Socceroos need to reinstate Aussie mentality

The Young Socceroos’ 5-1 loss to Vietnam was a big shock and should have alarm bells ringing at Football Federation Australia.

The Socceroos have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently and there was another of our international teams recording a result that was just as much of a concern to me. The Young Socceroos- 5-1 loss to Vietnam was a big shock and should have alarm bells ringing at Football Federation Australia. In years gone by, we would have walked all over Vietnam-s under-20 team on effort alone. Times have changed and not all of it has been for the better.

Increased public and media interest in the Socceroos during a period in which we-ve qualified for three successive FIFA World Cups shows how far we-ve come. But we also need to lose the circus act that seems to stem from just about every result. When the national team plays, it-s either total euphoria or doomsday and we are not helping ourselves by going over old ground during debates about what is wrong.

And it doesn-t matter that eight years have passed since the golden generation broke our World Cup drought in Germany, we continue to return to this popular theme. The last few weeks of public assessment have been particularly frantic with national coach Holger Osieck sacked and a witch hunt for skipper Lucas Neill. Lucas didn-t help himself with some of the comments he made, which clearly did not come across as he would have liked. But the public and media blaming a few older players for recent results is misjudged and ignores the big picture. My concern is not that Lucas has stayed around too long, but that we aren-t producing players of the quality to force him out of the team. We just don-t seem to be creating players like we used to.

One of the biggest problems is that we have tried to turn Australian players into something they are not. Our players aren-t Dutch, or Spanish. Our players are Australian built and made of a multi-ethnic fabric that is band-aided together by certain commonalities. That has been ignored and instead we have in place a Dutch system, with a succession of Dutchmen in our most important positions. The result is that we have some ‘pretty- players coming through but we are not producing top players or top results. It-s almost as if we have overemphasised the Dutch philosophy at the expense of the traits which helped create our golden generation.

This failure was obvious in the Young Socceroos- defeat to Vietnam. Why were our kids so comprehensively beaten by, with all respect, a poorer football nation? I-m guessing here, but it wouldn-t surprise me if Vietnam-s victory was built on a hunger to achieve and pride in their country. In that regard, we seem to have lost our way.

Our system of producing players, through club football and the Australian Institute of Sport, was not broken so why did we go to such lengths to fix it? We should always strive for improvement but that amounts to a tweaking of fundamentals and not a complete overhaul, which is what we-ve attempted. We had been developing top players regularly and we have been successful in reaching World Cups at many levels.

The result of our shift away from a system that was working is, as Lucas might have been suggesting, that our young players have it relatively easy and, therefore, do not have the mental toughness of our older players, who left home as teenagers to pursue their dream. Moving to an unfamiliar environment and training and playing with professionals teaches youngsters to stand on their own two feet.

We all know Generation Y have a different outlook on life but when it comes to our footballers they need to be taken out of their comfort zones and experience the dog-eat-dog environment that produced the likes of Craig Moore, Lucas Neill and Vince Grella. I want the Socceroos to play great football and am convinced it can be achieved if we embrace the traits that have made us who we are.