A-League All Stars concept big hit with fans

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Ange Postecoglou may not have won any matches in Brazil, but he can be proud of the turnaround the Socceroos have made during his nine months in charge. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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Four-time national championship winning coach Ange Postecolgou was announced as the inaugural A-League All Stars coach on Monday.

In what is anticipated to be a monumental occasion, the A-League representative team will lock horns with English powerhouse Manchester United at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on July 20.

After 15,000 votes were registered by the game’s fans, Postecoglou narrowly won the race to head the coaching ranks.

The Victory boss captured 36.8 percent of votes, narrowly edging out Western Sydney’s Tony Popovic on 36.2 percent, while Central Coast Mariners boss Graham Arnold came in third place at 15.4 percent of the votes.

Verified by the governing body’s innovative selection criteria, Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop is putting his words into practice by committing to his motto of fan engagement and listening to the game’s supporters.

Fans will play an imperative role in picking the A-League All Stars, with voting opening this week, and running through until April 30.

When the fan voting culminates, the A-League All Stars team will be selected as follows: 50 percent fan vote, 20 percent expert panel vote, 20 percent player vote via the PFA Team of the Year system.

The final 10 percent will be in the hands of Postecoglou, who will have full authority over the final three players selected to make up the 18-man squad.

“This is a chance to showcase the A-League to the world, taking on one of the biggest clubs in world football,” Gallop said.

“This is not just a one-off match, it’s the creation of an annual event that celebrates the most popular players and coaches in the A-League.

“Even more importantly A-League fans have the opportunity to make their mark on the selection of the team via the All Stars website.

“The Foxtel A-League All Stars is unique in the Australian sporting calendar and will play at a time when the vast majority of our 1.7 million grassroots participants are active.

“With a packed winter sports schedule this match gives our huge grassroots base the chance to celebrate what has been an incredible A-League season eight and prepare for what is set to be an even bigger season nine.”

After leading Brisbane Roar to back-to-back A-League championships – going on a breathtaking 36-game unbeaten run and breaking the Australian sporting record in the process – and reviving Melbourne Victory towards the top of the competition’s mantle, there’s little surprise to see Postecoglou given the opportunity to lead the A-League All Stars in their first-ever appearance.

Some were disappointed not to see the Wanderers’ Popovic at the helm of the All Stars, given his side’s extraordinary rise to fame this season.

The new boys are on the brink of winning the Premier’s Plate in the club’s maiden A-League campaign.

A win over cross-town rivals Sydney FC on Saturday night will see the expansion outfit win its first piece of silverware.

It would be a remarkable accomplishment, particularly when the club was only brought into existence just months prior to this current campaign.

While Popovic may feel a little aggrieved to come so close, it’s no shame losing out to a coach of such great expertise, experience and prowess.

Postecoglou’s impact on Australian football – in both the NSL and A-League era – is a clear illustration of the talent at his disposal.

For the 47-year-old tactician, it’s an opportunity for redemption. In 2000, he led erstwhile NSL giants South Melbourne into the inaugural Club World Cup, where his side was ultimately defeated 2-0 by Manchester United.

“It’s an honour to be voted in by the fans and a thrill to be the coach for the first All Stars game,” Postecoglou said.

“It’s a concept that is sure to grow legs and become a mainstay in our football calendar. I think there will be massive interest in this game.

“After a couple of months without A-League football fans can start to get withdrawal symptoms, it’s a great way to cut short the wait for football fans.

“After three seasons coaching in the A-League I think people know the type of football I want to play and I’m looking forward to putting together a team with the fans that can do that.”

The All Stars concept is a tremendous initiative by FFA, one which will see the event hosted on a yearly basis.

Taking a lead from our American neighbours, the All Stars fixture will allow the competition to showcase its talents on the world stage – an advertisement which further illustrates the growing maturity of our domestic football, and the game’s reach around the globe.

While scheduling is a hard task to master, the only downside for this grand event will be the absence of A-League based Socceroos players, who will be on national duty at the East Asian Cup finals – contended by Australia, Japan, South Korea and China.

Despite this, the A-League All Stars model will be a great success. Each year, FFA will attempt persuade big club’s to venture down under for this annual event.

Given the numerous parallels between the A-League and MLS, it would be great to see a regular All Stars match-up between these two competitions – possibly sharing the event every two years.

Scheduling may be an issue, given the different month-allocations for their respective seasons, but it will be one which will draw much fan-fare, and of course, draw to the conclusion of which league is the superior.

Make it happen, FFA.

Courtesy of Goal Weekly

Follow Robbie on Twitter @RobertDiFabio

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