Viduka will continue to speak out, says close pal Skoko


Golden generation icons, including Mark Viduka, should be consulted by Football Federation Australia over who to select as their next technical director, says Josip Skoko.

With a vacancy to be filled once interim technical advisor Graham Arnold returns to Socceroos duties later this year, former Australia midfielder Skoko said the likes of Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Vince Grella, John Aloisi and Craig Moore could offer valuable insights into identifying the right candidate for the crucial role.

The aforementioned were all part of Optus Sport’s virtual round table last week, offering a hard-hitting critique of the state of the game in Australia.

A reclusive figure since his retirement 10 years ago, 2006 FIFA World Cup captain Viduka has discarded his cloak of silence in recent weeks to vent on several issues.

And, according to Skoko - Viduka’s closest football confidante after a 30-year plus friendship - the former Leeds United great will continue to speak out if he feels his contribution can benefit the game.

Case in point - who should fill the shoes long term of Rob Sherman, who stood down last month.

“A lot of decisions are made and nobody is consulted,” said Skoko, who excelled in Europe and now heads up North Geelong’s football operations in the Victorian NPL.

“Surely when some of big decisions are being made they should talk to some of us to get our input.

“They’re going to hire a new technical director and that’s an area where we could offer some helpful feedback on the person they might have in mind.

“We can bring a lot to the table in terms of ideas, from grassroots, to coaching, to the professional game and everything in between.

"It’s good that the boys want to get involved, have their say, and hopefully help make some positive changes in the game.”

Viduka was particularly vehement in his support for the disbanded Centre of Excellence at the AIS during the Optus Sport discussion, and Skoko said the striker turned Croatia coffee shop owner would continue to air his views in the public domain.

“He wanted to talk - like all of us,” added Skoko. “Mark has reconnected a bit and has always been strong in his views.

“He’s not a big fan of the spotlight necessarily. But it’s good for the game that certain characters from the past like Mark have had their say because people respect him.

“I’m sure like he’ll get in involved if he thinks it’s the right thing.

“I don’t know how involved and in what way but we’re all of the same mindset in that if we can help the game we will, no matter what form that might take.

“I don’t see him relocating to Australia - he’s relaxed and content over there in Croatia.

“But his passion for the game hasn’t changed - he’s had that all his life and is from a generation of Australian players who share that passion. You don’t lose that.”

The pair’s bond - both on and off the pitch -  began at representative level with Victoria and blossomed at the AIS and then with Australia at national team level.

“We feel now is our time to speak up and try help push things in the right way,” continued Skoko.

“We spoke about catching up again (for another on air discussion) - we’ll reconnect in a few weeks and see what happens.

“A few of us have already spoken to (new FFA CEO) James Johnson and I’m sure that will continue.

“He’s been very approachable and has approached a lot of the guys. That’s good and things have started well in that sense.

“He’s got a tough job but I’m sure as an ex-player himself he’ll understand where we’re coming from. He understands the game and I think that will help him drive through some big changes.

“For us, it’s about heightening awareness - we don’t have any particular agendas and we hope we can improve on things. We want to see the game go to new heights.”

Skoko identified a raft of concerns, including youth pathways, the scrapping of the salary cap and imposition of transfer fees across the A-League.

“Things can be painted very black but there’s a lot of good in the game - we just think things could be done a lot better,” he said.

“The A-League needs to connect better with the rest of the football community and promotion-relegation might bring that connection at some stage.

“Removing the salary cap is a big discussion point as are transfer fees - and there’s also the matter of structure and opportunity for the 16 to 21-year-olds coming up through the ranks.

“Addressing these things are crucial and I think as former players we’ll continue to highlight these issues and try and help the game sort through these things.”