Okon proud of achievements

Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon sat his players down on the first day of their World Cup qualifying camp last month and gave it to them straight.

Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon sat his players down on the first day of their World Cup qualifying camp last month and gave it to them straight.

Anyone not willing to buy into his team-first edict could head to the airport then and there.

Same goes for those whingeing about lack of game time or playing out of position.

Egos were to be parked at the door or that door was to be slammed shut behind them.

No exceptions.

"I have experienced both types of teams as a player," Okon explained.

"I've been in teams of individuals where people aren't really bothered about what's going on other than themselves and I've been in teams where the spirit's been good and everyone's respected each other and worked for the common good.

"I know which of those teams are ultimately successful.

"All along the message to my players was if their attitude was right and they played as a team, the reward would be qualification for the World Cup.

"Anyone who thought they were above it could go on their own way.

"I'm happy to say everyone accepted their role in the team and supported each other.

"That really showed in our performances."

Okon's side reached the semi-finals of the Asian Under-19s championship, securing qualification for next year's Under-20 World Cup in Turkey.

Coming after recent disappointments at Olympic and Joeys level, it was a vitally important moment in Australian football as the ageing Socceroos look for reinforcements in the years to follow the 2014 World Cup.

Okon was reluctant to cherry-pick players for special mention, falling back on his team-first mantra, but there is genuine excitement over what the Young Socceroos achieved - and could achieve next year.

"There are plenty of challenges when you go through Asia. It's always very, very difficult and I am really proud of what they've achieved," he said.

"We'll need to improve on our performances at the World Cup because now it's the best 24 teams in the world in that age group.

"You come up against the Europeans, the South Americans.

"This means more international games and that's a real plus for us.

"It's about development and nurturing these boys to go on and represent Australia at higher levels.

"These guys are the next generation of Australian footballers so we need to give a good account of ourselves in Turkey."

For Okon, the World Cup is a belated opportunity to make up for what he missed out on as a player.

Rated as one of the classiest players of his generation, he tasted an Olympic Games tournament in 1992 but not a World Cup at any age level.

The 40-year-old intends making up for lost time.

"I love coaching as much as playing but the difference is as a coach your career can potentially last a lot longer," he said

"You can learn something every day if your mind is open.

"Football changes every day. There are always things where you can make your team better.

"The way I looked at it six months ago - the philosophy and the vision - is the same but I am changing and evolving and developing as time goes on.

"I'm a young coach who is willing to grow and hopefully I can make a long career out of it."