That night ten years ago...

Adam Peacock has written an absolutely cracking book focusing on the inside stories surrounding 'that night' ten years ago next week (November 16) when the Socceroos banished 32 years of hurt against Uruguay. Here he tells a little about the book 'That Night' ...


That’s how Vinnie Grella, the former midfield hardman describes what went on 10 years ago.

Fear not, these days he won’t scythe in with one of his famous full-blooded challenges if you disagree with him. Anyway, there’s no point arguing with him here. He’s spot on.

We won’t see another November 16, 2005. Ever.

Tracing the events that led up to that magical night was a wonderful experience, because like any great story, there’s an even better one hiding behind what we already know.

It was on a freezing winter’s day at the Dutch FA’s plush headquarters just outside Amsterdam that I got a rare audience with Guus Hiddink.

Guus Hiddink watches from the sidelines during the Socceroos home clash against the Solomon Islands in 2005.

He was under severe pressure at the time as Holland boss, so this was a distraction. A welcome one. He loved his time with the Socceroos, and he loves talking about it. He took some convincing, accepting the job at the third time of asking, and happy he did, inheriting a squad all on the same page, unique given they’d just been given the run around at the Confederations Cup. Hiddink still talks of how coachable these men were.

They’d all left home young to jump way out of their comfort zone, they all had the one desire to end a 32 year hex. So given Hiddink’s resume, they were completely receptive to his ideas, even if they had to endure the mind games.

All the support staff, management at the time and all but two players involved over the two legs (Lucas Neill - where are you Lucas! - and Tim Cahill) were interviewed for the book. And all remember Guus' mind games.

Graham Arnold, Hiddink's trusty lieutenant, still can’t believe he dropped Harry Kewell for the second leg. Not just that, Hiddink didn’t tell Harry he was dropped, rather just got Arnold to blank the superstar when handing out the starting XI bibs at the final training session.

Harry was boiling. He didn’t come off the boil until after he’d run himself into the ground and taken the crucial first penalty the next night.

He even played mind games with Tim Cahill, telling him coldly, somewhat harshly after a lead up game against Jamaica in London to get on his side in the club v country situation, or else.

And how he sat there for two days at the first camp after he got the job in Holland, watching the lack of off-field discipline he craved. But Hiddink didn’t jump in right away. He just let it fester. Then bang, his way, or else.

Discovering more about the back stories of all the guys who played that night was a glorious side benefit. Bred through the NSL, toughened through lonely experiences overseas, bound by one cause to get us to a World Cup after seven failed attempts (which are also vividly recalled by those involved.)

Tony Popovic was no hope to play any part against Uruguay, but worked like a man possessed to be ready. Tony Vidmar, at his fourth crack, at 35-years-old, doing something he’d never done before – take a penalty. Mark Viduka was made captain by Hiddink, but why? Mark Bresciano, how on earth he could just stand there after scoring? Zeljko Kalac, how he still can’t quite comprehend how Brett Emerton cramped, costing him the chance to be the shootout hero. 

John Aloisi, and his vow to his family years earlier he would send Australia to a World Cup. And plenty more.

Socceroos v Uruguay

From the failed campaigns, to the back stories of the players, the hiring of Hiddink, the military like operation the FFA undertook for the first leg in Montevideo – including that charter flight – right up until John Aloisi and Mark Schwarzer twirling their shirts above like deranged madmen, it’s quite the storyline.

It is hard to think of a more significant time for football in this country. A decade worth of action – new league, new confederation, damning three decades of pain to make a World Cup – crammed into the space of 12 months.

Highlighted by one night that will never be forgotten.