Socceroos great Stan Lazaridis has leapt to the defence of Ange Postecoglou, saying he wishes he'd had the chance to play under the besieged national team coach.
By
Dave Lewis

6 Sep 2017 - 7:19 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2017 - 7:19 PM

An unwavering voice amid a deafening chorus of criticism aimed at Postecoglou - not least from ex-Socceroos turned TV pundits Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater - Lazaridis is convinced 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification is still on the cards despite a frustrating and faltering campaign, which is now headed for a play-off detour.

Sixty-cap Lazaridis, 44, was one of the most electrifying and exciting talents of the so-called 'golden generation'.

He acknowledges that Postecoglou lacks "the array of talents" at the disposal of Frank Farina and Guus Hiddink during their tenures, but is "doing an absolutely magnificent job with the team".

Speaking in the aftermath of the 2-1 victory over Thailand which, coupled with Saudi Arabia's 1-0 win over Japan, sent Australia into a two-legged play-off with Cinderella side Syria, Lazaridis was unstinting in his backing for Postecoglou.

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While Bosnich said he was treating the Socceroos like a "laboratory experiment" and Slater called for "a change" at the top, Lazarodis said: "All in all, Ange has done a great job and I'm not really happy with the comments that have been made (by the likes of Robbie and Mark).

"I respect their opinions but I think it's a bit unjust and unfair.

"Ange needs to be left alone to finish his job off. Let him get on with it ... he still has up to four games left (in qualifying for Russia).

"I believe we will get past Syria quite comfortably and we don't know who will be next (through Concacaf) whether it's the USA, Panama, or Honduras.

"It's going to be difficult but I feel we will get the job done."

Reinforcing his confidence in Postecoglou and his methods - including a three-at-the-back system which his players are struggling to adapt to - Lazaridis insisted: "For me, Ange has been one of the best managers Australia's had.

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"You know what? I wish, going back to when I was playing, that I'd had him as a manager.

"And that's about the biggest compliment I can pay the guy. I understand his philosophy and I understand what he wants to do.

"I wish he'd been in charge of our 2006 World Cup team, and that's nothing against Guus Hiddink. But, let's be fair, he had a squad to die for.

"Ange is one of us, an Australian. He's different to previous managers who do the job here and then go back to their 60-foot yachts somewhere off the south of France.

"He cares ... you can see he's hurting right now and is gutted.

"He will protect his players, that's just the way he is. He puts his balls on the line. He is brave and he backs young players."

A torchbearer for Australians in England during his 11 seasons with West Ham and then Birmingham City, Lazaridis says critics should take note that the calibre of players at Ange's disposal is not at the level of the golden generation.

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"I'm not having a go at them, we have some really good players, but if you look at the 23 we have now and those of the so-called golden generation, it's vastly different.

"We just have to now go out and do it the hard way. The most important thing is we should be rallying around and not criticizing Ange.

"People should save their opinions until after this campaign is over. Otherwise, it's a case of what do you want to do now? Sack the guy? Then bring in someone else just for a few games? For me, absolutely not.

"We all need to be on board and to back Ange. I am still very confident of us going through.

"I have booked out next June and July in my calendar. It's going to happen."

Lazaridis has no issues with Postecoglou's 3-2-4-1 system, explaining: "I actually think it suits the players.

"It gives them freedom to get forward and attack. I think the system is okay. He just has to have the right personnel.

"Watching Alex Gersbach in that left wing role the other night reminded me of myself. I thought he had a great game."