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Mark Milligan on Ange Postecoglou, Fox Football podcast, latest as former Socceroos coach linked to Celtic

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It was four years ago but Mark Milligan won’t ever forget.

2017. World Cup playoff qualifier. Syria the opponent. Hopes of going to Russia as uncertain as they’d ever been.

The tie was delicately poised at 1-1 after the first leg.

Ange Postecoglou, not a cell of his being carrying a hint of pragmatism, wants his players to go after it.

So Milligan stares at the white board. Listens to the coach. Postecoglou has him at the base of midfield, with little cover. There are three attacking midfielders. Who the hell plays a game like this with three number tens?!

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There are, controversially, three centre backs. But two of them can creep forward if need be. Milligan was the lone defensive midfielder. Madness! If Syria counter attack, he’d be in a knife fight with half a broomstick.

Milligan took a big gulp. But then settled. Postecoglou had infused a state of mind that immediately put doubt in an incinerator.

“Felt like he’d just taken you out to sea and dropped you on an island,” Milligan recalls.

“But that is that unwavering belief that he creates. Naturally you do have those doubts and then you go in for your talk before the game and you look at the boys around and you think ‘well he’s not steered me wrong so far, so I need to go with this’.”

Milligan went out and promptly got knocked off the ball, the Syrians counter attacked and scored. Those hopes of Russia even more uncertain than they’d ever been.

Brad Smith, playing as a wing back, went down. And of course, Postecoglou doubled down. Not sure if Ange plays blackjack, but if so, he’d be the type to ask for another card on 19.

Against Syria, for a wing back, he threw on Aaron Mooy. An attacking midfielder! And the result eventually worked out. Australia won 2-1. Mooy picked out Robbie Kruse who found Tim Cahill for the winner.

“Ange is so strong in his beliefs about how the game should be played, he had a presence about the players but you sort of have no choice but to buy in to what he’s saying,” Milligan told the Fox Football Podcast.

“And once you do buy in, and start to get the results that backs it up. Right wrong or otherwise you can’t help but go on that ride with him.”

Arnie talks new start with Socceroos | 01:04

Celtic and Scottish football may find out soon enough, should the rumours be true and Postecoglou ends up in the middle of the Parkhead furnace. Milligan will be watching, Australian football too. How this style translates to an environment where winning is on a par with breathing is open for interpretation.

In the meantime, Milligan is about to go down his own coaching path, retired as a player as soon as this A League season is done.

He won’t be an Ange mark two, but does take a lot from the coach he describes as shaping him as a player, especially when it comes to expanding what they know they are capable of.

“You see it with all the best coaches that I’ve had, they just have that ability to make you believe that what they are telling, it is the best way to go about your football. The good ones couple that with results and performances and you don’t look back. “

Oddly enough, Milligan says he learnt plenty from the man who took over from Postecoglou,

Bert van Marwijk. Oddly enough, because the distance between the football philosophies between Ange and Bert is best measured in light years.

Milligan opens up on retirement | 05:32

Bert never made it to Australia, and the World Cup in Russia didn’t work out results wise.

Yet Milligan soaked in plenty from their time together.

“I took a lot from Bert and (his assistant) Mark van Bommel and it was a different side of the game. Just to see how they went about the defensive side of things and the way they saw it growing and changing, and to have that in a World Cup situation where you have it 24 hours a day, I took a lot from that.”

Milligan has built up a big block of football data, collected through 80 appearances for the Socceroos, at four clubs in the A league and time with clubs in Japan, China, England, Scotland and the UAE.

His coaching career starts soon. Fascinating to see where it takes him.

Wonder how many players he’ll take out to sea and drop on an island?

Listen now to the Fox Football Podcast where Mark Milligan describes his time in football, from the best moments to the best characters and what the future holds for him.

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