The Socceroos’ 3-0 win in the heat of Kuwait was the ideal start to their World Cup campaign, but it remains to be seen whether fans will ever warm to Graham Arnold.
There’s nothing quite like kick-starting a new World Cup cycle with some well-placed optimism.
Can the Socceroos win the World Cup? Will Aaron Mooy claim the Golden Ball?
On the basis of Wednesday night’s performance, it’s clear the answer is yes.
All jokes aside, the 3-0 win over Kuwait – who sacked coach Romeo Jozak in the wake of their defeat – was just about the best result Australian fans could have hoped for.
So why aren’t we more enthusiastic about it?
Sure, Mat Leckie’s two goals were slightly fortunate. And yes, Adam Taggart didn’t exactly reprise his stellar club form in green and gold.
But Mooy finally showed glimpses of being the playmaker the Socceroos desperately need him to be.
And Jackson Irvine and the surprisingly effective Jimmy Jeggo bossed the midfield in a way that for once didn’t make the Socceroos look unbalanced.
Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Mat Ryan and his back four kept a clean sheet with relative ease in furnace-like conditions at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium.
What’s not to like?
Probably the fact Graham Arnold won a championship with Sydney FC, judging by the online barbs from fans of rival A-League clubs on social media.
Let’s be real – the fact that Arnie won an A-League grand final on penalties annoys supporters of two of the competition’s biggest clubs, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers.
No one minded when he won the championship with the Central Coast Mariners, but repeating the feat with the Sky Blues four years later was beyond the pale for most Victory and Wanderers fans.
Whether the unwillingness to put club allegiances aside in support of the national team makes us a mature football nation, or one still ruled by petty grievances, is a matter for debate.
But it’s clear Arnie still rubs plenty of supporters the wrong way.
And his gruff demeanour and blunt manner of speaking probably don’t do him any favours.
Yet I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t all doing Arnie a bit of a disservice?
After all, if all you can do is beat the teams in front of you, it’s hard to see how he put a foot wrong in Kuwait.
One victory doesn’t make a campaign, of course, and there’s still the matter of Australia’s unsuccessful Asian Cup title defence to mull over.
But it would be a shame if the majority of fans let old-fashioned club football prejudices stand in the way of letting them enjoy the exploits of the national team.
That’s not to say much the same thing didn’t happen to Ange Postecoglou.
In his case it wasn’t so much his A-League background, but rather his penchant for plain speaking – and inability to back it up with results – that put him offside with fans.
Maybe we’re all just a particularly picky bunch of football aficionados down under?
But I would prefer to give Arnie the benefit of the doubt going into this new campaign.
And I’m dying to see how uses local favourite Tom Rogic, who should be fit enough for a recall when the Socceroos run out against Nepal in Canberra next month.
Can Mooy and Rogic play effectively in the same team?
I once set Arnold on the warpath with what to me was a throwaway line about a player he had clashed with, so I know how much he cares.
And the coach of our national team should care. I just wonder if the rest of the country does too?
Will Socceroos fans come to appreciate Graham Arnold as coach of the national team? Or does his Sydney FC success mean he’s on a hiding to nothing?