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A Lesson to be Learned: Ange Postecoglou wins J-League Title

On Saturday, former Socceroos head coach Ange Postecoglou completed the amazing feat of taking the Yokohama F.Marinos to the mountaintop of Japanese football.

The 54-year-old, who also coached the Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, hasn’t had it all his own way in Yokohama.

After a tough 2018 campaign which saw his side finish 12th, the club backed him in to turn it around this season.

He has delivered in spades and following a comprehensive 3-0 win over FC Tokyo, he took Yokohama to an unlikely fourth J-League title.

It is a great story of redemption and perseverance from a man who has had his fair share of doubters over the years.

Postecoglou was responsible for our 2014 World Cup campaign, our qualification for the 2018 tournament and the infamous 2015 Asian Cup success.

Related Articles: Ange Postecoglou’s trail blazing J-League success finally silences the critics

We, as football fans, can very easily forget the good in which has come from coaches and players alike in their pasts.

Ange was thrown straight out of the frying pan at the Victory and into a white-hot fire as Socceroos coach, tasked with a near impossible feat of qualifying for the round of 16 against Chile, Spain and the Netherlands.

The Dutch were inches away from reaching the Final, falling short in a penalty shootout against eventual runners-up Argentina. Spain were the defending champions at the time and despite not reaching the knockout stage, were still a very formidable team.

Chile, perhaps deemed our easiest opponent at the time, were no slouches either. They defeated Spain 2-0 in the group stage and in the coming years, won back-to-back Copa America titles.

When your ‘easiest’ opponent was capable of outstanding achievements such as that, the job of Australia’s head coach was anything but enviable.

For the most part, he did a fine job making us competitive against some of the best in the world, despite three losses.

His finest hour came during our Asian Cup triumph against South Korea. Being the hosts of the tournament, Australia was expected to perform well and maybe even win the entire competition.

That kind of expectation brings about a lot of pressure. Ange coached his boys to perfection, showing his prowess as a manager and he led the Socceroos to a deserved trophy.

But the following few years began to take its toll on Postecoglou, with his resignation coming only a few weeks after leading the Socceroos to a fourth successive World Cup campaign.

In his press conference, Postecoglou spoke of the pressure that came with being an international coach and how it had “taken a toll both personally and professionally”.

Postecoglou was announced as coach of Yokohama one month later.

He reportedly received offers to coach Greece’s national side but instead opted to extend his contract in Japan, with hopes of surging up the table.

As we now know, he did more than just that.

Following his incredible title-winning season at Yokohama, Postecoglou’s name has been thrown into the hat for managerial opportunities in Europe.

Rumours are circling that he will take a job somewhere in Europe, with some of the biggest teams in the continent reportedly considering him.

All of his success following his departure as Socceroos coach goes to show something.

Ange Postecoglou was extremely underappreciated as head coach of our national team.

He faced enough criticism during his tenure to last a lifetime and it came from all angles.

Former players and fans were consistently on his back when things slightly went awry, with little-to-no margin for error as far as some were concerned.

In his athletesvoice.com.au column back in June of 2018, he spoke of how he wanted more out of us as a footballing nation.

He wasn’t going to settle for the Socceroos forever being, what he described as “battlers”. In his eyes, we weren’t going down without a fight.

This was resembled in the way he coached during the 2014 World Cup.

“Let’s now stand up and show that we could conquer that last bastion of our sport.” His own words.
He also claimed that many of those close to him at the FFA lost faith in him for his aggressive and ‘go down swinging’ style of play, believing this to be the catalyst for his eventual departure.
Now, following his successful ventures elsewhere and our forgetful 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup campaigns, his words need to be heeded now more than ever.
Perhaps he was right on the money, that we often settle for ‘giving it our best’ or ‘being that one step below the best’.
We should all take notes from him because, after all, he could be head coach of a top team in Europe not long from now.

 

Illawarra-Based Sides Join Forces in Bushfire Appeal

It’s been a rough few weeks for rural Australia, to be very blunt.

