As Football Australia looks to capitalise on the momentum generated by Australia’s 2022 FIFA World Cup exploits, defender Kye Rowles said confirmation of another four-year term for Graham Arnold would be just reward for the once-maligned orchestrator of the Socceroos’ success.
FA chief James Johnson will make an announcement on Arnold’s future before the end of January, with his reappointment looking set in stone pending any late surprises.
Scotland-based Rowles, a revelation alongside Harry Souttar as Australia reached the last 16 in Qatar, is watching with interest from afar, anticipating an extension of the Arnold era.
“He’s created a great family environment around the Socceroos and has been an awesome head coach,” Rowles said. “Tactically he set us up perfectly at the World Cup - the substitutions were always on point - and the game plans were spot on. It’s a massive hats off to everybody involved.
“We’ve struck up a good balance and that’s because of Arnie creating that culture of ‘we’re all in it together’.
“We’ve got a good platform to build on ahead of (next January’s) Asian Cup and the 2026 qualifiers, and hopefully we can start contesting for trophies.”
Belying his seven caps, Rowles has risen at warp speed to confound expectations and confirm the shrewd judgement of Arnold and his assistant Rene Meulensteen.
“I’ve only been involved a short time but I’ve loved every minute - and all the boys who’ve been with Arnie over the last four years plus only have good things to say about him,” he said. “I’m immensely appreciative of the opportunity he gave me - he’s backed a lot of the boys who came through from the Olyroos and hopefully we’ve all repaid that trust. Things couldn’t have gone much better really.
“It says a lot on how far we’ve come, and the belief we’ve built, that when we lost 2-1 to Argentina we were all devastated.
“If you’d said before the tournament we’d get beaten by the eventual winners, you might say ‘fair enough’.
“But the fact we were so upset and angry, and thought we’d let an opportunity slip, speaks volumes on how this group has evolved and ambition we have.
“It’s a promising sign for the future - there are no egos and we’re all moving in the same direction.”
The Hearts centre-back played all four games at the World Cup - enhancing his own reputation with each match to vindicate the trust Arnold placed in him during the qualification playoffs against UAE and Peru.
“For me, playing at the World Cup has built the confidence to go up against the top players in the world and opened my eyes to the fact that if you make one mistake, or given them half a metre of space, they’ll punish you,” he said. “It makes you understand the whole concept of focusing for 95 minutes and beyond. I think that’s what hit home the most, just never switching off for a second.”
While all the talk has been of Souttar’s likely transition to the Premier League, Rowles, 24, made his own statement on the level his own talent might take him.
He’s happy in the Scottish Premiership after arriving last July from Central Coast Mariners on a three-year deal, easing seamlessly into the Jumbos’ starting line up to make a deep impression at Tynecastle Park, despite an injury setback which had him scrambling to be fit for the World Cup.
“When you’re a young kid you always want to get into the top leagues in Europe,” he said.
“It’s been a nice jump from the A-League to here and I’m just focused on finishing the season strongly and seeing if we can make a push for second spot.
“Hearts have given me a massive opportunity and I want to repay them for that. Whatever happens in the future happens.
“You always dream big and want to push yourself as far as you can go, and leave no stone unturned.
“When it’s all said and done you don’t want to look back and have any regrets.”
Rowles helped Hearts keep a clean sheet in the 3-0 Edinburgh derby win over Hibernian, and will be in action on Saturday night against fellow Socceroos stars Keanu Baccus and Ryan Strain when the side travels to St Mirren.
Hearts’ own Socceroos contingent - which also includes midfielder Cameron Devlin and right back Nathaniel Atkinson - could imminently jump to four, with Newcastle United new boy Garang Kuol in the Scottish capital to discuss a loan move.