He was in the second year of a two-year contract with Sheffield United and struggling to break into the first team reckoning.

Speaking at the tail end of the Sky Blues three-week Italy tour, Warren said he was slow to catch on to the Aussie revolution.

“The first year I went to Sheffield (the A-League) wasn’t really known over there,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com. from the team’s Jesolo training base.

“But the second year I was there people were coming up and saying things like, how good was Sydney FC on the weekend or how good was that other team.

“And I’m thinking, are you guys watching it? It surprised me a lot. And then as everyone else started watching it I started watching it again and really got into it and just wanted to come home and play.”

After 18 months of frustration at Brammall Lane, the former youth international signed with Scottish Division One side Airdrie United and notched up 26 appearances last season. His move back to the harbour city has brought his career full circle. A member of Sydney FC’s inaugural title-winning youth team he’ll be back in Sky Blue for the upcoming 2013/14 campaign.

Warren said he treated last season at Excelsior Stadium as a stepping stone to “bigger and better things”.

“It was a very tough time over there,” he added. “I did enjoy bits and pieces but that was just a knuckle-down year for me.

“And now I’m here. Just coming home was a massive step for me – it made me really happy.”

Arriving in Italy with team-mate and Azzurri superstar Alessandro Del Piero for a gruelling preseason tour signalled loud and clear the league has stepped up its ambitions. More than 1000 fans attended every training session and in excess of 30,000 witnessed the first five matches.

“Massive” doesn’t come close to understanding the level of celebrity the former Juventus great enjoys in his home country, Warren said.

“When we got off the plane (in Italy) they were singing there is only one captain – it was pretty amazing. They ended up naming a beach after him out the back of our hotel. That was unbelievable. He can’t go anywhere without getting mobbed.”

If Warren harbours any doubts about returning home he only needs to look at former team-mate Trent Sainsbury. Both defenders were playing for Central Coast Mariners in 2010 when they were selected to train at Sheffield’s academy.

Sainsbury failed to secure a contract but flourished on return to Bluetongue Stadium while the shine has dimmed on Warren’s rising star. It’s a situation he’s keen to rectify.

“Trent’s done very well,” he said.  “I’m really happy for him.  He deserves (his success), he worked hard for it and I’m looking to do the same thing.

“I’m confident in myself and I’m just working as hard as I can. The gaffer makes the decision whether he’s going to put me in or not put me in but I do really want to play and play every game.

“Coming back to Australia was the right thing for me as a player. To see how good Australia’s gotten it was time for me to come back and prove myself.”