Depth: Time for the fringe Socceroos

Ben of Phnom Penh Roar Guru

By , Ben of Phnom Penh is a Roar Guru

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    The Germans delighted and wowed an international audience after showing not only their incredible depth but also their brazen willingness to test fringe Mannschaft players in a high-profile tournament.

    Given our own logistical issues with getting our best players together for matches, is it time to consider a fringe Socceroos team?

    The logistical constraints facing the Socceroos precludes full usage of the international calendar for our national side. Travel time, costs and risk of player fatigue are all considerations that make some dates less desirable in what can often be a hectic international calendar.

    As a result in 2016 the Socceroos didn’t fire a shot in anger until May despite there being two match days available in March of the same year. In 2017 we may have four extra match days in October and November to fill if we qualify directly for Russia.

    Do these extra match days provide us with an option of bringing together fringe Socceroos for friendlies? Can we see some of the A-League’s best alongside the likes of Mustafa Amini, Craig Goodwin and James Jeggo get some decent game time in the green and gold? Are we able to use vacant match days to deepen our squad?

    The constraints are twofold.

    The first is the disruption this would cause to the A-League. Such a fringe Socceroos squad would draw deeply upon the domestic scene, resulting in turbulence within playing squads. The FFA would need to either accommodate affected clubs or allow for international breaks – concessions that they have thus far proved reluctant to pursue.

    The second is the devaluation of the Socceroos brand. This is an aspect where the playing of what are perceived to be lower quality squads reduces the market value of the team. This is real risk if games are to be played in major urban centres before people who have grown accustomed to seeing full-strength sides. The reaction to the German B team, though, suggests this risk may be mitigated if handled correctly.

    (Image: AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    So how would such a concept work?

    The key is found in the old adage, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.

    A fringe Socceroos squad, seeking to create depth through better understanding of systems for fringe Socceroos and the testing of emerging talent, needs to play in front of fans who rarely get to see the full-strength Socceroos in the flesh – fans who will deeply appreciate what they get to see and who will arrive in both numbers and voice.

    This is a step towards the vaunted equity we vociferously demand yet too often fail to pursue once the Socceroos reach our respective neck of the woods.

    For some parts of Australia the full-strength Socceroos are highly unlikely to ever appear. Be it Cairns, Darwin, Hobart or Townsville, locations with significant football fanbases are missing out yet could provide financially profitable and technically sound locations for a fringe Socceroos side to feature.

    Some of our near neighbours such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia may also be willing to host such a side. All of these options make a fringe Socceroos side a potentially lucrative option for a football association which regularly bemoans its financial constraints.

    They couldn’t play often, but perhaps once or twice a year it would be good to see our depth tested against our near neighbours in venues that crave such representative football.

    As the Germans have shown, it can be done and done well.

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