Scott McIntyre on the official unveiling of former Socceroos coach as the new man in charge at J.League club Yokohama F. Marinos.
When the Beatles arrived in Tokyo in the midst of a fierce typhoon in mid-1966 they stepped off the Japan Airlines flight in traditional ‘happi’ costume and were promptly whisked away to a press conference where the first question was one that most foreigner visitors face within moments of touchdown: ‘what do you think of Japan?’
“As much as we know about most places we visit,” came the response from drummer Ringo Starr.
Which was to say probably not a whole deal but how that initial question is answered can often determine just how warmly those to whom it’s put will be received.
On that front Ange Postecoglou certainly struck all the right notes when he was unveiled publicly this weekend as the new coach of Yokohama F.Marinos.
At a public event at the back of a showroom filled with the latest model cars at the global headquarters of the team’s majority owner, Nissan, the former Australian national coach was firm in his belief of how he wanted Marinos to play but full of praise for Japanese football at the same time.
“The J.League is a vey strong competition and in terms of the organisation and the general strength of the teams it would be the strongest league in the region.
“Particularly in the last four years as national coach I’ve been watching a lot of Asian football and I think the level here is as good as you get.
“I respect every opponent because it’s a strong league and I’ll respect the competition but there’ll be a belief in the players and in us as a club that no matter who we play we’ll believe we can win.”
— 横浜F･マリノス【公式】 (@prompt_fmarinos) January 14, 2018
Following a public event where supporters filled a large hall to see the new coach and new signings revealed, Postecoglou then stuck around for his maiden press conference where the three dozen or so reporters present was likely a larger number than he was greeted with in total during his previous couple of club stints back in Australia.
A day after the club captain, Manabu Saito, was sold to fierce rivals Kawasaki, that move was the subject of much inquiry, but equally there was a curiosity as to whether the ex-Socceroos boos would continue his up-tempo, attacking, brand of football on his return to club land and the answer came back loud and clear.
“In terms of the kind football that we want to play I’ve been coaching for 20 years and anyone who watches my teams play will know the kind of football I prefer to play.
“One of the major reasons I’m here at Marinos is because that’s the football they want to play. Once we get started you’ll be able to see that we want to be an attacking team, we want to possess the ball and dominate the opposition. As I said that’s my history, it’s not anything new and that’s what I hope to bring to Yokohama.
With the fixture list unveiled last week Yokohama have the toughest start of any club to the new J.League season with a visit to Cerezo Osaka on the opening weekend next month followed by a clash with Kashiwa Reysol meaning they face two of last season’s top four finishers straight up.
That makes it a tough initiation in Postecoglou’s first foray outside his homeland in a decade but seeing him up close in Yokohama there was a sense that much of the perceived burden that he’d been carrying in the closing days of his Socceroos reign was finally lifted and here was a man at ease with his new surrounds and itching to get back into the daily process of club land.
He was full of praise for the ‘young’ squad that he’s inherited whilst admitting that they may take their time to fill their remaining foreign slot and he almost escaped his first interaction with the Japanese press without being asked what was the first one almost every time he fronted reporters back at home but it managed to sneak through right at the end of the conference.
A strange time to quit?
“Why did you decide to leave the national team and not go to the World Cup?”
After having quipped that’s a question that everyone in Australia wants answered he went on to further endear himself to the local audience who should give him the space and time he needs to try and bring his impressive brand of football to the J.League.
“From my perspective I had a fantastic four years as national coach and when you coach your own country it’s the highest honour and in those four years we won the Asian Cup and qualified for the World Cup and I just felt that it was the right time for me to try a new adventure.
“My whole career I’ve tried to really challenge myself as a person and as a coach and I could have stayed in the job until the World Cup and it would’ve been a great experience but I’ve always done things that I believe were right for me.
“This opportunity came earlier than I expected – I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do after I did quit – but once this opportunity presented itself it was exciting.
“It’s a new culture for me, a new country which I have to adapt to and embrace and I think for me and my journey as a coach and in life it’s exactly what I want so I’m really looking forward to it.”