A quiet word with Michael Thwaite

The winds of change have blown through Gold Coast United in the off-season. But United's Mr. Reliable, defender Michael Thwaite, still remains - and this year he'll be wearing the captain's armband on a full-time basis.

The winds of change have blown through Gold Coast United in the off-season. But United's Mr. Reliable, defender Michael Thwaite, still remains - and this year he'll be wearing the captain's armband on a full-time basis.

Thwaite chatted about his hopes for the new season, his recovery from shoulder surgery and the prospect of going head-to-head with recently-departed team-mate and childhood friend Zenon Caravella this year.

Q: You've got new kits, a new major sponsor, you're the new captain and the squad has a lot of new faces in it. Is it fair to say Gold Coast United is a different beast to what it was six months ago?

MT: It's not that different. We always maintain our standards. It's just coming together at the right time I think. The squad has come together very well - we've got a lot of pace and a lot of talent.

Q: What did you think at the end of last season when the likes of Dino Djulbic, Bas van den Brink, Zenon Caravella and the rest all left the club. Were you a little bit worried about what the team was going to look like this year?

MT: I wasn't really worried because I know what Miron's about. He's very good at selecting the right players for the right formation. Two years ago those players that you mentioned didn't have big profiles. In the last two years Gold Coast United has built everyone's profile up, hence the results on the field. We're still not there yet though - we haven't accomplished what we want to achieve.

Yes, we were one game away from a grand final but we weren't happy with finishing fourth. In the finals series we had a different mentality which all teams do once they make the finals. I think we can go one better than last year though.

Q: Have you spoken to many of the old players since they've left?

MT: Yeah, I always keep in contact with them. The guys that went overseas really miss the Gold Coast because Asia's just not the same as the lifestyle here. The players that have gone to other clubs, we wish them the best but I daresay there will be a few personal battles when we play against them in the league.

Q: Are you looking forward to taking on Adelaide with your old mate Zenon Caravella there? You two were inseparable before he left.

MT: (Laughs) I said that I'd make sure I'll stay away from him because when we do get in tussles it's normally quite physical. Bruce Djite is there as well but I won't be able to avoid him as a striker.

Q: Are you impressed by the way that Miron has gone about rebuilding the squad?

MT: It's a very hard job to do, especially when you're dealing with visa players that you might not have seen too much of before. I think we've always had a good standard with our visa players, young players and established players.

Q: Are the boys looking to prove a few people wrong this year? There were a lot of headlines last season saying that the club was going to shut down after the so-called 'player exodus'. Do you want to shut some people up?

MT: Clive has basically put that story to bed, regarding the future of the club. On the field, they've been saying that for three years now and we'll take it as we do every year, and let our results do the talking.

Q: Does it help - does all that talk actually fire you up?

MT: We don't take much notice of it. It's basically Gold Coast versus the world, let's put it that way.

Q: The captaincy - you wore the captain's armband a lot last season because Jason Culina was injured for a fair chunk of the season. How does it feel to have it on a full-time basis?

MT: It's not really about me, it's more about the team. If I see the players working for me, then I love to work for them. That's what I'm about. I just enjoy it. I love the game so much, I've been playing it for 20-odd years so why wouldn't I enjoy something that I've been doing for so long?

Q: With a much younger squad, there surely will come a time where you will have to put your foot down and keep some of the kids in the team focused. How will you handle that?

MT: The answer to that is that all of them have already played in the A-League last year so they've got their nerves out of the way. I'm sure they'll be looking to establish themselves as regulars in the A-League. I take more of a positive re-enforcement approach rather than negative.

Q: How have you seen the other A-League clubs and their recruitment processes - they seem to have all gotten stronger. Are you expecting another step up in terms of quality this year?

MT: Definitely. I personally think this will be the toughest year in the A-League. It's going to take a while - or a few rounds at least - for the teams to really sort themselves out. Most sides have gone through a lot of changes like us so it's definitely going to be a battle.

Q: And your own fitness - you had surgery in the off-season. When will you be 100 percent?

MT: I'm back at full training now and I see the specialist at the end of the month to give me the OK to start playing friendlies next month. That'll give me about five weeks before the start of the season. I feel really fit at the moment, it's just match fitness that I'm missing. Once I start playing in September, I'll get that.