Surprise visitor to the Caltex Socceroos' camp

Recognise this man? Jimmy Shoulder, the man who coached Ange Postecoglou in the '80s and managed Australia in the late '70s, was a surprise visitor to the Caltex Socceroos’ training session in Sunderland on Tuesday.

Sunderland-based Shoulder – who is also an Australian citizen – took Australia through their qualification campaign for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

It was the first of a string of failed campaigns after the highs of 1974 this time Mario Zagallo's Kuwait undid the Aussies in qualification. 

He was just 28 when he got the job in Australia. The sprightly Shoulder turns 70 in September. 

Interestingly too, he coached Ange Postecoglou in 1985 in the Aussie youth set up after the formation of the AIS.

Jim Shoulder

And to add another coincidence, the last time the Socceroos were in Sunderland to play a game, they were coached by Shoulder.

That was in 1976 where at the old Roker Park Bob Stokoe’s men won 2-0 with goals to Gary Rowell and Roy Greenwood.

“It was a freezing cold November night and Sunderland were in season,” recalls Shoulder with a laugh.

“We had a great reception from the crowd but ours was a team of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

“All part timers and we’d done a tour of Asia and Europe – flying economy – playing full internationals plus club sides like Hamburg - who were top of the Bundesliga - PSV Eindhoven who were top of the Dutch league before playing Sunderland then Birmingham in England.

“So when we arrived in Sunderland we’d played seven matches in two and a half weeks. They were fatigued but went out and just went for it.”

The Black Cats actually toured Australia earlier that year and played the Socceroos in Shoulder’s second game in charge. 

They won a thriller 4-3 in Sydney (goals to Dave Harding and Atti Abonyi for the hosts and a double to Bryan “Pop” Robson plus Rowell and Greenwood).

Little wonder Shoulder was a proud onlooker at the Academy of Light on Tuesday as he showed off his 1970s Socceroo shirt and watched Postecoglou take the team through their paces.

“What it looks like they’ve done under Ange is marry what we’d call a traditional Aussie attitude with a modern style and have done it with an Aussie coach who’s learnt his football there and played international football,” he told

“It’s a natural progression. They are making their own footprint on the game and in Ange they’ve got a really good operator who’s had a great success and won things, he’s vastly experienced and will take them forward."

In Shoulder’s era, the Socceroos were part-timers mostly born in Britain and other parts of the world. It’s a world away from the professionalism surrounding the team these days and the fact virtually all players are Aussie born. 

“More than half the team back then were from Hungary, Greece, Croatia and the UK,” added Shoulder.

Jim Shoulder

After the Socceroos in 1978, Shoulder remained in Oz, going on to work in the national youth set up at the AIS and coaching Postecoglou at the 1985 World Youth Cup.

“The team that we took to the World Youth Cup finals in ’85 which Ange was part of, we had to base our game, because the lack of experience of the players on fitness and physical and try marry that with the technical side into it," recalled Shoulder. 

“So Australia will always produce top athletes – just looking at these guys here [the current squad] they are top athletes of the highest order.

“And it’s a question of working on the technical skills, which with many playing in top leagues they’ll be honed.

“And the next thing is between the ears. That I can compete with anybody.

Shoulder went on to coach Wales U-21s after his Australian sojourn. 

“Australia now can walk out onto the park as equals with England, not with any sort of inferiority. That’s the level they’re at now.

“The next nut to crack is to fully do what I’d say is to do a ‘Leicester City’. To feel that you belong with the big guys and have that confidence that you belong there."

Beating England in Sunderland would be a good first step in that direction. And if that happened, you’d sense this Sunderland local might just allow himself a satisfied smile.