Opinion

Why Asia should be route into A-League for young Aussie coaches

Sasa Ognenovski in action for Sydney FC in 2014 Source: Getty Images

Is there a harder league to break into as a coach than Australia’s top tier? Some in England complain foreign coaches dominate the Premier League but there are 72 clubs in the country and plenty of other jobs to be had further down the pyramid.

Just five years ago, Salford City were in the eighth tier and now they are in the fourth and few would bet against the team climbing higher in the years to come.

On the opposite end of the world, the situation is, well, the opposite.

There are only 11 clubs in what is an attractive competition for foreign coaches.

There are lots of tacticians around the world that would love the chance to work Down Under in a professional environment in a beautiful part of the world where relegation is not a worry. 

The absence of a ladder that connects tiers one and two may make the A-League an attractive destination for coaches but it also makes it difficult for up-and-coming tacticians to break into the big time.

As bottlenecks go, it’s pretty tight. 

In most countries in the world, an ambitious coach can start lower down the ladder, away from the limelight, build a team, get some experience, climb the standings and get into the top tier by talent and hard work.

Currently, coaching in the lower leagues in Australia and the lack of promotion means that you are not going to get an A-League job unless someone comes calling.

And with coaches around the world to choose from, those calls don't come often.

Mark Rudan may be the exception. He was with Dandenong City in the NPL Victoria and did get the summons from new A-League outfit Western United.

He was replaced by Ante Moric at Dandenong who has since been replaced by Sasa Ognenovski.

The former international defender seems to have everything needed to be a top coach but getting to the top in Australia is not easy, especially from the NPL.

There are other routes for former players, especially those with international reputations like Ognenovski.

Asia is the obvious destination.

There are only a handful of top tier jobs for Australian coaches in the A-League, but there is a continent with hundreds of teams on the doorstep. 

As a former AFC Player of the Year, Ognenovski enjoys an excellent reputation up to the north.

It is only nine years since he was lifting the AFC Champions league as captain of Korea Republic giants Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. He also spent time in Qatar.

Sasa, as he was known in Korea, was a pioneer of Australian players, at least in that part of the world.

He helped to bring a new level of leadership on the pitch and remains one of the most successful imports in Asia’s oldest professional league. 

His playing career went to the next level in Asia, his coaching career could do the same. There should be more Aussies coaching in Asia.

Ognenovski being available as a coach would have been of interest in Korea, a place in need of young internationally-minded coaches. 

If he does well there then he does not only open the Asian door a little wider for Australian tacticians to follow but it opens doors for Ognenovski too, like the one to China. If you do well in Korea then China also becomes an option.

Several coaches have made the journey across the Yellow Sea to the Middle Kingdom in recent years. Do well in China then Asia is your oyster.

And that includes Australia, or it should. Asia should be for Aussie coaches what Europe is to Aussie players.

Just as the Socceroos, who have had their few years in the big leagues return home to the A-league, coaches who have success in Asia should be able to get jobs in the A-League.

Australia is a member of the Asian Football Confederation and can only benefit from closer ties to and knowledge of Asia.

Australian coaches don’t go to Europe and barely go to Asia. Those that do should be rewarded for their experience in the search for the top jobs.

The A-League may be closed from the bottom up so coming from the outside must be an option for the likes of Ognenovski.