One-on-one with John Aloisi: “I want to coach again”

Socceroos legend John Aloisi has declared he wants to coach again “sooner rather than later”, hoping to get that opportunity locally in the A-League or overseas in the future.

Aloisi, who currently works as a pundit for Optus Sport, last coached the Brisbane Roar to two top-four finishes in the A-League, in his first two seasons at the club.

The 45-year-old would eventually leave his post in late 2018, during his fourth season as manager at the club.

In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, the man who scored that famous penalty against Uruguay touches on the current status of youth development in Australian football, the need for a national second division, his future ambitions in coaching, the quality of local coaches, his playing career and the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

First of all John, the current state of affairs due to COVID-19 has seen a lot more youngsters get playing time in the A-League. Which young players have particularly stood out for you and how significant is it for youth development in this country for these players to get valuable minutes? 

John Aloisi: Yeah I think it’s very important for the players to get minutes. If you go around the world, the best leagues do have players at an early age playing a lot of games of football. You can do all the training in the world, but if you don’t play games you’re not going to improve as a footballer.

Pretty much every team in the A-League has had young players that are really standing out. It’s good to see the young Australian strikers at the top of the scoring charts, you’ve got Kuol at Central Coast Mariners, Wenzel-Halls at Brisbane Roar and D’Agostino at Perth all up there.

It’s a great opportunity for all the young players at the moment, because you’ve got the Olympic Games just around the corner. I think it’s exciting for Graham Arnold and for the young boys, if they do well they could be on the plane to Tokyo.

You played senior matches as a 15-16-year-old at Adelaide City at the start of your career. Personally, how vital were those games in your development as a player?

John Aloisi: I only really played one NSL game, but I played a lot of the cup games and whatever else, but at the time it was crucial. But look, you had to be good enough or else you didn’t play. Adelaide City didn’t just throw in young players for the sake of it, they had a very experienced squad. For me to play with the experienced players around me, I remember just in the starting 11, you had Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin, there were internationals, Tony Vidmar was there, Joe Mullen, Ernie Tapai and so on. I learnt a lot off them, not only in games but also in training, so I was fortunate in that way.

When I then went to Europe, I started playing at 17 in the first team for Royal Antwerp, so it was really valuable to get those minutes at that age to improve as a footballer.

Another thing that will aid youth development is a national second tier. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the right model for it in Australia; do you support the introduction of a full, home and away, national second division with 12-16 teams?

John Aloisi: Yeah, I do. I think if they can get that formula right in terms of the financials, that would definitely improve the younger players. They will get more opportunities then and there will be a different pathway for a lot of them. At the moment, it’s still quite tough for a lot of these young talented players to come up into an A-League side. If you have more teams, it will definitely help. You will also make it exciting with promotion and relegation battles and I think it will only be beneficial.

So, I do support a national second division and I believe in the future there will be one, it’s just the matter of how they go about getting one and how it works financially.

Moving on a bit from that, Aussie coaches have also been given more of a chance recently in the A-League. How do you see the current quality of Australian coaches and what type of differences have you noticed since you began coaching Melbourne Heart nine years ago?

John Aloisi: The quality of the coaches has been there for a long period. I think what’s changed and helped the quality is the likes of Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold, because they set a standard. From there, the standard keeps on going up and coaches keep on improving. A lot of Australian coaches have worked under them or with them, asked them questions and so forth, but also when you coach against them you learn a lot.

It’s a good thing to see more of these Australian coaches coming through.

Aloisi was appointed manager of Melbourne Heart in 2012.

You have obviously had a couple of senior coaching positions in your time, like I said with the then Melbourne Heart and also the Brisbane Roar. Do you have any further ambitions to coach again in the A-League or overseas in the future?

John Aloisi: Yeah I definitely do, I want to coach again. I hope its sooner rather than later, but it has to be the right job and right environment. Hopefully that will happen here in Australia.

In the future I would love to go back overseas and coach, I was there as a player, but who knows what the future holds. But coaching is definitely still on my radar and hopefully I can get that opportunity again soon.

Touching on that playing career overseas, you played in top leagues around the world including La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A. What can you tell me in regards to the difference in football cultures in these three countries based on your experiences there?

John Aloisi: It was very different when I was there. The Serie A was very defence minded, especially the lower teams, but it’s changed quite a bit now in terms of the way they like to play their football. It’s a lot more open and attacking, but back then the only thing that mattered were results. It didn’t matter how you won; the defence was key. It wasn’t always that great to play there as a striker, because we didn’t have many chances in a game.

England was a lot more open. The supporters there, if you tried, ran and fought, they would applaud your efforts. I enjoyed playing in England, it was a great atmosphere at the games and as a striker you got more opportunities to score goals than probably all of the three big leagues I played in.

The one that was a combination of both (Italy and England) cultures was probably the Spanish league. I just really enjoyed the style of football, the culture and the way they thought about football.

The three countries were all different, but football was number one, so it was great to be in countries where football means everything to them.

You obviously had a long successful career as a player, what would you say is the best moment you had in your playing career?

John Aloisi: The highlight for me was playing at the World Cup for the Socceroos. It was a dream as a kid, we hadn’t qualified for so many years. Watching the World Cups when I was growing up, was always without Australia there. It was exciting to play at a World Cup, but it was also just the whole build up…it was amazing when we finally got there. It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m pretty sure for all the players that played in that World Cup in 2006.

