Big year ahead for our football future
As a fan, I have faith that Ange and his staff will pick a squad to make us proud, not just in six months’ time but long into the future.
Australian football is at a crossroads and Ange Postecoglou is the man burdened with the responsibility of getting it right today, tomorrow and at next year-s World Cup in Brazil. What happens in South America will give us all an initial indication of just how well equipped our young players and manager are to compete on the greatest sporting stage of all.
I-m convinced the World Cup will help make our new national team boss into an even better manager and that we have the players to rise to this challenge. We also know that the key decisions made by Football Federation Australia in recent years - from the establishment of the national curriculum and its emphasis on technical development to Ange-s recent appointment - will be put to the test.
We might never win the World Cup but that has never stopped us dreaming, neither should it. Time will tell if it is feasible or fantasy, but regardless of the outcome we must go into every tournament aiming to make an impression. As tough as the draw might be, I-m excited about the build-up and the prospect of performing well in Brazil.
The draw - which has put the Socceroos into an incredibly tough group with defending champions Spain, European power Netherlands and South American heavyweight Chile - was seen by some as a massive kick in the guts, mostly from scaremongers and people who have never kicked a ball. I was ecstatic that Australia will get these opportunities to show the world what we are made of. Aside from the on-field challenge, it will be a massive boost for the marketing of our game and introduce new people to a genuinely world-class tournament.
Admittedly, it comes with its perils and even if we can successfully negotiate a way through the group stage we-ll find Brazil waiting on the other side. Again, that prospect can increase expectation and excitement as we move towards next year-s tournament. Of course, we need to be realistic in our levels of expectation and we certainly want to avoid a repeat of our performance against Germany at the World Cup in South Africa where we were thrashed. The question now, is just how our squad will look six months from now?
We could see a complete changing of the guard. The game in this country is at a significant junction in terms talent and a gulf in age between our experienced talent and the next generation, who are only now starting to come through. Ange has an opportunity to make a fresh start by cleaning out the old and bringing in the new right now. Should he wish, he could test the work that has gone into the development of our emerging players by starting with a clean slate.
It would be a bold move that would also show the FFA if we are heading in the right direction. The players would come in brave and hungry and play with no fear, making a name for themselves in the process. This would make our young players stronger for the future.
This would also come with significant risk. At a time when the game is growing hugely from a domestic perspective, we have to consider the impact of potential heavy losses. If we do go there and are shown up by our opponents, there is every chance that the growth achieved since 2006 qualification would suffer a downturn.
Six months out from the World Cup, we have massive community buy-in and thousands of junior athletes from other codes now playing our game. Some of these kids are dreaming of achieving on the world stage and reaping the benefits of a sport that operates in a global market.
But for me, at this stage in the development of Australian football, the Socceroos need to be picked wholly and solely on form. This is not the time for trials and experiments. If Harry Kewell hits form at Melbourne Heart, then he should be on the plane. The same criteria should apply to Perth Glory teenager Danny De Silva. Age at either end of the spectrum should be no impediment. Form, fitness and playing every week should be the only considerations.
Whatever the level, our players need to be playing, so if Brett Holman is performing well in the United Arab Emirates and Tom Rogic is not featuring at Celtic, Holman should be the man packing his bags for Brazil. The new coaching team handled the squad well for the Costa Rica game and must continue to stay firm. This is not the time to bow to media scrutiny.
As a fan, I have faith that Ange and his staff will pick a squad to make us proud, not just in six months- time but long into the future.