Australian football trailblazer Craig Johnston, says he has never been asked by the local game's powerbrokers to share his expertise despite having “a lot to offer”.
Johnston made his debut for Middlesbrough at the age of 17, before spending seven years at Anfield during the Reds’ amazing 1980s title haul.
But in a far-ranging interview with INDAILY he said he had been ignored by Football Federation Australia (FFA) and his offers to develop the next generation of stars had fallen on deaf ears.
The 55-year-old said: “For years and years I’ve tried to contribute to the game in Australia. Think about it. What am I? I’m an Australian that used to play soccer. What would I like to do? I would like, as an Australian, to help Australian soccer.
“Can I say it any clearer? Do I have to beg and say, ‘please, please, please, FFA can I share my experience with kids?'” Because I’ve actually done that and still nobody comes back to you and still people ignore you.
“So what do you do? Apart from what I did years ago, go back overseas and help someone else with coaching kids? What else can I do? I don’t want that to sound like a whinge but they’re the facts.
“I’ve got a lot to offer and I’m not asking for a job by the way. There’s a philosophy about how to get better at football and that’s invested in my years and years of experience of trying to be a better player. That’s what I’ve tried to pass on.”
Johnston, who developed the Predator boot and a software training program for kids called SupaSkills, re-emerged in the national spotlight in 2013 during Liverpool's highly successful Australian tour.
But this week his message was stark, saying the technical standard of Australian players has gone backwards in the past 10 years.
“I was coaching some Australian kids recently and I explained to them, however good they think their touch is, it’s not nearly as good as the kids in the Liverpool Academy,” Johnston told IN DAILY.
He said the Socceroos triumph as the Asian Cup was an “unbelievable achievement” by coach Ange Postecoglou and the players.
But added: “I was there at all the games and at the final, an incredibly proud moment, but that’s covered up a lot of cracks at grassroots level.
“The problem is that we only have one Australian player that’s good enough to be playing in the best league in the world, the Premier League. And why? Because we’re not good enough – because the touch isn’t good enough.
Johnston said Australian players had the heart, soul and dedication but were failing to keep pace with other nations.
“That’s the problem,” he said, “whatever we think we’re doing, it’s not enough.
“Ten years ago, there were several players in the Premier League – (Mark) Schwarzer, (Harry) Kewell, (Tim) Cahill and others – and now we’ve got one, Jedinak at Crystal Palace.
“You have to ask why we haven’t got the players coming through and it’s because the touch and the craft isn’t there. Whatever we’re doing, other countries are doing more.”comments