PART THREE | Ange on the road ahead

In a four-part series, associate editor Michael Cockerill gets the thoughts of Foxtel All-Stars coach Ange Postecoglou heading into the sold-out game against Manchester United.

In a four-part series, associate editor Michael Cockerill gets the thoughts of Foxtel All-Stars coach Ange Postecoglou heading into the sold-out game against Manchester United.

Q. This game is a real test for the evolution of the Hyundai A-League. Is the competition ready?

A. It's a good question, which hopefully will be answered on Saturday night. Look, I think so. Anyone involved in our game believes so. It's come on enormously. This will be my fourth year coaching, and the advances have been quite stark. In fact I've been taken aback how quickly the levels have risen. You get surprised as a coach, and when that happens you know there's been a decent improvement. We're at a good level now, and we're about to embark on another burst for the next two or three years. Football has been fully-professional (in Australia) for a number of years (since 2005), and we're now understanding what that means. There's been better recruiting, the quality is a lot better, and the quality of coaching as well. Are we ready for it (Manchester United)? I've got a gut feeling we are. That will get measured on Saturday night. I've got no doubt if not this year, the next two or three years, we'll move to another level.

Q. How important is it that the team is competitive, that it plays a decent style of football, to send the right message?

A. We've got to earn and win some respect, no doubt. The eyes of the world will be on the game for a number of reasons, if only to see how Manchester United go with their new manager (David Moyes). They'll be watching two teams, not just one. We're playing at home, so we need people walking away saying that was a good contest. That's the challenge. I said from the outset, I like these kind of challenges, I want to show people we have made progress, and I want to get some respect.

Q. You talk about the level of the Hyundai A-League, obviously there is some improvement to go. What areas, specifically, do you think we need to focus on?

A. On field we're just about getting it right in terms of the physical preparation of the players, the professionalism, there's good contrast in the way teams play. The first two or three years we knew how all the teams would play, there wouldn't be a lot of difference. Now there are differences from the coaches in the way the game is played, the different structures, which is great. I still think we don't do enough in the recruiting and scouting areas, whether it is Australian players or foreign players. We don't spend enough time and resources in getting that right. There are a lot of good young footballers who don't get A-League contracts and don't get discovered. I still think some of the imports we bring in haven't met the standard they should have. I do believe there is a hell of a lot more talent out there in terms of Australian-based players, and I'm a big believer that we need foreign players to see this as a destination of first choice rather than a destination of last resort. Once we get those two things right, we'll set a whole different standard.

Q. Let's talk about the (Foxtel All-Stars) squad you've got. Are you happy with it given it wasn't entirely your selection?

A. Again that was the uniqueness of the challenge. I didn't have the choice, which is great. You look at the footballers who are part of the squad - I've been lucky enough to coach a few of them so I get to re-connect, and there are others I've never coached but I've admired and now I get an opportunity to work with them, even if it's just a week. You look at the squad, there's a lot that can showcase what our league is about. Quality foreigners, good young Australian players, and other Australians who have been really successful in the competition. As a representative team, I think it is a good one.