Appointment met with universal acclaim Down Under
he reaction of Tottenham supporters to Ange Postecoglou’s appointment was mixed — even if many fans are warming to the idea as they learn more about their new head coach — but in Australia’s football fraternity the news was met with universal acclaim.
Postecoglou is the first Australian to manage a Premier League club, capping a remarkable rise for the 57-year-old, whose career to date has included stints in the semi-professional game Down Under as well as Greece, Japan and Scotland.”It’s an immense source of pride to Australians here,” said Simon Hill, the A-League’s lead commentator. “There’s also a sense of sheer wonderment, although not among those of us who knew Ange well because we always sensed this would be his trajectory.
“But among the wider sporting community, who don’t pay much interest to football, they’re awestruck by the fact he’s ended up in the Premier League.”
The English top-flight has a huge following Down Under but, outside major tournaments, football struggles to knock Aussie Rules, rugby league and cricket off screens, airwaves and back pages. But Spurs’ appointment of the former Socceroos head coach, who emigrated to Australia from Greece as a five-year-old, made headlines for days.
“It spiked a huge interest,” said Adam Peacock, a football reporter and presenter. “It was everywhere. It was back page of the main newspaper here in Sydney, knocking off State of Origin [the rugby league series] which is pretty unusual. It was huge news.”Some of the coverage was a little giddy, with one leading Australian football writer suggesting Postecoglou could win the Premier League in three years, despite facing a massive rebuild and significant competition.
Even more modest success is set to increase interest in Spurs Down Under, although there are unlikely to be mass conversions or hoards of Australians descending on north London (as South Koreans have done in support of Heung-min Son) because most Aussies have long since settled on an English club.
“I’ve seen on social media a lot of Arsenal fans who are also Postecoglou fans saying how terribly conflicted they are,” said Hill. “But a lot of people [in Australia] will have Spurs as a second-team if they’re not already an Arsenal fan!
“A similar thing happened with Leeds when Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka were breaking through and there’s an historical legacy of a big coterie of Liverpool fans in Australia because of Craig Johnston [an Australian who played for Liverpool in the 1980s].
“The proof will be the next generation, though. I came over here in 2003 and you’d never see a Manchester City shirt. Now they’re everywhere. So success as well as connections with locals play a big part.”
For Hill, there is also a downside to increased interest in the Premier League, which is only likekly to starve Australia’s local A-League — where Postecoglou cut his teeth and remains the only coach to have won four titles — of further oxygen.
“People will wake up in the middle of the night, go to the pub to watch the Premier League but they won’t walk five minutes down the road to watch their local side,” Hill said.
On the flip side, Postecoglou’s trailblazing rise to the top of European football promises to inspire a new generation of Australian coaches, who should see fewer barriers to opportunities outside their homeland.
Former Socceroos boss Postecoglou is the only manager to win four A-League titles
Former Socceroos boss Postecoglou is the only manager to win four A-League titles / Getty Images
“Ange has cleared pathways that might not have been there for an Australian manager [before],” Peacock said. “Why not go to Japan? Or Scotland? And if it goes well at Spurs, there’s a pathway to England as well.
“They’ll be a stack of young managers hoping to be given the chance was Ange was all those years ago. Everyone needs a second chance, a third chance or a fourth chance, even if you’re from little old Australia.”
Ange-mania is unlikely to die down quickly, particularly as his first game is scheduled to be a friendly against West Ham in Perth on July 18 — two days before the opening games of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand — as part of Spurs’s Asia-Pacific tour.
A sell-out crowd is guaranteed at the 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium, where for once Son and Harry Kane will not be the star attractions.
“The promoters will be happy!” said Peacock. “There’s a huge amount of interest and extra significance to the game. It’s good for football here.
“We’ll have a World Cup about to start and on the other side of the country we’ll have Ange taking charge of his Premier League team for the first time. It still feels surreal just saying that sentence!”