Sunday, June 17, 2007

Socceroos got players by keeping coaches in loop

Australian national coach Graham Arnold "might reflect that while coaching certificates, international playing experience and an apprenticeship under Guus Hiddink are perfect credentials for coaching the Socceroos, a crash course in the slippery skills of international diplomacy would also be valuable," wrote Michael Lynch in The Age. "As with all coaches from soccer's 'emerging world', Arnold has to tread a careful line when he is dealing with club managers to secure the release of players from the top clubs. Getting access to his key players for important matches and keeping the big clubs in England and elsewhere happy is now as much a part of the Socceroo coach's job as picking a team.

He and team manager Gary Moretti visited players in England, Switzerland, Italy and Holland. "Our players are always trapped in the middle. They want to play for the national team but they don't want to get offside with their employers, and we have to try to make things as easy for them as we can," Arnold said. "We are in a unique situation with this tournament because players will miss the whole pre-season with their clubs. That is particularly difficult if they are moving to a new team. The FFA made it possible for Gary and myself to go and talk to the coaches to get the availability right. We are not in the process of killing players' careers so we have to make sure that playing for the national team does not do that."

Arnold said visits by Asian coachs to Europe seem to be rare. "When Rafael Benitez says that we are the first national organisation that's ever visited them, then that broke down a lot of barriers straight away," the coach revealed, as he explained how Benitez and the Liverpool medical staff, in tandem with he and Moretti, came to an understanding about how the Socceroos could use injury-plagued winger Kewell in the tournament.

"The discussions were all about Harry Kewell and his welfare and health. That was first and foremost in our mind. A fit Harry Kewell is a huge advantage for both us and Liverpool. They own Harry and work with him for 48 weeks of the year. It was back to Liverpool and what they felt his fitness levels were. I saw him play and he looked fantastic. His motivation for the tournament is huge. He's desperate to be here, and that's a great sign. Sitting down with Rafael Benitez and showing them our match program and training program which pretty much fits perfectly in Liverpool's program (was very important) and the blessing was given," Arnold said, adding that it is all about keeping the club coaches in the loop.

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