'Four lost years': Vidmar throttles FFA, Abrams on development

Former Socceroos legend and ex-Joeys head coach Tony Vidmar has launched a stinging attack on outgoing FFA technical director Eric Abrams, saying Australian football has “just lost four years of development and will never get that back”.


Tony Vidmar during his time in charge of the Australian Under-17 national team Source: Getty Images

Following the high-profile tenure of Han Berger, who implemented the National Football Curriculum, the FFA moved to appoint the publicity-shy Abrams as technical director in September 2014 and he seldom appeared in the spotlight thereafter.

When it was announced on Thursday that the Belgian would be moving on from his role, the domestic governing body simultaneously announced a review into the nation's youth development programs – the very things Abrams had been assigned to address during his stint.

Vidmar, who had to report to Abrams whilst he was in charge of the under-17 men’s national team and the FFA’s now-defunct Centre of Excellence, lamented the failure to improve the nation's development structures in the past four years.

“We started on a change of direction in 2010, going with [a] world’s best practice because we weren't developing enough players during the period of 1999-2008,” Vidmar wrote on LinkedIn.

“Han Berger did the job as best he could considering the road blocks he had to deal with. The next appointment was paramount because the work was starting to develop and I had seen it with my own eyes.

“We needed someone who has had experience as a TD [technical director], who worked with youth at that moment, had hands-on experience, was prepared to go around the country and get their hands dirty to push development to the next level to help our players, but more importantly the coaches.

“FFA brought in someone who has never been a TD and was never a leader. Not once have I mentioned nationality – which in this country is the only issue. We must select the best person to do this job, not someone who is a cheap option and a ‘yes’ person.”

After the AIS-based Centre of Excellence was closed down in 2017, Vidmar, one of the most popular and knowledgeable figures in the Australian game, was made redundant in a move that shocked the football community.

He was quickly signed by Melbourne City as an assistant coach and has already won plaudits for his role in developing the club’s junior talent, principally Daniel Arzani, who was previously developed at the Centre of Excellence.

Many names have already been floated about a possible replacement for Abrams but Vidmar, who appeared for the Socceroos 76 times between 1991 and 2006, was wary about rushing in to make such a vital appointment on the grounds of a popularity contest.

“I have already seen people on social media mention names in [this] country, but we shouldn't pick a person because social media names them,” he said.

”If we are serious we should select the person who can do the job, and part of their job is to be part of [FFA’s] senior management, where they should be involved in football decisions.”

In announcing Abrams’ departure, FFA chief executive David Gallop said it was imperative that the sport recognised the need for substantial change, especially at the junior levels.

“While the fundamentals of football in Australia are undeniably strong, there are some significant challenges that must be resolved if we are to advance quickly as a football nation,” he said.

“At youth level we have identified the need to draw upon the knowledge of more Australians, while also continuing to recognise and respect the role that international football has on the sport.

“Eric (Abrams) has made a telling contribution to football in Australia, and we thank him for his service and professionalism over the past four years.”

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4 min read
Published 27 July 2018 at 8:45pm
Source: SBS The World Game