We speak to new Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou about the key issues surrounding the naming of his first squad.
New Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou speaks to footballaustralia.com.au associate editor Michael Cockerill about the key issues surrounding the naming of his first squad for the forthcoming friendly against Costa Rica.
Q.Ange, the process of picking a national squad is obviously very different from picking a club team. How have you found it?
A. I must admit it was a challenge. From the day I got announced as coach, I had to get my head around this game, there was a list in front of me of players from all over the globe, then trying to pick a squad, then trying to pick a team which can play the kind of football I want. It was interesting, it was challenging, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the process. I guess when I look at the final list, I'm pretty happy with what's come out.
Q. What were the benchmarks?
A. I probably had two or three different ones. There was due respect to the campaign so far, there's a lot of players who have been part of that. It gives me an opportunity to have a good look at them. Then there were others who have had some good form. Then there were the others who have the potential to fit into the kind of football I want to play. So there was different criteria, and with this first squad there was always going to be some really broad terms for me to look at. I'm pretty happy with the balance.
Q. The big news of the day is the retirement of Mark Schwarzer. Were you blindsided by his decision?
A. I'm definitely surprised, because I had him in the squad. I was fully expecting him to be here, I certainly hadn't made up my mind about any of those positions. Mark hadn't indicated to me he was contemplating it, but obviously a decision like that isn't made on the spur of the moment, at least I wouldn't think so. It's probably been in the back of his mind for a while, so what the catalyst was only he can say. But from my position, I respect his decision, and now there's the opportunity for someone else to fill the breach.
Q. He made his decision without speaking to you. Where do you sit with communicating with the players?
A. It wasn't my intention to ring everyone who's part of this first camp and give them my thoughts. The best way for me to begin my tenure was to bring a group of players in, the staff in, and then begin the process of changing things if I needed to. Maybe for him it was a difficult for him to ring me and have a chat knowing he wasn't going to be part of it (intending to retire). I respect the fact he's made the decision, he probably sought counsel from those closest to him, and in the end we move on.
Q. So generally speaking, will you be a big communicator with the players or not?
A. Anyone who's been coached by me will probably tell you I'm not a massive communicator. I like to think people have a good understanding on what I'm thinking and the way I do things. Obviously in this role, it's a bit different from club football, and I want to make sure I am accessible to everyone within the group. I'll make sure players and staff have knowledge of that fact, and if I deem it necessary I will communicate with people between camps. If they feel it necessary, they'll communicate with me. But I don't think there will be a massive need for constant dialogue.
Q. You've talked repeatedly about changing the culture in and around the team. What exactly does that mean?
A. A lot of people have asked me that but it's a hard one for me to define. To put it in simplistic terms, it's just the way I do things. The way I set up every environment I've been in. The people inside that respect the parameters. What that's going to look like, the best way to see it, is the way the team performs, the way it conducts itself, in and out of competition. There isn't any other way to describe it. The teams I coach play a certain way, and are also very respectful of everything that's involved in the culture. So time will tell.
Q. You made your four appearances for Australia under Frank Arok. Some people believe the culture of the Socceroos hasn't been the same since. Were you (a) a fan of the Arok culture and (b) is it feasible to resurrect it?
A. I don't see any reason why not. A lot of people misinterpret that era. The pride, being hungry, us battling. I don't think Socceroos were ever only about battling. Even prior to Frank's era, the 1974 team, the 1978 team, it was an attitude we wanted to take on the world, not taking a backward step. Frank Arok was a fantastic motivator. It wasn't just that he wanted his team to scrap, there were some very good footballers at that time. I played with them, guys like Oscar Crino and Alan Davidson were fantastic footballers, but they were also winners. That's my number one focus. My memories of the Socceroos was taking on the world and not being afraid. That's what I want to instill.
Q. But in this day and age, with so much more money in the game, is that a romantic ideal?
A. I still think playing for your country is something that goes beyond any sort of financial incentives. There's got to be a uniqueness, a special feeling, around that. That will come down to how people treat each other, how they behave in the camp environment. I believe you have to pay a high price for that shirt, it won't be given away in my tenure. People will earn that shirt, and they will respect it.
Q. As part of the cultural change, will the team become more accessible to the fans, to the media?
A. Again, it's not about trying to please people and being nice, but really if you are part of the national team you want your country behind you. Part of that is being accessible. We don't need to set ourselves apart. What defines us is that we're all Australians, and part of that culture is that you are accessible, you are very much on a level pegging, equal with everyone else. That will be our mantra, and it will help us because we want rabid, fanatical, support wherever we go. In far-off places, whether it's the media, whether it's the supporters, we want people to feel part of the journey, and we want people to back us.
Q. Getting to the squad you have announced today, there hasn't been wholesale changes. Was there ever a temptation to make wholesale changes?
