After over a decade of living overseas, what’s it like being back in Australia?
Lots of things have changed. Football-wise the A-League is a more professional set-up to what it was like when I left, which was the old NSL. I think there’s been big changes in the clubs and it is great to see football in this country going in the right direction. Like anything it takes time to settle in and we’re slowly adjusting to life back in Australia. We’re enjoying every minute of it though.

You had a strange lead up to the season. You had a pre-season with Blackburn Rovers and then another pre-season with Sydney. Has that affected your preparation?
It was stop-start for me. In between the start of the English Premier League season and the start of the season here it was very hectic, not in terms of football but in terms of coming from the UK back home – that took its toll. But after being here for a while now, I feel as if things have started to settle down.

When you began playing with Blackburn at the start of the season did you expect to be playing there all season? Was it a surprise Sydney move?
It was always something that interested me but it really came together suddenly. So I didn’t expect to be playing in the A-League this season but I’m glad its happened and it’s great to be at a club like Sydney. The set-up here is so professional, and I’ve come into a team filled with good guys that have made me feel comfortable and I’m enjoying training with them.

There’s been a lot of talk about your position in the Sydney squad and how you’ve spent a lot of time on the left wing.
I’ve been a very versatile player throughout my career. I’ve played in pretty much every position on the park, so to play on the left side doesn’t bother me one bit. I know people have been saying it’s not my strongest position but I feel quite comfortable there and I want to do what’s best for my team.

You missed the recent qualifiers for the Socceroos as you played in the opening round of the A-League. What has it been like watching your country from the sidelines?
Obviously I want to represent my country at every opportunity, but I thought the players who stepped in did a very good job. It goes a long way in showing that we have strength in depth and that football in this country is in safe hands. We’re in a transition stage and I think people were a little worried with the quality of players coming through, but they’ve proved in the last six months or so that we still are a very strong national team.

Do you think it was better for you to play in the A-League opening game then those two World Cup qualifiers?
Yes I think Holger [Osieck] made the right decision. Obviously I wanted to represent Sydney in that opening game – it was a big move for me. With football in Australia being the main concern I think Holger made the right choice in letting the game go ahead.

We are not sure Holger could name his first-choice 11 right now. How do the players handle the competition for places?
Everyone is handling it quite well. The competition for places has definitely stepped up a notch over the last few months and it is great to see. All of the boys get along well and we just want to do what is best for our country. Although you are always going to be disappointed when you don’t get selected for the squad, the boys handle it well and respond in a positive manner.

You now have 91 caps, making you Australia’s second most capped player ever. Have you thought about the 100?
It’s definitely in the back of my mind but I’m just taking things game by game. One hundred caps would be a great milestone to reach and hopefully I can achieve it.

It is only Schwarzer that’s in front of you at the moment. Is there any part of you that wants him to retire?!
There’s a big part of me that wants him to retire! [laughs] No, its not a competition. We joke about it between ourselves a lot but obviously reaching 100 would be a great achievement for him too. He’s a great goalkeeper and he’s still in great physical condition so I can’t see him retiring in the foreseeable future. 

In 2014 you’ll be 35 – what do you see yourself doing by then?!
Hopefully I will be playing in another World Cup! That’s the current plan but we’ll see how things progress. I’m feeling in good physical condition and I can’t see any reason why I can’t make it, but time will tell. It would be a great achievement to make it to a third World Cup. Both Germany and South Africa were very special times in my career.

What would stop you? Is it a physical thing?
You have to be in good physical shape and be playing good football to be selected. Not only that but you need to still have that drive and passion to play. So hopefully my body holds up and I make it because it would be a great achievement. Making a third World Cup would be even better than reaching 100 caps.

This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Australian FourFourTwo magazine. To buy back copies of this issue call 03-8317-8121 with a credit card to hand.

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