focus on a-league

Heart-ening objectives

March 3, 2010
By John Iannantuono
(Archive)

I'm going out on a limb and declaring that John van 't Schip is going to be a hit on the Australian football scene next season.

GettyImagesJohn van 't Schip will lead his side in 2010-11.

Big call, I know. Foolish? Perhaps. Getting a little too excited after being sold his football vision (which is quite refreshingly impressive, mind you) during a catch-up during the week? Probably.

I dare say, however, that I won't be the only one singing his praises over his brand of football by the end of the 2010-11 A-League campaign. So, why the admiration? The plaudits? Simple: his football philosophy.

I remember how impressed I was when I first met van 't Schip and listened to how he liked football to be played. It was during his unveiling as Melbourne Heart's inaugural A-League coach. He spoke softly, claiming his desire to have a team keeping possession, playing attractive football and exuding an attacking flair while maintaining balance and discipline in defence. "The Dutch way," he said at the time.

His comments were a breath of fresh air. Some sceptics would attest to the fact that his words are only that: words. And they'd be right. For all we know, van 't Schip's spin could give that of cricketer Shane Warne a run for its money. However, you actually believe what van 't Schip is putting out there, rather than rolling your eyes like you do when Ernie Merrick says his team played fantastically well and created a host of chances when they clearly did not.

I met van 't Schip again during the week, some four months after the first encounter. Since our last meeting, van 't Schip has had time to understand the characteristics of the league, its players, and of course, his coaching counterparts. If you thought Sydney FC's disciplined approach or Victory's attacking strengths have forced van 't Schip to stray from his initial ideologies, that's far from the case.

"We want to do it our way and not by looking to the others, because that's their own decision, so we want to do it our way," van 't Schip tells me. "I think if you can keep that philosophy, that vision, then you will get a culture in your club that will go on for years. I think that is important for a football club when you start, especially as we are starting. You have to be clear in those things and don't step away from it when things maybe are not going the way you all thought. They are important things and within that vision players will fit or will not fit."

The philosophy that van 't Schip will endeavour to instil in his players is one that is largely foreign to the Australian footballer. Through no fault of their own, Australian players have traditionally not understood the value of possession, the ball, or good technique. Fundamentally, it's directly attributed to coaches consulting the wrong manual.

"The players have to have technique and they have to play in the philosophy of a team," van 't Schip adds. "You can be a good player, but the team is always bigger than the individual. All of those things are the philosophy of a big team because you cannot win games only by having two good players. That's how they have to play and I think that's the only way results can be achieved."

Essentially, van 't Schip will be changing the mindset of a number of players. But in doing so, he'll also be contributing to changing the mindset of a culture that was fooled into believing athleticism and strength alone were core characteristics necessary to become a footballer.