Socceroos coach job is no short-term quick fix

Football Federation Australia should resist the temptation to name a foreign coach to lead the Socceroos at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Sydney FC's Graham Arnold acting as his offsider until he takes over after Russia.


Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold Source: Corbis Sport

The announcement of the national coach to lead the Socceroos in their fourth straight World Cup could be made by the end of the month.

It is refreshing to know that finally FFA are getting close to a decision that should have been made at least a month ago.

Reports have emerged that FFA have decided on the man they want and chief executive David Gallop will fly to Europe at the weekend to negotiate with him.

It is unknown if the candidate would prefer a short-term appointment or a longer contract but the governing body should be firm about this: a quick fix would do the team no good in the long run so the candidate needs to be told that this needs to be an appointment for the long haul or no deal.

Failing to follow this path would be seen as a band-aid solution that is fraught with danger.

The Socceroos job simply should be long term and given to the best candidate until Australia's involvement in the next World Cup is over.

That would take in Russia 2018, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates and the campaign for Qatar 2022.

It would be a deal very similar to the one afforded to Ange Postecoglou, who was appointed in late 2013 to take charge of the Socceroos at the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Asian Cup and the 2018 World Cup campaign.

Postecoglou however threw a spanner in the works when he quit his position immediately after leading the Socceroos to the promised land in Russia two months ago.

FFA's apparent reluctance to opt for stability has raised many eyebrows.

Sydney's A-League championship-winning coach Arnold has been contacted by FFA, presumably to take over the reins post Russia.

Sydney have had no request from FFA to speak to Arnold, whose club contract expires at the end of 2018-2019.

Which would suggest that FFA are interested in Arnold taking over only after Russia and they did not feel obliged to speak to the club first.

Arnold has no clause in his contract that enables him to free himself from his club should an offer of better remuneration come up. He however must give nine months' notice.

The Sky Blues are realistic enough to recognise that Arnold's success is bound to lead him to bigger and better things and it is believed they have examined a number of scenarios should the coach and club part company.

So where does this leave the Socceroos?

Two questions spring to mind: if Arnold is deemed by FFA to be qualified to lead the side post Russia, why cannot he do it from now? And if FFA think that Arnold is not the right man or available right now what can possibly change in six months?
FFA should have the foresight and courage to name the best man for the job and trust him with the leadership of the national team until the end of the next World Cup campaign.

If the new coach were to do well he would lay the foundations for a smooth period for the Socceroos in the next few years.

If he were to do badly in Russia or in the UAE six months later, FFA could choose to dismiss him as they would have done with Postecoglou had he failed in his job. Nothing changes in professional sport.

As it is, the ring-in coach would probably devise a quick-fix solution to the team's needs that is designed to have an impact in Russia, pick up his pay cheque and disappear into the sunset.

And then we'll have to start all over again with a new coach.

FFA would have their reasons for opting for an initial short-term appointment.

The money side of things comes to mind. Foreign coaches such as the ones that are believed to be on the short list do not come cheaply.

I just hope FFA reconsider their stance and look at the bigger picture and appreciate the value of stability and continuity.

Australia's next game is against Norway in Oslo on March 23.

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Published 20 January 2018 at 9:58am
By Philip Micallef