Frank Lowy might have talked of the Socceroos becoming the number one ranked team in Asia under Ange Postecoglou’s five-year tenure, but for now most green and gold fans would be happy enough if he gets us excited about watching the team again.
Such has been the stagnation over the past two World Cup campaigns under Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck that many long time fans have switched off, rarely bothering to get up for games, even against Brazil and France.
With an obsession for short term results, both on and off the field, the Socceroos have essentially gone from the positive team we all loved to a listless one that might be making it to World Cups, but at times resembles melting plastic.
It has been a process of the FFA’s making, hiring old school managers only interested in ticking their qualification boxes, not properly assessing their performances, and allowing many senior players to sign corporate deals that assume they are national team members.
Whether it’s been with Sony, Weetbix, Qantas, Optus or as Captain Ambassador for the Asian Cup, it seems a culture has been created where it’s as much about what playing for the country can do for the player.
The incumbent skipper, Lucas Neil, was allowed to say this about the Captain Ambassador role, “It’s like wearing the captain’s armband, but never having to take it off.”
Spin has surrounded the Roos, from the head office, to the manager, to its players, to the media that have long spruiked for their favourites.
The fact the FFA have allowed this largesse to fester smacks of an organisation that has lost touch with what the Socceroos really stand for.
As Postecoglou so rightfully pointed out in his Fairfax column last week, the sense of entitlement that has surrounded the national team has to be eradicated.
Those involved have to remember it’s a privilege to represent a team that belongs not to them but the nation.
Postecoglou sees the big picture, can articulate it and has a history of making it happen.
He spoke in an impressive press conference yesterday about a priority being to make the Roos world class off the field.
Clearly, everyone involved is now on notice, and accountable.
While he may accept at least some of the branding activity that surrounds the national team, he will demand things be done his way.
With that autonomy, it’s the football that will dictate.
He will build parameters and ruffle feathers, knowing quick change is required.
This might not impress some of the bean-counters and hangers-on that circle the Roos, but he will care little about pleasing them and more about restoring pride in the green and gold.
Ultimately, he is someone who not only cares for the national team and the growth of football in Australia, but has the strength and conviction to manage stakeholders at every level.
Since his successful stint at the Brisbane Roar, I’ve argued he’s the only person who could take any role in Australian football and fit comfortably in it, whether that be Roos manager, FFA chairman or CEO, national technical director, head of A-League or chief Fox pundit.
It has been some bounce-back since that on-air stoush with Craig Foster in 2006, and that’s a credit to his belief.
He points to the experiences in his mid 30s, when he was pipped by Frank Farina to the Roos role and went on to manage at youth level, as formative.
He saw then how tough things were for Farina and went to school on it, describing it as his coaching PhD.
Brendan Rodgers was glowing about Postecoglou’s performance after the Melbourne Victory’s July MCG friendly against Liverpool, privately suggesting he was better than most in England.
Now the world gets a chance to see one of our best.
When Farina was given the job, it was on the basis that the governing body at the time was cash strapped.
Now the feeling is we are throwing our best long-term option at the world stage.
The process has been a right old mess, with the lack of compensation for the Melbourne Victory and consultation with Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic not reflecting well on the FFA, but they have a man who will restore much of the belief, and quick.
With Brazil looming and a home Asian Cup to perform in soon after, the next 15 months will be some of the most important yet for our Socceroos.
We need a team on the rise, and soon.
Lowy might carry on about being the biggest and best at everything, but Postecoglou and his hand-picked crew will immerse themselves in the process, making informed and measured calls along the road to refreshing the Roos and rekindling our love for them.