Former Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets defender Taylor Regan has leapt to the defence of his one-time A-League adversary, Matt Simon.
“For all the people who sit on their keyboards at home and smash the players for not being good enough and all that, I would love to see some of these people try to mark Simon,” Regan told FTBL.
The 30-year-old central defender has reflected on his time in the A-League, telling FTBL in Kuala Lumpur (where he now plays for Selangor FC) that Simon - dubbed the “Thunder from Kincumber” - stands out as the spikiest opponent he’s faced in Australia.
“Six foot four, aggressive, strong, good in the challenge good for the boys, works hard defensively, he’s always at you," he said.
"Matt Simon, he’s a pain in the arse to mark!”
Regan met Simon (also known as the 'Wizard of Woy Woy' among a variety of sobriquets) on a few F3 derby occasions as well as during Simon’s Sydney FC days, where he was used as a pinch-hitter off the bench to devastating effect by Graham Arnold.
“I always have a good battle with him but I do admire the way he plays,” Regan said.
“Matt’s hard, cut-throat and there’s no nonsense. He’s fun but interesting to mark.”
Simon, now 33-year-old and the Central Coast Mariners' skipper, is the Gosford side’s all-time leading scorer but worked as a plasterer before his first professional contract. Likewise, Regan had a job mixing cement and loading concrete up the road in Newcastle.
Awake before light for back-breaking work, concreting for a living gave Regan an appreciation of life as a professional player, which adds to his respect for Simon.
“Guys like us, we didn’t have things handed to us on a silver platter," he said. "In today’s society, there are a few players who may get this.
“Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they really struggle because they don’t know what hard work is.
“For me, nothing came easy. I lived by the rule, nothing worth keeping comes easy.”
Aside from the Mariners man - who was red-carded over the weekend in a crazy 5-3 loss to Brisbane Roar - Regan says Besart Berisha, Alessandro Del Piero, and Bruno Fornaroli were his toughest opponents.
“Every striker, every opponent has their own strengths and weaknesses.
“Fornaroli - he’s very, very smart. Del Piero too.
“One time when I gave away a penalty, Del Piero sold me the absolute kitchen sink at Hunter Stadium!
“Besart springs to mind because of his tenacity and his will to win. I really enjoyed those battles because there were games when he’d do nothing for 89 minutes, then all of a sudden he gets a chance and he scores.
"That’s what you have to deal with against Berisha.”
Regan says these challenges have continued in his latest career move to the Malaysian Super League. He says each week is a battle because of the quality of the foreign striker contingent.
This includes Pahang’s powerhouse Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme, and JDT pair Brazilian Diogo Luis Santa and Argentine Gonzalo Cabrera.
“Each week I’ll be coming up against a top foreign striker in this league," Regan said.
"It’s not easy as some may think.”