The Son Heung-Min gag that showed another side of Postecoglou

KEEPUP has been in Perth following Tottenham’s pre-season tour with West Ham. David Weiner paints a picture of the mood ahead of the Australian’s first game in charge.

As Ange Postecoglou spoke, Son Heung-Min kept nodding vociferously. 

Play good football. Prove yourself in the Premier League. Training has been good. Every day is an opportunity to improve. Produce a team that plays football that gives us success. 

If press conferences are a barometer for the dressing room, then each one of Ange Postecoglou’s messages were greeted with an endorsement from his South Korean superstar.

“It’s been fantastic,” Son enthused.

“We met for the first time in 2015, we lost against Australia, so it wasn’t the best. But I could see that time as well, they were playing fantastic. I’m really looking forward to playing under our gaffer.

“The training has been fantastic, everyone has looked really sharp and really, really happy. Everyone is working really, really hard so I’m looking forward to it.” 

As the attacker, back from a season crippled by injury, spoke about first encountering his new boss back the 2015 Asian Cup, Postecoglou’s grin grew broadly.

Arm around the shoulder, pat on the back; the theatre was in full swing. 

As far as football press conferences go in Australia, Monday’s Tottenham press conference was box office, a packed gallery of local football and mainstream media football coverage, with a travelling gaggle from the UK, including Sky Sports, The Athletic, Football.London, and more. 

Questions about Harry Kane bordered on an inquisition, batted away by Postecoglou, continuing his mantra of it not bothering him, personally, and that he needs to get on with the job and needs to focus on the team, not any individual. 

These are the moments Postecoglou stamps his mark on a curious, inquisitive travelling press pack, and intrigued supporter group across the planet. 

He was effusive, but honest discussing Hugo Lloris’ looming and likely departure, for example, showing respect for his contribution, but a nod to a new era. Within the myriad of questions about his journey, the surreal coincidence of his first game being in Australia and reflecting on his wildly successful journey, he also provided a reminder of the laser focus he is bringing to his role in the Premier League. 

“It only happens if you are totally focused on what is in front…and working hard,” he said about taking stock of his new reality and the journey over the his career.

“I have a great responsibility. It is a massive football club with following all around the world, it has a glorious history and when you take a position you are excited but understand there is a massive responsibility to bring success here. 

“That allows you to be pretty narrow minded. 

“There will be times for reflection and it is great to share with those closest to you but ultimately it is about the task at hand.”

Part of rolling up the sleeves has been taking training at Perth’s famous WACA Ground, which had a special scoreboard message for the Australian welcoming him home. A nice touch, for an avid sports fan, who has just taken in The Ashes, and Wimbledon, while juggling his new project and relocating his family to London. 

“I’ve been working as well,” he quipped. 

“Great to do a couple of things on the bucket list, when they’re on your door step.

“Pretty blessed growing up in Australia, particularly me in Melbourne, best of most codes right on my doorstep.

“Being in London, that’s the beauty of it at this time of year; I enjoyed the days, both great days, and gave me the chance to switch off momentarily.” 

When switched back on, the to-do list is immense.

That includes a critical plunge into the transfer market, focusing as much on the inbound traffic as the speculation as to who will depart. 

Postecoglou has had to master the transfer market in each of his previous roles – 10 years ago, it was within a salary cap environment. He has always had to be resourceful and shrewd, and in the relative riches of the Premier League, albeit under the notoriously ruthless management of Daniel Levy, those lessons will once again prove useful. 

“It’s all kind of relative – I’ve said that before. People are – not dismissive – but they think success at a lower level is something easier than at a high level,” he explained.

“But you’re always competing against comparable competitions. Every time I’ve moved, it’s allowed me to work with a different type of player, a different level of player, and it’s fair to say it’s the same here.

“I have access to some fantastic footballers here at the club that I can work with and hopefully try and develop, we can bring in some quality players – but so can every other Premier League club. So from that perspective it’s just about trying to do what I do in the best manner possible to make us competitive. 

“In terms of the kind of players we bring in, for me it’s still a big thing of the kind of person they are, then the kind of player. The world is full of fantastic footballers, it’s whether they fit into the kind of game they want to play, and people whether they fit into the environment I want to create.”

So far, that has included James Maddison, Manor Solomon and Guglielmo Vicario. 

“Great to get Manor in, someone who was identified pretty early; people are well aware of the way I set my teams up and those attacking positions, especially the wide attacking positions are really important 

“I look for players who have those characteristics.

“He is a young guy, really ambitious, I love working with players who have a great desire and fire in the belly to achieve, the same way Sonny wants to show people what he is about at a Premier League level, bringing guys in like Manor, and Madders, the three guys we have brought in have aded that energy. 

“I am sure he will contribute, learn, develop, he has some fantastic role models at the club to learn off; I am sure he will be a good contributor for us.”

Amidst the questions about a new era, came the inevitable discussions about the landscape he has played such an indelible part in shaping, and which is in one of the biggest weeks, and then month, it has ever experienced.

He continues to open doors and change perceptions for Australians with his success abroad; the Matildas could change everything in the month ahead.  

But he’s stood on this precipice before. 

“It’s where it has been a lot of times – and hopefully this time (Australian football) takes advantage of it,” he said, matter of factly.

That destiny is now for others to capitalise on, and to learn from lessons of the past, most notably in 2015, a missed opportunity to build on the Socceroos’ Asian Cup triumph, a platform Postecoglou hoped would change the game in the country. It did not.

For now, there is one future Postecoglou can control. 


Arms folded, eagle eyed, watching everything like always; Postecoglou returns to the centre of the training field to change the course of a club’s history. From there, again, so too might a nation’s.