I think also playing in the Spanish Cup final for Osasuna, it was my last game for the club. To play in the Copa Del Rey final, the only time in Osasuna’s 100-year history to make a major final, was also a massive highlight.

They are probably two of things that stand out the most.

The Socceroos celebrate a goal at the 2006 World Cup.

Lastly John, looking ahead we have the Women’s World Cup here in 2023 and it could be a real game changer for Australian football. How important is it to capitalise on this event, something the game didn’t really execute with the 2015 Asian Cup?

John Aloisi: It’s massive. First of all, I believe the Matildas can win it. We have a great generation of talented women players, so hopefully we can win the World Cup and that will really boost the game on many levels.

But, it’s also about getting the infrastructure right for the Women’s World Cup, which will end up helping us in the future in terms of football at all levels. I’m talking about training facilities, purpose-built stadiums for football and that’s when it will be a lot easier to have a national second division and those type of things. When you have the infrastructure right, you can produce better players. That’s what we want to do, produce world-class players, both women and men.

It’s important to get the government backing us, because if they do that, we will get the facilities right.

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

MiniRoos to be supported by four-year investment

Australia’s leading retailer Coles have partnered up with Football Australia as the naming right holders for MiniRoos – the official junior grassroots program of Australian football in a promising acquisition for both parties.

The four-year investment aims to boost participation of the MiniRoos program, while also attempting to support education around young Australians and establishing healthy eating habits from a young age.

The initiative corresponds with Coles’ current commitment to assist Australians in eating and living well on a day to day basis. The grassroots program is created for children ages from as young as four up to 12, ranging from kindergarten to the culmination of primary school. As of 2023, there are over 240,000 active MiniRoos, which caters for all abilities.

The new sponsorship agreement also facilitates Coles and their official partnership with the Subway Socceroos, CommBank Matildas and the men’s and women’s Youth National Football Teams.

The Coles logo will become a prominent feature amongst youth football across the nation. Coaching apparel, MiniRoos equipment and Football Australia school programs are all set to have the notorious red signature writing.

In addition, Coles have also become a presenting partner of the Little Legends Lap across respective international and domestic Australian related football matches and the MiniRoos half-time mini match at senior national team home matches.

Upon the announcement via the Football Australia website, Chief Customer Officer (CCO)  Amanda McVay discussed her pleasure amongst the partnership.

“Coles is delighted to be teaming up with Football Australia in what is a historic partnership for both parties and one we hope will benefit the lives of Australians for many years to come,” she said via Football Australia media release.

It is acknowledged that the supermarket juggernaut have understood the potential Football has within the nation. The CCO also claimed Coles’ commitment:

“Coles is committed to helping Australian families right across the country and is aligned with Football Australia’s ambition to provide more opportunities for Aussie Kids to play football,” she added via media release.

From the perspective of someone in whom aches to see the game grow within their native country, it is intriguing, as it is exciting to see Coles enter the football realm.

Understanding their desire to attribute towards the growth and nourishment of the game, can only guide its vested youth interest into a path of future stability and perhaps prosperity.

A-Leagues secure last minute NEP deal for production partner

The A-Leagues have had an interesting past week, to say the least – as the league’s production partner for live broadcasts, Global Advance, was placed into voluntary administration.

This past weekend, the league managed to secure a last minute deal with international broadcasting and media services group NEP who will cover the remainder of the 2024 season.

The league just got the deal done in time, hours before Central Coast Mariners played Western United in an A-League Women clash and they were able to avoid an embarrassing Easter Thursday blackout.

The A-Leagues currently are understood to pay $12 million to Global Advance for production of all men’s and women’s games, the league is hoping to recuperate close to $1 million from Global Advance but it may be difficult.

Global Advance was established in 2020, its first major partner was the A-Leagues following the competitions’ split from long-term broadcaster Fox Sports.

Until they were placed onto voluntary administration, they had broadcasted every Men’s and Women’s match on Network Ten and its streaming partner Paramount.

The APL released a damning statement last Wednesday night that outlined the lack of communication from Global Advance regarding their financial situation.

“We are disappointed in the manner in which this has come to our attention, and the risk this has placed on our fan, player, club, broadcast and commercial commitments,” the APL said in a statement.

“We have been let down and will be working with the administrators to recoup monies owing to APL.

“Through a lot of hard work by a new production company, Ten-Paramount, and our team, we are close to finalising an agreement and are confident all matches will be broadcast, starting tomorrow.

“There are many challenges that such a short timeframe presents, but we are working through this urgently with all of our stakeholders, and we thank the production company for their co-operation, flexibility and expertise at such short notice.”

However, Said Jahani of Global Advance’s administrators Grant Thornton reiterated that there was immediate contact with the A-Leagues.

“We have immediately commenced a dialogue with the Australian Professional Leagues at the most senior levels to determine whether television coverage for all A-League men’s and women’s games this weekend can continue to be provided. he said in a statement

“At this stage, it remains uncertain as to whether this will be possible.”

It hasn’t quite been all smooth sailing to kick off the NEP era of broadcasting, with the cameraman being the butt of all jokes online after showing his phone notes to direct a message towards his director in the huge game between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in the Liberty A-League that had title implications for the Sky Blues.

It will be interesting to see how the APL can salvage this streaming mishap and produce some quality broadcasts as the finals approach for both competitions.

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