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The second of these games against Greece, in Melbourne, will be my first as a Socceroo back in my hometown. So that’ll be nice. Against England last weekend, we showed what we’re capable of. In an ideal world we would have won that game with that performance.
The video analysis we do with the Socceroos is some of the most detailed I’ve ever done. I wasn’t involved before, but from the sound of it, things are much more professional now, under Ange Postecoglou. And much more enjoyable as well. Everyone enjoys playing for him. Everyone enjoys coming into camp. He’s got that full respect, and everyone has bought into his system. He trusts his players. And he trusts that you understand what’s expected of you. If you don’t, he lets you know.
Every country we visited in the first round of our World Cup qualifiers threw up a different challenge. Jordan was a tough place to go, and they caused a bit of an upset against us. Bangladesh was eerie, because we pretty much just flew in, played that game, and headed straight back to the airport.
Security was really massive, with a few things going on in the country, a few threats. It was one of the strangest feelings I’ve had as a player. In Kyrgyzstan, there were people just flooding into the stadium, over the back of the stands. There were so many people around the stadium that it made it difficult for us to leave.
For the Tajikistan game, we didn’t have a toilet. So our kit man, Dom, had to cut a hole in a plastic seat for anyone who wanted to, you know, sit down. Yeah, it was a good laugh. These are the things you face when you go to these countries that don’t have the same kind of facilities we do. And that was the game Millsy [Mark Milligan] copped a big dollop of Deep Heat to his eye just before kick-off. He couldn’t see for a couple of minutes.
We’re going to visit some nice countries in the next stage of qualifiers – and some different ones. The game against Iraq is going to have to be relocated obviously, so that one will be interesting. We’ve got some good tough games there, which we’ll prepare for and are looking forward to. None stand out as much as Japan. That’ll be a great test and a good game for us.
I was 16 when I left Melbourne for Preston North End. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I loved it from day one. I was living in a house with 19 other youth team boys, and it was probably the best year-and-a-half of my life. There’d be a few fights here and there, but living together makes you a strong team on and off the pitch, and we won the youth league and we won the reserve league with that team. It was a recipe for success.
From day one, people here were asking me about Socceroo great Joe Marston, and if I knew him. Because they think Australia is tiny. He is a legend here in Preston, one of the club’s greats. [Marston played about 200 games with North End.] He was a centre-half [defender] like myself, and had a lot of success here. To be linked with a name like that has been great. His reputation at the club has helped me, I think.
I’m 23 now, and the longest-serving player at the club – by quite a lot. I’ve seen a lot of players come and go at Preston, and I’ve had five or six managers [coaches] since I’ve been here. That’s just the way football is now, clubs chop and change all the time.
Leicester winning the Premier League can make a lot of others believe. All their players bought into their manager’s style – call it long ball or whatever you want, but Leicester perfected it. Their possession stats weren’t the highest, but they’ve got quite a bit of pace up front, scored plenty of goals and were enjoyable to watch. And you can see that the boys get along with each other, on and off the pitch. We’ve got a former Leicester lad here, and he says it’s a similar vibe to what we have at our place.
• AFL: Hawthorn v Melbourne
Saturday, 1.45pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground
• Soccer friendlies: Matildas v New Zealand
Saturday, 3pm (AEST), Morshead Park Stadium, Ballarat
Socceroos v Greece
Saturday, 8pm (AEST), ANZ Stadium, Sydney
• Tennis: French Open finals
Saturday and Sunday, Roland Garros, Paris
• NRL: Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers
Sunday, 4pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
• Badminton: 2016 Australian Badminton Open
June 7-12, Sydney Olympic Park
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 4, 2016 as "All around the world".
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