Lucas Neill will lead the Socceroos into its new era with coach Ange Postecoglou at the helm. And the Australian captain immediately acknowledged he had to prove himself all over again.
At a media conference in Sydney Postecoglou announced Neill would continue to wear the captain’s armband when the Socceroos play their first game under the new coach against Costa Rica on Tuesday.
Postecoglou said making decisions about the captain had not been a priority for him as he sets a new direction for the Socceroos.
“It’s (the captaincy) been a fascination in terms of the decision, but to be honest, and I’ve said all along, there are other priorities,” he said.
“Everything we’ve done is about the collective, about the whole group and making we’re on the same page. To be honest, it (captaincy) hasn’t really taken up a lot of time of my thoughts.
“The only way we’re going to do well is if we focus on the priorities and for me the priorities are not the individuals, it’s the whole team.
“I work in the land of public opinion but I certainly won’t be governed by it.”
Neill, who will lead the side for a record 61st time against Costa Rica, said he was never worried about losing the captaincy.
“As the manager said, this is not about any individual, it’s not even about the team, it’s about the country,” Neill said.
“I’ll be honoured to lead the team out tomorrow night, but we have to get Ange Postecoglou’s era off in a positive way.
“Ange has definitely reminded us that there is a great sense of pride in the shirt we’re wearing and that we’re always on trial.”
Neill said the Socceroos’ new style under Postecoglou would be focussed on good, fast-passing football.
He said the national side was determined to buy into Postecoglou’s initiatives and they were determined to give the new coach the “best possible chance” to shape the team.
“I believe in myself,” Neill told reporters. “Football has to do the talking.
“Right now, there is nothing else I want to concentrate on other than tomorrow night because it’s vital for the manager to get off to a good start, and it’s vital for me. I have to perform and perform well and justify my selection. From there, we can start looking at the future.”
The 35-year-old defender said he understood the pressure to perform.
“I have everything to prove – I always do,” Neill said. “I have been a professional footballer since I was 17 so I have known that week-in, week-out … you have to perform at training; you have to perform every time you get picked. So none of this is new to me.
“Probably because of the change (of coach), there has been a lot of hype and it’s probably best left unsaid now, and we get on with concentrating on what is most important, and that is the football tomorrow.”