The bushfires ravaging the country have caught worldwide attention, with donations and help coming from far and wide.

Elton John, Chris Hemsworth, Gordon Ramsay, Russell Crowe and Leonardo Di Caprio are just some of the celebrities who have financially pledged for the cause.

In the cricket, various Big Bash League players including Matt Renshaw, Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell are donating for every wicket or six they hit in the tournament.

Brighton and Australian national team goalkeeper Maty Ryan is also making an effort from the other side of the world, as are various Australian-born players in the NBA including Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and Matthew Dellavedova.

The list of those who have donated is very extensive and it’ll only get longer, which is fantastic, especially from those overseas.

One of the worst affected areas is in rural NSW, in and around the coastal area of Illawarra, a region of NSW that holds over 300,000 people and the metropolitan city of Wollongong.

In response to the horrific events that have dominated the headlines, Football NSW have joined forces with the NRL and NBL in hosting a round of golf featuring players from various codes.

Despite being a much smaller city than the likes of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Wollongong is a very competitive sporting city. The Illawarra Hawks compete in the NBL and the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL.

NPL NSW side Wollongong Wolves, who recently won the National Championship against Queensland-based side Lions FC, will also partake in the charity golf game.

Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball, who has taken the league by storm in the few games he’s played, also donated a substantial amount at a time when the fires were still in their initial stages.

It will be an 18-hole game with every hole available to be sponsored for $1000.

It has been truly amazing to see the support received from across the globe in response to these bushfires. As a country, we always help our fellow man or woman when they’re in a sticky situation. It’s in our nature.

But sometimes, we need a helping hand and we’ve received a lot of those.

The fight is far from over, with blazes raging across the country at the writing of this article.

But with fundraisers such as this, combined with the selfless donations from millions, we’ll be on the road back to normalcy before we know it.

The full press release from NPLNSW that came out last Wednesday can be found below:

The Wollongong Wolves, St George Ilawarra Dragons and Illawarra Hawks have joined forces to announce a first of its kind Illawarra combined codes bushfire appeal golf day.

Players and coaches from the Dragons, Hawks and Wolves will convene on Monday, February 3 at Wollongong Golf Club to help raise funds for the NSW Rural Fire Service, Salvation Army Disaster Relief Appeal and Australian Wildlife Rescue (WIRES) following the recent bushfires that have devastated Australian communities.

Entry for a four-man Ambrose team is $2000 and includes an afternoon of golf, cart hire, food and beverage package as well as a post-presentation event and the chance to mingle with all your favourite players across the three different codes that represent the Illawarra.
Each of the 18 holes are also available to be sponsored at a cost of $1000.

Spots for the day are extremely limited, with all queries and purchases available by emailing partnerships@dragons.com.au or partnerships@hawks.com.au.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor hailed the bushfire appeal golf day as a unique and significant opportunity to raise funds for several special causes.

“The codes combined bushfire appeal golf day is one of several causes the Dragons have chosen to back in response to the horrific fires that have overwhelmed the country,” McGregor said.

“The chance to see your favourite players across Illawarra’s three main codes on the one day is an opportunity that cannot be missed, all in name of a very good cause.”

Wolves coach and former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire echoed his fellow coach’s sentiments regarding the recent bushfire devastation.
“As far as sport in the Illawarra region goes, it is great that we can support each other and work collectively,” Wilkshire said.

“To showcase a strong, positive message by bringing our different sporting identities together as one for a great cause is very important.”
Hawks coach Matt Flinn gave a personal affirmation to the bushfire appeal golf day.

“This is an exciting event that all three sporting clubs are collaborating on,” Flinn said.

“I’ve been personally affected, with family members caught up in the bushfires, as have many of our members and supporters within the south coast region, so this is a way in which we can help unite our community and raise funds for a terrific cause.”

 

The next generation of Socceroos is here and we can thank the developmental A-League for it

There are few things that draw more criticism and disrespect in Australian sport than the A-League and by extension, the game of football. Some weeks back, respected journalist Will Swanton took his swipe at the competition, rather unsuccessfully I might add, and the next veiled attack will not be too far around the corner.

