Socceroos Greats - Where are they now: Ron Corry

The World Game pays its monthly tribute to the Socceroos stars of yesteryear who left their mark on football down under. Goalkeeper Ron Corry saw many changes in a playing and coaching career that spanned six decades and nothing could surprise him - except when he was hauled in front of his club for a reason he did not expect.

                               corry

Ron Corry is one of Australian football's most respected coaches. Source: Supplied

Socceroos goalkeeper Ron Corry forged a successful coaching career after hanging up his boots but nothing could prepare him for the complaint he got from the first club he managed.

Corry, who has just turned 77, is regarded as one of Australia's finest representatives and even more so as a top coach who influenced the careers of such Socceroos stalwarts as Graham Arnold, Ned Zelic, Tony Popovic, Zeljko Kalac, Tony Popovic and Mark Bosnich.

Corry turned his attention to coaching when his playing career came to an end in 1981 and he led Wollongong Wolves to the National Soccer League championship in 2001.

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But his transition to senior coaching was not as smooth as he would have liked.

"I was Canterbury coach in 1981 and it was one of my first coaching jobs," Corry said.

"We were doing sort of okay in the championship but when I brought in young unknown strikers Arnold and Nick Theodorakopoulos into the side we started winning regularly, which was unexpected. Our opponents knew very little about them and they were scoring two goals each week. At one stage we got to one point behind the leaders.

"One day I got a note in the dressing room from the club asking me to appear before the committee. They said to me 'we need to talk to you' and I asked 'why, what's the problem?'

"They would say to me: 'We are winning too many games and we can't afford to pay the players (the win bonuses)'.

"Needless to say, I was not expecting that even though, who knows, they could have been talking to me tongue-in-cheek but I continued to do my job the same way. That was my first venture as a senior coach".

Corry, who lives in Sydney, spoke about his playing and coaching career that helped shape the Australian game and earned him legendary status within the football fraternity.

What are you doing these days?

"I'm retired now after finishing up as goalkeeper coach with Western Sydney Wanderers two years ago. Right now I coach eight or 10 young keepers two nights a week in the Bankstown area. Just for the love of the game."

You were a handy cricketer in your younger days. What drew you to football?

"I used to be a wicketkeeper and field in the slips in fourth grade with Petersham-Marrickville and playing with Bobby Simpson and all those guys when I was 16. I love cricket but I also like all sports. Soccer, however, was always the main attraction for me."

Did the hand-eye coordination you needed in cricket help you become a goalkeeper?

"Of course. In football as in cricket hand-eye coordination is crucial because you have to be expect every ball to come into your hands. You have to be prepared and without that you will struggle."

Coach Joe Vlasits gave you your break in 1961. How do you remember 'Uncle Joe'?

"I was playing in the thirds in 1960 and a year later I was in first grade but third in the goalkeeping pecking order so I decided I had to leave Canterbury. South Coast United wished to sign me but my club wanted 20,000 pounds for a transfer which was big money those days. Nobody was going to buy me at that price so I had no choice but to stay at the club.

"My luck changed when the two keepers ahead of me became unavailable and 'Uncle Joe' gave me a chance. I would work with him for the Socceroos later on. He had a way with players and everybody would want to play well for him."

To what extent was football in the 1960s and 1970s different to today's?

"The game was probably a bit slower then and players were not as strong physically. But the calibre of player was top class. Australia was banned from FIFA in the early 1960s so we could sign any player from abroad for nothing. Today marquees are a big deal but in my days we had 'marquees' coming out of our ears.

"The strongest clubs had six or seven imports. Not just foreign players, mind you, but international stars from Britain, mainland Europe and the rest of the world. I learned more from these guys in one year than I would in a lifetime."

You played for Sydney Croatia for 10 years. Why has this club produced so many Socceroos?

"The last World Cup showed us that Croats have a strong temperament and a natural aptitude to play football and the same could be said of Australian-Croatian players who saw the Sydney Croatia club as a magnet, a place where they could gather. I was senior coach when I threw guys like Bosnich, Popovic, Kalac and Zelic into first grade at 16 or 17 years of age. The club questioned my decision but I told them I trusted the players' ability and that they would be the lifeblood of the club. The players never looked back. The club was for them a platform from which to enhance their skills and ambitions and take them to another level."



You made your international debut in the Friendship Cup in Vietnam in 1967 which is when the Socceroos nickname was born. What do you remember from that tournament?

"Some say the nickname originated in 1974 but that's not true. We were first called 'Socceroos' during that tournament in Vietnam. It was an unbelievable event and the friendship we established during that tour has lasted till today.

"People said we were just pawns in a game played at diplomatic level at the height of the Vietnam War but we really did not care. We knew we were sent to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) by the government but as far as we were concerned we were there to play football and enjoy the camaraderie."

