Much has been said and written in media about Ange Postecoglou lately.

Undoubtedly, ” Big Ange” is living his best life at the moment and handling it like a real pro. On top of the ladder in the EPL, Barclays Manager of the Month, even Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli is sending him video messages.

Big Ange is in charge of one of the world’s most famous and iconic football clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, with great players like Jimmy Greaves, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker and Glenn Hoddle in their Hall of Fame.

The Road to North London

The boy from Windsor/Prahran, Melbourne, who grew up in South Melbourne Hellas’ youth ranks dreamed of wearing their colours as a senior player.

One must understand the unique path he has taken from a backwater football country in Australia to become one of the most famous managers in the world.

Australian managers don’t manage in the English Premier League (EPL); it happened when Ange did it. Their passports hold a massive disadvantage in European football’s caste system. Our football is not rated in the upper echelons of the biggest and wealthiest leagues in the world.

I always had one degree of separation from Ange Postecoglou; he grew up in a junior team with two of my best mates. John Mantarakis (son of Hellas legend Takis Mantarakis) and Chris Katircoglou, a talented central defender who chased the night’s bright lights instead of football.

Postecoglou grew up in Prahran, where I went to high school around the corner from some of my best friends. He played for South Melbourne Hellas from juniors to seniors, a club I have supported and now proudly serve on the board.

From player South Melbourne ‘Hellas’

His story begins in 1984 when, as a 19-year-old, he managed to displace veteran Chris Kalifatidis at left back in the 1984 inaugural National Championship-winning team. A team with names like the mystical Argentinean maestro Oscar Crino, the Socceroo great Alan Davidson, and NSL legends like Steve Blair, Kenny Murphy, Doug Brown and Charlie Egan.

Many of them were hard nosed Scot and British players, sons of coal miners where football was a way of life and survival growing up. That particular change room for a wet behind-the-ears Greek boy would have humbled many at the tender age of 19, yet Ange secured his place and played in a championship in his first year. He even managed the pressure and the heavy shirt on his back with aplomb.

The lucky star had been born. Little did this Greek migrant boy know this star would stay with him most of his football life, leaving him only for a short time throughout his management career.

The lucky star had been born. Little did this Greek migrant boy know this star would stay with him most of his football life, leaving him only for a short time throughout his management career.

His football career has been glossed over; it is essential to know that Ange played close to 200 NSL games, won two NSL Championships (one as a Captain), and represented his country four times.

He was a strong, mentally tough left back with a big engine, his peak being in the late 1980s in the 1988 season, where he forged a great partnership on the left with the sublime Steve Tasios, running teams to the ground with their speed & gut running.

Many Hellas supporters will remember the fantastic night games at Olympic Park, where Ange led the ‘baby blues’ team under Brian Garvey, playing some of the most exciting football the NSL had ever seen.

A knee injury cut short his playing career. Ange became Assistant Manager under Frank Arok in no time before taking over the reins and leading his beloved South Melbourne Hellas to back-to-back winning titles in 1998 and 1999 as a rookie manager.

This extraordinary introduction to management and his lucky star served him well as the World Club Championship became available for the current NSL championship team, allowing him to play against the treble-winning side of Man Utd and legendary football clubs such as Vasco da Gama of Brazil and Necaxa of Mexico.

Hellas had part-time footballers and managers representing them trading blows with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, and Romario. It would be expected to think that the pinnacle of his life would be that tournament, but Ange had other ideas. This was just an entree.


To the manager of the National U17s

At the end of that year, Ange cut the umbilical cord with his beloved childhood team and accepted the role of Australian National coach of the Under 17 team and the Under 20 team from 2000- to 2007.

His timing was unfortunate, as Australia had an unrealistic opinion of their youth talent teams due to the success of the 1989 and 1993 World Youth Cup teams and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Australia reached the semi-final into the last four in three major competitions in a row.

That team generation was populated by the ‘golden generation’ of players such as Paul Okon, Ned Zelic, and Mark Bosnich. A decline in performances was inevitable, yet Ange felt the toxic backlash of the Sydney football media mafia for the first time in that now infamous interview at SBS, where he traded barbs with SBS analyst Craig Foster.

The interview significantly damaged Ange’s brand and employment prospects –in the short term. Even in the backwater of Australian football, Ange was an outsider to the Sydney-based FFA. He wasn’t a 50-plus capped Socceroo, he didn’t live in Sydney, where many deals are made over a coffee in Double Bay.

He was an outsider critiqued by some of that generation’s most successful Australian players in TV shows. 2008-2009 shaped Ange Postecoglou as a manager more than any other challenging time of his career.

Choosing a life in football management is a throw of the dice in a world where you live in the three-point cycle with your employment relying on the whim of business people, many of whom have never kicked a ball..

Courage drives Ange

To make that decision in Australia is even more courageous. In our small football market with limited commercial opportunities, choosing a management life over a secure job is a bold decision. Ange was 43 years old, and I recall seeing him in Port Melbourne running a clinic for young players in 2008, where he took up a position with Juventus in the NPL.

The State League of Victoria is a semi-professional football league made of part-timers, and many would have crumbled, taken the safe way out, but not Ange. His road from the Brisbane Roar, to the Socceroos senior team, to Yokohama Marinos, to Celtic and now Tottenham Hotspurs has been a meteoric rise.

He climbed ladder after ladder with not one slip in 15 years. One slip on the snake and ladder journey he was on and Ange’s career could have been in deep trouble as he didn’t have an International football playing career to trade-off.

Every challenge has not only been met, it’s been smashed out of the park. Winning and playing captivating attractive football. Supporters sing his name in the stands, most not knowing him before his appointment, all unashamed fans at the end.

Celebrities are now lining up to be part of the Big Ange Train ride; Rod Stewart apparently was sending him bottles of Red Wine after every Celtic victory, Robbie Williams is singing songs about him, it seems no one can resist his impact. Ange Postecoglou would be one of the strongest-minded, self-driven people I have ever met in football.

His unwavering belief in his coaching, his ability to come into a football club and make them play exciting, successful football and ignore the white noise of the street, the press and the supporters is nothing short of a man who is a master of his craft.
He would have gotten there 15 years earlier had he had an English passport and a decent EPL career, yet now the world knows ‘Big Ange”.

His interviews are refreshing for a man who has not lived in the privileged bubble of EPL football and has walked the streets of the ordinary person not so long ago. He is cherishing his time, and he has bloody earned it.

Well done, mate, we all salute you.

Peter Kokotis is a former football agent and now a youth director and board member of in South Melbourne SC ‘Hellas’