Ange and the Cult of Personality

Until now the A League hasn’t succumbed to the Cult of Personality. But at Melbourne Victory Ange Postecoglou could find himself caged by the expectations created by his own success.

Hyundai A League clubs are not alone in getting excited when they discover a South American talent available to them.

My neighbourhood is abuzz at the moment with the arrival of a low key but simply sumptuous Argentine barbecue restaurant.

After hearing about it I was on their front doorstep quicker than Bersat Berisha arriving at the back post to slot a late winner.

As I walked in the front door my eyes scanned the room looking for a piece of religious iconography that I knew would be certain to take pride of place in any self respecting Argentine eatery.

It wasn-t a statue of the Madonna or a Crucifix though its spiritual significance was no loss potent.

I didn-t have to look hard.

Just inside the door on the right hand side, it sat on the wall taking pride of place as a greeting and blessing to all the hungry souls who arrived in search of sustenance.

It was a framed photo of Diego Maradona and thatgoal. La Mano De Dios. The Hand of God.

Sport has no greater cult of personality than that of Maradona.

Football loves a personality cult. Clubs and countries build their self affirming mythologies around the real and imagined genius of players and coaches who brought glory - and some time heroic failure - to life.

Liverpool have Shankley. Celtic, Jock Stein. For The Dutch it is Cryuff and the beautiful but ultimately flawed 1974 and 1978 World Cup expeditions. The list could go on and on.

Until now the A League hasn-t succumbed to the Cult of Personality. Or has it?

Certainly last weeks- concerted effort to rewrite the history of Brisbane Roar-s back-to-back title successes indicated that those in the Queensland capital felt that it had.

Their clumsy and ham-fisted campaign to reclaim the Roar-s title success from its architect, Ange Postecoglou ,was a reaction to what was seen as the Cult Of Ange - Master Coach.

There-s no doubt that the narrative about the title triumph had been built around the Postecoglou revolution at Suncorp stadium.

The wonderfully ludicrous “Roarcelona” tag spoke of a new brand of football in Australia, built by a different kind of coach asking his players to work harder, be smarter and demand more of themselves than they ever thought possible.

Whilst he remained in orange, it was a mythology that worked for the Roar.

When he packed his bags and headed south it needed rewriting. And so it was. Sadly, it seems the result is some serious bruising for both the former coach and the team he turned into a machine.

If anything, the Cult Of Ange meant there really was nowhere else for him but Melbourne Victory, a club that from day one decided that it is in its DNA to be built upon big personalities that reflect its own sense of self as a “Big Club”.

Kevin Muscat, Harry Kewell and now Ange Postecoglou. For varying reasons and with mixed fortunes, the names don-t get any bigger in Australian football.

What will be fascinating is to see whether the club and the coach, seeing in each other a sense of shared destiny, are able to endure through what will be challenging times.

This Victory squad look incapable of winning the title. Postecoglou was left with a train wreck after the revolving door in the coaches office last season. Only now is he discovering the depth of inadequacy he is dealing with.

Has the mythology about Ange Postecoglou-s ability to radically reshape and reinvent a once aimless and clueless Brisbane Roar into a force of nature bought the coach enough credit with the fans and his employers?

Or does it work to fuel the impatience of restless fans hungry for success and a management desperate for results that reinforce the image of their club as biggest and best.

As Maradona could attest, the Cult of Personality can be the cruellest kind of gilded cage.

Ange Postecoglou is about to find out just what life is like inside it.

The views in this article are those of the author, and do not represent those of Football Federation Australia or the Hyundai A-League.