It’s 20 years this week when the Socceroos drew 2-2 with Iran at the MCG and missed out on France 98 when they lost a two-goal lead. Then Socceroo Australia chief David Hill tells us in his own words the story of the Iran heartbreak.
The fall out
When the game ended, Iran qualified for France 98 on away goals. I’ve never seen a worse scene in sport. Alex Tobin ,who was a very presentable captain, was just not physically capable of getting to the press conference. Now the FIFA rule is the coach and the captain have to attend, but Tobin couldn’t do it. It was awful so I sat next to Venables and all he could say was, ‘gutted, I’m gutted.’I was saying ‘that’s football’ – which didn’t help. People wanted more than that. They wanted pain. They wanted blood. They wanted recrimination. I underestimated how upset people were.
But that ranks as failure. That’s what happens in World Cup bids. You sack the coach but I though bugger it. Everyone wanted to see some drastic response. Everybody wanted me to sack Venables but I thought he was fantastic for Australia and I wasn’t going to do that. All the established football fraternity wanted some sacrificial bloodletting, but I just thought, bugger it, Venables was too good for Australia.
But getting Venables changed everything. It rewrote the rules. Up until then we always got an Australian coach and I quoted in the book what I said to the press at the time – "if we can get the best coach in the world why wouldn’t we?" We have to get a local coach when we could have the best in the world? That changed the attitude completely. The big difference was we got Venables cheap - for only $200,000 pounds which is exactly what he got coaching England. England coaches now cost millions of pounds and so do Australian coaches.
As told to Con Stamocostas.