European coaches are no different to us, claims Valkanis

Greece assistant coach Michael Valkanis during his time with PEC Zwolle Source: Getty Images

The trickle of Australian coaches making inroads overseas could turn into a torrent, if they cast aside inferiority complexes and believe they can compete with the best and brightest.

That’s the view of former Melbourne City assistant and interim head coach Michael Valkanis - now living the dream riding shotgun to Dutchman John van’t Schip with the Greece national team.

Valkanis was an assistant at Adelaide United and worked alongside van’t Schip at City and then PEC Zwolle in the Eredivisie before moving with his mentor when he took charge of the Ethniki five months back.

He’s part of a select group of Australians proving their pedigree in Europe, Asia and North America.

And while he still sometimes pinches himself at just far he’s come in the past three years, Valkanis, 45, reckons the extra work Australians put in to learn their craft makes them ideally suited to succeeding on foreign shores.

“Australia is a long way from the football mainstream and sometimes we tend to doubt ourselves and put ourselves down,” said Valkanis.

“We tend to think we’re not good enough and not up to the standard of the coaches in Europe.

“But when you work in Australia, and you see what’s happening, I think we have some really good coaches adept enough to succeed in Europe, Asia or wherever else.

“We’re always trying to educate themselves ... we travel far and wide to see how the best coaches do things and try and learn from them.”

The title-winning feats of Ange Postecoglou at Yokohama FC and Joe Montemurro with Arsenal Women have been the stuff of headlines, and the tentacles are spreading with Postecoglou’s number two at Yokohama, Peter Cklamovski, taking the lead role at Shimizu S.Pulse, whilst fellow Australian Arthur Papas remains at Ange’s side.

Former Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat is the technical director at Belgium Pro League outfit Sint-Truiden, and John Hutchinson - briefly part of Mark Rudan’s coaching team at Western United - has returned to Seattle Sounders in the MLS as a first team assistant.

Former Socceroos striker David Zdrilic, having cut his teeth as an U-19s coach at RB Leipzig, was recently appointed as an assistant at Chicago Fire.

And there should be no stopping others following their example, according to Valkanis.

“Once you get to work in Europe you see they’re no different from us,” added Valkanis.

“It’s not like they’ve got an extra arm, an extra leg or an extra eye.

“Australia players need to believe themselves and so do our coaches.

“What is needed is an opportunity to work at the highest level - and that’s difficult to come by.

“I would never have dreamt when I left Melbourne City that three years later I would be at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico with Greece up against the Italian national team.

“But it can happen. You have to dream big, believe in yourself and take the opportunity when it comes.

“You have to take the risk and go abroad. The biggest fear is do you pack up and leave home and give it a really good go?

“The biggest hurdle in Australia is there are not many opportunities to work and to become better.

“That’s why It’s super important that there is a national second division at some point to open the door for more coaches to show what they can do."