Sport Football Australian football’s guardian angel

Australian football’s guardian angel

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He doesn’t look much like an angel, but to Australian football fans Angelos ‘Ange’ Postecoglou is a saviour, a man sent from heaven (or Athens) to take our game to the next level.

A season spent attending Melbourne Victory press conferences with a video camera in 2012/13 revealed Postecoglou to be a tad gruff, not a huge fan of shaving, and not always eager to open his dexterous football mind to the waiting scrum.

Despite struggling to extricate himself from this net, Postecoglou has an astute tactical mind. Photo: Getty

Whenever filming Postecoglou, you were best advised to aim the lens a couple of inches lower than you would for anyone else, to accommodate Ange’s habit of dropping his head to the floor when answering questions.

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As far as angels go, he’s more John Travolta in Michael than Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven.

Certainly given the clear out of old heads under his watch, this is not a man given to extreme displays of sentimentality.

But after the salvage job he’s done with Australia’s football team over the past eight months, it would not surprise if  – when he takes off his team-issued suit – he sprouts glorious white fluffy wings to set off his mandatory scowl.

Postecoglou is a grafter: the kind of man who has a five-o’clock shadow – at five in the morning.

Rewind to October last year, and the Australian football team looked positively second rate – back-to-back 6-0 thumpings at the hands of Brazil and France had led to Holger Osieck’s sacking.

The ship was rudderless, until Postecoglou stepped up to fill the breach.

His impact was immediate – on the day of his appointment, venerable shot-stopper Mark Schwarzer announced his retirement from international football.

Some in the establishment saw the writing on the wall (Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton) other, more blunt-headed species of the arrogant old guard (Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire) had to be shown the door, but the end result was the same.

Ange Postecoglou in his former life as Australia’s youth team coach. Photo: Getty

Postecoglou knew the squad was in need of urgent regeneration – tear it down and start again.

He’s a worker and – just as he did in his tenures with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory – he’s instilled those values in the Socceroos.

He’s injected the squad with youth and pace – Mathew Leckie (23) and Jason Davidson (22) were impressive, while 26-year-old Ivan Franjic also looked at home before succumbing to injury.

While Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano are in the twilight of terrific careers, waiting in the wings are talents like Rhys Williams, Robbie Kruse and Curtis Good – all of whom missed out on Brazil through injury.

The future’s looking bright, but the present isn’t so bad either.

Postecoglou is a rare metal, forged in the fire of the old NSL, hardened by seven years as Australia’s under-20 coach, and polished by successful A-League stints at Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory.

In the space of eight months it seems Postecoglou has changed both the culture and philosophy of Australian football – taking us from a very dark place into the light.

The 3-0 defeat to Spain was a disappointment, but to think we could be competitive against Chile and the Netherlands last October was pure fantasy.

Australia’s football future couldn’t be in better hands. Postecoglou likes fast, attacking football.

Against the powerhouses we encountered in Brazil, we didn’t always get the chance to showcase it.

Postecoglou’s true influence will be best appreciated against our neighbours at next year’s Asian Cup and during our next qualifying campaign.

It’s a long road to Russia, but with an angel at the helm it’s sure to be an exciting ride.

Postecoglou is a rare metal, forged in the fire of the old NSL, hardened by seven years as Australia’s under-20 coach, and polished by successful A-League stints at Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory.  

We’re lucky he’s ours.

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