Inside the mind of Ange Postecoglou

Belief. It’s a word Ange Postecoglou uses often. It’s something that’s driven him as a coach over 20 years. And he is transmitting that belief to his players.

On the eve of the final phase of group World Cup qualfiiers starting on September 1, Postecoglou sat down with editor Aidan Ormond. 

Read part one of this interview here

In part two, he assess his players' latest transfers and their required mindset to, in his words “dominate” at club level.

He also looks at the rise of Chile, a team he admires, and the planning needed over the long term to reach that kind of level. 

And Postecoglou, who was appointed in late 2013 as Caltex Socceroo boss, explains how the Australian national teams are now becoming like a club environment.

Something he hopes forms a major part of his legacy in Australia, a country that one day, he says, should be challenging to win a World Cup.

For this fascinating Australian - born in the Athens suburb of Nea Filadelpheia, home of AEK, who'll turn 51 later this month - anything can be achieved if you dream big.

Ange Postecoglou adds to Socceroo team staff

How do you assess the transfer movements of your players over recent months?

The pre-season so far has been pretty good and they all seem to be in a good headspace and they want to make this a big year - and it's important they do because if they can turn their domestic football into a big year that's going to turn our international year into a big one as well.

I see most of the [transfer] moves as really positive ones. I guess it'll come down to the players themselves, but one thing I've reiterated to the players is that it's really important that if they don't have the self belief in themselves wherever they're playing they're not going to influence their careers the way they can.

When I watch our players play, particularly in the recent games against England and Greece I didn't see a hell of a lot of difference in the quality of the players involved.

Where I did see a big difference is where the opposition players play, and where our players play.

And some of it is just mindset. So whether it's Aaron [Mooy] at Huddersfield or Brad Smith now at Bournemouth or Tomi Juric at Luzern, it's about going into those environments and dominating, and believing they can dominate because they should. I see no reason why they can't.

And if they keep doing those kinds of things even guys like Mass [Luongo] and Tommy Rogic, they're all in a good space, as is Maty Ryan and Mitch Langerak.

Ange Postecoglou has promised changes to his XI for the clash against Greece on Tuesday night.

Mindset: How do you reinforce that and what are the challenges given the players have their own club systems and culture?

All you can do is reinforce what we do and how we play our football. And that's the reason I want our teams to play the football we do.

If, as a team, you're not prepared to take a backward step and take the game to oppositions, then you kind of saying to the individuals within that set up they should do the same wherever they are.

At no stage do we talk about the way we set up in a way that we feel we're inferior to anyone else.

Hopefully that's what our players will believe.

And I know that's what they do when they come into our environment and then leave [back to the clubs].

I'm really heartened with the group we've got, and they understand the ability to go to that next tier of football is not beyond anything in their makeup.

It's more about them changing perceptions of how other people look at them, and the best way of doing that is when you're playing.

And a key part of them being successful with us is that they're doing well in their club environments.

So we don't want to burden them or confuse them within their club own setups where they got their own roles to play, as it's important they execute them well.

But the process is pretty good now where they can switch on pretty quickly in camp and understand what we want of them.

Caltex Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou on the training ground.

The perceptions from media around the world and our own perceptions? Your thoughts?

Well, we don't talk about ourselves.

As I've always said we don't talk about ourselves here so I don't know why we'd expect people overseas to do that.

That's where it comes down to... look there's no point seeking validation from others. We've got to be comfortable in our own skin and back ourselves.

Plenty of our Socceroos in the past have done. They've broken any sort of perceptions of them, you look at the likes of a "Bresh" [Mark Bresciano] or [Vince] Grella in Italy, “Dukes” [Mark Viduka] or Harry [Kewell], Timmy [Cahill] in England.

All these guys probably walked into these places with perceptions about who they were but they didn't settle for that.

And I think the current don't either.

Peter Cklamovski (centre) alongside Ange Postecoglou during a Socceroos training session at Central Coast Stadium.

Attracting Josep Gombau to the national teams' unit, tell me about that?

