It’s time for Australia to move on from the ‘Golden Generation’

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    Soceroos captain Lucas Neill expresses bemusement. AAP Image/Julian Smith

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    The Socceroos’ back-to-back 6-0 losses to Brazil and France didn’t just mark the end of Holger Osieck’s reign in charge of Australia’s national football team.

    Nor did it just show the gap between a team like Australia and the best in the world.

    These two losses were a culmination of nearly seven years of poor player management, failure to turn over an ageing team, failure to move on from the “golden generation,” and a realisation that Australian football is still living in the glory of finishing runners-up in Group F at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

    Osieck was destined to be the first causality of Australia’s humiliation in Paris and in truth it’s not without merit.

    Despite a strong 2011 Asian Cup campaign where he led the Socceroos to the final, Osieck’s time as manager was not always glamorous.

    The Socceroos struggles to qualify for Brazil was always a major stain on his resume.

    While the jubilation of Josh Kennedy’s 83rd minute winner against Iraq, which guaranteed the Socceroos a trip to Rio, was immense, the reality was the second-ranked team in Asia shouldn’t have struggled to qualify for a World Cup.

    A gradual drop in performance throughout 2012 and 2013 clearly weakened Osieck’s position as manager, with the two recent blowouts being the straws which broke the camel’s back.

    But this drop in form, which ultimately led to Osieck’s sacking, was caused by far deeper problems than the German manager.

    To preface this, Australia will always suffer on the world stage, from being a country where soccer is not its major sport.

    While this greatly affects the talent pool at Football Australia’s disposal, it also means soccer must generate as much publicity as possible; to grab whatever media attention remains after the AFL, NRL and rugby union get their dues.

    While the A-League does its part, the Holy Grail for Football Australia and all fans of the code in this country, is the World Cup.

    2006 demonstrated to the entire country that for a month or so every four years, soccer can dominate the headlines, even deep in the AFL and NRL’s home-and-away seasons.

    The World Cup has become not only the major goal for Football Australia, but seemingly the only goal and therein lays the major problems facing the Socceroos, problems which are just now reaching a crescendo.

    The Socceroos desperate need to qualify for the World Cup has surpassed any form of future planning, team management and youth development.

    A situation that has left the Socceroos with a keeper in his 40s, a captain aged 35 who is barely playing any form of club soccer and a team who has seen so little turnover, that many of the members of the 2006 World Cup squad still remain.

    The team who lost 6-0 to France just under a week ago, shared six players with the team who defeated Japan 3-1, in the opening game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

    That’s not including Mark Schwarzer, who although didn’t play against France, is still the team’s first choice keeper and has shown an irrational need to prevent any sort of development for his back-up keepers and line-up in every game he can, even meaningless friendlies.

    Of the players still wearing the green and gold from the Japan game, Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill are both 33, Luke Wilkshire is 32, Josh Kennedy is 31 and as previously mentioned, the captain Lucas Neill is 35.

    Throw in Archie Thompson and Brett Emerton, both 34, and who have played in the national team over the past 10 months and the core group of the current Socceroos is well over 30.

    Going to other end of the age scale highlights the glaring lack of youth development by Football Australia.

    This certainly hasn’t been helped by the failure of the young players who left the A-League around the time of its inception, looking for regularly first team action in Europe, only to return to the A-League within a year or two.

    The likes of Bruce Djite, Nick Carle and Jade North highlight this lack of progression.

    However, it also hasn’t been helped by the refusal to give the likes the of Tom Rogic, Tommy Oar and Mitchell Langerak regular, first-team spots for the Socceroos.

    In fact not only have the Australian football hierarchy failed to nurture this young talent, they have often publicly criticised these players.

    As demonstrated by Osieck after a lacklustre 2-2 draw against Oman in Sydney. Osieck’s blame was squarely aimed at the young players in the team.

    “I must admit I had expected a lot more from some of the younger guys that I tried to promote and showed some good faith in…But, well, you can see. It’s different,” he said.

    Lucas Neill followed the hammering from France with a similar public outburst. “My question to the younger guys who want to play for Australia, who dream of playing for Australia is: actually do you dream of playing for Australia?”

    He asked this after again refusing to retire, even at the ripe old age of 35.

    This public sentiment expressed by the former manager and captain is incredible and this feeling has left the Socceroos with a lack of developing talent, who aren’t ready to come in and replace the likes of Cahill and Bresciano.

    Robbie Kruse, Tommy Oar and Tom Rogic have shown there is some hope, but glaring holes still exist throughout Australia’s squad.

    Seven years of youth mismanagement and a refusal to move on from the players who ended Australia’s 32-year World Cup qualification drought has left the country as the laughing stock of world soccer, an old, out-of-their-depth squad who have no young players to transition in and replace them.

    A change in managers won’t be enough to change this and with the World Cup just eight months away, the Socceroos are in real danger of being embarrassed in Brazil.

