“Maybe it’s me personally that people can’t warm to. It’s not something I think about, but it’s great if people take pride out of the fact that I am an Australian. My whole career has been based around Australian football, and hopefully they take a bit of pride out of the fact I’ve been able to do it somewhere abroad.”
Postecoglou’s experience with A-League grand finals, and even the 2015 Asian Cup, are coming in handy this week with a quirk of the J.League draw serving up a blockbuster on Saturday.
Three points clear on top of the ladder, Yokohama face second-placed FC Tokyo at Nissan Stadium, where a crowd of more than 60,000 will watch the Japanese title be decided.
A win, draw or even a defeat by three goals or less will do the job for Postecoglou’s men, who last year only avoided a relegation play-off due to goal difference.
Postecoglou is enjoying the buzz of the week and an influx of media requests from Australia, where interest in Japanese football has, unsurprisingly, spiked. More than anything, he’s enjoying repaying other people’s faith in his methods.
Where some Socceroos fans once wavered, F. Marinos supporters have backed Postecoglou. ‘We Trust Our Boss’ is a common phrase used by the Tricolore faithful on social media and on signs at games.
“They made that banner in the middle of last year when we were going through a really tough spell,” he said.
“They could see what we were trying to build, even though the results weren’t there. That’s kind of my history anyway – the beginnings are always a little bit challenging or rough.”
After signing a one-year contract extension last month, Postecoglou plans on restoring F. Marinos, one of the J.League’s traditional powers, to their former glory – including in next year’s AFC Champions League, which could see him back in Australia as an opposition coach.
Postecoglou is dismissive of the speculation that he could, or should, head to Europe, revealing he knocked back approaches from other foreign clubs last year.
“That’s not something I tend to think about a lot, but that’s probably a little bit reflective of how we see ourselves in Australian football – that it would be a major leap for a club in Europe to almost take a punt on me, even though I’ve got 20 years of success and proved myself at multiple levels,” he said.
“Unfortunately that’s where I’m at contradictory terms with Australian football. Just because I’m an Australian, I don’t demean my success or my ability to coach at the highest level because of geography.
“It’s great if something happens – if it doesn’t, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing and enjoying the challenges of what lays ahead.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.