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This Is The Day.. A Letter To Ange Postecoglou.

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G'day Ange.

So, this is the day, huh?  It's finally arrived. 

I know this is everything your life's work has been about. You've not made any secret of that. You always wanted to test yourself against the very best.

Today you get your chance.

Still, I can't help but cast my mind back to those days when all of this seemed like a distant planet. 

I remember you with me in the commentary box in 2004 as The Socceroos were playing Turkey and then in Adelaide at the OFC Nations Cup against New Zealand and The Solomon Islands.

The OFC Nations Cup. 

Look where we've come from, look where we are.

You've had your heavy hits along the way. Losing The Young Socceroos job and being publicly scalded on TV for attempting to do a difficult job in impossible circumstances must have stung.

You didn't let it beat you though. 

You picked yourself up, packed your stuff up and headed to Greece and the back roads of Greece's lower leagues to find what football meant to you.

The courage of that decision reflects the philosophy that we so desperately want to see in your Socceroos team today.

Nothing is easy. 

Nothing is impossible.

Your only limitation is that which you impose on yourself by not daring to test yourself.

That you came home as coach of The Brisbane Roar and transformed the game in Australia is indisputable. You demanded more of your players than anyone had previously dared.

 Your reward was a team that seemed unbeatable.

Even those that once derided you sang your praise but there were no recriminations.

The past is a prison if you chose to live in it.

And eventually your country came calling, and, well here we are.

As a young boy growing up dreaming of playing at The World Cup it must be surreal to be here today with the whole world watching.

Knowing you, I know that's exactly how you want it to be. 

You can only be your best if you're prepared to risk it all.

There are no guarantees, you know that better than anyone. If your Socceroos are put to the sword here on the edge of the Amazon, your critics will be waiting with their slings and arrows.

Already they've put you on notice. You swept away the old guard and a few old soldiers are ready to run a guerrilla campaign against you given the chance.

You'll know this. I'm sure it won't bother you a bit. You're not in this to be one of the boys.

If the performance we see from The Socceroos reflects the values that have guided your journey to be here I know the team will give us a performance we can be proud of, whatever the result.

From all of us who have made this remarkable journey to support you and your team, we wish you all the very best.

Good luck mate.

Francis Leach

 

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This Is The Day.. A Letter To Ange Postecoglou.

image.jpg

G'day Ange.

So, this is the day, huh?  It's finally arrived. 

I know this is everything your life's work has been about. You've not made any secret of that. You always wanted to test yourself against the very best.

Today you get your chance.

Still, I can't help but cast my mind back to those days when all of this seemed like a distant planet. 

I remember you with me in the commentary box in 2004 as The Socceroos were playing Turkey and then in Adelaide at the OFC Nations Cup against New Zealand and The Solomon Islands.

The OFC Nations Cup. 

Look where we've come from, look where we are.

You've had your heavy hits along the way. Losing The Young Socceroos job and being publicly scalded on TV for attempting to do a difficult job in impossible circumstances must have stung.

You didn't let it beat you though. 

You picked yourself up, packed your stuff up and headed to Greece and the back roads of Greece's lower leagues to find what football meant to you.

The courage of that decision reflects the philosophy that we so desperately want to see in your Socceroos team today.

Nothing is easy. 

Nothing is impossible.

Your only limitation is that which you impose on yourself by not daring to test yourself.

That you came home as coach of The Brisbane Roar and transformed the game in Australia is indisputable. You demanded more of your players than anyone had previously dared.

 Your reward was a team that seemed unbeatable.

Even those that once derided you sang your praise but there were no recriminations.

The past is a prison if you chose to live in it.

And eventually your country came calling, and, well here we are.

As a young boy growing up dreaming of playing at The World Cup it must be surreal to be here today with the whole world watching.

Knowing you, I know that's exactly how you want it to be. 

You can only be your best if you're prepared to risk it all.

There are no guarantees, you know that better than anyone. If your Socceroos are put to the sword here on the edge of Amazon, your critics will be waiting with their slings and arrows.

Already they've put you on notice. You swept away the old guard and a few old soldiers are ready to run a guerrilla campaign against you given the chance.

You'll know this. I'm sure it won't bother you a bit. You're not in this to be one of the boys.

If the performance we see from The Socceroos reflects the values that have guided your journey to be here I know the team will give us a performs we can be proud of, whatever the result.

From all of us who have made this remarkable journey to support you and your team, we wish you all the very best.

Good luck mate.

Francis Leach

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Take Your Mick

What motivates a successful coach? 

The joy of victory? The pursuit of excellence? The richness of the journey shared with others? Vindication and proving the doubters wrong?

Mike Mulvey and Mick Malthouse share the same job title. And a name.

And that's about it.

Smile ad the world smiles with you. A moment with Mulvey

 

 

Its the morning of the A-League grand final and Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey strides across the lawn of the Old Treasury building in Brisbane to meet me for an interview on ABC TVOffsiders.

 

The Roars gaffer is dressed in club polo, shorts and thongs. He looks like hes about to do a spot of gardening rather than face the defining moment of his career.

 

He greets me with a warm handshake and a broad smile.

 

Isnt this brilliant?” he asks, just before we get the red light to go live around the country.

 

We had the back two pages of the paper today. Unheard of. What a great thing for football in this country,” he says with genuine pride.

 

Behind us, a posse of Roar fans are kicking a ball on the lawn as a backdrop to our chat. Afterward, Mulvey heads over for a kick about and a photo before striding off to meet his destiny.

