The last time FourFourTwo spoke with you was just before the World Cup last year – at the time it is fair to say you were not the fans’ most popular player. All that has changed now...
I’m just happy I’m in some good form and playing some good football. I hope things keep going the way they have. What’s changed? I don’t think much has changed really. I’m still doing the same things and working just as hard at training.
Is there any part of you that feels like you’ve proved some of the doubters wrong?
Not really. My aim is to do well and to contribute to any side, whether it be my club side or the national side. Whatever the critics have to say has never bothered me. You just have to get on with it.
The World Cup was one of the main turning points in your career. Why did your best performances came out on that stage?
Sometimes in football it just comes down to where the football drops for you and there’s a lot of luck involved. Like when Mark Bresciano took the free-kick [against Ghana] and the keeper parried it. He could have parried it to the other side and I wouldn’t have scored.
The goals have been really flowing for you over the last 18 months. The recent winner in Thailand was your seventh for the Socceroos since May last year.
It has to do with the form I’m in and the way I’m playing at club level. Getting more opportunities in front of goal and scoring a lot more goals gives you more confidence.
You seem to be playing in a slightly different role for the Socceroos now. Is it fair to say you’re now a touch more central and attacking?
Definitely. A lot of the roles I played under Pim [Verbeek] were off the bench and I had a bit less freedom than I do now under Holger. The role that I prefer playing is definitely central.
A key talking point is that your fine form through the middle has placed doubt over the futures of two of the Socceroos’ most reputable and experienced players, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill…
I’ve never really thought about it to be honest! It is up to the boss to decide who can play and who can’t. At this point in time I’m playing and I’m happy to be playing.
Holger has come out with some grand praise about how well you’ve been playing. How have you been getting on with him?
He expresses a lot of confidence in me and has given me the faith to get out there and express myself. It pays off for a player when you receive confidence from the coach like that.
Onto club life and you are at the top of the table with your current club AZ in the Eredivisie. Will you last the distance?
It is hard to say as it is still such early days. We haven’t even reached Christmas yet, but we’ve started the season unbelievably well. We have a great team and all the players are close and willing to work for each other. If we can keep it going then there’s no reason why we can’t win the title.
Considering your form, have you considered a move to the Bundesliga or even the EPL?
I’ve only got eight months left on my contract at AZ so it is always going to be on my mind. I’m talking to the club at the moment about a new deal but whether or not that works out is another story. I’d be more than happy to go and have a crack at another league and another adventure after ten years in Holland.
We are through to the second stage of qualification. What was your impression of the first stage? Tougher than you expected?
On paper you might expect Australia to qualify but you can’t underestimate any team in Asia. The conditions play a big role these days too. If we get back to the way we played in the opening qualifiers, then we’re in good stead.
You are fresh from scoring the winner over Thailand as we speak…
The game wasn’t one to remember though! It was a tough game and we didn’t play up to the standard we can, but what is needed in these qualifiers is the three points and we got the job done and made it to the second phase.
The previous home game against Oman [which we won 3-0], where you scored and grabbed an assist, might be the best we have seen you play. Do you agree?
I don’t know about that. There have been other matches where I’ve been involved and had a good game. I probably could have got a few more goals in the Oman game if I was a little calmer in front of goal.
How do you deal with all the travel for these World Cup qualifiers?
These sorts of games take their toll, I’d be lying if I said they didn’t. You just have to listen to your body. Thankfully, my club and country have great medical staff.
Brazil 2014 – do you think about it much?
It is always going to be in the back of your mind. When you play in these qualifiers there is only one goal – making it to Rio. Thankfully we’re through to the next phase now.
This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Australian FourFourTwo magazine. To buy back copies of this issue call 03-8317-8121 with a credit card to hand.
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