MILE Jedinak on life in the English Championship with Crystal Palace.
Now that Socceroo midfielder Mile Jedinak has established himself as a regular at Championship side Crystal Palace, the former Mariner is targeting the Premier League, Brazil 2014 and the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil.
When discussions turn to players who have been A-League success stories, we are often found talking about a certain former Brisbane Roar captain now at Rangers. However, while Matt McKay sits on the fringes of the Rangers team, a former Central Coast Mariners midfielder is playing regularly in the English Championship with Crystal Palace, on the cusp of a Wembley appearance (at the time of writing) and a shot at the Premier League. Mile Jedinak, who has also established himself in the Socceroos squad in recent years (he has nine more caps than McKay), might be the biggest A-League success story ever.
The lofty 27-year-old midfield enforcer, who spent two years in Turkey at Genclerbirligi then Antalyaspor after leaving the Mariners in 2009, seems perfectly suited to the English game. Especially the robust second tier of the Championship. Palace’s last foray into the bright lights of the Premier League was the 2004/05 season, but life at the South London club, especially in the last couple of years, has focused on retaining their Championship status. However, after a stellar start to the season, Palace found themselves in the upper reaches of the Championship and knocked Manchester United out of the Carling Cup at Old Trafford. Despite falling away slightly in the league, they are only a few points shy of a play-off spot, and progressed in the Carling Cup all the way to the semi-finals.
We spoke to Jedinak directly after he provided the assist for the only goal of the game in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Cardiff. Publishing lead times do not allow us to know if the Aussie helped his side complete the job and Wembley awaits at the end of the month, but we sincerely hope so. Here the Sydney-born Socceroo chats cup runs, promotion charges and World Cup qualification for Brazil.
How is life at Palace? How are you enjoying England at the moment?
I’m really, really enjoying it. I cannot give enough praise to everyone at the club and how everything has been going. I’m just enjoying my football at the moment.
You have been working alongside a couple of Aussie coaches too in Tony Popovic and Scott Guyett – how much has it helped having fellow countrymen at the club?
It is good to have some fellow countrymen around you. I have known Poppa [Tony Popovic] for a while, so it is good to have a working relationship with him now. But the whole staff at the club have been brilliant over the past few months since I joined. Then the boys at the club have been really helpful too and made me feel welcome, which is all you can ask for when you move into a new club and new surroundings.
You also enjoyed a run to Wembley in the Carling Cup – how have you been able to step up for the cup run?
As we head into every game, the manager has his plans on how he wants to approach each match and we try to stick with that. We have our coaches there to help us work out the opposition and beat them. We have done this particularly well in the cup this season. The cup run is no fluke – everyone has pulled together for the same goal. We have capable players who are willing to trust themselves and their fellow team-mates. That gives us a good platform to win games and that has been demonstrated in this cup run.
Palace started the season well and you now find yourselves just outside of the play-off places – what is the aim at Palace this season? What would be a good season?
I am still relatively new to the club and have not experienced the last couple of years where I have been told that it has been quite difficult, and avoiding relegation was an achievement. We are so close to the play-off places now, so I would say personally that we should push for that goal. We are just over half-way through the season and if we are in a similar position come April, we will give it one final push.
How are you used at Palace? What type of role do you play?
I have become accustomed to playing in that defensive midfield role. That means linking up play and protecting the back four as best I can. Our defensive record is one of the better ones in the Championship, which is testament to the boys and what we are trying to achieve. It is good to have a solid foundation which comes from having a good defence. Sometimes our attacking may not be up to the same level, but if you can keep a clean sheet then you are going to win games. We have experienced players here, who know their roles well. Plus the guys who come in and out of the team, which is important due to how many games we play, also need to know what they should be doing based on what we practice in training.
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