Next Socceroos coach should have only one criteria

by Sebastian Hassett on Jan 15, 2018

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You hear a lot these days about Australian teams needing to have Australian coaches. Not just in football, either.

The experiments of Mickey Arthur in cricket and Robbie Deans in rugby union were widely pilloried as "evidence" that foreign options are seldom better than Australian ones, if at all.

On the back of having Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck, there was such a surge in momentum to appoint a local coach in 2013 that it seemed pointless to even consider an outsider.

The planets aligned at that time, with three strong candidates - Ange Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic - all in the running. Postecoglou was chosen and had he not quit the post last month, he'd still be there today.

But do we need another Aussie coach in the same way we did four years ago? No.

Back then, we needed to appoint a local coach to show - both to ourselves, the wider Australian public and the international football community at large - that one of our own was a capable coach. We needed the validation more than anything else.

With a satisfactory showing at the 2014 World Cup followed by Asian Cup success and qualification secured for the 2018 World Cup, it's fair to say that point was comprehensively proven. Australians can coach. We're not a total football backwater. But now we can go forward without that burden.

For the record, I'd be delighted if Arnold was given the job - nobody would be more pleased than me. Likewise, I'm really hoping that Popovic leads Australia one day, but I suspect he's one or two World Cup cycles away.

But I wouldn't want either of them getting the job just because they were Australian. I'd want them selected because they were the best man for the job. That is the only criteria that matters this time around.

Postecoglou's job was so much more than just coaching when he took the reins ahead of the 2014 World Cup. He had to reconfigure the whole team, inspire a nation, then lead it through a massive set of changes. 

This time, there's a greater emphasis on performance. There has to be. Now only one goal truly matters: getting to the second round of the World Cup.

If the selection panel decides Arnold is the best man to do that, then he should be appointed without delay. If they think it is Marcelo Bielsa, Popovic, Roberto Mancini or Bert van Marwijk, then again, go for it.

Australian football is in a world of pain right now - there is literally only one thing that could put smiles back on faces in 2018. That's making sure we give everything we have to getting out of the group stage.

Nobody said it would be easy, but in a group of France, Denmark and Peru, it's hardly impossible.

With that in mind, whoever the coach is and wherever he's from doesn't matter. He just needs to be the best at making our team the best.