia hosts the tournament only six months after the World Cup and it’s a tournament we can win. A developmental side building towards that goal won’t do any worse in Brasil than Holger’s aging plonkers did against France and Brasil, and the experience could help a new generation of Socceroos kickstart their road to 2018.
2. Go local
Guus Hiddink changed the game in Australia, but there’s only so many Guus Hiddinks, and the simple fact is that Australia can’t afford them. The FFA could look to Hiddink or someone of his ilk to take the side through to Brasil, but after that we’d find ourselves in the same situation as 2006, and much the same situation as we are in right now. We should be hoping our next coach will last all the way through to 2018, and if we can’t afford the wages of a top-class coach we also can’t afford the results and stagnation of another Verbeek or Osieck.
The generational overhaul we need requires someone with a strong knowledge of the local game and our overseas youngsters. A-League fans should no longer have to get up at 3am to watch a Socceroos squad that would struggle to beat Wellington Pheonix, when we know there are better options around. Our most promising overseas talents, Mitch Langerak and Robbie Kruse, came through A-League setups and the next generation is not far behind.
3. Get someone strong
The incoming manager’s main objective will be to lead a massive overhaul of the national team, either working with or clearing out players who still feel entitled to a place despite playing (or not) for some of the more obscure teams of world football. He will have to sack the captain, either straight away (the right option) or straight after the world cup (perhaps the easier option). At some point between now and 2018 he will have to say goodbye to Schwarzer, Cahill, Wilkshire, Bresciano, Carney, Kennedy, Ognenovski, McKay and Jedinak, as well as Neill. The experiences of Arnold, Verbeek and Osieck demonstrate that performing such an overhaul is easier said than done.
The new manager will have to back himself to manage the egos in the squad and shape what will be a new-look Socceroos squad in his own image.
And the winner is…
With the above criteria there are three obvious contenders, each with their own claims to the position. Tony Popovic has experience at the highest levels, is known and respected as a no-nonsense defender, and shaped the unfancied Wanderers into a top-three side. Graham Arnold has a decade of coaching under his belt, has prior Socceroos experience, is known for working with youngsters and has proved at the Mariners that he has learnt from his failed 2007 Asian Cup campaign and improved his methods and understanding of the game.
But for me the best candidate is Ange Postecoglu. Local, strong, a great promoter of youth and the local game and the man responsible for the best and most consistent football team ever seen in Australia.
It’ll be interesting to see what plays out over the next few weeks.