Why Socceroos fans would love Frank Rijkaard at the helm

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If England coach Fabio Capello ever tires of London, I’m sure Football Federation Australia can rustle him up a penthouse suite in Sydney quick smart.

It may be considered a footballing backwater, but in billionaire backer Frank Lowy, Australian football possesses some serious financial clout.

Which is ironic, considering that so much about the game in Australia is either broken or going broke. Clubs are struggling to stand on their own feet, fans still prefer European football to the local fare, and Australian sides have been slow to recognise the technical skills needed to win the Asian Champions League.

Only the Socceroos can be considered a genuine success story, and that’s mainly because Guus Hiddink ended 32 years of exile by steering them to just their second ever World Cup appearance.

Hiddink’s short-term appointment in 2005 was at the behest of Lowy, who unceremoniously shoved Frank Farina aside to lure one of world football’s biggest names Down Under.

In doing so, Lowy unwittingly sparked an odd new trend – one that has seen Australian fans dream high above their station to lobby vociferously for a succession of high-profile coaches.

Despite qualifying for the World Cup, Verbeek is far from popular down under

They wanted one when Hiddink left, so Dick Advocaat was the man pencilled in as the most suitable replacement. What they got was Pim Verbeek, and the repercussions of his appointment still resonate today.

On the surface, Verbeek’s record with the Socceroos looks impressive. World Cup qualification was achieved with minimum fuss, next year’s Asian Cup finals were booked in – albeit via slightly more effort – and Verbeek made light of the absence of talismanic striker Mark Viduka throughout.

But despite his achievements, Verbeek has never really won over the critics who lament his conservative tactics, highlight his reluctance to use young talent and blast his penchant for playing a lone striker up front.

The acerbic Dutchman did himself few favours when he claimed that simply training with a Bundesliga club was of more value than actually playing in the A-League, with Verbeek steadfastedly denying that he had damaged the credibility of Australia’s domestic league.

Recently Verbeek confirmed the worst-kept secret in Australian football, with the ex-Korea Republic coach revealing that he will step down after the World Cup finals in South Africa.

The search is now on for his successor, and no amount of common sense looks set to stop a section of Australians fans from rattling off an improbable list of names.

Frank Rijkaard appears to be the front-runner, for no apparent reason other than the fact that many Australian fans have actually heard of him, and have seemingly determined that this will be enough to lure him from a high-paying job at Galatasaray.

"Hey, Mancini isn't the only manager who can rock the snazzy scarf look!"

Perhaps mercurial Galatasaray winger Harry Kewell can convince Rijkaard that a four-year stint in the backwaters of Asian football is a sensible career move, however logic dictates that it’s an unlikely scenario.

Far more likely is the arrival of the kind of coach that many Australians have never heard of, as was the case with current incumbent Verbeek – who spent the first half of  his coaching career working as an assistant.

What Socceroos fans want is a big-name celebrity to put them squarely on the world football map, but what they’re likely to get is an up-and-coming coach looking to make a name for himself on the world stage.

That’s exactly what Verbeek has done, steering Australia to the World Cup finals with ease and racking up over a million kilometres (literally!) of travel in the process.

What he hasn’t done is convinced Australian fans that a mid-ranking coach is the way to go. Hiddink set the mould, and many Socceroos supporters are keen to see someone of a similar stature fill the breach.

How Football Federation Australia attempts to fill the vacancy is anyone’s guess, as they tread the fine line between public expectation and global football reality.

Perhaps they’ll simply run a classified in the back pages of the daily broadsheets; “Have money, need coach. Must be high-profile.”

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