EXCLUSIVE: Debutant Ljubo Milicevic inspired his VPL team South Melbourne to a 2-1 win as a host of A-League stars prepare for winter football at suburban grounds across Australia’s state leagues.
With the next A-League set for an October kick-off, fans can see a number of A-League stars plying their trade locally.
Former Newcastle Jet and Socceroo striker Sasho Petrovski will spearhead South Coast Wolves in the NSW Premier League, which kicks off this weekend.
The former Sydney FC striker is due to take on Sydney Olympic who themselves will feature former North Queensland Fury man Brett Studman and Mariners keeper Paul Henderson.
Ex Galatasaray and North Queensland Fury midfielder Ufuk Talay has signed with fellow NSWPL outfit Sydney United while Talay’s former Fury team-mate and ex-NYL Player of the Year Panni Nikas has inked a deal with Sutherland Sharks.
In Melbourne Milicevic has been joined at South by Melbourne Heart rising stars Kamal Ibrahim and Kliment Taseski. And at ladder leaders Oakleigh Cannons former A-League striker James Robinson plys his trade alongside former Heart keeper Peter Zois.
However Oakleigh were unable to stop Milicevic’s South who won 2-1 win on Friday night to consolidate third spot on the table after five rounds.
Milicevic was granted his registration on the eve of Friday’s game after a frustrating two week delay following his return to Australia from training with FC Basel.
The former Jets skipper said he was satisfied with his performance despite the difficult conditions.
“The pitch was very small and the lights are kind of at eye height so every time the ball goes in the air you kind of lose it,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“It’s not best for football so after about 20 minutes I just kept it simple defensively and didn’t make any runs forward.
“It was my first match in three months so the last 20 minutes I was copping a few cramps in my calves. It just shows you there’s no fitness like match fitness.
“At half-time it was typical Ljubo and I was barking orders and I thought, ‘Oh no, maybe I’m screaming too much’ but [coach] Eddie Krncevic told me to keep doing that.
"It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Milicevic, 30, is set to form a strong central defensive combination alongside former A-League defender and South captain Steve O’Dor (once of Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand Knights).
And with Milicevic, the league has a player who can drag in the missing A-League fans – even if the referees let a few tackles go, noted the former Swiss-based UEFA Champions League player and Socceroo.
“The league is quick and physical and at times the tackles can get cheap and nasty," said Milicevic. "It’s unfair after one game to assess the league but that [Oakleigh] pitch is not good for football.
“I remember playing for Victory there and we only beat them 3-2 because we weren’t prepared for the size of the ground.”
That said, Milicevic said he enjoyed his first stint in the Victorian league and hopes fans turn up in the coming weeks to see him and South play.
The victory sets up an intriguing clash when Milicevic’s men take on Melbourne Knights this Sunday at John Cain Memorial Reserve.
Milicevic added: “It’s nice to be back in the urban scene where people come and watch football because they’re true supporters, not just because they saw an advert.”