Western Sydney Wanderers and Socceroos defender Matthew Spiranovic supports coach Tony Popovic pursuing a managerial role in Europe.
Speaking on Tuesday in Melbourne where he joined the national squad in preparation for the Asian Cup, Spiranovic said Popovic compared favourably with any coach he had played under in a career that has included stints in Germany and Japan.
While Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew now appears to be in the box seat to take the Crystal Palace position left vacant after Neil Warnock was sacked, Spiranovic believes that it was inevitable that Popovic – who had been linked with the Palace job – would one day end up in a similar role.
“It’s a huge accolade to be chased by a Premier League side, and knowing Popa, how ambitious he is, I’m sure he wants to take his coaching to the next level,” Spiranovic said.
“I put Popa at the very top of the list when it comes to coaches I’ve played under. I think the sky’s the limit for him. I think it’s a matter of time before he moves to better things.”
Spiranovic, 26, said he would be entirely understanding if such a day arose.
“Of course,” he said. “As a player you strive to reach the highest levels and if the right opportunity came my way, I’d have to consider it.”
It has been a whirlwind few months for the Wanderers, who anchor the bottom of the A-League table without a victory, a stark contrast to their Asian Champions League triumph. Spiranovic could not put his finger on the reason for the side’s malaise but believed it was not the pay dispute that marred the recent trip to Morocco for the Club World Cup.
“I don’t want to associate the pay dispute things with our performances because we wanted to make sure that that sort of stuff didn’t relate to our football and our performances,” he said. “That was very clear from both the players and the coaching staff that mentally we wanted to be switched on. I don’t think that affected us at all.”
He conceded that the immense amount of travel the team had endured had probably contributed to their poor form.
“People like to say that European teams play 40-plus games a year, but they don’t have 23 players and a salary cap. I think we have faced numerous challenges along the way, and we’ve overcome a lot of them, so that’s why people struggle to find the reason why [form is poor].”
“I think it’s only a few small details that we need to change and I think we’ll start turning those results our way.
“Everyone’s still very determined. Everyone wants to achieve things. We still are striving for a title at the end of the season.”
Spiranovic is an old hand within the Socceroos group, as one of just a handful of survivors from the 2011 Asian Cup. He missed out on minutes during that tournament, but was a key cog in this year’s World Cup in Brazil. Having overcome an ankle injury that kept him away from international duty since that tournament, Spiranovic is looking forward to the chance to play on home soil, believing that Ange Postecoglou’s team is in better shape than it was then.
“I think the team’s spent more time together. There’s been more a lot more time to work on things and improve, and we’ve seen that in some of the friendly games we’ve had since the World Cup.”
“You take a lot of belief and confidence out of a World Cup, especially when you feel like you can match it with some of the best in the world.”
He allayed any concerns that his injury was still troubling him.
“I’m feeling really good. Since I had the operation it’s been pretty much smooth sailing. My return was in the ACL final and I haven’t had any real problems since. I’m feeling better each week.”
“I didn’t have the perfect pre-season. I was coming back, doing my rehab with my ankle. But now I have 10 or so games under my belt, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
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