Matt Jurman - Football - PlayersVoice
Matt Jurman - Football - PlayersVoice

Football

How I feel about Ange

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How I feel about Ange

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There are four people to whom I owe everything in football.

 

Two of them are my parents, Bruno and Julie, who sacrificed so much to give me a chance. Graham Arnold is up there, too, for everything he did for me at Sydney FC.

 

And then there is Ange Postecoglou.

 

I was fortunate enough to play under Ange three different times – first with the Australian under 20s, then when he signed me to the Brisbane Roar from Sydney FC in 2011 and, finally, when he handed me my Socceroos debut four games ago.

 

Mum told me a story recently that I had forgotten. Apparently, when I was a kid at St John’s Primary School in Dapto, I wrote down what my lifelong goal was. It was to play for the Socceroos.

 

I was almost 28 when Ange handed me my international debut – the first World Cup qualifier against Syria in Malaysia. If you’d asked me in the middle of the year where I thought I’d be watching the World Cup qualifiers, I’d have probably told you, ‘ On TV, like everyone else.’

 

But Ange believed in me and quite literally made my dream come true – a dream scribbled down on a piece of paper in the Illawarra a few decades earlier.

 

I’ll be honest: I’ve found the news of his resignation as Socceroos coach quite difficult.

 

Those feelings might make a bit more sense to you if I walk you through how our lives and careers have intersected over the last ten years.

 

 

 

‘I’M READY TO FIGHT FOR HIM’

My earliest memories of Ange were his motivational speeches.

 

We didn’t have all that long together with the Young Socceroos, but I remember thinking, ‘I’m ready to fight for him,’ after every one of those passionate pre-game talks.

 

I rated him as a coach, even way back then. He was tactically brave and had an amazing ability to read people, tell them what they needed to hear – whether that was a quiet, considered word or a full-on blow-up – and get the best out of them.

 

It was another couple of years before our paths formally crossed again.

 

I was at Sydney FC. I wasn’t getting the game time I was hoping for and they eventually told me, ‘We don’t really see you as a starting player.’ I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

 

Ange contacted my agent soon after. The Roar had just won the double. He called me and said he wanted to improve me as a player in Brisbane. He believed in me at a time when I felt my incumbent club didn’t.

 

I loved the style they were playing at the Roar – playing out from the back and high-pressing. It was exciting to watch as a football fan. In the end, I didn’t think too much about it. I signed. It was the first time I had lived more than a drive away from my family.

 

It struck me immediately after arriving in Brisbane how impressive this creation of Ange’s was. There was a confidence in the changing room, like no one could beat us. He gave the players freedom to express themselves and took away the fear of making a mistake.

 

Ange believed in me and quite literally made my dream come true – a dream scribbled down on a piece of paper in the Illawarra a few decades earlier.

 

I remember my first trial game in Brisbane. I think it was against Brisbane Olympic. I was having a stinker in the first half. I was giving the ball away and, from memory, we were losing going into the sheds at halftime.

 

I was the new player and I was trying to impress the players and the coach. Ange didn’t want any long balls, only short passes, and I was still trying to adjust. I was shitting myself going into halftime because I knew Ange had the ability to unleash when he needed to.

 

But he didn’t give me a blast. He looked at me and said, ‘Just relax, it’s fine, keep trying to play out.’

 

I was relieved and took confidence from what he said. I went out and played really well in the second half. I even scored a goal – a one-two with Massimo Murdocca. It was completely different to the first half.

 

I always had options with the way he structured the team. When I received the ball I felt like there were two or three players in position to help me out.

 

It was a big shock to me and the whole changeroom when he announced he was leaving Brisbane to join the Victory. He was one of the biggest reasons I signed with the Roar.

 

Rado Vidosic had obviously been there with Ange, but it was a tough period. When Mike Mulvey came in, everything was completely different to Ange. It was very difficult.

 

You could see that the Roar missed Ange.

 

Shocked is an understatement when the news broke today. Saddened that the journey ends here. I can’t thank you enough for the legacy you have left and contribution to Australian football. A contribution that has created many life long memories along the way through our successes as a nation. You set out to change the perception that Australia and Australians can play football and from the first day until the last you never swayed from doing that. Thank you for including me in that project and there hasn’t been a day gone by where I have not been grateful for the opportunity to represent our great nation. Finally was only fitting you finished with another triumph in successfully qualifying us for another World Cup, thanks for giving our nation an opportunity to go take on the world again and can’t wait for next June to do exactly that. #thanksange

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‘THIS IS WHAT THEY THINK OF US’

I wouldn’t say I had given up on my dream of playing for the Socceroos, but it would be fair to say that, approaching the age of 28, I was starting to wonder whether it would happen.

 

In the end, it all happened very quickly. I was called up for the knockout Syria games and jumped on a plane to Malaysia. It was a weird feeling. I was the only player in camp who hadn’t been there before. I literally had no idea how everything worked.

 

There were small things the boys helped me with – like your monitoring in the morning, what to wear and having the respect each day to go up to the boss and say, ‘Good morning.’ Pretty standard stuff.

 

Ange had evolved as a coach since the Roar days but he was the same person. He was very focussed.

 

I was pretty nervous. Ange must have sensed that, so he came up to me before the game and said, ‘It’s more meaningful to come into the national team and play well in a big game than it is to debut in a friendly. If you do well in a game that matters – with all that extra pressure – it shows that you belong.’

