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Oct 22, 2013

Socceroo's new boss finds perfect timing

Six years ago, he was sacked as Australia's youth coach. Now, he's the Socceroos' salvation.

How times have changed for Ange Postecoglou.

He's in the right place, at the right time. But he hasn't always been.

Angelos Postecoglou, born in Athens, Greece, emigrated with his parents to Australia when aged five.

But being a soccer-loving Greek kid in 1970s Australia wasn't so simple.

"As a young man I really tried to rebel against my Greek heritage because I just wanted to fit in," he said last year.

"I even tried playing Aussie Rules at high school because I was that desperate to fit in."

Soon realising that denying his heritage was pointless, he returned to his true sporting love.

Postecoglou, a shrewd defender, carved a successful playing career at NSL club South Melbourne, where he played 193 games from 1984. He also played four internationals for Australia.

He won two championships with South Melbourne - in 1984 and 1990/91, when he was captain.

Then, aged 26, Postecoglou suffered a serious knee injury.

He was certain he could overcome it. His coach thought otherwise and axed him.

"It took me a long time to get over it," he said.

"But, at the same time, I think it taught me a lot about what sporting clubs are about."

They can be brutal and unforgiving. No places for sentiment.

Postecoglou took his lessons into his coaching career, which started at South Melbourne in 1996.

He won two NSL championships (1997, 1998) and an Oceania Club Championship (1999). And in 2000, he was appointed Australia's youth coach, of under-17 and under-20 teams.

Postecoglou felt "ready to conquer the world". But he found the world was a big place.

And Australian soccer's standing in it "didn't really match the ambitions I had in my head".

After seven years with no great success - though twice he took teams to the second stage of their respective World Cups - he was sacked in February 2007.

"It gave me perspective, however, as to where I was as a coach. It certainly highlighted my limitations and my deficiencies at the time," he said.

Postecoglou was unable to get a coaching gig in the still-fresh A-League and looked overseas.

He took charge at lower division Greek club Panachaiki in March 2008. Just nine months later, he was gone.

"I can't speak highly enough of it as an experience over there," he said.

"But ultimately it was cut short, as it does with most European clubs, with change of ownership and a different philosophy."

Postecoglou returned to Australia and, in October 2009, was appointed coach of Brisbane Roar. He set about re-building the club.

His tenure was astonishing: consecutive A-League championships (2010/11 and 2011/12) and an undefeated streak of 36 games - the longest unbeaten streak in any top-level Australian football code.

It wasn't so much the undoubted substance of Brisbane's reign, but moreso the style: brash and beautiful, crisp and continental, arrogant and alluring - Postecoglou's Roar helped people fall in love with the A-League.

And then he quit.

Two days after Brisbane's second title, in April last year, he answered the home-town call from Melbourne Victory. And he started another rebuild.

Now, 18 months on, the 48-year-old departs the Victory for the Socceroos. And yet another rebuild.

"Anyone can go in and say this is failing, but how do you rebuild it?," he said last year.

"The fact that there is going to be change and there is going to be fallout from it, you almost expect it.

"From my point of view, it's about really looking at the next stage of rebuilding rather than focusing too much on the criticism or the fallout."

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