On the eve of Australia’s first match at Wembley, their manager Graham Arnold has sided with Ange Postecoglou in delivering a damning verdict on the lack of funding for football in the country despite the successful performances in both the men’s 2022 World Cup and the recent home Women’s World Cup.
Tottenham’s manager Postecoglou, who led the Socceroos for four years from 2013, talked this week of how there wouldn’t be “an influx of resources to the game”, despite the “unbelievable” effort of the Matildas. Australia’s men trained for Friday night’s friendly with England under the Wembley arch but Arnold stressed that home conditions were a far cry from the facilities abroad.
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“We don’t have a home of football,” Arnold stated. “When the Socceroos come to Sydney to train, we have to train on a rugby league field where they remove the posts and put a soccer post up, that’s the truth. And we are the highest participation sport at grassroots.”
These are not conditions befitting of a team ranked 27th in the world, who qualified from a tough World Cup group last year containing France, Denmark and Tunisia and narrowly lost 2-1 to the eventual champions in the knockout stage. Arnold has previously spoken of how his players have to take ice baths in their hotel room, with no professional recovery centre.
“The last three days, where have England been? St George’s Park,” he continued. “It’s a place that inspires the players, a place where you build a culture and we don’t have anything like that. We see the Prime Minister and the government, they love coming out to watch the Matildas and the Socceroos with their scarves on, but they must lose them when they go home.”
Ange Postecoglou delivered a damning verdict on the lack of funding for Australian football. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Australia know they are underdogs against England, but Arnold has a clear definition of what constitutes success at Wembley, even with a young squad that has 12 players each with fewer than 10 caps. “Win,” he stated. “And that’s not being arrogant. It’s just the mentality we have every time we go on the park, we’re not going out there to try not to lose, you have to win the game.”
Australia beat a star-studded England side 3-1 in a friendly back in 2003 as strikes from Tony Popovic, Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton shocked an England side containing David Beckham, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes. Arnold was assistant coach to Frank Farina on that famous night.
“We played at Upton Park and that was also a lack of respect. Sven Goran Eriksson was like, ‘We’re only playing Australia, we’ll play two different teams’. And if anything that motivated the players even more,” said Arnold. “That’s the Australian mentality. You know, when we’ve got our backs to the walls, and no one gives us a chance, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Arnold invited Postecoglou and Guus Hiddink, another former Socceroos manager, to speak to the team this week, which helped mentally prepare the side for Wembley. “I’ve got a special relationship with both,” explained Arnold. “I’ve known Ange for 40-odd years and played against him, coached against him and worked with him and that’s how we’ve had a great connection for years.
“With Guus, he’s pretty much a mentor to me – and like a brother, a father. I’ve got to be careful what I say because he’s not that old.”