Arnie gets something in return

After being derided as a choker, Graham Arnold has more than proved his critics wrong. He's a winner and he's the best coach Australia has.

I expected a little more in the moment of validation, to be honest. A jig, a sprint towards the players, a kiss for Phil Moss, perhaps a tumble to the ground, weeping uncontrollably.

In the end, what we got from Graham Arnold was two arms raised in the air, a quick look to the sky, and - after extricating himself from the embrace of his coaching staff - humility in victory.

At full-time, at a heaving Allianz Stadium, the veil came down for Arnie. There was a handshake for every member of the Western Sydney Wanderers staff, a handshake for the referees, even a handshake for a security guard.

Only after what seemed an eternity, did Arnie finally permit himself some time to succumb to the emotion of the occasion.

As the weight of the world started to tumble off his shoulders, there were hugs for his players, salutes to the Central Coast Mariners fans massed behind the southern goals, a pose with his three daughters for the cameras.

But only in private are we likely to see the unedited version of what this championship means to one of the most villified coaches in our history.

In public, Arnold seems determined to maintain a professional equilibrium.

''The scars have healed'', is what he did say in reference to the players who survived from the heartbreaking grand final loss two years before. Arnold's own scars run much deeper.

Losing both parents by the time he was 20. Losing his first grand final, in 1988, by a penalty shoot-out. Losing the unlosable World Cup play-off against Iran in 1997, when the Socceroos were two-nil up against Iran.

Losing a fortune as a player/coach/investor in Northern Spirit, and being abused by the fans for the privilege. Losing a penalty shoot-out as Socceroos coach in the Asian Cup quarter-final in 2007. Losing on penalties, again, in the 2011 Hyundai A-League grand final.

There are plenty of people - including those who should know better - who chose not to look beneath the surface and suggest Arnold was a serial loser, a choker.

In certain media quarters he was demonised for the best part of a decade. "Arnold Out" signs popped up periodically as gullible fans swallowed the propaganda.

Here's the real scoop. Arnie is a winner. He was part of four World Cup campaigns as a player, and played a large part of his career overseas. In The Netherlands, especially, he's respected to this day. He handled three tasks at Northern Spirit at a stage of his life - ending his playing career and starting his coaching career - when most people couldn't have handled one.

He coached the Socceroos at the 2007 Asian Cup with dignity despite lacking support from some senior players. He qualified the Olyroos for the 2008 Olympics. He took the Mariners to the 2011 grand final against the all-too-familiar background of financial strife.

Arnold is the best coach Australia has. Ask those players who choose to listen to him. To a man, he has improved their game. Look at the Mariners. Two grand finals, one minor premiership, in three seasons.

If you don't believe he's a great coach, wait and see. The odds of Arnold being lured overseas in the next few months are high. The rest of the world is starting to recognise what some people here have refused to see.

Maybe they will now. The last shred of doubt has been removed by the championship. Arnold has proved he can coach under pressure. Now he's ready for anything.

I expect to see some patronising commentary that Arnold has only succeeded because he's been forced to by the improvement of coaching standards around him. The inference being the Mariners title win is a victory for the system, not for Arnold. What rot.

Competition, of course, is healthy for everyone. But Arnold's always been a lateral thinker. His problem was that his development co-incided with the era when it was fashionable to deride Australian coaches, not respect them.

It would be easy, with the championship medal in his keep, for Arnold to torch his many critics. It's a measure of the man that he's chosen not to succumb to the temptation. The confidence he'll get is priceless, a huge new weapon in his arsenal. Few people love coaching as much as Arnold. Finally, coaching is giving him something in return.