Postecoglou takes criticism personally

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou  in Sydney today.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou in Sydney today. JANE DEMPSTER

ANGE Postecoglou's halftime sprays are legendary when his teams aren't following orders, and maybe as outsiders we're getting just a taste of the displeasure.

As the awkwardness of the Socceroos' route to Russia comes sharply into focus, in the wake of a stuttering 2-0 win over the UAE on Tuesday night, Postecoglou took exception to a line of questioning that he perceived as the sort of personal sleight he has complained about for years.

"Maybe if it was a foreign coach we'd all sit back and say what a genius he is, he's coming up with new ways to challenge these guys," he said.

"It seems I've been held accountable for what I said I was going to do this week and that's the bit I struggle with."

Quite where the topic of his nationality came from is something of a mystery, because the question as posed by this correspondent was simply about how quickly his players could get to grips with his new formation.


Australia's James Troisi is tackled by the United Arab Emirates' Walid Abbas  at the Sydney Football Stadium
Australia's James Troisi is tackled by the United Arab Emirates' Walid Abbas at the Sydney Football Stadium DEAN LEWINS

If there's an "in" formation among the cognoscenti of world football, it's 3-4-3, with countless pages of analysis dedicated already to its strengths, weaknesses and the demands it makes on players.

Teams like Chelsea, Sevilla and even Barcelona are using it in various guises, and Postecoglou has identified it as the next stage of his team's development.

That he wants to push his players is something to be applauded; that he seems to view any debating of that process as denigrating the players, not so much.

"I've sat here for three and a half years and I haven't changed in anything I said I was going to do," Postecoglou said. "I expect to be held accountable for what I say and the kind of football of what we want to play.

"But you know what? What I've found from day one, is that I will not talk down to our players I will not speak to our players like they are not as good as somebody else just because they are not Australian and I certainly not going to sell short our coaching staff and the way we work."


Australia's Tim Cahill and Mathew Leckie celebrate at the Sydney Football Stadium
Australia's Tim Cahill and Mathew Leckie celebrate at the Sydney Football Stadium DEAN LEWINS

Maybe there's other tactics at play here - maybe, in the manner of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, he has deliberately made the story about himself to relieve scrutiny of a side that faces a serious test of nerve to qualify for the World Cup.

Maybe also, again a la Fergie and the Special One, he thrives on the sense of an outside enemy against whom he can unite his players.

But that can't be true if we take at face value Postecoglou's desire to have people talking about football tactics and ideas.

"It's great, we don't talk enough about football in this country so if nothing else I've initiated some debate, which is great," he said.

And so it would be if attempts to engage in that debate were not cast as some form of footballing xenophobia. We really want as many people as possible to be talking about the Socceroos, to debate their trials and tribulations, to be emotionally engaged, because then more of them will care enough to come to games.

That includes the national coach, who has been so far such a potent and persuasive figurehead for the national team. "Be careful what you wish for," he said earlier this week, and that applies equally to his desire for a nation debating his philosophy.

Topics:  ange postecoglou coaching soccerroos world cup

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