Socceroos praise influence of coach Graham Arnold

The Socceroos are basking in the glory of defying the odds to qualify for their fifth successive World Cup finals tournament.Socceroos defender Bailey Wright had a stinging message for the team’s knockers after Australia qualified for a fifth successive World Cup with a dramatic 5-4 penalty shootout win over Peru.“To all (those) who wrote us off – put that in your pipe and smoke it,” Wright said from Qatar.“It doesn’t feel any better than shutting people up.”A perceived lack of support for the team and its coach Graham Arnold was a huge motivating factor for the Socceroos on their qualification journey.It also strengthened the bond between Arnold and his players, who seemed willing to do anything for their coach.Socceroos goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, who replaced captain Mat Ryan in the dying stages of Tuesday morning’s qualifier specifically for the penalty shootout, praised Arnold’s “man-management”.“He said we didn’t get much support from back home, but we knew as a group, as a cohort, the job that was ahead of us, what was on the line,” said Redmayne, who saved Alex Valera’s penalty to seal Australia’s berth in this year’s World Cup in Qatar.“This camp has been outstanding. The level has really gone up a couple of notches. That’s down to ‘Arnie’, and the belief and respect he gives to the players.“The people external to this group don’t see the work and the love and the passion that Arnie puts into every single player that comes into camp and puts on that green and gold shirt for every game we get the chance to play.“Every player that has been a part of this qualification phase will say the same thing. He makes everyone feel so welcome and so at home within this group.”Arnold said he wasn’t bothered by the “doubters”.“It is these boys I care for, it’s the game I care for, and I do it for my family,” the triumphant coach said.“(I’m) so proud of the players … no one knows what those boys have been through to get to here.“No one in Australia gave us a chance.”Football Australia’s support for Arnold wasn’t always evident, with its decision to embarrass the national coach by fining him $25,000 for going for a quick swim at Narrabeen Beach – on medical advice – while in self-isolation in March.“For two camps I had Covid – I didn’t even train the players,” Arnold said.“I’m accountable for the results but my style is … doing things face-to-face, and being on the training pitch with (the players), and working them, and getting the best out of them.“Trying to talk to players on Zoom meetings – it’s not my style. I didn’t like it at all.“There were times when I nearly walked away … but the only reason I didn’t walk away is because of the players.”Originally published as Socceroos’ successful World Cup qualifying campaign was fuelled by proving the knockers wrong