Adelaide United are beginning to reap the beenfits of hard work with Bruce Djite leading the line in fine style.
Bruce Djite has often been working tirelessly for little reward up front for Adelaide United in what has been a long year for the Reds- players and fans, but as of now he and his teammates are beginning to reap the rewards in the Asian Champions League.
There is little doubt the Reds- run to the Round of 16 has been every bit the Cinderella story as the ugly duckling of the A-League season looked to turn itself into a beautiful swan, although in this case the swan is more like an angry, swooping magpie ready to strike at any time, most commonly when it feels threatened.
You see, not that long ago Adelaide were an A-League powerhouse and then the 201/11 season came around and they lost their ability to win, why that was could be put down to anything, but Djite is just glad they have improved, not that they actually could have got much worse according to the striker.
And that improvement has seen them become one of the most dangerous teams in the competition.
“Certainly, if we-re honest, from top to bottom I don-t think anyone expected us to do anything in ACL,” Djite said.
“We gave ourselves a lot of improvement; we gave ourselves a lot of things to improve upon, because we were so poor before it is easier to make such big steps forward when you start from a low base.
“I think we have improved a great deal to be where we are today but we also have a long, long way to go.
“That-s what makes this (ACL season) such an amazing effort, especially when you take into consideration the A-League season we have had, so to turn it around so quickly shows the quality of our squad.”
So why have Adelaide had such a great start to their ACL campaign?
According to Djite he believes it-s two-fold. It-s all been about keeping their shape and also the fact they are more suited to the Asian game than the A-League.
“I think we have good experience in Asia. Whether it has been boys who have played in previous Olympic campaigns, trying to qualify, or whether it-s guys who have played in the ACL previously, people know what to expect to a certain extent and the style of play in Asia suits us a bit better than the style of play in the A-League,” he said.
“It-s not as gun-ho in Asia and I feel that helps us a lot.
“Going into the ACL we had worked a lot on our defensive shape and defensive structures to make sure we were solid at the back first and foremost, and started the campaign with that as our foundation, then we worked on our style of play and tried to improve that and make ourselves more efficient in attack as well.”
Being more efficient in attack has ultimately meant being more deadly when chances are provided in front of goal and despite his huge workrate Djite and fellow striker Sergio van Dijk haven-t necessarily been the ones to reap the benefits.
Djite though, says he can live with that, as long as the team keeps winning.
“In an attacking sense, it-s a tough role, playing with one striker and then you end up defending and that can be frustrating at times, but when you look at the big picture and that is the end result and the team winning games and topping your group then it-s all worth it in the end,” he said.
“Sometimes you just have to work for the benefit of the team and myself and Sergio our mentality is like that, so I was very happy that we have been working hard and been successful to this point.”
To continue being successful Adelaide have to knock off Josh Kennedy-s Nagoya Grampus side, a side that ended the tournament hopes of Central Coast Mariners last time out and has placed first then second in the last two J-League seasons.
Djite is hopeful Adelaide-s run can continue though.
“Nagoya are one of the powerhouses of Japanese football, but that-s the beauty of Asian Champions League, you get to test yourselves against quality opposition,” Djite said.
“We-re cautious but we have beaten quality teams to get where we are, so there is nothing new in that regard.
“And sometimes that-s the benefit of being an underdog, there is no pressure.
“Here we were - written off before we even kicked a ball, but we-re in it to win it and round of 16 is an achievement, obviously we have to get over Nagoya, but hopefully we get a great crowd at Hindmarsh and we give the supporters what they are after with a win.”