As Japanese and Asian football continues to stir to life following its COVID-19-enforced shutdown, Ange Postecoglou is approaching the coming months with a simple - and familiar for those that know him - mantra: win everything.
The J.League was able to complete just a single game prior to its shutdown in February, with Postecoglou’s and his side’s title-defence commencing under less than ideal circumstances when they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Gamba Osaka.
That defeated followed on from a penalty shootout loss to Andrés Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe in the Japanese Super Cup and wins over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Sydney FC in the Asian Champions League.
But with COVID-19 related restrictions easing in Japan, Postecoglou and his Yokohama F Marinos are getting set to resume their domestic campaign under what they hope to be much different circumstances to how it ended when they take on Urawa Red Diamonds in Saitama on July 4.
With it having been almost five months between competitive hit-outs for Marinos, the former Socceroos boss has been watching on eagerly as leagues such as the Bundesliga, K-League and Premier League have all returned to action in recent weeks, and the 45-year-old is itching to be a part of it.
“It’s been six months where football has been a secondary concern with what’s been going on around the world,” Postecoglou told the-AFC.com.
“For all of us, it’s been a period of time where we’ve really had to face some challenges as a society and, inevitably, it’s been impacting on our own little world and football’s been part of that.
“We’re starting off again and it’s been great to see the Korean league and the Bundesliga and others starting already and you can see the relief that football’s being played again. I’m grateful that we’ve got a start date now because that gives players focus.”
While some leagues such as Vietnam have already been able to welcome fans back into stadiums for their domestic competitions – something the A-League is investigating as part of its efforts to re-start the suspended competition in July – the J.League is initially set to return without spectators as part of COVID-19-related mitigation efforts.
This alien environment, a sample of which they received earlier in the season, will likely compound the challenges that await players and coaches alike when they return; the Japanese top-flight targeting to have its full, 34-game home and away season concluded just before Christmas.
“I can see now players can’t wait to get started and play games,” Postecoglou said.
“Obviously we’ll have a busy schedule, but I don’t think anybody will complain about it from a playing perspective because they’re just so keen to get back to what they love again.
“Playing behind closed doors will be something a little different, but hopefully it’s not too long before people can come to the stadiums.
“If nothing else this will reignite what’s really important - the things you’re really passionate about - because sometimes with things like sport and football, which is such a passionate game, you can lose track of why you love it so much. That joy of being in a stadium and playing the game, whether you win, lose or draw. Just that experience. We’ll all appreciate it once it’s all back up and running.”
On top of managing the load that comes with competing in a compressed domestic season, Postecolgou in 2020 will also be tasked with delivering to Marinos something that the club has never accomplished: progression out of the group stages of the Asian Champions League.
Three times in the past have Marinos found themselves competing in Asia’s premier continental club competition in the past but each time, the most recent being in 2014, the club has failed to progress to knockout football.
But Postecoglou, being Postecoglou, isn’t content simply with targeting a progression beyond Group H of the 2020 iteration.
“I want to win everything I'm in,” he told the-AFC.com.
“That’s the nature of the beast. I really like my team to play a particular kind of football and then success comes from that and the AFC Champions League is going to let us see how that stacks up against the other teams in the region. Can we do it away from home, in different countries and in different conditions? That’s the challenge.
“You want to win everything. I’ve had success in my career because everything I’ve been in I want to make sure the teams I coach are successful.
"The AFC Champions League is no different. It’s a chance for us to showcase what we do and show that the way we play our football can be successful in a different environment. And when everything gets up and running that’s what I’ll endeavour to do.”