With Osieck Gone, Where to from here for the Socceroos

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After two successive 6-0 defeats at the hands of Brazil and Les Bleus, Socceroos coach Holger Osieck has been pushed before he jumped with nine months until the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

With many crying out for his dismissal or resignation for months, the departure of Osieck only hours after the second of those 6-0 defeats has been met with some sense of relief amongst the Australian football community.

Like the football faithful in this country, it appeared that Osieck had lost the support of the dressing room for some time.
Let’s return to the last night of qualification for the World Cup back in June.

With a must win game against Iraq in Sydney, Osieck made the bold decision to take off Socceroo stalwart and regular saviour Tim Cahill to the discontent of not only the player himself but the 80,000 crowd that were in attendance.

It was a move that eventually paid dividends for Osieck as Josh Kennedy applied the necessary finish to book Australia’s ticket for football’s “big dance” next June.

Yet, despite the heroics of Kennedy with only minutes left, there was always a feeling that both on and off the pitch there was still some hostility and lack of faith in the methods of Osieck’s approach to the gig.

Some would say methods of madness at times.

With Osieck’s dismissal this morning the urgent search for a new leader has only intensified.

The key word in that last sentence was leader.

Australia needs someone who will give off a sense that they are in sufficient control and have a direction to take the Socceroos playing group forward.

Osieck appeared to have little direction in the last few months since the qualification was sealed.

There is this persistence that players like Lucas Neill, David Carney and even Luke Wilkshire have to be picked.

There is no disrespecting their contribution of many years to the green and gold shirt, as they have undoubtedly put the sport of football back on the map in this country.

But as coach of the Socceroos, Osieck should have been the one to tell them that it was time to move to one side and allow the younger generation to come through.

A process that should have happened long before the second phase of qualification had even begun.

Now the Socceroos appear to be in a rambling mess.

They were well off the pace against Brazil and France who are powerhouses of the sport at present. Both opponents made those respective friendly matches look like training runs for themselves as they were simply too quick for a side that lacked any conviction and pace to be able to keep up with them.

The person who next steps into the job of Socceroos mentor and coach must take ownership and must stamp his authority on this team, even if it means moving stalwarts to the side to allow our next generation to come through.

He must have a uniform focus through all levels of the game in this country, from the grassroots right through to the senior level.

Here are a couple of shining examples of Osieck’s neglect of these facets of our beautiful game.

Our failure to get out of the group at the recent Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Turkey, when many had expected us to put in a more valiant effort has to be seen as a great disappointment.

Even though the team was mentored by former Socceroo Paul Okon, it appears that there has been some level of disconnection between that group and the senior group.

Osieck should have been blooding many of the Young Socceroos at training camps, or at least be setting up some training camps of his own to oversee their development.

Instead when Osieck did pick young talent that was a tad older than that group of players, such as Matthew Leckie, Tomas Rogic, Michael Zullo and Matthew Spiranovic, they were rarely given the opportunity to show Osieck what they have to offer to the national set up.

Now players like this have lost confidence in what talent they do possess and their development has plateaued instead of rapidly increasing.

That generation of players should be the ones coming through now and representing Australia next June in Brazil.

Instead they are having to find themselves as players once again and find the form that brought them to prominence and the attention of the football community in this country.

Osieck has to be made accountable for this failure and an issue like this should be made an urgent matter of attention for the hierarchy at the Football Federation of Australia and in turn for the incumbent coach.

Whoever David Gallop and those on the selection panel opt to pick as the next Socceroos coach must ensure that that person has youth development and selection as a major priority going forward.

Right now you would have to say that the World Cup next year is a possible right off.

However, our priority and the priority more importantly of the next man to step into the job that Osieck has vacated has to be ensuring that the next group of players that come through are able to compete on the world stage for many future World Cups.

If this doesn’t happen, then not only will next year be a disaster but we may be the laughing stock for years to come.

More to the point if this doesn’t happen then we may not even qualify for future World Cup finals.

If this were to happen, then all the hard work that former players and backroom staff have put in will be an utter waste and will only damage the game in this country.

To ensure that these possibilities do not turn into concrete outcomes, it is imperative that someone with a drive to focus on youth development be given the reigns of the Socceroos at the expense of a World Cup campaign next year.

Nicholas Anderson

Nick was the lead writer with Robbie Striker and now will continue his work on Football Central covering Sydney FC and continuing to interview players and other people around the game, telling their football stories.

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