Who will lead the Socceroos now?
Who will lead the Socceroos now?

Socceroos to audition as skipper

IT'S a question that has only been asked once in more than a decade - but the answer isn't coming in the short term.

The retirement of Mile Jedinak opens up the Australian captaincy for the first time since he was installed just before the 2014 World Cup - and before that the last long-term incumbent, Lucas Neill, took the armband in 2007.

New Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has to choose the next senior figure to take on the role, aware it carries special significance.

But Arnold isn't about to rush into a long-term decision, despite his son-in-law, Trent Sainsbury, being seen as the obvious heir apparent to the captaincy.

Instead Arnold has established a leadership group in a squad denuded of the experience of Jedinak and Tim Cahill - a group comprising Sainsbury, Mark Milligan, Mat Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Robbie Kruse and Mathew Leckie.

Three of those will be captain in the next three games, starting with Kuwait early on Tuesday (AEDT), before a long-term skipper is chosen ahead of the Asian Cup.

 

Trent Sainsbury appears Mile Jedinak’s natural successor. (Toby Zerna)
Trent Sainsbury appears Mile Jedinak’s natural successor. (Toby Zerna)

 

"I've created more of a leadership group over the last week or so because I don't control that dressing room, I've got enough to do," Arnold said. "I need senior players to show by example.

"Little things, about being on time, helping younger boys become better professionals, cleaning up dressing rooms after training, dinner tables - all things that people from the outside think is normal but it's not."

Sainsbury's pre-eminence stems in large part from doing the job in Jedinak's absence under previous coach Bert van Marwijk.

"Anyone who has the chance to captain their country, it's a huge honour," Sainsbury said. "But in this team we have so many players reaching the 25-30 cap mark and they're all leaders in their own right.

"Whoever wears the armband it's a huge honour, but everyone has a leadership role to play. I'd like to be captain, no way around that, but everyone in this team would put their hand up.

"Whoever gets the job will have 23 other players behind them just as strong mentally."

 

Robbie Kruse has done plenty to earn respect. (Toby Zerna)
Robbie Kruse has done plenty to earn respect. (Toby Zerna)

 

For Kruse, simply being part of the leadership group is recognition for his status after 67 caps and nine years with the national team.

"I've never focused too much on being a captain," he said. "It's important that all 23 people are able to voice their opinion and that's also what Arnie's brought to the table.

"Everybody has to buy in to what the team wants to do. We've been talking internally as a team and as a staff about what we want to be known as.

"Everyone has to buy into that and if you don't, you'll find yourself on the outside. We want to create a positive culture and at the moment Arnie has done that."

 

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