Popovic shows the way forward

Should more aspiring managers follow Tony Popovic overseas to broaden their horizons?

With so few opportunities for up and coming Australian managers at home, should more of them consider the option taken by Tony Popovic of broadening their football education overseas?

The reality here is that there are only 10 Hyundai A-League clubs, and while there are a number of other opportunities across the national team scene, full time jobs in a professional environment are fairly limited.

For a budding manager, therefore, one option might be to head overseas, seeking an opportunity to not only build a career, but build a football network that can only help our game in the coming decades.

In that sense, Popovic may well be a pioneer, laying a pathway for other managers, just as the likes of Eddie Krncevic and David Mitchell did as footballers in the early 1980-s.

While it-s too early to declare Popovic the next (or first) big thing in Australian football management, by going overseas to further his education, he has given himself every chance of having a long and successful career in the toughest of football disciplines.

Make no mistake, football management is a gig that only the very brave venture into. Other words, in truth, have been used.

But by not jumping at the first opportunity, and taking gradual steps as an assistant, first at Sydney FC under Vitezslav Lavicka and now at Crystal Palace under Dougie Freedman, Popovic is giving himself every chance to succeed, broadening his football knowledge.

Last week his club featured in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi finals, and if the Eagles can hold onto their 1-0 home win over Cardiff City when they venture to Wales next week, he-ll be looking at a date with the new Wembley late next month.

In November he was at Old Trafford for the quarter final, adding the significant scalp of Sir Alex Ferguson to his CV.

From there, who knows where his career might progress? Perhaps he-ll spend years at Palace, helping take them back to the Premiership? Perhaps he-ll eventually get the major gig at the club he once captained?

Another option might be to broaden his exposure and head to Croatia, the country of his parents' birth, or to his old Japanese club Sanfrecce Hiroshima, where he spent a few seasons under the tutelage of the late Socceroos boss Eddie Thompson in the late 1990-s?

The world, after all, can be his oyster.

Or, after a few years offshore, he might jump at an opportunity to test himself back home, in The Hyundai A-League?

If he does eventually come back, either as a Hyundai A-League manager or in a national team role, he will bring back of wealth of experience, which should place him in a better position to garner success.

In the process, his adventures might encourage others to join the crusade.

Soon enough, a Socceroo or two, currently closing out their careers in Europe or Asia, might be prompted to hang around and learn their craft, before bringing their experience home.

If they have managed their playing career well, building bridges all along, then there is every chance they will be given an opportunity to prove themselves, even if it has to be in an assistant capacity for a few years.

While undoubtedly Australia, with its relaxed lifestyle, climate and balance between work and play, holds significant appeal, the reality is the football industry remains relatively small.

Often, when an opportunity is given to young managers here, they don't have the experience to control or influence the technical and broader goings-on at a club. Nor are they given the time to settle in.

Just ask Mehmet Durakovic.

Indeed, the man who took over from Durakovic at the Melbourne Victory, Jim Magilton, touched upon how tough it is to step out of a playing career into a managerial role in this revealing piece (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/apr/29/jim-magilton-football-management) for The Guardian last year.

As a football nation, Australia still has much to learn, and exporting at least a few of our talented young managers should only help bridge that gap. Certainly the likes of Han Berger and Holger Osieck might help in this regard.

We are a nation known for our love of travelling, with successful corporate workers the world over, and in time you sense there-ll be a few more Popovic-s broadening their horizons.