Fred leading from the front

Having played professional football on three continents for almost half his life, Fred had a fair idea what to expect when he joined Melbourne Heart as the club's marquee signing for the 2011-12 Hyundai A-League season.

Having played professional football on three continents for almost half his life, Fred had a fair idea what to expect when he joined Melbourne Heart as the club's marquee signing for the 2011-12 Hyundai A-League season.

But one thing he hadn't factored was the captaincy of the club.

By his own admission, he'd never considered himself the type.

Coach John van 't Schip knew what he wanted from the successor to the club's foundation captain, Simon Colosimo, however, and the 32-year-old Brazilian ticked all the boxes.

Fred was the right person, in the right place at the right time.

"I made him captain because of who he is as a person," said van 't Schip.

"He's very approachable, he loves the game, he's like a young boy the way he enjoys having fun."

"But he's also a perfect example for the boys on the pitch and outside the pitch, that's enough to show the boys what it means to live as a professional."

"He's not the type to stand up in front of the group and have a long talk, but I don't expect that."

"It's just, be yourself, and that's enough."

Relishing the challenges of the season ahead, Fred's excitement was tempered by the Heart's 3-2 loss in injury time in the season-opener against Newcastle and compounded by an injury setback the following week against Perth Glory.

He tweaked a hamstring in the warm-up and watched in despair from the sidelines as his side went down to the Glory 2-1.

That was followed by a run of draws - and missed opportunities - against Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Adelaide United.

"Of course we were a little bit sad because we didn't win, but it wasn't difficult to keep the boys up because they are very professional, they are very good players," said Fred of that frustrating spell.

"We just kept talking and saying, 'we are a very good team, we just have to put it (together) on the field and try to get the three points'."

The three points finally came with Fred's return to the starting line-up for the Round 6 clash with the Jets at AAMI Park.

After a scoreless first half, the captain broke the deadlock with an inspirational strike in the 66th minute which helped to set up a 3-0 win - Fred's first in the A-League since his brief loan spell to Wellington Phoenix in 2008.

It brought home to him just how much the competition had changed in three years.

"It's getting better now every year," said Fred of the A-League.

"The skills are better and that's (attracting) good players too for the league."

"It's more difficult now, every team can play good soccer and everyone knows every player."

Another significant change from Fred's time in Wellington - and his championship-winning season with Melbourne Victory in 2006-07 - is that now he has a young family to provide for.

"I've been here with my wife the first time, just me and her, but now we have two kids," he said.

"They are starting to like it and it's easy for us."

From the coach's perspective, Fred the family man and Fred the captain go hand in hand.

"It's normal that if you're six years ahead and you've been playing in the United States and you've started a family, that changes your life, that changes your perspective," said van 't Schip.

"With all that he's experienced in his career, including the disappointments and the joy, the boys can learn from him how to cope, how to stay humble and to stay with both feet on the ground."