Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has sensationally claimed he will “always be an outsider in Australian football” despite leading his nation to the FIFA World Cup.
Postecoglou watched from the sidelines with pride as Australia captain Mile Jedinak scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 triumph over Honduras in Sydney.
The win ended a nerve-wracking qualification run, which took in an Asian play-off against Syria and this intercontinental play-off, with the 52-year-old acknowledging he was overwhelmed with emotion in the aftermath.
“Everyone has worked awfully hard over the last two-and-a-half years,” Postecoglou said.
“It’s been 22 hard games and you want them to get rewarded for it. Just seeing in the dressing room now … it’s overwhelming.”
Postecoglou has been the subject of criticism through Australia’s ultimately successful run to reach a fourth consecutive World Cup and it was a regular theme of his post-match press conference.
“I’ve been coaching for 20 years. I won my first championship when I was 31 years old,” he said.
“And you know what, I can coach for another 20 years and I’ll always be an outsider in Australian football. I don’t have the glittering Socceroo career … that you need.
“But that’s fine, I wear that as a badge of honour as I keep saying to people. The more [criticism] that comes my way, the more determined and resilient I am to just keep going down my own path.
“It’s worked well for me. Some people don’t like it. But to be fair, I’ve had a hell of a lot of support from players, coaches, the general sporting public.”
His future remains unknown, with recent reports suggesting he would quit his post – regardless of the play-off result.
But when asked if it would very tough to walk away from his job, given the Socceroos had qualified for sport’s most-watched event, Postecoglou said: “Oh yeah. I guess so.
“Right now it’s just about, I guess, enjoying the moment. Because I owe it to myself.
“I owe it to particularly my family, my wife, my boys, my friends, because while I’ve got a thick skin, they’ve had to cop what I’ve been copping and it’s unfair on them.
“Tonight’s just about enjoying it and hopefully seeing their smiling faces. What happens beyond here can be picked up tomorrow and we can decide then.”
Postecoglou added that a final decision on his future “won’t take too long” before saying his critics had inspired him.
He was also keen to point out he had received “a hell of a lot of encouragement” from the public and key football figures but “they just don’t happen to hold microphones so they don’t get heard.”
Postecoglou went on to describe qualification as the “greatest honour of my life”.
“There’s some fantastic advantages when you coach your own country, you know the mindset, you know the culture, but as I said there’s an extra layer of burden there,” he said.
“If you’re not successful, there’s nowhere to hide. I’ve still got to live here. If I was a foreigner, I could pack my bags and go home.
“You feel that way and I certainly have for the whole four years.”
Postecoglou, who reserved special praise for his “outstanding captain” Jedinak and the “brilliant” Tom Rogic, said Italy, the Netherlands and Chile’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup put into context how impressive the Socceroos’ achievement is.
“The traditional path to a World Cup where you just know that certain teams are going to be there just doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.
“Everything’s evened up around the world and that includes us in this region.
“Asia in itself is going to get even harder and I think the next cycle is going to be even harder than this one. It’s a fantastic achievement and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
“We should appreciate that come June next year, there will be some very strong football loving nations who are going to be watching us while they are on their holidays.”