I was the one who sort of instigated it. While Josep was here [in the A-League] he showed that he was committed to a certain style of football and he's also in terms of his own beliefs he's very strong, and that's really impressive.

And the fact that he's had exposure to Australian football was also important.

He's still a young coach in many respects, so I thought here's an opportunity to bring him back to the country. With the work he did, I thought it'd be a shame he'd be lost."

And what he brings with his education in Spain and also having been here complements things well, particularly with our young players

The people and the players in Adelaide all spoke very highly of him as an educator and I think he's ideal for that role

And he can add something to all our national teams, including the senior team with Ante [Milicic], Pete Cklamovski and Tony Franken we've got a really good coaching set up and Josep can add to that no doubt.

He'll be working closely with everyone [in the national teams].

Everyone works together, we've had Paulo [Paul Okon], Tony [Vidmar] Ufuk Talay, Peter De Roo, come in with us.

Everyone's involved in the national team unit. One of my goals and hopefully one of my legacies after I'm gone is that all our teams play a certain way. That'll only happen if we're on the same page.

It's heartening to see the recent Joeys and the way they play, it's heartening to see elements of play in the way the Socceroos play in the younger teams.

Whilst they all have their individual teams, the national teams unit is very much one unit.

I'd like to think we've almost created a club environment where we're all on the same page.

Ange Postecoglou with Mile Jedinak following the Socceroos' loss to England.

Staying on national teams, what was your assessment of the Joeys' recent matches in the AFF tournament in Asia?

It's a credit to all those guys who've stuck it and bought into it. That was really pleasing for me.

I watched them in the tournament and they didn't waiver from the philosophy and they were down in all the crucial games but what got them back into it was sticking to it [the system] and that gives players more belief.

At some point, we get the players and everyone really comfortable with the way we want to play our football.

But again this is the start of a process and hopefully the legacy beyond the next two or three World Cup cycles that we build on that like nations like Chile and the Germans have.

While you had some time off the Copa America and Euros were on. Did you have time to enjoy them and what were your impressions?

I can watch football and still switch off. I don't need to watch it with my coach's hat on.

And obviously being in Europe the time zones were very kind so I was a keen observer of both tournaments.

I'm kind of always looking at what other people are doing and how the countries are tracking

And we did know that the Euro winner would potential play us at the Confederations Cup and obviously with the Copa America Chile were there and potentially we could get them as well.

There's always a bit of interest in all the teams that play.

Ange Postecoglou is expecting a tough examination against Greece in Sydney and Melbourne.

Chile, the way they play and approach their football. It's pretty exciting to watch. And it’s successful too. As a coach, what's your take?

They have been very successful and very effective. I like their approach but it's been an approach that's been there for quite a while, [though] those sorts of things take time.

It started with [coach] Marcelo Bielsa then Jorge Sampaoli moved it on a little bit and now they're moving on a little bit again

It's a style of game that suits their players and more importantly their nature as a nation - and it's sort of what I've been trying to build here

But we're kind of three years into it and they had a bit longer but you can see they feel comfortable and that's why that been successful.

You've already stated publicly that your next job will likely be in club football in Europe. Can you explain more?

For a lot of it, it's out of my hands but that's the intent from my perspective, it's where I feel the next sort of chapter in my sort of journey is.

But everything I've done and I'll continue to do is making sure that whenever the point I do go, we have built a really strong foundation for whoever comes in next to make sure that the goal of trying to win a World Cup is edged closer. 

If you look at the age of the players, the majority of them are around the 23-24 bracket and really the ideal World Cup age wise would be the next one, in the meantime they'll have played 20,30, 40 internationals, hopefully to a couple of World Cups and got some Asian Cup success.

That's how you build things. 

Obviously hopefully the things we are doing now and instigated will live well beyond me. And that's always the primary objective.

But notwithstanding the fact I want to be as successful as possible and so far we've had one major tournament where we've had the ultimate success and we have a couple more in the next 24 months and we'll try to do our best to be as successful as possible with those.