 

I took a lot of confidence from that. To be told I was starting the most important game of the World Cup qualification campaign to date – and that I belonged – settled my nerves. It made me relax, enjoy the moment and prepare for the job ahead of me.

 

I will never forget San Pedro Sula. I remember walking on the pitch before the game, turning to one of the boys and shouting over all the drums and vuvuzelas, ‘This is unbelievable!’ He just kept walking. He didn’t even hear me and he was right next to me! I thought, ‘Shit, it’s going to be difficult to communicate tonight!’

 

The Estadio Olimpico atmosphere was unlike anything else I had experienced in my career.

 

Ange pulled us all together before the game and showed us a local newspaper story with a headline that read, ‘Eight million Hondurans, 11 Kangaroos’.

 

‘This is what they think of us! Our backs are to the wall. It’s us against the world!’ he told us. He reminded us how hard we had had to fight through our lives to get to this point and the sacrifices our families had made along the way.

 

And he reinforced his central message: that Australia’s brand of football is competitive with any team in the world.

 

I was pretty nervous. Ange must have sensed that, so he came up to me before the game and said, ‘It’s more meaningful to come into the national team and play well in a big game than it is to debut in a friendly. If you do well in a game that matters – with all that extra pressure – it shows that you belong.’

 

I was like, ‘Bring it on! We’re ready!’ when I walked out in front of that packed house full of passionate Hondurans.

 

It wasn’t long before the stadium went quiet. We were thinking, ‘Are we away or at home?’ We had all the possession and I think the Hondurans were surprised that we could play and not just play long balls like they did.

 

On a pitch like that, it was very courageous of Ange to tell us to not change the style and keep playing the way we did. A lot of us hadn’t played on a surface that bad in a long time.

 

The game finished 0-0, which was a decent result in an away game like that. But everyone was pretty disappointed. We felt like we should have taken a lot more from it, at least a goal or two.

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL VS THE WORLD

It was 0-0 at halftime against Honduras in Sydney.

 

Ange sat us down. ‘It’s like a boxing match,’ he said. ‘Eventually they’ll crack. Just keep jabbing away and eventually we’ll get the reward.’

 

We did that. We got our reward. We’re going to Russia.

 

I don’t think Ange addressed the team after the game. If he did, I missed it because I took a bit longer than some of the other boys coming back into the sheds, being outside with all my family.

 

After the presentation, I walked up to him and gave him a hug. Ange told me how proud he was of me. That meant a lot. None of it would have happened without him. It was a big thing to take a chance on someone with no Socceroos experience and throw them into the biggest four games in the last three years.

 

But we got there. We did it without giving up on our beliefs or changing our style. That’s all Ange. He believes in our country. Other countries might think of Australia as a team that can fight and run for 90 minutes – but play football? No.

 

Ange has changed that view. Other countries know now they are in for a difficult game against us – not just physically, but from the perspective that we can play as well.

 

I won’t forget the confidence Ange had in us throughout qualifying. None of the boys will.

 

When we all get together next, there will obviously be a new coach. But we will take the confidence with us that we can play against the best in the world.

 

 

 

ANGE’S DECISION

Honestly, I didn’t think he would go.

 

We all knew the report was out there. You couldn’t miss it. But we were all hoping he’d stay.

 

The team was behind him. I remember reading somewhere that he had lost the changeroom. That was strange. I was only in camp twice, but I’ve known some of those players for a long, long time. If he had lost them, it would have come up in conversation.

 

Nothing negative was said about Ange at all to me. In any case, have a look at what the boys all posted on social media about him after his announcement. Ange absolutely had the respect of the players.

 

I just arrived back in Sydney on Thursday, but I saw the news when I woke up in my apartment in Korea the day before. There was a notification on my phone saying he had quit.

 

It was still a shock. Yes, the reports had been around for a month but I didn’t believe it would happen. It’s his decision. I don’t know what his reasons where, but we have to respect his call and wish him all the best for the next chapter.

 

I walked up to him and gave him a hug. Ange told me how proud he was of me. That meant a lot. None of it would have happened without him. It was a big thing to take a chance on someone with no Socceroos experience and throw them into the biggest four games in the last three years.

 

For me, it’s difficult. He has been important to me for a long time now.

 

The last few weeks have been such a high. Ange gave me this incredible opportunity to play in the gold jersey. And it all finished on that magical night in Sydney in front of 80,000 people. Seriously, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me this would happen at the start of the year!

 

Now, for Ange to quit a few days later, it feels weird.

 

The boys were disappointed. There were a few messages around the group saying as much. There wasn’t too much said.

 

We’ve just got to wait now to see who the new coach is.

 

Whoever it is, they’ll be inheriting a team that truly believes it can do some damage in Russia.

 

 

Want to say a massive thank you to Ange Postecoglou. The last four years have been amazing and he has helped create memories that will last forever for our country. From the World Cup in Brazil, winning the Asian Cup and now to the biggest prize of qualifying for a fourth consecutive World Cup. His leadership and beliefs are infectious and I’m proud that I had the chance to share his journey with him and witness his love for our country. The most important part was the belief he instilled in us to play a style of football that could test any team we came up against. This for me sets Ange apart as someone that stayed strong to his values of changing the game in Australia. His saying that will stay with me forever is NEVER TAKE A BACKWARDS STEP. Want to wish Ange and his family all the very best in the future.

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Matt Jurman  -  Contributor

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