McKay thrives in China

While the majority of Hyundai A-League players used the off-season break to kick up their heels and rest, Brisbane Roar midfielder Matt McKay was doing the hard yards with Chinese Super League outfit Changchun Yatai.

While the majority of Hyundai A-League players used the off-season break to kick up their heels and rest, Brisbane Roar midfielder Matt McKay was doing the hard yards with Chinese Super League outfit Changchun Yatai.

McKay's preparation for the 2009/10 A-League season was made up mostly of a loan stint with Changchun and the midfielder is confident the voyage into Asia was both a rewarding and productive experience.

"China is a place where I got a lot of useful things out of my time there, I struggled at the start but really enjoyed my time towards the end," McKay said.

"I settled in well and was playing some good football at the end, it was definitely a culture shock getting used to the different environment, but I really enjoyed it."

McKay, a born and bred Brisbanite, was living almost 8500kms away from the city he has always called home and admitted the language barrier - both on the pitch and in the supermarket - was initially tough to overcome.

"None of the Chinese players spoke any English … the coach spoke bits, but not fluently. We had a translator and he looked after us," he said.

"Off the field as well, the food was a massive issue at the start. I got around it and figured out the good places to eat and what groceries I understood."

"I never got sick, I was very proud that I looked after myself."

According to McKay, the differences between the Chinese Super League and the A-League extend well beyond both geography and language.

"They love a meeting in China," he recounted

"One or two times a day we would have a meeting, which is just ridiculous, but I got through it and understood everything through the translator."

In what must be seen as a fillip for football in Australia, the 26-year-old suggested the domestic competition was as good, if not better than the Chinese equivalent.

"It was a pretty good standard. I think team-wise it's probably better in Australia, but they also had some good individual players and some good talent."

"There were a few players there that could really move on to bigger leagues."

McKay was in the final stages of his time in Changchun when news broke of Brisbane midfield partner Massimo Murdocca's fractured leg.

The pint sized 'M and M' partnership of McKay and Murdocca in the Roar's engine room has been a trademark of the club since its inception in 2005 and McKay admitted it would take time to adjust.

"It's been weird, I was so excited to play with Massimo and I only heard a week before I got back that he'd broken his leg, the little bastard," he joked.

"(It's been) a lot of work and the first two games I played against Celtic and Newcastle in the preseason, we've lost both."

"It's just adjusting to the different environment now without little Massimo and all the energy he's got."

The Roar's preseason campaign has been anything but ideal, dropping games to the Jets, Scottish powerhouse Celtic, Brisbane Premier League side Peninsula Power and a Japanese University Select side.

McKay warned doubters they would be ill advised to write the men in orange off after a relatively fruitless preseason.

"That's why they call it preseason."

"You look back at the few years that Adelaide have done well, I think they lost all their preseason games and went on and won minor premierships."

"It doesn't mean a great deal and August 8 is when we get started, we've got 27 games that are equal, 3 points each game, so you want to be winning those."

The season proper for the Roar will start on August 8, ironically a very lucky date in Chinese culture, when they host A-League newcomers and already sworn rivals Gold Coast United.

The excitement in McKay's voice was notable when he discussed the ensuing blockbuster against United that is tipped to draw record A-League crowds to Suncorp Stadium.

"It's going to be electric, we've had some good crowds, we've had over 30,000 for some of the Sydney games, the finals games."

"I think this one will, hopefully, go close to filling it. It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's the derby that Queensland football has really needed."

"I haven't even seen them play yet but, open mind, I think they're going to be a great side as well and it's going to be a great rivalry, I hope it continues for years and years."

McKay expects a number of players will follow in his footsteps and depart for Asia at the end of the current season, especially with the number of Socceroos recently joining the A-League.

"The Socceroos that have come back into the A-League this season, they're going to have to do something for those three months (before the FIFA World Cup starts)."

"I think Asia is a perfect place … they'll get heaps of training and some good games, so it's definitely an option."

As for his own representative ambitions, McKay - who has tasted international action with the Qantas Socceroos - admitted they still burned brightly.

"You got to be playing football and the more you get in your legs, the different experiences, the more it helps towards national team selection."

"You always want to be in the fold, I'm a bit outside at the moment, but (I'll) keep working hard and if a chance comes I'll be right."