In essence, those yet to discover and embrace the beauty and passion of the ‘beautiful game’ and Australia’s domestic competition, still see something less than courageous and creditable about the most popular sport on the planet.

Sadly, to many Australians, the people who play football are actors, fakes and more inclined to simulation than substance, play-acting to performance and the dramatic rather than determined effort.

Thus is the challenge of educating the beer swilling, muscle brandishing and winter-code loving Australian sporting public; to enable them to see the beauty and dexterity of the round ball game.

It is a common misconception for some than football fans want Australia to succumb to its world-wide popularity, in some sort of takeover that destroys the ingrained love and passion for AFL, rugby league and the slowly declining rugby union.

Nothing could in fact be further from the truth and many writers such as I grew up watching, playing and being captivated by other codes of football in our early years. Australia is somewhat unique in the broad array of sporting endeavours available to its citizens, with football now the most popular of all according to current figures.

Logic would suggest that such interest and participation would directly correlate to international success in a sport played by around 1.8 million people on our shores. However, such logic is seriously flawed with far more than participation and enthusiasm required for a nation to even dream of grasping international trophies.

For Australian men’s football, despite the growth, development and gradual ‘street cred’ achieved over the last 50 years, international success has been fleeting and rare. Our women have fared far better in recent times, something that has made the Matildas arguably the most loved national team in the country.

The 1974 Socceroos trail blazed to the World Cup, before 32 years of alienation saw them lampooned as perennial losers. When John Aloisi’s penalty sent the men’s team to Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the tide appeared to have turned.

Despite some qualification challenges, the Socceroos have featured on the World Cup stage without fail ever since. It’s move into the AFC has played more than a minor role in that success, yet creditable the achievement is.

The A-League competition was birthed in 2005-06, devoid of the community, cultural and nationalistic ties that the powers at be had told us held the game back and restricted its appeal.

Quite the opposite in fact, as the competition proved somewhat fractious and difficult for many Australian football fans to embrace. The A-League was problematic and tough to swallow for many fans of long standing clubs.

Refreshingly and despite constant criticism around the recruitment of ageing international veterans and the recycling of local ‘B Grade’ talent, the league is actually producing a potential goldmine for Australian football.

Such contemporary talents as Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic and Mathew Ryan have already ventured abroad to expand their skill set and become key components in Graham Arnold’s Socceroo equation.

Adelaide United’s Al Hassan Toure has declared his allegiance to the Socceroos and looks a flat out star. Team mate Nikola Mileusnic is not far behind, after overcoming injuries that hampered him early in his career. A trio of talent from the city of churches is completed by Riley McGree, potentially the most gifted player to emerge from the A-League in some time.

Daniel Arzani’s talent was so rich that his journey to Europe was expedited with a move to Celtic and Connor Metcalfe’s trajectory may well be similar, so impressive have his first six games been for Melbourne City.

Melbourne Victory’s Thomas Deng continues to loom as a long term Socceroo, Jamie Maclaren has confirmed his place in Graham Arnold’s squad and Adam Taggart’s golden boot season in Korea places the current Socceroos coach in a healthy space when it comes to weapons in front of goal.

Awer Mabil’s arc of improvement has continued abroad, Paul Izzo’s potential has begun to take a tangible shape and Central Coast Mariners star Samuel Silvera looks one of the most exciting youngsters seen on local shores for some time.

Throw in Newcastle Jets’ Angus Thurgate and Melbourne City’s Lachlan Wales and the depth of talent emerging is clear. Perth Glory’s Chris Ikonomidis might just prove to be the best of the lot, so talented is the 24-year-old Sydney born attacker.

The Socceroos have tread an oft criticised path in recent times, with many citing a lack of emerging world class talent when compared to the so-called golden generation of the early 2000’s.

However, in the new world order of truly global football, the talent being produced in Australia looks as exciting as ever. Once it matures, the Socceroos will have a wonderful team to represent us all on the world stage.

