FitzSimons’ questioning made Postecoglou determined to walk away on his terms

Head coaches of sports teams are supposed to have thick skins but former Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou has reportedly admitted a television grilling from Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons was one of the reasons behind his decision to walk away from his job with the national side.

???In an interview to be broadcast on Thursday with Fox Sports, Postecoglou admits it was a flashback to a confrontational interview he had with Craig Foster on SBS while he was n youth team coach that helped crystallise his thinking about whether he wanted to continue with the Socceroos.

The bad memories were triggered earlier this year by a series of direct questions on Channel Nine’s Sports Sunday by FitzSimons, asking him whether he would quit if the Socceroos did not qualify for the World Cup.

FitzSimons in March, ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier against the United Arab Emirates, put it to Postecoglou that he should spare Football Federation the task of sacking him if the Socceroos did not make it to Russia 2018.

Postecoglou replied: “I won’t have a choice to be honest, but it’s not why I’m in the job to be honest.

“I’ve never coached, because I don’t see it as a job,” he said.

“For me, with the end date, no coach knows when there is an end date. I started this as a journey and we’ll complete the journey and my track record over 20 years means it usually ends in a decent space and that’s what I back myself to do and that’s what I back myself to do with this one.’

When interviewed again by FitzSimons in September before another must-win match against Thailand, Postecoglou looked uncomfortable when asked “Is your own career on the line in these next few games? If they [the Socceroos] don’t qualify is that goodbye Ange?”

“I thought you’d have some new questions. You asked me that last time I was on and I’m still here,” Postecoglou responded.

FitzSimons at the time defended his line of questioning in his column for the Herald.

“Of course I took a bit of flak – like I care – for asking Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou on Channel Nine last Sunday morning if he would stand down in the event of his team not qualifying for the World Cup. Some thought it disrespectful. I thought it journalism.”

The juxtaposition a decade apart made him think seriously about his exit strategy and made him even more certain that when the time came to walk away he would do so on his own terms – as he did in sensational fashion last month having just led to the World Cup with a play-off win over Honduras.

In the interview, Postecoglou told Fox journalist Daniel Garb that the flashback to the excruciating interview with Foster heavily influenced his thinking.

“Absolutely [it’s a factor],” he admitted.

“Your life’s experiences mould you and for sure, I think there was a point at the start of this year where … I went to do an interview on another station and the first question I was asked was ‘will you resign if you don’t beat the UAE?’

“And I’m kind of just sitting there and gone into a time warp of 10 years ago … after everything that’s happened.

“It jolted me a little bit. It didn’t steamroll things. The person who asked the question isn’t involved in the sport but as so often happens … they [non-soccer media] test the water by seeing what people in the game are thinking – at the time, after we drew in Iraq and I changed the formation to the [back] three and it upset everyone in football world, which was OK with me.

“People outside glance at the game and go ‘this is chaos’ – so that question was asked of me.

“I thought after everything we’ve achieved and the journey we’re on, qualification in our hands, I said I’m not going to go down that path again where I allow external forces to decide my fate. That wasn’t all of it but certainly a part.”

In the interview Postecoglou talks of his new challenge at Yokohama Marinos, in Japan’s J League, and also of his holistic view of his career in the game, both as a player, club coach and national team boss.

He said that his relations with the governing body, the FFA, were not the major reason for sparking his decision to quit, but he did say that the continued chaos around the game was a partial influence on his thinking.

“It’s always been sort of chaotic and you almost get used to that. If that was going to be a reason for me leaving, I’ve had a million reasons [to quit]. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have taken it [the Socceroos job] to start with” [if he had been bothered by the chaos around the game].

“I got to the point [with the Socceroos] where I thought, I’ve pretty much done all I wanted to do from where we started.

“And we started at a pretty baseline point. Going to the last World Cup, taking a raw, untried, untested group against three of the best teams in the world at the time, coming out of that with real belief, no results, but belief, winning the Asian Cup and qualifying for another World Cup – for me, that was driving me constantly and I felt we achieved most of it.

“I understand it [people feeling let down], and I’ve had fantastic support.”

When pressed, he stressed that there was no one single reason for his departure.

“I’d love to say – this is the reason. Some of it is personal, some of it is professional, some I don’t see the point in bringing up right now.”