Style over substance, stick to your guns and bear the short-term pain for long-term gain.
The Ange Postecoglou ‘method’ has something of a template and it appears to be working once more.
For a man who spoke of his love of the “midnight shift” as he surprisingly walked away from the Socceroos job after securing qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Postecoglou might be on the cusp of a new footballing dawn.
His Yokohama F Marinos side is on the verge of winning Japan’s J-League, needing only to avoid defeat by four goals or more at home to second-placed FC Tokyo in a blockbuster season finale on Saturday to claim the club’s first league title in 15 years.
It would make the former Socceroos coach the first Australian to win one of Asia’s best domestic competitions.
The feat would be “easily the number one achievement by an Australian coach”, according to former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich.
Typical to the Postecoglou template, it is not only the prospect of the title but the way he has done it that has caught attention.
As he did with his successful Brisbane Roar and Socceroos teams, his time in charge in Japan started with the ruthless cutting of senior and established players.
Yokohama was caught in a relegation battle for much of the Australian’s first year in charge in 2018, avoiding a play-off on goal difference, but did grab a spot in the league cup final.
Yokohama’s decision to back him for another season has been rewarded.
Japan-based British journalist Sean Carroll suggests “the success [Postecoglou] has had with the players brought in is perhaps unprecedented in such a short space of time in the J-League”.
He said the former Socceroos boss was on the verge of achieving the promise he made to Yokohama fans when he first took the job — reaching glory without sacrificing his principles.
“The manner in which Ange Postecoglou has transformed the team into champions-elect is testament to the Australian’s methods and the club’s willingness to give him the freedom and time to implement them,” he wrote last week.
Yokohama’s possession-based style of play in a traditionally defensive Japanese competition has also captured the imagination.
“In short, it’s aggressive football,” Japanese sportswriter Shigeki Sugiyama writes.
“There are no other teams that have devoted themselves to a side-attacking style where both wings are wide open and the pitch is widely used.
“I can’t find it in the past [teams in the J-League].”
Inevitably, some of the talks have already switched to what comes next for Postecoglou.
While he has signed a two-year contract extension at Yokohama until the end of 2021, his success is likely to attract attention from elsewhere.
FFA chairman Chris Nikou, also a personal friend of Postecoglou, told the Sydney Morning Herald that this potential title win is “just a chapter in this story” and that a job in highly competitive Europe would not be beyond the Australian coach.
“He won’t surprise us, because he never surprises me with what he does, but he’s certainly capable of coaching in Europe in my opinion. It’s just a question of being given the opportunity,” Nikou said.
In an opinion piece published on Yahoo News Japan, Sugiyama makes the argument for Postecoglou to be a future coach of the Japanese national team.
While the Samurai Blue were finalists in January’s Asian Cup and have been faultless in World Cup qualification so far, Sugiyama suggests finishing outside the top-four at a home Olympics in 2020 may put Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu in a pinch.
And even if Yokohama does not win the J-League title this week, Postecoglou’s style and success puts him in the frame if the job were to come up.
Postecoglou himself acknowledged the attention his methods have been getting from the national team.
“The [Japan] national team has shown a lot of curiosity about the way we’re playing and I’ve encouraged them that they certainly have the players, the infrastructure and the will to be really successful in World Cups,” he told Richard Hinds.
“The football industry here is tapped into what we [Yokohama] are doing.”
But the lament for Australian football fans will be that it is unlikely he will be back on home shores anytime soon.
“Maybe he comes back some day. At the moment his pathway is somewhere else,” Nikou suggests.
“If he can win [the J-League] — and he deserves to — he’ll open up the pathway for other Australians overseas. He’s a trailblazer in that sense.”