COMPARE and contrast the following statements. Both were made by managers whose teams finished bottom of their qualifying group at World Cup 2014.
“We feel emotional because the fact is we wanted to do so well in the tournament, to get out of the group. We weren’t alone in wanting that and not succeeding in doing it, of course, but we’ve spent the last two or three days talking about how disappointed and sad we are. The first two games were quite close and went against us, so we came here with nothing to play for. We wanted so much more. But I don’t think any fair-minded person would suggest the team didn’t show the right spirit or commitment. We didn’t suggest at any stage we actually had nothing to play for, and our fans appreciated that. They gave us an ovation that, obviously, our results didn’t merit. They were quite brilliant. We are so sad and disappointed for them because we know what they’re going through. We are very grateful for the emotional moment at the end where they showed their support.”
“We have come here and lost all three games. We have not got the results we wanted when we came here. We wanted to make an impact and try to get the results. We have measured ourselves against the very best. In my mind I have got an indication of where we are at as a nation and where we need to move to to make sure the gap between ourselves and the top 20 is closed. Some of it is just experience. The lapses in concentration and the mistakes will cost you a goal . We need to keep giving these guys opportunities and exposing them to this level of football to get an understanding of the concentration levels required. We have not been as ruthless as the opposition have. We need to improve our depth, but we were down a few today. I want to make this squad a really competitive one to get into.”
Statement A embodies the rhetoric of the passive underdog, resigned to its fate, supplicant to its so-called superiors, reliant on luck, spirit and commitment to make things right. Lambs will be sacrificed at the altar of the footballing Gods to procure said luck ahead of future tournaments. No actual joined up planning will be necessary.
Statement B embodies the rhetoric of the pragmatic underdog, infuriated by its fate, defiant against sides it has no right on paper to compete against, and with not only ideas above its station, but a joined up plan as to how those ideas will be realised.
Which of these managers boasts players with hundreds of International caps, Champions League final experience, and the cream of young talent from the most exciting league in world football? And which boasts ageing journeymen, kids from the SPL and the 2nd divisions of the Eredivisie and Bundesliga, and the Australian and Japanese domestic leagues? Which manager made the statement after playing Spain? Which made the statement after playing Costa Rica?*
There’s nothing more that needs said, really.
I wish Ange Postecoglou and his glorious nation all the very best in their pursuit of ideas above their station. People should never live timid, fearful lives. People should go for what they want in life – what they feel they deserve. People should talk positively in pursuit of those goals. Managers should never resort to excuses, or to luck. Ange Postecoglou is a manager. He manages. And he’ll achieve whatever it is that he wants to achieve.
* If you need to ask, etc etc.