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Who is heir apparent to Lucas Neill's armband?

Lucas Neill scratches his head at the horrible hopping pun chosen by Australia (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)
Roar Guru
10th December, 2013
18

Lucas Neill will not last forever. He is 35 years old and should be thinking about golf and a midlife crisis, not continuing to captain the Socceroos.

When the time comes and the irrepressible leader of our national team does retire, who will take the armband?

Here is a rundown of why the main contenders should (and shouldn’t) get it.

Rhys Williams
Why?
There are plenty of reasons to like Rhys Williams as a national captain. He captains his club, Middlesbrough, in the English Championship. He is highly versatile, with the ability to play anywhere from right midfield through to centre-back (though, after playing there against France, he may not want to go back there).

He chose the green and gold when he could have also played for England, India or Wales, who he represented at Under-21 level. Choosing Williams would be a sign of looking forward.

Why Not?
Williams has had only 14 international caps next to his name, and has not really had any big game exposure at club or country level.

Perhaps he needs to leave the Boro or get promotion to take his game a step further then middle of the championship.

Ryan McGowan
Why?
At just 24 years old, a long shot for the skipper’s armband. McGowan has represented Australia from Under-17 level upwards.

The centre-back has the ability to establish himself as a real central defensive option for the national team. He was unlucky to be dropped after superstar Neymar took him apart while he played in the right back position against Brazil.

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McGowan captained the Hearts of Midlothian Under-19 team during his time in Scotland, and has played in European competition and Scottish FA Cup finals.

In his debut season in China, McGowan played 30 games for his club Shandong Luneng Taisha, who finished second in the Chinese Super League.

Why Not?
McGowan has only seven full caps to his name and is yet to fully establish himself in the team. He has also been suspended a couple of times for headbutting and dangerous tackles, so he may need to improve his discipline.

Perhaps one to watch for the future.

Mark Milligan
Why?
Milligan is well travelled, having played at seven different clubs across Asia. He was also in the squads for the last two World Cup campaigns, and captained the Joeys in the Olympic qualifiers in 2007.

New Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou bought Milligan to Melbourne Victory and handed him the captain’s armband. He has added a steely defensive resolve to the Victory team, and his determination is often the driver that keeps Victory going forward – something which the Socceroos lack.

Why Not?
As well as being the drive for Victory he can also become the bouncer, and is not adverse to imposing himself on another player.

Although versatile, Milligan is probably behind Jedinak in the anchor role and not the preferred centre-back option.

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Tim Cahill
Why?
An Australian legend, with nearly 70 caps for his country, and well renowned for having a heart as big as his leap.

Cahill has saved his country off his own boot (or head) on many occasions and is a truly viable option for the armband if Neill doesn’t make it to Brazil.

He also punches corner flags much better then Archie Thompson.

Why Not?
Timmy is 34 years old. His powers are not in full decline yet, but for athletes like Cahill who rely so much on strength and stamina, the fall comes suddenly and brutally.

A short term option only.

Mile Jedinak
Why?
Jedinak is a strong contender for the armband, with the towering anchorman now the only Socceroo getting regular game time in the EPL.

In the sinking ship that is Crystal Palace, it often looks like Jedinak is the only man with a bucket. He’s won Palace’s best player award and worn the armband.

At 29 years old and with 42 caps, has experience while still being at his peak.

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Why Not?
Ange Postecoglou may be looking into the long term for a national captain, and one would suspect Jedinak will not make it to Qatar. He’s also been only a solid contributor at best for the Socceroos, perhaps not the inspiration like a Cahill or Neill.

Matt McKay
Why?
McKay has quietly accrued over 40 caps in the green and gold, and captained the legendary Brisbane Roar team of 2011.

Had a bit of a jaunt overseas (moving to Glasgow Rangers at the worst possible time didn’t help), and then returned as the Roar’s marquee player.

It would be great to see an A-League player captain the national team. Can play left back.

Why Not?
McKay is 30 years old, and again it’s tough to see two World Cups in him. And if the new gaffer goes for youth, McKay has a tough fight with Tommy Oar for a spot in the left of midfield.

And although he can play left back, it’s not his strong suite.

Mark Bresciano
Why?
70 caps for the Socceroos, and has enjoyed a renaissance with the national team by becoming more of deep lying playmaker.

Bresciano has always been a technically gifted creative force for the Socceroos. Lasted a long time in the Italian top flight, and almost made it to Manchester to play for the blue side of the town.

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Why Not?
At 34 years old, Bresciano is on borrowed international time. Playing in Qatar can either bring his game down or help keep him fresh in respect to international fixtures.

He also has no captaincy experience to speak of.

Of course, Postecogloucould decide not to rock the boat and keep Neill as captain. He obviously adds something to the team in an off-field sense, but Neill’s inevitable fall is starting to look very similar to Ricky Ponting’s in the sense that he is living off his reputation more than his ability.

So here’s hoping one of the above (or someone else) can stand up and demand to be the next skipper – and sooner rather than later.

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