In the last few years, Australian football has taken a quite sudden uptick in popularity, capturing the imagination of Aussies all over the shop.
Much like the emergence of lots of new online casinos in the Australian market, Australian football has exploded with popularity as more and more players join top European teams from the A-League.
Part of this soccer boom can be pinned to one man. A manager who single-handedly raised the standards of Australian soccer. Ange Postecoglou. The new head coach of Tottenham Hotspur.
A One-club Hero
Having played under the likes of Ferenc Puskas, he’s been moulded by the tutelage of one of football’s finest players, with success usually imminent wherever he goes.
As a player, he was a one-club man. His whole career was spent at South Melbourne, playing 193 games for them. A Left-Back by trade, his time as an outfield player was sadly short-lived.
A knee injury forced him to retire early, but not before he could play under one of his childhood heroes, Ferenc Puskas. Postecoglou would base his managerial philosophy on Puskas’ 4-3-3, making it his own by utilising inverted Full-backs to overpower defences.
His first job was, naturally, at South Melbourne.
Success came quickly, as relying on an unproven manager paid rapid dividends. In 1998, Postecoglou ended a 7-year title drought, winning the National Soccer League.
Unsatisfied with just the one trophy, he’d win the league the following season for a repeat title, whilst recording a historic double, as they took home the 1999 Oceania Club Championship.
Despite his quick success, his second job would almost ruin his career before it even started…
A Public Relations Nightmare
In 2000 he left South Melbourne to manage the U-20 Australian national side, which, despite 7 years of employment in the Australian national team youth set-up, ended in dramatic fashion.
Australia U-20s failed to qualify for the U-20 World Cup for the first time since 1989, as they lost to South Korea.
His termination was all but confirmed, after an appearance on Australian TV show, ‘The World Game’. He and pundit Craig Foster would get into a tense on-air argument, in which Foster blamed Postecoglou as solely responsible for Australia missing out on the Youth World Cup and called for him to resign during the on-air altercation.
Ange did not come away from this public appearance looking good. Craig Foster would get his wishes in February of 2007, as he was relieved of his post. At this point, Postecoglou felt he’d never find employment in Australia again, with the argument doing laps around Australian Sports news outlets.
Having restored a semblance of his image following his TV-grilling; Ange became head coach of Brisbane Roar, in 2009, with the task of saving what remained of a catastrophic season.
Beating the Doubters
A second-from-bottom finish was the best he could do given their position in the league, but with a fresh season on the horizon and a chance to do things his way, the team was overhauled.
With many fans and pundits doubting him, memories of the U-20 debacle no doubt reason as to why, he simply requested to be judged based on where the team were in a year’s time.
A year later, in 2011, Brisbane Roar won their first-ever A-League title and had done so by playing entertaining, attacking, possession-based football.
He did it again the next year, making them the first side in the A-League’s short history to win back-to-back titles.
Having done everything he felt he could, he resigned in 2012, in search of something new.
In this instance, the new challenge took place in familiar surroundings, taking charge at Melbourne victory, once again overhauling an ageing squad. In his first season they finished 3rd, 2 places ahead of his former side, Brisbane Roar, earning qualification for the Asian Champions League.
Had he stayed, titles would have surely followed, but just a year into his tenure, a familiar face came calling, their tails between their legs.
The Socceroos Come Crawling (Hopping?) Back
Postecoglou was seen as an ideal candidate to coach the men’s national team.
Australia had already qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but as the groups were drawn, Australia found themselves with a mammoth task. Chile, Spain and The Netherlands. A bonafide group of death. Even the least sane Socceroo fan wouldn’t expect progression or even victory against any of these sides.
Postecoglou’s Australia would defy all expectations. By losing all 3 games… But, despite poor results on paper, his side had put on brave, competitive displays in all 3 games against much better sides.
This would serve as the perfect platform for progression, as in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, the premier Asian International competition, Australia would record a famous victory, going all the way and beating a South Korea side featuring Heung-Min Son 2 – 1 in the final.
It was Australia’s first-ever AFC Asian Cup win, which was the greatest honour any Asian side could realistically hope to achieve at the time.
But, once again, despite his ground-breaking success, Postecoglou just got up and left…
His next challenge was Yokohama. F Marinos in Japan, where he spent 3 years and guided the club to its first championship in 15 years in his 3rd season. Postecoglou had even extended his contract for a third season after his first two seasons ended without silverware.
He’d won in Japan, and as you can guess… He left.
One of The Bhoys
Now having proved himself outside of Australia, in a more competitive league, he joined Celtic, a club that has always looked to both Japan and Australia for talent. In doing so he became the first Australian to coach a major club in Europe.
Once again, many wrote him off. Celtic had just missed out on hiring Eddie Howe and pundits, such as Talksport’s Alan Brazil mocked the appointment, disappointed in missing out on such a prestigious manager.
Even the players at Celtic were doubtful at first, Celtic and Australian midfielder, Tom Rogic describing many players being somewhat skeptical of the appointment.
But, like he always does, he proved them wrong, his patented brand of possessive attacking football propelling Celtic to a league title, winning five Manager of the Month awards in the process.
Alan Brazil ate his words and apologised…
The next year he did it again, and with nothing left to feasibly accomplish, he left to join Tottenham, on the 6th of June 2023.
The man undoubtedly finds success where ever he goes. Spurs’ and Daniel Levy’s biggest issue it seems, will be making sure they can build upon each season, lest he gets bored and joins someone else.