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Heart closing in on naming new coach

MELBOURNE Heart will name the successor to John van 't Schip early next week with board members still agonising - publicly at least - over the choice between assistant coach Ante Milicic and youth team mentor John Aloisi.

There is no doubt that from a public relations and marketing point of view, former Socceroo striker Aloisi would be a winning choice.

He is far better known than Milicic and might, at least initially, cut through in an environment dominated by the AFL and where Melbourne Victory makes the most noise where soccer is concerned.

While Aloisi's playing experience is almost unequalled in Australia - he is the only Australian to have played in Italy's Serie A, Spain's La Liga and the English Premier League - his coaching experience is minimal, running Heart's youth team this season.

Milicic has a much broader coaching portfolio, having worked with the Heart's senior team during its set-up period as well as in its first two seasons as van 't Schip's assistant: in the first year he shared the role with former Ajax and Manchester United winger Jesper Olsen, in the second year he was the Dutchman's sole No. 2.

He has also worked with the nation's elite juniors through the AIS soccer program.


Both men are said by several insiders to have interviewed extremely well and both have good relations with the players. The appointment of either would fit with Heart's aim of ''growing its own'' to produce players as well as coaches.

But there are other factors at play.

Given Milicic's experience, and the fact he is from western Sydney, he could be a target for the A-League's newest franchise.

His friend Tony Popovic, with whom he came through the juniors at Sydney United, is assistant manager at Crystal Palace in England and has been touted as part of the West Sydney management team. Would Milicic, if overlooked in Melbourne, take up any offer to work back in his home city?

How might it look if Aloisi, with such limited coaching experience, was given the nod over Milicic? Would the latter's authority be undermined if a colleague who on paper looks less qualified than him was preferred?

Both men are young -Milicic 38, Aloisi 36 - and the Heart is likely to be a way station on a long coaching road. But the pressure will be on next season, with the cross-town rival having the pin-up boy of Australian coaching, Ange Postecoglou, in the dugout.