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No-frills Socceroos skipper Jedinak symbolises a return to a team ethos

Australia's (Source: AFP/Ian Kington)
Expert
21st May, 2014
77
2051 Reads

In choosing Mile Jedinak as his skipper for Brazil and possibly beyond, Ange Postecoglou has made another statement that reputations, public standing and star players mean little to him.

For Postecoglou, it’s about the substance, and the team, and there’s no doubt, in choosing Jedinak, he has a footballer who is much respected by his peers.

Speak to anyone who has played with or knows the current Crystal Palace skipper, as I did yesterday, and there is an overwhelming sense Australia has the right type of person leading the on-field revival of the national team.

Simple and humble are the type of words that come to the surface when you think or talk about Jedinak.

Much like his game, I’m told his personality is a no-frills one.

He is anything but the commercial figurehead that came to symbolise the Socceroos under Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck.

Jedinak won’t be the type to turn up to press conferences or public appearances and command attention or charm the media.

Growing his or the Socceroos’ brands aren’t what motivate him.

Jedinak’s talk will be done on the pitch, where it matters, and while this mightn’t always keep the media pack entertained, Postecoglou won’t care less.

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Nor will he care what anyone at head-office thinks.  

For the manager, it’s a line in the sand. He’s trying to reinvigorate some of the old humble spirit in the Socceroos, and while he understands some of the commercial obligations, he won’t let it overwhelm the team.

Jedinak is like-minded in that way. He just wants to be part of the team.

Leadership will be something the manager demands from every member of the squad. Jedinak will merely set the tone.

That much was evident at the ‘Roos first public training session at Gosford on Saturday.

While he didn’t train, he was still there despite only getting off the plane a few hours earlier.

What’s more, as the rest of the squad filed back into the dressing room after an intense training session and long autographing signing shift, Jedinak was the last man standing.

While I’ve long felt he became a symbol of our previous managers’ want to sit back on the 18 yard box and scrap and disrupt opponents, Jedinak just continues to go about his business and earn the respect of all the managers, players and fans he touches.

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The ability to keep plugging away and win over those in power is his endearing quality.

Written off by many throughout his career, it’s been his ability to stick around that has earnt him much respect.

Much is made of the Central Coast Mariners plucking him out of the state league and giving him his big A-League opportunity in 2006, but the reality is they were only playing catch-up.

Indeed, it one of the tragic oversights of the first batch of A-League recruitment that players like Jedinak, Sash Ognenovski and Ante Juric were overlooked when the contracts were dispersed.

This was particularly galling when you looked at some of the rubbish imported in the early days.

Jedinak didn’t let it phase him and got on with the job at the club, Sydney United, that gave him his NSL debut at age 16.

His initial steps in the national competition were largely unheralded, coming at a time when the NSL was on its last legs. But for Jedinak it was a foundation.

No doubt he will have learnt much from starting his career with the likes of Kresimir Marusic, Aytek Genc, Ante Milicic and Gabriel “Chi Chi” Mendez as teammates.

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Even then, as a product of United’s famed youth team, he was a respected club-man.

Indeed, it’s hard to find anyone with a negative word about him.

Postecoglou clearly sees not only his leadership value, but, given he is building a team around him, his value as a footballer.

While his workrate, tackling and heading ability are obvious qualities, Jedinak also brings tactical discipline, mentality and an ability to get forward and strike from deep, or from the set piece.

In fact, in the two friendlies since Postecoglou took over, I’ve been impressed by how quickly Jedinak has been moving the ball, and moving off it.

While under previous regimes he was found to be on the back foot, retreating to the 18 yard box, scrapping to win the ball back, and struggling to move it, here he’s been proactive.

That’s not to say he has the ability to drop in between the two central defenders and start the team’s play, as Erik Paartalu did under Postecouglou at Brisbane Roar, or Steve Gerrard did at Liverpool this season.

Jedinak isn’t that type of number six.

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Passing range hasn’t been his greatest attribute in the national team until now.

Instead he’ll be expected to set the defensive pressing tempo, to monster the midfield, win the ball back quickly, and then play it simply into the front four, to allow Australia’s transition game to build.

From there, with the Socceroos trying to be proactive, we might see him start to venture a little higher and take up some shooting positions if space presents.

We saw, particularly towards the end of his stint with the Mariners, how effective a shooter he could be.

Hopefully a higher position under Postecoglou allows this attribute to shine more often.

The one thing that will clearly come through, as it has done in his career so far, is that Jedinak will keep a level head and lead those around him by action.

The ‘Roos are very much back in a position they like, of being the underdog, and in an important rebuilding phase over the next couple years, having a skipper that embodies many of the team’s attributes looks like a sound fit.