Leading the Charge

This season has seen his team succeed at home and abroad, but for Adelaide United captain, Travis Dodd, there’s still plenty to come

Being captain of a football club can be a thankless task. When the chips are down, the onus is on you to bring your teammates back from the brink, it-s a lot of responsibility that usually falls on those with the big personas and on-field presence to pull it off. As a self-confessed reserved individual, Adelaide United captain Travis Dodd is learning as he goes.

The fleet-footed winger, whose mazy runs terrorise opposition defenders - never more evident than in the recent Asian Champions League quarter-final second leg against Kashima Antlers - the role of captain is something he-s adapting to, and feels it-s an element that-s improving his game. Opposition defenders, you have been warned.

Those same defenders have been wary of Dodd-s presence and, as Adelaide are about to embark on a semi-final clash in the ACL, he-s already expecting another tough, close assignment. “They (Uzbekistan-s Bunvodkor) won 5-1 and their Chilean got a hat-trick so they-ve got players other than Rivaldo that-ll need looking after,” Dodd tells us.

When asked, tongue firmly in cheek, whether the opposition will be as worried about facing him as Adelaide might perhaps be about facing former Brazilian world-cup winner Rivaldo, he laughs and says, “Without a doubt.”

But beyond the jest there-s a confidence in Dodd-s boast, and it-s borne from a confidence that-s been growing this year, perhaps more so than previously in his Adelaide Hyundai A-League career. He-s quick to attribute his added responsibility as leader of the Adelaide pack as the reason.

“It-s fantastic at the moment,” Dodd says of his new role as captain. “We-re winning and we-re getting great results so everything-s running smoothly.

“I hope I can continue being a leader out there with the boys every week.”

It-s this added responsibility Dodd feels is benefitting him as much as it is his teammates. “I think it-s improving my game, I feel I need to stand up on the pitch more performance-wise,” he says. “Hopefully, it-s showing and it will continue to show for the rest of the year… and beyond.”

Dodd-s performance against Kashima Antlers - especially in the first half of the second leg - really was the benchmark from which the rest of the side seemed to follow. It was almost as if Dodd was the Pied Piper who was calling the tune and his teammates were the faithful followers.

“People do look to the leaders (on the pitch),” Dodd says. “Although, saying that, I-m not the only leader out there - I see everyone out there as a leader. It could be any number of players having a good performance that spurs the other players on and encourages them.”

But Dodd realises that the buck will always stop with the captain as the mouthpiece and cornerstone of all the positive things that happen on the pitch. “Being captain has made me more vocal; I-m not sure if the other players like it or not, but it-s something I-m growing in to,” he says. “Before, I was reserved out on the pitch, but now I-m motivating and trying to get the team going for the full 90 minutes.

“I did find it difficult to begin with, but I-m getting more used to it now - it becomes more of a mental drain to be tuned on for 90 minutes, and it-s tough getting everyone going, but I wouldn-t want it any other way.”

But Dodd says this feeling is running through the entire club right now. Much has been said of the hectic scheduling (and team selection) the team-s endured, but Dodd says they-re competing on all fronts with an equally competitive outlook.

“The adrenalin pumps when you-re in a game situation,” Dodd says. “It-s important that we do well in the Hyundai A-League so we get another chance at the Champions League next year.

“The boys have been good at switching the focus from the different games, so I-m confident we can back up.”

Backing up the success of the ACL is the challenge for Dodd and his teammates, and it-s one that poses many questions for Aurelio Vidmar-s relatively small squad. “It-s going to be another huge couple of weeks for us,” Dodd admits. “It-s just a matter of, mentally, if we can put it together for 90 minutes.

“We have to believe in ourselves as a team.”

That belief, teamed with the current confidence of the Hindmarsh troops, is the combination for success - with Dodd and Vidmar leading the way. The Pied Piper-s tune is receiving a chorus that continues to grow louder with the team-s recent remarkable achievements, something, like Dodd-s grasp of the captaincy, the team is learning as they go.

“In the first year of the Champions League the belief wasn-t there, we were going in to the unknown not knowing if we could match it with these guys,” Dodd says of last season-s ACL campaign. “By the time we realised we could, we-d dropped points and it was tough to come back - but this year we-ve gone out there with the attitude that we can win and we-ve believed in ourselves. Now we can go further.” Success will be built on one thing, according to Dodd: the strength of the squad. “It-s going to be a whole squad effort and it-s going to be the squad of 23 that gets us through this season,” he says.

That-s not forgetting the coach. The inexperienced manager is quickly creating a reputation as an astute tactician, as proved in the two-legged affair against Kashima. Dodd, too, can see how his coach-s playing days are helping him in the managerial stakes.

“Compared to other coaches going around in the league, (Vidmar) hasn-t got a lot of experience - but I think he-s using his playing experience, in regards to training sessions and recovery and what the players need to get themselves onto the park, and he-s been fantastic,” Dodd says.

Between the two, they-re forging a partnership that, while still in its infancy, has signs of blossoming into a fruitful one for Adelaide United. Success so far has taken them beyond the walls of the A-League and on this path they-ll be bringing down barriers in their opposition for the foreseeable future.