A new year, and a fresh beginning could not have come at a more perfect time for the Socceroos.

Recently, the talk regarding the unrest with the FFA, and the alleged in-fighting within the Socceroos camp driven between the playing group and former coach Ange Postecoglou has been a distraction we can all do without.

Unless you’re actually inside the Socceroos camp it’s difficult to be critical, as only those around the locker room ever know the full story.

What I will say though, is I feel the players can’t be faulted – as a fan of the game, I always believed there was a strong commitment between Ange and his players.

I really do believe that they bought into the coach’s message and direction, and that the playing group never once waived from their desire to deliver on Ange’s vision.

Our World Cup qualification is a testament to that.

As such, I believe Ange has been amazing for the Socceroos, and I’m adamant he has left the national team in a better position than when he first came aboard.

Like every other fan of the game, I just want to see the team move forward from here.

As a former Socceroo myself, I feel a great sense of pride knowing we will be represented at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

For the likes of USA, Chile, Netherlands and Italy to miss out on the biggest event in world sport, and for Australia to be one of the competing nations to earn qualification, is just awesome!

It has been a tough road for our boys, but I’m confident the back-end of 2017 will have made them a more stronger and resilient group, as they set out to make us all proud throughout their 2018 campaign.

Because to be heading to Russia is a remarkable accomplishment for them.

It’s a bit like the old cliche in football – you wouldn’t be at a World Cup if you didn’t deserve to be there, so regardless of who you might be up against, just know that it’s an honour to be a competing nation.

I’m excited for all our players, and as a fan, it has been a real treat looking from the outside in.

I talk about building resilience, but it does seem as though they are a mentally sound group, and that not much really fazes them.

I’m told many of today’s Socceroos don’t allow themselves to read too much into the public commentary of what is said about their performances or expectations through the media.

For them, it’s just white noise.

I can totally attest to that.

Speaking from my personal experience, I remember the five-to-six year period in my career where I didn’t pick up a newspaper.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 17: Archie Thompson of Melbourne thanks fans as he walks off during the AFC Champions League match between the Melbourne Victory and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at AAMI Park on May 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 17: Archie Thompson of Melbourne thanks fans as he walks off during the AFC Champions League match between the Melbourne Victory and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at AAMI Park on May 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

During that time I sheltered myself from all areas of distraction, because one thing that really bothered me was the chorus of ex-players that always seemed to have a negative opinion, be it directed to my team or personal performances.

As a player, I never understood why former statesmen would do that – surely there is suppose to be some kind of players code or brotherhood where we don’t turn on each other?!?

Now as an TV analyst for Fox Sports Australia, I’ve seen the other side of it all, and now understand that former players rarely, if ever, direct personal attacks towards others.

As a media personality, your job is not to be negative, but rather to critique and to call the game exactly as you see it.

You merely ever ask questions through the broadcast, to help the viewers and fans at home understand exactly what you’re seeing.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, none of this really seems to bother today’s players, as they’ve grown accustomed to playing through the “white noise”.

I think much of the credit also has to go to Ange, as I’m sure that is something he would have encouraged his group to practice over time.

Ange can hold his head high; he worked in a very meticulous manner and never shied away from how he wanted to go about things.

Believe me, I should know.

When he took over from Holger Osieck in 2014, it was a bold decision to phase out myself, Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Sasa Ognenovski, Brett Holman and Luke Wilkshire from the Socceroos squad, as he sought to build his own identity with a younger crop of stars.

I was a bit dirty with Ange for that, as us veterans had worked hard to help Australia secure it’s qualification into the 2014 FIFA World Cup and to get the boot just before the team headed over to Brazil was extremely disappointing.

There was a period there where it was really hard to let go of the hurt. I’ve since moved on, and I never begrudge Ange for that as I believed he was doing what he thought was right and given his success in the role, he deserves all our respect for the job he held.

I can understand why he has left – he has stressed he wants to be in a week-to-week coaching role, where you don’t have to wait every six months for an international fixture.

The next coach appointed by the FFA will have every opportunity to hit the ground running, but there are a number of tough decisions that will need to be made.

Right now, I think more might need to be done to find the right balance within the team.

We have an a lot of youth in the ranks which is good, but I’m concerned we may not have as much experience as the European nations.

For me, experience and veteran leadership is invaluable for World Cup campaigns; you need those older heads setting the tone on the pitch, in the locker room and at the team hotel.

There are many questions the new coach of the Socceroos will need to find answers too, but one thing is for sure – 2018 promises to be an exciting year.

Bring it on!

Archie Thompson

Archie Thompson is a retired professional footballer who played over 50 games for the Socceroos, scoring 28 goals.

Archie featured in a number of major world tournaments including the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The former Socceroo striker holds the all time goal scoring record for a single international match, scoring 13 goals in a 31–0 victory against American Samoa in 2001.