After two International tournaments were the Olyroos and Socceroos failed to get out of the group stage at the Olympics and at the World Cup it’s time to Purge Australian football of this safety first nonsense that has infected Australian football.
While the Olympics debacle has long been forgotten the World Cup campaign is still fresh in the mind. On both of these occasions the men in charge Graham Arnold and Pim Verbeek both got the same tattoo. In show of fraternity the words “ Erring on the side of caution” can be seen on both their upper arms.
It can be seen in the players they chose in their squads, it can be seen in their tactics on the field, it can be seen in their fashion sense, the way they speak and finally the way they walk. And the walk away from the National team of both men can only embolden football to take that caution and throw it to the wind.
Pim Verbeek’s Socceroos coaching story can be easily written with his first and last game that he coached.. His first game as coach of the the Socceroos was against Qatar and the score was 3-0. Pim played a 4 4 2 formation with a diamond midfield. In attack we had Scott Mc Donald, Josh Kennedy, Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill as our main attacking weapons. Never again would we see that formation again. It was not till the last game against Serbia with the score 0-0 that Pim threw caution to the wind. The beginning and the end were positive, aggressive and undeniably Australian. While the middle had a gooey runny centre that Mat Preston from Masterchef (you gotta know it to mock it) would call his coaching style: bland, flavourless, lacking in texture and born from a lack of technique.
After the 2006 World Cup exploits the Socceroos got cautious. Guus Hiddink by nature was a risk taker. Verbeek and Arnold were not. The memory of the Olympics still burns me. Of course I should let it go but I have Greek heritage and besides food I love holding grudges even more. You can see it in the bulge in my back and the weird expression in my face when it’s set to neutral.
I bring up the Olympics because I have been watching Nathan Burns with his AEK Athens teammates play in the Sydney Festival of football. No player has suffered more from this cautions Australia than Nathan Burns. The next big thing in Australian football was left out of the Olympics squad because Graham Arnold though that the kid born in the NSW town of Orange could not run in the heat. Ahhh...... that cautions coaching kicking in again, even the excuses were cautious. It was great to see Nathan in action in the flesh. It gives me hope for the future.
So who will be the next man in the Socceroos hot seat? I don’t care as long as the balance swings away from the dull pragmatic tactics that hid the best qualities that Australian sport has to offer. Having an Aussie go!!!
(The term UN-Australian was hoping to be used in this article but due to the rampant over use of the term during and after the World Cup it has taken a break due to the National Election being announced. It hopes it can be seen and heard during the Asian Cup regardless of the nationality of the coach)