The Other Guy: Holger, honeymoons and 2014 Socceroo glory

The Other Guy: Holger, honeymoons and 2014 Socceroo glory

by Vinnie Venezuela

While in my secret man crush- brain crush moments, I quietly yearn to be sitting beside the Special One as he doles out words of world football wisdom to the Real boys about game plans, media scams and why he’s still “da man” (all with a thick accent and a cool suit) I can sometimes be tempted by the thought of Guus Hiddink.

The baby face, the salt and pepper parted locks, the incomplete tax returns and his deft ability to turn the fortunes of a side around so quickly press my aspirational buttons. Let’s face it, when he coached the Socceroos to their first world cup in the new century, it was pretty titillating (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

In fact, when I think of the 2006 World Cup campaign it’s like reliving the perfect honeymoon; our big players were at the top of their game, the conditions suited us and Guus was working from the bench like a Dutch master orchestrating a truly wonderful spectacle. While they were good, good times – except for the Grosso ‘Leg of God’ moment that cruelly sealed the game for Italy in the dying seconds – I think the best thing Guus did was educate the many new fans who were following the national team’s fortunes. They learnt that he, in fact, had a game plan that was mesmerising and bold: Super Tim/John Aloisi as  impact players, the emergence of Wilkshire, the runs of Chippers, the poise of Neill and Moore, the presence of Grella. So many cool things were going on.

But, alas, honeymoons have to end.

Sure we could be crushed by the reality that Jose will never coach the Socceroos, that Guus left us for better looking international opportunities and that Pim never really turned us on, but that would be to ignore the fact that Holger Osieck is here for us in our time of need. Clearly, all is not well with the Socceroos and recent losses to Scotland and Jordan suggest there’s trouble in paradise.

We have a national team that is in the deep ravine of transition with the stars of Bresciano, Neill, Schwartzer, Kewell and Cahill in a natural decline and few truly convincing big name replacements; Holman, Federici and maybe Kennedy being three of our highest profile players abroad.

The reality is that Holger signed up knowing that such were the stakes and the challenge was always going to be to flourish despite an ever ageing core squad. Unlike Pim, who it seems was invested with the task of only getting us through the Asian qualifiers and to South Africa, Holger has to do that and deliver the quality the fans expect. Clearly, the biggest concern is whether he has the talent on the pitch and the presence off it to make things take shape. I think he has.

Despite our recent misadventures, our early qualifying games and our performance against Japan in the Asian Cup were outstanding and the quality was obvious. The running of McKay, the role of Holman, the work rate of Kruse and the continued contributions of Bresciano, Cahill, Neill and the odd Archie cameo should provide optimism. Valeri is also stepping up and, in terms of new faces up front, Alex Brosque has been great.

Holger has certainly been giving players opportunities and my view is that he is building depth as he draws from players both international and domestic to structure the squad. The bottom line is that he believes in every player that he selects and, perhaps, the lesson coming from the game against Jordan is that they need to believe in him. If the gaffer wants a short passing game, the players’ task is to stay cool and deliver it. For me, Holger is trying to construct a system of play that does not require stars to make it deliver and that requires a mindset that has hitherto been unseen. The German national team is known more for its ability to remain organised, break quickly and maintain its poise than for any single player in its ranks. That’s what Holger is offering the Socceroos and if they cop a serve from him, maybe that’s what he’ll remind them of.

There is no doubt the Socceroos, even with the best of line ups can play ordinary football, driving us to distraction with some cringe worthy outcomes; it happened under Pim, Arnold and Holger. But it’s what you do about it that matters. In the short term, Holger needs to address what went wrong in Jordan and reinforce his expectations. Then he needs to get the team consistently working at its best, ensuring we qualify in the manner that the fans expect. At some point, he will then settle on who will comprise the core squad and then they can train their hearts away and deliver what we all know they are capable of.

Personally, I think that’s hotter than a honeymoon …

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