Sunday, May 27, 2007



With GĂ©rard Houllier's departure from Lyon, there has, predictably, been plenty of speculation that he will again be approached for the Socceroos job.

I sincerely hope that the FFA will consider some other options first, if Graham Arnold is indeed to be replaced after the Asian Cup.

Houllier has gained his reputation as a club coach (his period at PSG being his most successful), and a technical director. It should be pointed out, once again, that his only stint as an international manager was a disaster.

Not only that, but he chose to put the blame for France's failure to reach the 1994 World Cup solely on one player, who had made an unfortunate error in the final qualifying match. An ill-judged and gutless reaction.

Recently, in the ongoing Socceroo managerial quest, some have been trumpeting the claims of Louis van Gaal, who is enjoying a successful period at AZ Alkmaar. Again, as an international manager he was found wanting (admittedly in a difficult European qualifying group).

I have long maintained that club management and international management are very different propositions, each requiring a different temperament and different "people skills", among other things. There are few managers who have been regularly successful at both (Guus Hiddink, of course, is one of them).

Club managers get to work with their players virtually every day. International managers can only work with their charges en bloc for short, snatched periods.

Club managers can, given sufficient time and transfer kitty, structure their side exactly to their specifications. International managers have to make do with what they've got.

Club managers must necessarily think short-term for the most part. International managers always have to consider the longer term, especially when preparing for a tournament well over the horizon.

Australia is a particularly difficult proposition for a national manager, in any case, since the incumbent is required to keep track of a playing roster scattered far and wide, and to deal with the relentless availability problems that arise.

If the FFA is insistent on acquiring a foreign manager for the national team to oversee the preparation for 2010, I would rather they picked a candidate who has both gained some success at international level, and shown a willingness to work in unfamiliar environments. Names like Leo Beenhakker, Ivica Osim, Philippe Troussier and Roy Hodgson spring to mind.

We can do better, and cheaper, than Houllier.

As I recall, Mikey, Houllier was not the only one who castigated David Ginola: in fact, Ginola was never picked again primarily due to one player's violent insistence against him playing.

That player was Eric Cantona.

More fool Houllier and France, for Ginola was one fo the most gifted players I ever had the pleasure to watch. Many Spurs fans consider him in the top five players that ever played at the club.

I don't think Houllier will go south of the equator, unless Uncle Frank seriously dips into his pocket and makes him an irrefusable (?) offer.
But mikey, don't you realise that we need someone [forgets the appointment of Rob Baan] who can improve our youth development? What good is a well-credentialed national team manager if our playing stocks for 2010 are, as we can already come to realise at this early stage, obviously worse than that of 2006? We may do relatively poorly in the 2010 campaign but Houllier would strengthen us for the following campaigns! [/forgets the appointment of Rob Baan]

And don't forget his masterful experience of managing Kewell at Liverpool, giving him that "freedom" to play everywhere in the attacking third which was the springboard for Harry having such a successful time at Anfield.

In all seriousness, it's surely a matter of when and not if the FFA (or Lowy rather) appoints a NT manager who has had a poor record on the international stage. Along with Houllier, we've had Advocaat and van Gaal linked heavily to the job over the last couple of years, off the top of my head.
...As I recall, Mikey, Houllier was not the only one who castigated David Ginola...

Fair enough, but for my money you don't do that sort of thing as a manager (his words were something like "Ginola has put a stake through the heart of French football", IIRC).

Ginola was one of my favourites, too. Strange, in a way, that he was left out of the France 98 squad, seeing as both Houllier and Cantona were gone by then. I guess Jacquet wanted to avoid any "difficult" personalities, hence the exclusion of Anelka as well.

I think this is a really important decision for the FFA to make. Let's face it, Australia is in desperate need of the highest level of technical development for our youngsters possible. It has been stated that while Australia has been gifte with a handful of wonderfully technical players courtesy of their ethnic backgrounds. While some commentators have suggested that this trickle of immigrants from football rich countries has all but stopped, we have a new league with professional administration and massive exposure to the national team. Given the huge growth the game is experiencing in Oz, perhaps we can rest assured that young anglo or 2nd generation plus ethnic kids can take the national team further. The critical ingredient needed here is first class technical development. Aime Jacque said it best when he stated that football is likes maths or language in that if a kid does not learn basic skills an tactics by a certain age then he will be forever stunted and behind his peers.
Lets not also forget that even though Australia has improved massively since the FFA restructuring (although one might argue that we always had the players) we are still a long way from attracting the very best of the best managers that can give us the best of everything. So while I agree with Mike that club and international football are markedly different beasts, I believe that limiting the candidates to those who have been successful at international level is doing the socceroos of the future a disservice. Although I would suggest that the incoming manager should have experienced succes at some level, given that we are talking about experienced, intelligent football people I think it is a bit presumptuous to say that van Gaal's ilk wouldn't be up to scratch. I think the best possible model is to employ the very best youth development coaches to develop the youngsters, and then offer the socceroos job to a top, top professional manager about a year before the world cup. I think our best option in this regard is to find someone who has a club team they are also managing (in the same way that Guus was still in charge of PSV). If the manager is successful, then he stays in charge on a part time basis, if not he is sacked. As part of the continuity of the style, perhaps a team involving Baan or whomever the technical director is and the assistant coach take the team through the asian cup, thus giving Aussie managers the opportunity to further develop on the international scene!!!
What would you think of Jose Pekerman?

I know, I know no chance at all...
....I think the best possible model is to employ the very best youth development coaches to develop the youngsters, and then offer the socceroos job to a top, top professional manager about a year before the world cup....

I think the problem with that now is that in Asia, our qualification process will take more than just a year. If we're to have a new coach to lead us in to 2010, IMO he should be appointed at least two years in advance (that is, by about June 2008 latest).

...What would you think of Jose Pekerman?

I know, I know no chance at all...

I would dearly love to have him, but as you say, I can't see it happening.

Should be noted, too, that his success with that group in Germany was partly due (IMO) to the fact that he'd been involved in the development of most of those players. If he were given a group of disparate players, so to speak, he mightn't find it quite so easy to manage things.
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