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Tuesday, 29 July 2008 22:04

EDDIE THOMSON

The Australian soccer fraternity is in mourning after the passing of one of the greats of Australian soccer - former national team coach Eddie Thomson. Eddie passed away late last night in Sydney, aged 55, after a long and brave battle against cancer. Eddie is survived by wife Pauline and children Steven and Claire.

Eddie, who excelled both as a player and as a coach, is best known for a coaching career that included three consecutive National Soccer League Championships with Sydney City, and a lengthy tenure as National Coach (1990 - 1996) - a period that including the 1994 World Cup campaign and both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Eddie watched, and no doubt thoroughly enjoyed, the historic win over England last week by an Australian team that featured many players brought into the national team as young players under Eddie's tutelage.

EDDIE THOMSON BIOGRAPHY

Eddie Thomson was born in Rosewell, Scotland on 25 February 1947 and played as a junior at Whitehall Welfare and Penicuik Athletic. He transferred to Heart of Midlothian in 1966 and played 162 league games for Hearts until transferring to Aberdeen in 1973. He spent three years at Aberdeen, incorporating a tour to Australia with the club in 1974. After playing 253 league games over 10 years in Scotland's top division, he moved to the North American Soccer League in 1976 where he linked up with San Antonio Thunder.

In 1977, the first year of the National Soccer League, Thomson came to Australia to join Sydney City - then known as Hakoah Eastern Suburbs. Playing mainly as a defender he was a vital part of the Sydney City team which took out the inaugural NSL Championship in 1977, and also finished in the top three in the following two seasons.

In 1980 he transferred from player to coach. His talent in the coaching sphere was immediately apparent, as he took out three consecutive NSL Championships in his first three years as coach. This was an era in which the NSL Champion team was that team which finished on top of the competition table, and Sydney City's 1982 final margin of nine points ahead of second placed St George stands as the national league’s record Championship-winning margin. With Sydney City he also finished at the top of the northern division ladder in 1984 and 1985, and won the National Cup in 1986. In 1987 he moved to the Olympic Sharks, taking the club to the 1989 Grand Final before departing early in the 1989/90 season to concentrate on his national role.

Thomson’s record in his ten years as NSL coach was phenomenal. He was Coach of the Year a record three times (1981, 1984 and 1985) and won Championship honours as coach a record three times as well (1980 to 1982). His win-draw-loss tally in 272 games coached stands at 139-73-60. No other NSL coach with 100 or more games in the national league has come close to winning more than twice as many games as he lost.

His national coaching duties commenced in 1984 when he took charge of the Australia B team in a tournament against prominent overseas clubs. His first game at the helm of Australia B was a 0-0 draw against Glasgow Rangers in Melbourne. In 1985 he became assistant to head coach Frank Arok, and in 1990 he took full charge of the national team following Arok’s departure.

Thomson’s first match as national coach was against South Korea in Seoul on 6 September 1990, a 1-0 loss. Leading in to the 1994 World Cup qualifiers he gained some impressive results, including wins over 1992 European Championship semi-finalists Sweden, and a memorable 1-0 victory over the USA in Florida. In the 1994 World Cup qualifiers Australia breezed through the Oceania qualifiers and won a grueling two-legged play-off against Canada, only to meet to the might of Argentina in the final play-off. Argentina, who had made the final of the previous World Cup, was inspired by the highly publicised return of Maradona for the confrontation with the Aussies. Watched by millions around the world, Thomson’s Socceroos drew the first match 1-1 in Sydney and lost the away leg with an own goal 1-0. Despite not qualifying for WC94, Australia had shown that it could well and truly match it with the world’s most powerful nations - thanks largely to the coach who had been part of the team for the past ten years.

Thomson also assumed the coaching role of the 1992 and 1996 Australian Olympic teams. To reach the Olympics Australia needed to win Oceania and then play-off against a team from another confederation. Thomson’s Olyroos reached the semi finals in Barcelona ’92 in one of the best performances ever by an Australian team in a major finals tournament.

He left the national coach post in 1996 but not before setting the foundations for the future crop of Socceroos. In his last few games he raised eyebrows by bringing little known youngsters Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill into the senior team. He returned to the club level and coached Japanese team Sanfrecce Hiroshima for four years before returning home to Australia in 2000.


EDDIE THOMSON - 35 YEARS AT THE TOP

Playing career

1966-1973 Heart of Midlothian (Scotland First Division) - 162 games
1973-1976 Aberdeen (Scotland First Division) - 91 games
1976 San Antonio Thunder (North American Soccer League) - 19 games
1977-1980 Sydney City (National Soccer League) - 66 games

Club coaching career

1980-1986 Sydney City (National Soccer League)
1987-1989 Olympic Sharks (National Soccer League)
1996-2000 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (J-league)

National coaching career

1984 Australian B team
1985-1989 Australian senior team assistant
1990-1996 Australian senior team
1990-1996 Australian Olympic team

National Soccer League honours

As a player: two Championships (Sydney City 1977 and 1980)

As a coach: three Championships (Sydney City 1980, 1981, 1982), three times Coach of the Year (Sydney City 1981, 1984 and 1985), one National Cup (Sydney City 1986), two Grand Finals (Sydney City 1985, Olympic Sharks 1989)