Kuwait: The Socceroos may have to wait until the 2019 Asian Cup in January to learn who their new captain will be, with coach Graham Arnold set to trial the armband on a handful of experienced players.
The recent decision of captain Mile Jedinak to retire from international football has left Australia searching for long-term replacement but Arnold will not be rushed into deciding who will lead the national team, despite defender Trent Sainsbury previously being earmarked as the future captain.
Arnold will oversee his first game in charge of the Socceroos on Tuesday morning (AEDT) when Australia face Kuwait in a friendly match in the Gulf nations capital city, the first of three games in which the captaincy will be trialled before the continental tournament.
Having twice been handed the armband by former coach Bert van Marwijk, Sainsbury is eager to replace Jedinak as Australias captain but will have to prove his worth in the coming friendlies.
He is one of several experienced players selected by Arnold as part of the Socceroos leadership group, which also includes Mark Milligan, Mat Leckie, Robbie Kruse, Mat Ryan and Aaron Mooy. One of them will become the long-term captain of Australia but that wont likely be decided by Arnold until after the last of this years friendlies in preparation for the Asian Cup in January.
“Im looking to use three different captains over the next few games. I've created and worked very hard on creating a great culture within the Socceroos. I've created more of a leadership group over the last week or so because I don't control that dressing-room, I've got enough to do,” Arnold said.
Famous for his value of team culture, the former Sydney FC coach has wasted no time in creating a tighter-knit environment within the squad and is looking for the Socceroos to have several leaders rather than just one.
“I need senior players to show by example. Little things, about being on time, helping younger boys become better professionals, cleaning up dressing-rooms after training, dinner tables, the way around we deal with debutants. I am expecting to make this Socceroos a great family within the Socceroos culture," Arnold said.
"I've been doing a lot of hard work, I've got four or five players that have come in and I sit and talk around leadership. Mile and Timmy [Cahill] are great leaders but they're gone, they've finished.”
Sainsbury is one of those favoured to become the long-term captain of the Socceroos, having impressed wearing the armband in two friendlies before the 2018 World Cup, wins over Czech Republic and Hungary last June. Van Marwijk identified him as a natural leader on the field and Sainsbury is keen make that role permanent.
“Anyone who has the chance to captain their country, it's a huge honour. But this team we have so many players reaching the 25-30 cap mark and they're all leaders in their own right,” Sainsbury said. “Whoever wears the armband it's a huge honour, but everyone has a leadership role to play.
“Id like to be captain, no way around that, but everyone in this team would put their hand up. Whoever gets the job will have 23 other players behind them just as strong mentally.”
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.