Socceroos coaching job needs a smoother transition

Australian football should adopt the German system of grooming assistant national coaches so they are fully prepared for the top job as soon as it becomes available.

Low Postecoglou

Joachim Low, left, and Ange Postecoglou at the Confederations Cup Source: Getty Images

It has worked beautifully for the four-time world champions and there is no reason it cannot be done in Australia. 

Ange Postecoglou’s contract will come to an end this time next year and the man who masterminded the Socceroos’ first major honour in 2015 is not expected to seek a renewal should he be offered one.

It is probably safe to say that Football Federation Australia, who admittedly have a fair bit on their plate at the moment, would have no idea who his successor might be.

Long-term planning is not one of Australian football’s greatest strengths at national and club level and the FFA usually start the process of finding a national coach after the position is vacant.

Having an assistant in place who is familiar with the national set-up, knows the playing system and does not have to start from scratch is the essence of a smooth and successful transition from one coach to another. 

Australia should have a playing style that best suits their football culture and the national coaches should adhere to it as far as possible.

National coaches usually pick their own assistants who are on the same page anyway so the chances of an assistant turning the world upside down after getting the top job are distinctly remote.

Sadly, and hardly unexpectedly, such continuity and forward thinking have rarely been prevalent in Australia.

Postecoglou’s assistant at the moment is Ante Milicic but if the FFA’s past is any indication, it is unlikely he be considered for the top job if and when it becomes available.

Milicic is a widely respected coach but he may be seen by the powers-that-be as one who is not a big enough name for such a high-profile position.

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat, who worked for the Socceroos as a scout at the recent FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, is rumoured to be in line to be Postecoglou’s successor.

But would Muscat, who is very much his own man much like Postecoglou, maintain the current playing style or buck the system that made Australia Asian champions and install a new approach?

With Germany it is very different, as you would expect from the best organised football country in the world.

The Germans have had only eight managers since Sepp Herberger led ‘Die Mannschaft’ to World Cup glory in 1954.
Herberger retired in 1964 and was succeeded by his assistant Helmut Shon, who would become one of only two men to win the European Championship (1972) and World Cup (1974). The other is Spain’s Vicente del Bosque.

Shon quit the job after the 1978 World Cup and was replaced by his assistant Jupp Derwall, who would be behind Germany’s European Championship triumph in 1980.

Former players Franz Beckenbauer and Berti Vogts bucked the trend of promoting assistants when they held the reins of the national team for 14 years between them.

Beckenbauer, who had no coaching experience and was called ‘Teamchef’ not ‘Bundestrainer’, won the 1990 World Cup and Vogts landed the 1996 European Championship.

Regularity was briefly restored in 1998 when the national job was taken up by Erich Ribbeck who was once Derwall’s assistant.

Ribbeck and subsequent coaches Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann would preside over one of the leanest periods of the national team - the Germans regard reaching major finals or finishing third or fourth as failures - before Klinsmann’s assistant Joachim Low took over in 2006.

Low had to wait eight years for success before Germany won their fourth World Cup in Brazil.

Don’t be surprised if one of Low’s assistants, Miroslav Klose, is given the top job should it become available. The Germans don't usually do interim coaches.

All this shows, very clearly, why Germany is such a successful country.

They are prepared to be patient with national coaches and not panic too easily.

And they are always one step ahead when it comes to their coaches.

You know, it might not be a coincidence that the Germans’ least productive years were those in which they departed from their transition policy.

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4 min read
Published 16 July 2017 at 10:36am
By Philip Micallef