From Australia to Yokohama: Postecoglou wants to leave mark on Japanese football
"While it's not going to be perfect, particularly in the beginning, it's going to be a hell of a ride."
Ange Postecoglou is cut from the same cloth as Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri – an emphasis on attacking football, with an unrelenting belief in their philosophy.
Postecoglou, like Manchester City manager Guardiola and Chelsea boss Sarri, pushes the boundaries. His approach never waivers and success follows the 53-year-old in his pursuit of excellence.
From South Melbourne to Australia, Postecoglou has won it all – a pair of National Soccer League championships, back-to-back A-League titles and a record 36-match unbeaten streak at Brisbane Roar, plus a ground-breaking 2015 Asian Cup triumph with the Socceroos.
Postecoglou changed the landscape of Australian football. Now, the former Australia manager finds himself in charge of J.League side Yokohama F.Marinos.
Marinos finished 12th in his first season – only outscored by champions Kawasaki Frontale – while the proud Japanese club also reached the J.League Cup final as Postecoglou turned the club on their head, leaving a pragmatic approach behind in favour of his entertaining football.
Fast forward 12 months and Postecoglou's mark on Marinos – who are part of the City Football Group – can be seen early in the 2019 campaign, the squad coming to grips with his demands.
"It was always going to take a bit of time," Postecoglou told Omnisport. "But it's consistent with what I've done before. I knew coming into it, the way I wanted to play was going to challenge everyone in the club. We had some really good moments and some poor moments. There was a massive difference in our best and worst, that was reflected in the results. We still made the cup final. At times, we played some good stuff.
"This year, we've changed the squad a fair bit. The main thing for me is we have players here who have the characteristics in what I need and I also think the club now understands sort of what we're trying to achieve. Everyone is fully supportive of it. The start of the season is promising. We are certainly more consistent than the last year but it's a tough league. Every week is a challenge, every week the opposition has outstanding players."
"Wherever I've coached, I want to win things," he said. "There's no shying away from that, as much as I want my team playing a certain way because I believe you can be successful doing it that way. What success looks like, I've never really thought that way. When I get a team to play the way I want to, success follows. That's the first challenge. We will see where that takes us. Hopefully we can win some silverware for the club and more importantly, win silverware playing a certain way. It will be exciting for the fans and hopefully make a difference to football."
Marinos are one of Japan's most successful clubs, with five league titles and seven runner-up finishes. The Yokohama-based side are also the longest-serving team in the Japanese top flight along with Kashima Antlers, having played in the J.League every year since its inception in 1992.
However, Marinos' last league title came in 2004, while the club have not claimed a piece of silverware since winning the 2013 Emperor's Cup.
"Everything has its challenges. From my perspective, I knew what I was getting myself into. It's a proud club historically but it's not one of the big clubs now in terms of budget, the way they spend their money, even the facilities it's not at the level of some other clubs anymore," Postecoglou added. "That's part of the challenge for the club to get back up there. The rationale behind it is, if we have success, we can raise the club. That doesn't mean you prefer it that way because you want to work with the best players. It doesn't change my approach too much.
"I always felt coaching is a challenge wherever you are. I don't think that changes whether you have money or not. The key thing is, are you able to implement a philosophy on the players you work with? Getting the players style that is going to be successful and do things a little bit differently. I'm not daunted by it. It wasn't what attracted me to it. The attraction was to come to a different league, I knew it was a challenging league and see whether I could implement my style."
Postecoglou extended his contract at the end of last season. The former Melbourne Victory boss – who harbours strong ambitions of coaching in Europe having spent time in charge of Greek outfit Panachaiki in 2008 – wants to leave a lasting impression in Japan.
"It's showing that a team playing a certain kind of football can be successful. Not just put a mark on Yokohama but Japanese football," he said. "I think Japanese football is still very much in its infancy in its potential. They have outstanding players, their league is really well run, they're professional in everything they do and they have a real desire to reach the top of the football world.
"From my perspective, if I can show them a club side playing a certain way… Most club sides here are still fairly conservative in their style of play which isn't unusual for most leagues around the world. There's still a great emphasis on playing defensively and a bit conservatively. I think when a team comes along and changes that dynamic a little bit, it changes football. That's kind of where I'm at overall but you can't do any of that unless you're successful because people, ultimately, that's what they look at it. That's what the focus will be for me over the next 12 months or so."
"The football world reaches all parts of the globe and I want to reach as many parts of that globe as possible while I still can as a coach," Postecoglou continued. "But I'm concentrating on doing a good job here."
Just like Guardiola and Sarri, Postecoglou's tactics have been questioned and scrutinised throughout his career. Unlike most, his approach is often under the microscope. How does it feel?
"I don't think it's hard," the four-time Australia international said. "If you spoke to Sarri or Guardiola, I think when you're doing what you really believe in, it's more difficult for other people to understand that when the results don't come immediately why you don't change. But you know that it will work, that's why you do what you do. It's not just football but life in general.
"People don't have a lot of patience… The great things still happen when people have conviction. It's not even that much patience. When you look at myself, it's rarely taken more than a year to get what I want across, it's just people don't see it in first 24 hours, then they expect you to change and then you don't change, then they start questioning what you're doing. But for me and others who coach this way, this is what I know, this is what I do and what I believe in, so I'm not going to change in the short term. If you stick to it, then you're going to reap the rewards. Today's world, there's too much expediency and people want immediate satisfaction and aren't prepared to stick it out.
"You're going to read all this analysis about Ajax and how great it is but for four years they've been building something that has literally cost them league titles and other trophies because they've had young guys who have been making mistakes. Now those young guys are on the cusp of creating something unbelievable. That's how I believe you create great things, it's not by doing what everyone else does, not by reacting to what other people fear or are not sure about."