    Football Australia must move on from the ‘Golden Generation’ and begin a new generation, one which can again lead Australia to World Cup success.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2013 @ 7:44am
      NUFCMVFC said | October 18th 2013 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      A general observation of mine is that the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Generations were where the strengths as, 98 and 02 were certainly stronger than 2010 and 2014, yet 2010 and 2014 made it whereas 98 and 02 didn’t and it shows how football can be ‘unfair’, which is half the reason it is so engaging

      This isn’t surprising a trend though,as I keep saying Scotland were strong in 80’s and 90’s but have faded somewhat in the 00’s, Romania were strong in the 90’s too. Chile were good in the late 90’s, have faded but then come back again recently

      And so naturally people have to brace themselves that 2006 ended some time ago and sea re going to fade a little and qualifying for 2018 is going to be a real challenge, hopefully we can start toc ome back from 2022 onwards though

      • October 18th 2013 @ 8:47am
        vinnie said | October 18th 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        great post, what a great team we would have had for the 1998 world cup had it not been for that disaster against Iran, who went one to represent asia proudly, 1-0 loses to Germany and Yugoslavia, and 2-1 win against the USA.
        unfortunatey we drew the best team in asia in the play offs.

        the golden generation is just a myth, we are still blind and cant see that we produced great players back then, whether it was Les Scienflug or Raul blanco, i dont know if everyones just too afraid to admit it and no one wants to smell the roses here, but we arent exporting players these days like we used to

        • October 18th 2013 @ 10:58am
          Andy said | October 18th 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          Need to remember Vinnie that it’s a lot harder to export players these days. Players won’t leave at 15 anymore becuase of FIFA laws. Getting visas for players is nigh on impossible these days too. Unless you are a top player for your country you won’t get a visa to play in a country with a top league, so that’s a hindrance. We need to let the A League develop sufficiently these days to allow players game time and development prior to going overseas.
          Most young kids coming up here these days won’t have ancestral visas/passports so fewer will have access to go younger and younger.

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2013 @ 8:17am
      Mike said | October 18th 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      The Golden Generation will forever be immortalised for their efforts back in ’06, but it is indeed time to move on. Footballers in their thirties often say that they’d love to star in another WC, but they don’t hold their breath. If I was a footballer in my thirties, who knew that my best form was behind me, I would rather call it quits while I’m on top. The most famous sportsmen and women in history are the ones who retired from their international games while they were still ahead, and not ten years later. It tarnishes their reputation, unfortunately, but that’s how things go I guess. I’d happily welcome any of the older Socceroos back to the A-League, be it playing or coaching/admin, and if they’re up to it of course.

      Australia seems to slipping more and more. They’re now ranked FIFTH in Asia! At this rate, it’s not going to be good when the Asian Cup arrives. I’m hoping Brazil won’t be a total embarrassment, but South Africa ’10 was just as bad really. I’d be happy for the new coach to really gut the team right down the middle. I’d keep a few of the older ones (maybe Kennedy, Jedinak, Bresciano), but only based on their league performances this season, and not because of their name or hype. I’ve heard mixed things about Jedinak from everyone here, so we’ll see how he goes with Palace this season. I think atleast 75% of the Socceroos squad for Brazil should be aged 26 and under. At this rate, what do they have to lose? Best case scenario is that the younger guys have some exposure for the Asian Cup and can put up a decent fight. We have so many great players like Rogic, Leckie, Kruse. They should be the starters.

      • October 18th 2013 @ 10:19am
        danno said | October 18th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        If you are sayong keep older players based on their league performance then Cahill would also start.

    • October 18th 2013 @ 9:17am
      Franko said | October 18th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      It is interesting to note that is the mid-size European nations that tend to dip and then bounce back at various stages, Denmark, Switzerland, Scotland, Belgium while some of the African one’s seem to go high and then fade to oblivion: Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal.

      We must make sure we bounce back, and quickly.

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2013 @ 9:28am
        Mike said | October 18th 2013 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        I believe we have the capacity to bounce back. One thing that Australia has going for it is that we’re a developed nation. We have access to a lot of infrastructure and training facilities. Obviously the FFA will need to invest in and implement these, but it does help to develop the younger players when they have the required facilities and support.

    • October 18th 2013 @ 10:23am
      realfootball said | October 18th 2013 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      Hardly a Golden Generation.

      From a metallurgical point of view, I would suggest bronze was more accurate.

      When you have Figo et al, you have a Golden Generation.

    • October 18th 2013 @ 11:00am
      gavinmorten said | October 18th 2013 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      i have to agree. i find the problem with the socceroos is very similar to that of the australian cricket team. in cricket we are too afraid of having a bad ashes result every 2 years and keep the old timers around too long / don’t give the up and comers enough opportunities to develop and the team stalls and we end up in the position we are in now (and we get the bad result anyway). the way the socceroos have been picked over recent years, we always have world cup or asian cup qualifiers and then the finals to follow every two years, so we are always reverting back to the tried and tested “golden generation” survivors to get the job done.

      Hopefully whoever is selected to be the next coach of the socceroos gets the MO of rejuvenating the side rather than “qualify for world cup”. i feel like this was a lot of the problem that holger had, and pim verbeek before him, he was only there to qualify for the world cup and there was no focus on developing the team for the future. With any luck Ange will get the gig and do a Brisbane Roar job on the socceroos. Get the team playing a good style of football with young, dynamic players who are there on ability and form rather than they were the best we had 10 years ago and are still doing a decent job so we might as well keep them in

    • October 18th 2013 @ 11:38am
      Sleemo said | October 18th 2013 @ 11:38am | ! Report

      Neill shouldn’t have to retire. If he wants to continue to make himself available for selection then it’s up to the manager to pick him or not. Of course if Neill takes this option he takes the risk that he might be dropped rather than have the chance to retire on his own accord…but that’s his risk and nobody else’s.

      Same with Ponting and Steve Waugh before him in the cricket. A player shouldn’t be pressured to retire as long as they want to keep playing and I’m sure each of them understood/understands the risk that stance involves.

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