Managers are often appointed as a reaction to their predecessor's failings, and that is certainly the case with the Socceroos' appointment of Ange Postecoglou. The 48 year old, in essence, represents everything fans want the Socceroos to be: he places faith in youth, prefers an attacking, open brand of football and, significantly, is a native.
Holger Osieck may have secured World Cup qualification, but the manner in which he did, with uninspiring tactics and a reliance on an older guard, didn't appeal to an Australian public for whom expectations for the national side are now significantly bigger, following successive appearances at the last two World Cups.
Postecoglou is the first Australian to coach Australia since 2005, and that in itself is the greatest milestone. The fact he is the first coach to be appointed on the back of A-League success shows the great forward strides the local competition has taken in its first nine years since inception and certainly caters to the general clamour for a local coach. The din against Holger Osieck had grown deafening and after successive 6-0 defeats to Brazil and France it was no surprise he was given the sack; only slightly more so when FFA chairman Frank Lowy declared his successor would be one of the three stand-out coaches in the A-League: Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic.
Each of them have their own merits but Postecoglou is almost undoubtedly the people's choice, if not certainly the purist's choice. It is not just the fact he won back-to-back championships with Brisbane Roar, it is the way he did that was so impressive. A possession-based brand of football was unlike anything the A-League had ever encountered before and the Roar subsequently simply swept opponents aside, including a barely believable 36 game unbeaten run.
The fact that Postecoglou failed to win the title in his one-year spell at Melbourne Victory, but is still widely praised for his work there, shows how it is not just his success that appeals, but also his style -- again, illustrative of the heightened expectations for a Socceroos coach. In winning the A-League with an entertaining, ‘modern' brand of football, Postecoglou raised the bar for every other coach in the league. His impact can be measured in the number of A-League coaches who attempt to implement a similarly possession-based game (to varying levels of success), and it is fitting he now must not only get the Socceroos winning again, but winning in style.
Postecoglou may not be someone who guarantees you results but he is certainly someone who can guarantee entertainment -- and with the wider footballing fraternity disillusioned with the current state of the national team, his positive playing philosophy should usher in a brighter, more optimistic future. It sums up the disenchantment with Osieck that Postecoglou will be praised if he simply plays some younger players, given the way the current squad is dominated by veterans of the ‘golden generation', who did an admirable job carrying the side to Germany in 2006 but have understandably since diminished in ability thanks to age. Lucas Neill is the case in point, the captain for whom the public now treat as the stick to beat down Osieck's reliance on a senior crop of players.
It would not be surprising if Neill does not survive the new regime. Postecoglou has shown his ruthlessness before, discarding the likes of Craig Moore and Charlie Miller when taking over at Brisbane in 2009. He likes to build in youth, and spoke extensively at the press conference for the announcement of his new job about his plans to give younger players the platform for at least a chance to show they can mix it on the international stage.
Compare that with Osieck, who even went as far as blaming the younger players for Australia's defeat to Oman earlier this year, and relied on an experienced core including the hardly evergreen Mark Schwarzer as well as other thirty-somethings such as Neill, Luke Wilkshire, Sasha Ognenovski and Tim Cahill.
There is nothing wrong with older players in themselves but the expectations of the Australian public cannot be understated. In 2005, getting to the World Cup was the priority, after a thirty-two year wait - but now, after successive appearances in Germany and South Africa, the rule is that you must not only to qualify, but also do it in style.
Postecoglou is hugely responsible for that, having engineered a similar shift in the A-League with his enterprising, attractive style of football at two different clubs. Now, he must implement that at a national level.