 

A few days earlier, Mick Malthouse sits at his press conference looking like an Easter Island statue with a headache.

 

His Carlton side have just been humiliated by his former club Collingwood.

 

Malthouse hates these press conferences. It seeps through the words he delivers with a withering gaze and barely sealed contempt to a press corp who cower in his presence.

 

The Stone Poses  An Easter Island statue with The Blues...

The Stone Poses  An Easter Island statue with The Blues...

 

This is a tale of two Mikes.

 

One who sees football as a journey to be shared and celebrated, the other who sees it as an endless war to be waged.

 

Mulveys humility and geniality in no way undermines his fierce desire to compete and win. Malthouses obsession with winning has seemingly killed any trace of those virtues he may have once had.

 Football is a shared experience for Mulvey.  As we are waiting for the interview to start, he looks over to the Roar fans with envy. “What a day they’re going to have,” he says quietly.  

 Mulvey understands that, without the fans, it’s all just a bunch of bozos kicking a ball in a park.

Malthouse's motivations are a secret unto him.

He can't enjoy coaching.

His relentlessly miserable veneer suggests that every day he is waging a battle with the world to prove something.

What it is, no one is sure.

Is it to defy Collingwood, the club that spurned him? Is it the curse of the back pocket player who has had to fight for everything and still needs to prove himself?  Is it because the anger required to be Mick Malthouse kindle the fires of his youth and to let it flicker and fade is too scary to contemplate?

Is it because he can't imagine football without him, and life without football?

 With Malthouse, football is a walled garden. He’s been so long in its confines he can no longer see the blue sky above.

 For him the game is a battle ground belonging to the combatants and the generals who command them from the coaches box. The fans are a foreign country.

 Imagine Malthouse having a kick about in the park with the faithful? You’re more likely to see Tony Abbott at a union rally.

 Malthouse’s siege mentality makes him beloved of his players, whose loyalty and commitment to him is legend. Within these confines the Malthouse he imagines himself to be is revealed and revered.

 After 30 years as a coach, however, he remains a stranger to the fans who follow his teams, as distant and remote as an angry Victorian patrician whose sense of entitlement  burns deeper with each passing year.

 

 Mulvey came to Australia as a football immigrant and expresses his gratitude to the game that brought him here.

 Malthouse acts like the game owes him something and is yet to pay its debt.

 Most importantly, Mulvey allows himself to surrender to the moment and accept the luck and misfortune of the game he loves with good grace.

 Malthouse has been so busy, for so long, proving the world wrong that he’s forgotten why he loved the game in the first place.

 And a life lived without that joy is not  well lived. 

 

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Wild At Heart - Berisha's Grand Final Goodbye.

 

Signing off. Besart Berisha's big day out.

Signing off. Besart Berisha's big day out.

 

 Some footballers need a little madness to be free.

Brisbane Roar's Albanian ace Besart Berisha is one of them.

Just how deep he is prepared to travel to the far side of crazy in today's A League Grand Final could decide the outcome of the game.

If Thomas Broich is the General in Mike Mulvey's team, Besart Berisha is its wild heart. 

Berisha plays with the skill of an artist, the potency of a snipper and the emotional range of a 10 year old.

Wide eyed, gesticulating, smiling, laughing, pleading and crying, Berisha's heart is worn on his sleeve like a Dane Swan tattoo.

There's something beautiful about a player giving themselves so utterly to the moment and the game that they ride every moment of magic and misfortune on the pitch like a child on a playground swing.

 As he lines up in his final game for Brisbane Roar before an off season move to Melbourne Victory, Berisha is sure to be feeling a torrent of mixed emotions. 

The Albanian's time at The Roar has been momentous. It has made for him a career in the most unlikely of settings and circumstances. He has given himself heart and soul to the Brisbane cause in return it has made him its rock star striker.

Alongside duel Johnny Warren medallist Thomas Broich, Berisha has given the A League it's most alluring double act.

 Broich is the supreme technician, a gifted player with the ability to conduct the game on his terms like it were an orchestra. Berisha is a storm rather than a symphony. Thunder and lightning. Spectacular and chaotic.

This will be the last time they play together. 

His departure is a product of brutal football economics rather than a schism between player and club. Make no mistake, this is the most bittersweet of occasions for Besart Berisha.

 In last week's cut throat semi final against his future employers at Melbourne Victory he handled the moment well. He carried out his mission to perfection, careering past a couple of defenders before lashing the ball passed Nathan Coe for the only goal of the game. 

Mindful of the traveling fans who will be chanting his name next campaign, there were no wild celebrations, just a sense of relief and quiet pride that his professionalism carried the day. 

Will he be able to show a similar restraint on Grand Final day when everything is on the line and there is no tomorrow in Brisbane orange to face?

Certainly this year Berisha has sailed choppy waters. 

Besart has picked up 3 red cards in this campaign. It speaks of a player who needs to walk the fine line between magic and madness.

This season, his uncanny ability to find trouble on the pitch seemed to had gotten the better of him. At times he's played as though he were being stalked by dark clouds. 

Recently the skies have cleared and Berisha is back to something like his best form. 

Grand Finals are all about drama, and just what the football gods have in store for The Western Sydney Wanderers and The Brisbane Roar only time will tell.

One thing is certain.

However the script reads, they'll have reserved a starring role for Besart Berisha.




 

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