Mile, to his credit, was pretty upset about leaving the team in the lurch but the door had opened for him – he had to take his chance – and while the Mariners received about $800k transfer fee, it scuppered our season. We barely limped across the line into the semis and didnae trouble the statisticians after that. And yet the team was still overjoyed for Mile.

Mind you, he found it very hard to establish himself in Turkey. Shortly after he arrived there was the dreaded ‘change of coach’ situation so Mile found himself frozen out and was sent on loan to a small club: Antalyaspor, where he played well enough to be invited back to Genclerbirligi, but by then was a free agent. He spoke to Rangers and was offered a contract but, like Wilko, knocked them back. I think he thought it might be a mistake (as a Catholic) signing for such a famously Protestant club – but even so. A second of my players had knocked back the club of my boyhood dreams and it was doing my head in!

Eventually Mile signed for Crystal Palace in the English Championship and we’ve all watched on in pride as he became captain and then led them into the Premier League. He then replaced Lucas Neill as Socceroo captain and has led Australia in a World Cup and then lifted the Asian Cup in January 2015. For his next trick he led Crystal Palace out at Wembley for the 2016 FA Cup Final against Manchester United, which was truly hair on the back of the neck time for me. Lifting the FA Cup would have to be close to the most cherished daydream of any young footballer and Mile was only 12 minutes away from doing exactly that…

He didnae get to lift the Cup but what he’s achieved in ten years is an absolute inspiration to any young bloke out there who wants to be a professional footballer. If you want it bad enough and are prepared to put in the hard work, there’s every chance you’ll get there in the end.


Extract from Political Football: Lawrie McKinna's Dangerous Truth by Adrian Deans

Adrian’s latest book The Fighting Man is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.

[1] Or ‘Mike’, as he’s known to Tony Abbott.