Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has appointed highly-regarded tactician Ante Milicic as his new assistant coach for this year’s World Cup.
Initally, Milicic will stay on in his present position, as assistant coach of the Western Sydney Wanderers, until the end of the season. He will then become full-time as Postecoglou’s assistant.
The Wanderers will permit the popular 39-year old to travel to London for the Socceroos friendly against Ecuador on March 5, his first interaction with the senior national team in his new role.
“I’m honoured to have been handed such a tremendous opportunity to work as an assistant coach with the Socceroos,” Milicic said. “As a former Socceroo I am passionate about the National team and I look forward to the challenge. I’m excited to be able to work with Ange, especially with the World Cup coming up as well as the Asian Cup in Australia and with so many talented players starting to break through.”
Milicic said he’d already learnt for the very best coaches and was ready for a new challenge.
“I’ve had a good apprenticeship under John van’t Schip and “Poppa” [Tony Popovic] as well as the 2009 and 2011 under-20 World Cups as an assistant to Jan Versleijen and I’m looking forward to continuing that under Ange,” he said. “I’d also like to thank the Western Sydney Wanderers for allowing me to take this opportunity and I am determined to finish the A-League season with the same passion and dedication I will take to the national team.”
Postecoglou will retain Aurelio Vidmar as his other assistant but said Milicic would bring his own qualities to the role.
“One of my priorities after becoming national team head coach was to secure quality staff to help drive the Socceroos and Ante is a driven coach who will fit into our environment,” Postecoglou said. “I wanted the best people to come in and contribute to the growth and success of the national team and I’m confident Ante will add further expertise to our existing staff.”
Postecoglou said Milicic would be pivotal to helping him reconstruct the senior team over the coming years.
“Ante has experience at domestic level and International level with both senior and junior national teams and will play a part in an exciting new era as we look to build the next golden generation of Australian footballers, ” he said. “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Western Sydney Wanderers for their cooperation to ensure I was able to appoint the people I thought were best for the job.”
Wanderers executive chairman Lyall Gorman said the club would always keep their door open for Milicic if he wanted to return.
“The role of assistant coach of the Socceroos is a tremendous professional and career development opportunity for Ante and we wish him well, safe in the knowledge that should the time come in the future for him to return to a coaching role in the A-League it will be with our club,” he said.
Milicic played six times for the Socceroos and scored five goals between 2002 and 2005 and still holds the record transfer fee a domestic transfer when he moved from Sydney United to Sydney Olympic for $110,000 in 2002.
He enjoyed a prolific club career in Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia and Malaysia, bowing out of the A-League in 2008 after a year at Newcastle was followed by two years with Brisbane Roar, bagging 11 competition goals.
Since turning his hand to coaching, Milicic was in charge of Sydney United in the NSW Premier League before taking the assistant’s role with the under-20 national team.
Milicic has been hailed for his knowledgeable and hands-on approach to coaching, leading most of the drills at the Wanderers training while senior coach Tony Popovic observes.
Meanwhile, it’s understood that young defender Curtis Good is line to make his senior international debut in the match against Ecuador.
In what could spell the end for Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, 20-year old Good was told he could secure his place in the World Cup squad if he was able to find a club during the January transfer window where he would find regular football.
Good, who is contracted at Newcastle United until 2018 after a $600,000 move from Melbourne Heart, subsequently picked up a loan move to Scottish club Dundee United. The Terrors are currently fifth in the Scottish Premier League and Good has already made both his league and cup debuts.
The news that Postecoglou is grooming Good to step up is a further blow to Neill’s chances, which appear to be fading by the week.
Postecoglou has already promised he will not call-up players who are not playing regularly and Neill hasn’t played competitively since he was released by J-League club Omiya Ardija in December.
Neill’s quest for playing time has taken him back to England, where he has been allowed to turn out for under-21 side of his former club, Blackburn Rovers.
The ex-Rovers’ captain played 90 minutes in Monday’s night’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur.
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