Ange Postecoglou’s trail blazing J-League success finally silences the critics

Former Socceroo manager Ange Postecoglou stands just 90 minutes away from potentially the most significant achievement by an Australian football coach.
For the past two seasons, the 54-year-old has been at the helm of J-League club Yokohama F Marinos. With a three point lead on the ladder heading into the final round of play and a comfortable seven goal advantage in the tie-breaking for and against column, Postecoglou’s men appear sure things; a done deal and J-League champions.

Barring some sort of bizarre final day flake out or the most stunning of all victories by their opponent this weekend and second placed FC Tokyo, an Australian manager will for the first time, have his hands on one of the most valuable pieces of silverware in Asian football.

The club is emerging as a potential Japanese powerhouse, with the City Football Group investing in a minority share in 2014. It had an obvious eye towards leading the club back to J-League success after what had been a ten year stretch of disappointment.

Not that the club could ever have been described as a minnow of Japanese football. Three league championships and a J-League Cup in 2001 are testament to its success. However, aside from a second place finish in the league in 2013, Yokohama has recently done little more than sniff around the fringes of the top rungs.

It’s most proud achievement is quite probably the fact they have played in the top flight of Japanese football since its inception. Never suffering relegation and always being competitive.

The involvement of the City Football Group usually signifies immediate change, thanks the increased investment and resourcing undertaken at the clubs with which they become involved. There are now eight such clubs across the globe, with trophies and more trophies a clear motivation for the owners.

A key part of the new investment in Yokohama and a potential change in fortune was to find the right mentor and Postecoglou, after successfully qualifying Australia for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, accepted the challenge laid out before him. He would follow in the footsteps of the now Melbourne City manager Erick Mombaerts in Japan, who was unable to produce the results which City Football Group demanded.

For the Aussie, it required a forgoing of another trip to the world’s biggest football tournament, something for which Postecoglou took much criticism. Many believed there was a sense of desertion. However, the manager had been explicit that his term was to only ever cover the four year period for which he had signed. When family ramifications, an attempt to sure up his long term future and his continued development as a manger were also considered, Postecoglou had a simple choice to make.

Yokohama it was to be and after moments of promise in 2018, his first season saw the club finish in 12th place on the J-League ladder. In truth, there were moments late in the season where they appeared a far better team than that result indicated.

Consistent with his past, Postecoglou was content to experience two steps backwards to eventually take a commanding three forward. It has long been his approach. Postecoglou has a plan, vision and philosophy about football. The chances of him stepping into a role and continuing with the style and methodologies of the previous boss are slim and none.

It was the approach he took with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory in the A-League. It brought about multiple championships. At the helm of the Socceroos he took the same approach, starting from scratch and trialling a vast number of players before settling on the men he knew had completely bought into his way of thinking and could best execute his plan on the big stage.

Such an approach will potentially be the greatest legacy he leaves when the clip board is eventually shelved and his career is done and dusted.  An Australian with the confidence to back his own systems and without the need to replicate the approaches of managers at the helm of some of the biggest European and South American clubs, is a new phenomenon.

Postecoglou never sought the tick of approval from those whose methods are supposedly the ‘right’ and ‘tested’ way to approach the game. He always had a clear plan and had the courage to back it no matter the outcome, fallout or any personal criticism that may come his way because of it.

Even Postecoglou’s critics, and there were many at times, would applaud him for having the courage of his convictions.

Now the Greek born manager will have a rather impressive J-League title to add to his resume. In a week where Soccerscene’s own Philip Panas’ interview with Phil Moss as Australian football coaches deserve better explored some of the challenges faced by domestic coaches, Postecoglou’s success is timely.

With Moss correctly identifying the limited opportunities presented to Australian coaches and the need for a solid support network to aid them in their development and growth, Ange Postecoglou has once again set the bar, broken the glass ceiling and pioneered the way forward.

It is a success most Australian football fans will celebrate, whilst a few doubters may be forced to eat a rather large piece of humble pie.

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