The campaign to qualify for the 1970 World Cup ended in defeat against Israel. Were the Socceroos not quite good enough to be at the big table then?

"I don't think it was a case of not being good enough. It was more like not being prepared well enough. After the first leg in Israel which we lost 1-0 we got together for the second leg in Sydney only three days before the match, which we drew 1-1 and we were out. We had no preparation like we have these days.

"I'm sure we would have qualified had we prepared better. Israel went on to do well in the finals in Mexico and all we could do is wonder what might have been."

You must have been devastated to miss out on the 1974 World Cup squad after playing in several qualifiers.

"I had no problem with that. I would have thought that I'd be one of the three to go to Germany but I did not pick the team. I was disappointed but that's football."

Of the 27 full internationals you played for Australia, which is the one that will stay in your memory for ever?

"We played South Korea in a World Cup qualifier in Seoul in 1969 and we needed a point to get through to the next phase. With the score at 1-1 a brilliant goal from Johnny Warren was controversially disallowed and then I had to face a penalty. I told the boys 'don't worry, I don't want to stay here another week and I'll save it' and I did. We faced a barrage in the second half but it was one of those nights when I could be diving the wrong way but my foot would stop the ball from going in. We got the draw we needed to get through as group winners.

"Another game that stands out was not an international. It was a tour match against Manchester United in 1967. They had beaten us (Sydney XI) 3-0 in the first game but while playing for NSW I faced George Best five times in one-on-one situations and I took the ball off him or blocked him every time. He did however score a goal I thought he could never score. They won 3-1."

You were comparatively short for a goalkeeper. You must have been pretty strong in other aspects of the role to play for so long.

"I was strong at standing jumps. Jack Reilly was six foot four but my jump was six or seven inches higher than his. Jimmy Fraser was the same as me. We were pretty short for goalkeepers but we had the athleticism and agility to make up for that shortcoming. We could dive and hit the top corner of the goal."

After a long playing career you became a coach where you would specialise in goalkeeping. Bosnich and Ante Covic tell me they rate you as their "best ever coach" and owe their careers to you. What's the secret behind good goalkeeping?

"A goalkeeper has to have a natural ability in order to succeed. You can 'manufacture' a goalkeeper to do well at National Premier Leagues or even A-League level, for example, but he'll never make the next step without that special skill. Some people might call it arrogance but it is not. It's confidence in your ability. Bozza and Kalac were the best keepers I worked with. They stand out."

What do you think of the A-League's standard and the Socceroos' performance in Russia?

"The A-League had an immediate up and then a down in the first four or five years before the advent of the Wanderers revived the competition. But the club lost its way and its culture after Popovic left. All the good work done before went out the window. Generally speaking, the standard has dropped alarmingly and to me Football Federation Australia have no idea how to arrest the slide.

"Sydney FC dominated the last two seasons because they had strong imports that made the locals better. Sydney could win even without playing well because they were the best. Champions Melbourne Victory might struggle this season because they have lost several key players.

"I thought Australia did not do too badly at all in Russia. We played well defensively with four at the back and I think had we gone to the World Cup with three at the back we would have been crucified. We are always strong in defence but we'll always make that one mistake that will cost us and it happened again in Russia. However it's at the other end of the park where our main problems lie. We don't have players who can score goals. Perhaps Dimi Petratos should have been given a run because he's the sort of player who can score goals from outside the box."



Many people are unhappy with the way FFA are running the game. Is football in trouble?

"I think so. Attendances and viewers are dropping and I personally do not watch as many games as before because I'm sick of watching the same teams playing each other all the time. For me the answer might be 16 teams and a minimum of four under-21 players in each side. Young players need to be given a chance. In the old National Soccer League they were giving 16-year-olds an opportunity to show what they could do. Not any more. I'm just surprised Melbourne City's Daniel Arzani forced his way through.

"Having said that, I'm not sure where the good young players are coming from because the FFA curriculum does not give players the chance to be themselves. It has has stifled their creativity and turned them into robots. Players are not free to be players."

And finally, who are the best players you have played with and against?

"John Watkiss and Ray Baartz stand out. They were for me the greatest ever Australia players. Watkiss was the complete footballer and he could play anywhere. Baartz was smooth and silky. He could hit the ball 30 metres with his left or right foot. You won't find players like that today.

"The best I played against would have to be the Manchester United trio of Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law in 1967. I also enjoyed playing against Pele when Santos came here in 1972."

RON CORRY FACTFILE

Club career
1958-1964: Canterbury
1965: Pan Hellenic
1966-75: Sydney Croatia
1976: Manly
1977: Sutherland
1978: Manly
1979-81: Marconi

International career
1967-73: Australia (27 matches)


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10 min read
Published 7 August 2018 at 2:37pm
By Philip Micallef