I am a terrible tipper. Not only did I get Euro wrong, but the Olympics Football tournament and, more recently Scotland v Australia. I thought Australia would win comfortably.
So it's been interesting listening to and reading the comments after Thursday morning's friendly international which, unfortunately, we lost 3-1. They range from:
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong .... in my opinion!
It's not the national team coach's responsibility to bring through young players. That may have been written into his job description in June 2010 when FFA signed-up Holger to the job - but that was flawed in the first place. In fact, I'd go further and suggest that FFA, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, were already trying to shift the blame for what is now evident to even them as a problem, from them to the incoming national coach. Holger shouldn't have signed-up to a contract which had that included, and especially not without seeing what young talent was available.
I thought Holger's selections were not unreasonable in all the circumstances available to him. Sure, we all differ on tactical issues on the day, but he did have a blend of experience, those he gave another chance to and a couple of younger players who were fit and available.
It is not time to "get rid of" players of the calibre of Lucas Neill and Mark Schwarzer. No one who has played professionally at top level believes they have a 'right' to selection in the national team, and these guys continue to earn it. Schwarzie is still first choice goalkeeper at an EPL club and, as long as he is in form, fit and available, any coach would be pretty silly to ignore him. Lucas may have lost some pace, but he makes up for it in guile, skill, strength and leadership on and off-the-field.
Yes, the match was a friendly - but there's no such thing as "only a friendly". Everyone wants to win every game they play and a loss to Scotland only four weeks out from an important World Cup qualifier is not the preparation or result anyone in the squad would want.
The facts are football player development in Australia has been as good as non-existent since the FFA went Dutch. They employed firstly, Rob Baan and secondly, Han Berger, as National Technical Directors as well as Jan Versleijen as AIS (and Under 20/Under 17) coach.
Rather than come to our country, get to know our system and us, look at what was working and what wasn't, Baan, Versleijen and Berger were given carte blanche to make wholesale changes based on a template Dutch approach. They've been paid significant sums of money and been given a previously only dreamt-of level of resources.
It hasn't worked in relation to player development.
One of the first things they did was got rid of Steve 'Rocky' O'Connor and Ron Smith from the AIS who had been the brains trust behind the development of so many good and great Australian players for the past two decades or more. I was in the second intake of players at the AIS in 1982 and Ronnie Smith was assistant then. The AIS program has also seen players such as Mark Viduka, Ned Zelic, Steve Horvat, Paul Trimboli, Mark Bresciano, Vinnie Grella, Steve Corica, Craig Foster, Clint Bolton, Craig Moore, Brett Emerton, Jo Skoko, John Aloisi, Lucas Neill to name just a few. In fact, Rocky and Ron were the very people who played a vital role in the development of the 'Golden Generation' that we laud - and they were discarded!
At the end of the line is Holger Osieck whose main objective should be to make sure we qualify for the World Cup in 2014 and, if we were not already qualified because we're hosting it, the Asian Cup in 2015. He shouldn't have to worry about 'developing' the talent as the talent should be 'developed' and falling over each other to get selection in the Socceroos squad.
Everyone I talk to - A-League coaches, national team coaches, Academy coaches, AIS coaches - all express concern about the depth of talent coming through. That may be par for the course when you work in the coaching profession; but we're all former Australian players who desperately want us to be successful every time, and who want to see the next Viduka or Moore or Zelic or Neill.
And where does the responsibility lie? It won't make me any more popular with them than I already am - but FFA. They went for the Dutch system; they employed these people; they have not managed them appropriately, when so many of us with only goodwill for the advancement of football in mind tried to talk to them. The cold, hard, sad fact is that, just as there is a lack of leadership in football generally in Australia, it is also reflected in the football development department within FFA.
So, everyone’s entitled to their opinion - but please think again before blaming Holger or the players, including the 'Golden Generation'. And please don’t blame the young guys we've let down by not having the right system in place so they can be our true 'Next Golden Generation'.
Until next time!
Note from Frank
It's a game of opinions and I've always thought everyone's entitled to theirs.