Ange Postecoglou: I never doubted that I’d be successful

Neos Kosmos spoke to Ange Postecoglou, about his year in Japan, his father's legacy on his coaching and his dismay that Australian football does not honour its history.

It’s hard to believe that Postecoglou, who made history as Socceroos’ coach when he won the Asian Cup and four club championships, was at one point unable to find a professional coaching job in Australia.

After he was sacked in 2006 from his coaching role with Australia’s national youth teams the Greek born coach spent time in Greece with Panachaiki F.C. When he came back to Australia in 2008 limited opportunities in the A-League meant he spent time in the Victorian State League with Whittlesea.

But a decade later Postecoglou is considered the country’s greatest ever coach after creating history with the national team and breaking numerous Australian club coaching records with Brisbane Roar.

His current role is with Yokohama F Marinos who are part owned by the City Football Group (CFG) an organisation that administers a host of football clubs such as Manchester City.
Even though he was unemployable as a head coach 10 years ago, Postecoglou never thought his chance to coach professionally had been lost.

“I don’t think too far ahead but I knew that I’d be coaching,” he revealed to Neos Kosmos.

“To me, if an opportunity didn’t open up here with Brisbane, I would have gone overseas and I’m not sure where that would have taken me, but I would have been coaching.

“There was never any doubt, even at the times that people didn’t think I deserved an opportunity. I never doubted that I’d be successful, I never stressed that much about it, I never thought too much about it and it’s worked out okay.”

After successfully qualifying the Socceroos’ to the 2018 World Cup, Postecoglou controversially left before the team competed in Russia to coach in the J-League. His first season in Japan was one of mixed fortunes. While he guided Yokohama to the final of the J-League Cup, when it came to the league they only secured their sport in J1 on the final day of the campaign finishing 12th.

Looking back on his debut season in Japan, the 53-year-old revealed his delighted at being back in a club environment.

1989-90 – Bruce MacLaren, Ange Postecoglou, Steve Blair. Photo: Supplied

“It was great doing the daily contact with the boys,” he says. “It was a great challenge, it’s why I went there. I enjoyed the year immensely and hopefully next year we are successful.”
Postecoglou’s first task at Yokohama F.Marinos was to change the way the club played football to his customary aggressive attacking style of play. On reflection the Asian Cup winning coach believed that throughout the season his new team had taken on board his new principles.

“When it came to the football aspect, it was about installing my philosophy and getting the team to play the way that I want,” he says. “We achieved that to a certain extent. We were very inconsistent doing it but it was a major turnaround from the way they played before.

The beauty was that the players really embraced it and enjoyed playing that kind of football. Hopefully next season we get the consistency to go along with the performances.”

After coaching for almost two decades in Australia Postecoglou admitted that Australia should follow how the east Asian country structures their competition.

“Japan is obviously a more mature league,” he says. “They’ve got more teams and more professional teams. They’ve got three professional divisions, promotion and relegation, the players earn a lot more money. Because of that, the quality of imports are a lot better because of the money. All the clubs are well funded and well supported. It’s where you’d like to think the A-League would be in 10-15 years’ time and that is the challenge that lies ahead for the competition here.”

Next month the Socceroos’ are about to embark on their title defence of the Asian Cup. Looking back on the trophy he won four years ago Postecoglou admits it’s a success that fills him with immense pride.

“It’s obviously a great memory,” he says. “Eventhe qualifying campaign we travelled all around Asia. It was a gruelling campaign and we were successful at the end to get to the World Cup and I enjoyed it.”

During his brief to trip to Australia Postecoglou helped launch Playing for Australia, a publication which chronicles the 150 year history of Australian football. In a rousing speech he believed that since the advent of the A-League, football has failed to respect the achievements of those who played and coached in the National Soccer League.

“It annoys the hell out of me that the two Championships I won with South Melbourne get ignored,” he said.

” Not because of me. Because I did it with people who put blood, sweat and tears into it and not just players. It’s not like that with the AFL. They didn’t differentiate between the VFL and the AFL. They understand that history is everything. It binds the roots in everything you do, yet in football we are too quick to dispense with it and not even recognise it.”

What makes Postecoglou so passionate about his time with South Melbourne is that it’s where he attended games with his father Jim Postecoglou who sadly passed away earlier this year.

It was his father who inspired him to instruct his teams to play the ball on the ground, keep possession and to always maintain an attacking, aggressive style of football.

Postecoglou revealed that while plaudits may have eluded him, the opportunities his father gave him by making a life in Australia will never be forgotten.

“I built teams that he would enjoy watching and that’s always been my mantra. I think that he was a pretty clever man and I’ll continue to honour him in that way” he says.

“I’m sure he was internally proud but outwardly he was a typical Greek father in that he wasn’t one that showered me with praise. He wanted me to be the best I can be. But for me, what was more important was the sacrifices he made in his life and that he saw his son achieving things that made his sacrifice worthwhile.”