A. No. People who know me understand I'm pretty calculating in what I do. I don't do things on a whim. It would have been silly for me to come in and disregard people without understanding how they fit into the culture, the environment, I want to set, and the way I want to play. It will be clearly defined. People who don't fit in, that will also be clearly defined, so it will make the process easier. With this squad we've made some subtle changes, people will see a little bit of a shift, and moving forward the overriding criteria for selection will be performance. If I can stick to that, we'll be alright.
Q. You haven't named a captain. Is that because you don't believe it's a big deal, or you do believe it's a big deal and you want to take your time?
A. I've got to be careful how I say this. It obviously is a big deal, but with the national team, even if you look at the current squad, there's five or six players who've captained their club sides. You don't do that unless you are a leader.I want to instill a leadership mantra within the whole group so we don't just rely on one person. All the teams I played in, and I was captain, I wasn't the best player, and I wasn't relied on to lead the side, but I leaned on people around me. That's how it should be, it shouldn't be about one person. I'll make that decision when I need to. I don't know my starting line-up against Costa Rica, so it would be silly to have preconceived decisions about the captain. Leading into the game I'll pick the team, and then I'll pick the person who's most suitable to lead the team that night, but there will be an expectation four or five others will also step up to take leadership roles. When you go to a World Cup, when you face those enormous challenges, I want to look out on the field and see five or six leaders, not just one.
Q. Does that mean it will be trial and error leading into Brazil, and you won't make a genuine decision about a captain until the World Cup?
A. Potentially. Maybe, maybe not. There might be someone I think 'you know what, this is a great fit'. It might be Lucas (Neill), with what I want to create on and off the field. It could be Lucas, it could be someone else. There could be an absolute stand-out, there might be someone I choose for one game, I might park this is a priority until the World Cup. Let's see how we go.
Q. Luke Wilkshire hasn't been named in your first squad. He left the last camp before the Canada game. Has he been disciplined, or were you free to pick him?
A. No one tells me who to pick. With Luke, the way we play the fullback positions are going to be very important. I know Luke has had some injury issues, he's finally playing regularly again, and I certainly haven't put a red line through him. But there's a couple of players I want to try in that position (right back), and this is a good opportunity. Luke and others who have missed out on this squad are still in the frame.
Q. So he starts with a clean slate with you?
A. Yeah. I coached him an under-20 level, as a young man, so he will be judged on his merits.
Q. Looking at the squad, you seem to be short on centre halves. Is Mile Jedinak an option to make the shift from the midfield to the backline?
A. I've watched him closely, in a (Crystal Palace) squad which has been struggling, he's been outstanding. I don't know how comfortable he'd be at the back. The reason I've picked people like (Ryan) McGowan, (Alex) Wilkinson, Rhys Williams, they're the ones I want to play there. But he (Jedinak) could become an option, I'm not ruiling it out. Right now though, he looks to be more useful in the middle of the park.
Q. On tactics, is 4-3-3 going to be your baseline formation?
A. Yeah it will be. Most of the teams I've coached have played a variation of that. Some of it will be about the players I've got. Regardless, the basic value of the system will be a possession-based attacking game. It's about making sure we play the kind of football I want to play.
Q. Does that mean we'll see the end of the two holding midfielders?
A. It might be a different way of playing two holding midfielders. There are different ways to do it. At Melbourne Victory we had Millsy (Mark Milligan), he got eight or nine goals playing that position. It will probably be a hybrid of Brisbane, Victory and bit of what I did at South Melbourne. I've got an idea in my head, it's about what will be the most effective.
Q. Josh Kennedy and Tim Cahill are mostly target-men. That's not generally been your go. Where do they fit in?
A. At Brisbane I had Besart Berisha pretty much as a target man. Again, people can assume how I set up, but Josh is still a very effective player. Timmy is scoring goals (for New York) playing a bit further up the park. The way I want to play, they can definitely fit into the system. Now, whether they can fit in themselves, that's a different issue. But I've picked them because I still see them having a role.
Q. There's a perception that you're an esoteric coach, not overly fussed by results. How keen are you to win your first game against Costa Rica?
A. People who know me well know I'm the worst loser in the world. The fact that this is the only game until March, that means I'm going to be grumpy for four months if we lose, and my wife won't put up with that. My whole career has been based on winning. I like to win a certain way, but maybe people misinterpret that. I'd love to get off to a winning start, ti would be great for the players, great for the supporters. I don't want to be sitting on a loss, I want a win, which will hopefuly get the players feeling good about the journey ahead.
Upcoming Match Details
Socceroos vs Costa Rica Tuesday 19 November 2013 Allianz Stadium, Sydney Kick Off: 7.30pm Gates Open: 6.00pm
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