How Postecoglou is keeping his players on their toes

Tony Tannous Columnist

By , Tony Tannous is a Roar Expert

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    Tommy Rogic is one of Australia's European success stories. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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    With little hype and fanfare ahead of tonight’s World Cup qualifier in Adelaide, it makes it hard for Ange Postecoglou to get his players up and in the right frame of mind to get the job done.

    At home, against lower ranked opponents in Tajikistan, these are the games the Socceroos are expected to win.

    But the manager won’t want that sort of complacent thought process creeping into the minds of his players.

    Which is why he has been quick this week to remind them that they have a job to do at the Adelaide Oval.

    He won’t want his players thinking too far ahead to the game next Tuesday night at the SFS against Jordan.

    Any slip-up and Jordan are likely to take advantage and go top of the group when they play Bangladesh in Amman a couple of hours after the Roos game.

    As Tajikistan proved in Dushanbe six months ago, where they frustrated Australia for almost an hour, they’re not complete pushovers.

    But if Postecoglou has the likes of Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Mat Leckie and Tim Cahill performing anywhere near what they are capable of, and have been showing of late, then the Roos should be too strong.

    But getting his players in the right frame of mind to perform has been the trick, and to do so Postecoglou has used a couple of tactics.

    For starters he has dangled the carrot to the Adelaide football community, imploring them to cancel training tonight and come out and really get behind the team. More Roos games in Adelaide is the prize, he says.

    No doubt he wants this to mean something to Adelaide and Australia, and he’s right.

    But beyond trying to get the public up and backing the Roos, his biggest play has been to his players, reminding them that no-one has a divine right to the new all-gold Socceroos strip that has caused plenty of debate this week.

    “I have consistently said to the players, you don’t sign a contract with your country for 10 years,” he said.

    “Every time you are selected it’s for those games, that’s it. There are no guarantees beyond that apart from your own performance and the way you present yourself.

    “I don’t think anyone should go round thinking they have a right to an Australian shirt for any length of time beyond what they are selected for.”

    And what’s more the manager has been true to his word, consistently chopping and changing his squad, bringing players in to assess them in the environment, and then seemingly looking at other options next time around.

    It is a strategy designed not only to find his best options, but to keep everyone on their toes, driving for ‘better’.

    Of particular interest has been his work at fullback, both left and right, and the manager has been open about his search for long-term solutions in both spots.

    When the Socceroos beat Bangladesh 4-0 in November, James Meredith and Jason Davidson were used at left back.

    This time around he’s brought in Brad Smith and Alex Gersbach.

    It wasn’t that long ago that Aziz Behich and Tarek Elrich were a regular part of things.

    Now it looks like Josh Risdon is the incumbent at right back. But Jason Geria has been brought in for his first taste of the Roos environment. Gersbach is in the same situation, and Postecoglou wants them to seize their chance.

    The other area he is still seeking solutions is up front, at number nine, where he has been reliant on Cahill and Tomi Juric, when the latter hasn’t been injured.

    Here he has given an opportunity to Apostolos Giannou, a left-field option he says he knows well and believes can be an asset for the Roos.

    While admitting that he continues to keep Jamie Maclaren on the radar, this is an opportunity for Giannou to prove he has the ability to combine with the likes of Leckie, Robbie Kruse, Mooy and Rogic, and prove there is light beyond Cahill.

    By bringing him in, Postecoglou also sends a message that he’s prepared to look high and wide if it means moving the national team forward.

    The manager’s work has been a fascinating watch over the past two years, and credit to him for proving you can build depth and grow the team, and do it by not sacrificing results.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

    Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA

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