Mark Milligan has lifted the lid on the biggest regret of his football career and the lesson he learned after a failed move to the Premier League with Crystal Palace.
The former Socceroos captain, who will represent A-League new boys Macarthur FC this season, had seemingly been on the verge of leaving Melbourne Victory to link up with fellow Socceroo Mile Jedinak in South London in August 2013.
In an interview with sports broadcaster Daniel Garb for his ‘Greats with Garby’ podcast, Milligan revealed that he thought the deal was as good as done, and even had the word of his then-manager, Ange Postecoglou.
But that all changed when the national team came knocking for the Greek-born boss.
“He sort of said to me, ‘Look, if it doesn’t get done now, it will get done soon. You’ll go, it will get done,’” Milligan told Garb.
“And then obviously that was the period when two, maybe three weeks later, Ange left.”
From there, the switch to South London never materialised, and Milligan remained in Melbourne for two more years before joining Baniyas SC in the UAE.
The 80-cap Socceroo told Garb of his conflict over the collapsed transfer – his admiration and gratitude for Postecoglou and everything he had done for the midfielder’s career, coupled with his disappointment that his manager’s words would ultimately amount to nothing.
“That was probably the toughest bit for me. That I put a lot of faith in someone and – not being let down – but it taught me a hard lesson in football.
“At the end of the day, people have their own careers they have to look after as well. And at the time, my being at Victory was the best for the people there, and then when the national team came calling up it was best for him.
“That’s probably the one regret, if I have any regrets from my career, that I wasn’t a bit stronger with that.”
Not that the failed move had a lasting impact on his relationship with Postecoglou.
Having broken into the Socceroos first-team, Milligan says he wasn’t about to “throw that away” over any gripes about the move’s collapse.
The now 35-year-old went on to play in 39 of the 49 games Postecoglou oversaw, before the coach’s sudden departure in late 2017 having sealed qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Milligan says he wishes the boss had stuck around longer – but again doesn’t hold a grudge.
“It was disappointing to lose him because we had done so much hard work and I would have liked to see what would have happened if it had continued,” he told Garb.
“But I think in football, there’s no point holding a grudge. Especially in Australian football, because it’s such a small world you’re going to cross paths again.
“And they might have done something that didn’t totally agree with you this time, but next time might be totally different.”
Milligan also spoke about and his path into football, his time playing under England great Sol Campbell at Southend United and preparations for the upcoming season with A-League newbies Macarthur FC.
Check out the full interview at https://omny.fm/shows/auscast-sport/mark-milligan-former-socceroos-captain-greats-with