- Yokohama F. Marinos end long J.League title drought
- Ange Postecoglou helped turned around club’s fortunes
- Former Australia World Cup coach reinvented team’s philosophy
It has taken 15 years but Japan’s second most successful club, Yokohama F. Marinos, has finally returned to the J.League summit. A 3-0 win over second-placed FC Tokyo in front of a sell-out 63,000 crowd at Japan’s largest stadium sealed the championship in the weekend's final round.
The city of Yokohama were celebrating their fourth league title on Saturday, but there was no mistaking who was the central figure in the club’s resurrection.
Banners of coach Ange Postecoglou were a familiar sight among the supporters with the Australian becoming an unlikely cult figure, not only for helping turn around the club’s fortunes, but for the style in which it was done. Postecoglou’s first season at the club was mired in a relegation battle before an eventual 12th-place finish.
But, much like Postecoglou’s time at Brisbane Roar, the early days proved to be a building block for latter success. The Roar won two successive championships, including a remarkable 36-match unbeaten run, after a rocky start to the coach’s tenure.
So too, it was the case at Yokohama. In recent months, the side became an unstoppable force going 11 league matches unbeaten, including ten wins.
But it wasn’t just the results that turned heads. Postecoglou’s mantra remains unchanged regardless of the shirt’s emblem. It is not for nothing that Postecoglou's Brisbane side earned the moniker 'Roarcelona'.
A high-pressing, possession-based brand of attacking football built around self-belief, duly delivered dividends for Yokohama, who ended the season as the league’s highest scoring team by some margin.
Postecoglou oversaw the Socceroos' Russia 2018 qualification, having led them to a maiden AFC Asian Cup in 2015 and a subsequent appearance in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. He also coached hometown club South Melbourne at the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in 2000.
“Everywhere I’ve gone there’s a bedding-in process, because we kind of do things a little bit differently,” Postecoglou said.
“We’ve had some ups and downs along the way (this season). But nowhere near as bad as last year. And the last two months, it’s really the players driving it now, they’re really enjoying our football, we’re scoring goals and there’s a real belief.
"There’s a real appreciation for what we’re doing. Within the club the players are loving playing like we are, the supporters are loving it, but also other clubs here in the J.League, (and) people following football are really enjoying it, and for me that’s the greatest satisfaction.”
For Postecoglou, it marks a significant personal achievement as the only Australian coach to win a major men’s foreign league championship. Fellow Melbourne-raised coach Joe Montemurro took Arsenal to the FA Women’s Super League title last season.
Postecoglou will now have the opportunity to test his side at continental level next year. Tokyo FC and third-placed Kashima Antlers also sealed spots in the 2020 AFC Champions League play-offs.