Keisuke Honda got teammate Lawrence Thomas to stay back after training to polish up the keeper's performance and teach him how to play out from the back.
Melbourne Victory had a slow start to the season, but are now second on the table after six games. They are coming off a 4-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, but still need to improve, according to Honda.
Today Thomas revealed the former AC Milan and Japan international doesn't hold back about giving his teammates feedback and advice.
“I don’t need to say too much about the bloke, his career before speaks for itself,” Thomas said today.
“I think it was maybe the third or fourth round in - he came to me after training, maybe two days after a game – and he said, ‘Lawrence, I want to meet you after training and go through some of your options with playing out from the back’.
“We stayed behind for an hour and he talked me through some of the options I should be looking for, what to play. He just has a real passion for the game and he’s incredibly disciplined. I think everyone in the club can pick his brain a bit and really learn how to get to that top level.”
Thomas also said Honda was a workaholic off-the field.
“His English in particular - I asked him how his English has improved so quickly and he said he wakes up at 5.00am and does two hours of English,” he said.
“He could probably write a better essay or speech than I can. You see him every day and he’s in at the same time, doing his work before and after training.
“The day after the game, he comes and does his stuff. I don’t think you get to that level of what he’s done in the day without being consistent and having pride in what you do.
“It sets a great example for the young boys and for myself as well. He’s setting standards everywhere at the club and also on the weekend.
“He gives his feedback when needed and he tends to see, because he’s played at such a high level, he’s sees bigger pictures that maybe I don’t see that early, playing out from the back.
“Maybe he’s seen something that I didn’t and after that set’s done, he’ll say look for this pass or look for this a bit earlier. He’s like that all over the field. Respectful in a really disciplined way. I can’t say enough about him and the impact he’s having at this club.”
It is the Asian Cup next month and Thomas is still hopeful of a call up as a third-choice Socceroos goalkeeper for Graham Arnold.
Thomas has never been a part of the Socceroos camp, but in-form A-League glovesmen have frequently made Socceroos squads in the past.
“I finished last year on quite a high note, I’ve been fairly happy with my performances this year,” he said.
“At a club like ours, you don’t have too much to do in games, but when you do, you have to be sharp and clean with your actions.
“I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, working hard with Jess Vanstrattan (goalkeeper coach) and just put my head down and work. It’s a goal of mine to be involved with that setup. I believe I’m good enough to be there. We just keep going and hope that call comes.
“The top performing A-League goalkeepers are usually involved, but in saying that, Maty Ryan, Danny Vukovic and Mitch Langerak are all playing at the top level. That’s somewhere I want to be eventually. But I’d love to be there. I believe I can do, I believe I will and I just keep working hard.”