'New style of football': Maclaren explains City change to excite fans
There's no place like home for Melbourne City star Jamie Maclaren.
Sunbury-born Maclaren spent his early years in Melbourne before departing for England to pursue his footballing dream as a teenager in 2009.
The 26-year-old, who burst onto the Hyundai A-League scene for Perth Glory, has plied his trade across Europe - including in England, Germany and Scotland - for the best part of a decade.
But the chance to return to his hometown was one too good to pass up when City came calling at the beginning of 2019.
“I’m a Melbourne boy,” Maclaren tells a-league.com.au.
“I grew up and left at 15 to go to England, did my (football) apprenticeship there and really grew as a person.
INS AND OUTS: Melbourne City
“Then I came back to Australia and lived in Perth, then Brisbane and flew overseas again, played in Germany (for SV Darmstadt 98) and in my Dad’s home-town city (for Hibernian FC in Edinburgh) which was something I was proud to do.
“I then found myself back in a city which I always wanted to play professionally for.
“It’s Melbourne City I represent now and I’ll do everything I can for this club, I really want to be successful here.”
Maclaren returned to Melbourne in January and hit the ground running, scoring five goals in nine matches, including scoring in each of his first four appearances for the club.
Eight months on, Maclaren says he's feeling settled and ready to attack the new Hyundai A-League season head on.
“I feel really good, I actually became an uncle...
“As a footballer, you’ll never have a home until you retire. But Melbourne is home, I’m enjoying my time here and it’s great to be back.”
'I've never felt better'
And it’s not just his personal life that’s clicking for the Caltex Socceroos hit-man.
Along with his mental freshness, Maclaren feels in tip-top physical form as he continues to grind away in pre-season under new City coach Erick Mombaerts.
He's scored three goals in two FFA Cup matches so far, with the chance to help City book a Semi-Final berth when they host Western Sydney Wanderers this Wednesday.
“Pre-season is difficult as it always is,” Maclaren said.
“Anyone who says they enjoy pre-season is a liar, but look, it’s great.
“(Mombaerts) was actually a bit refreshing, he came in and said ‘we’re going to do disguise running with the ball’ when most managers would say ‘no ball, just straight running’, so it’s been great.
“You do get the work in; we’re six days on, one day off, and that’s tough on the body but we feel like we are hitting our straps at the right time.
“I did need the off-season just for my body, I really needed to tone down and get my body right.
“This year I’ve just been working so hard to make sure I stay out of the physio room and stay on the field and every chance I get I’ll be working on my body to make sure it’s right.”
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT: Become a Melbourne City member today
Fans will see a 'whole new style of football'
Maclaren also believes it will be a fresh approach and an enthralling season for City fans under new coach Mombaerts, who has developed his "blueprint" for coaching under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
"The way we want to play is sort of the City style," said Maclaren.
"It’s going forward, scoring goals and creating chances, and as a striker what a better way to be in the box and be on the receiving end of some of the fantastic players we have in our squad and that we’ve acquired this year.
He added: "It’s an exciting time for Melbourne City in general but also our fans who will see a whole new style of football."
"I’m really excited to have a whole new front three with two new Uruguayans and Craig Noone on the wing."
Maclaren continued: "It’s been a great pre-season and the boys have got the goals in pre-season, Craig has scored a few, and that helps me as a striker to have guys around me I can look to to put the ball in the back of the net as well.
"They’ll be there to assist me and its my job to get in the box and get the service. At the end of the day my job is to score goals but these guys have got the quality to do that."
City up for the challenge
As determined he is to succeed both personally and with his Hyundai A-League club, Maclaren is also wary of the competition standing in City’s way.
“I like what my old club Brisbane Roar have done,” he said.
“They’ve signed a lot of players from lower leagues in England which are still very good leagues over there, very competitive.
“Having Western United join the league is going to be great...they’ve acquired a fantastic manager in Mark (Rudan) and some players I’ve played with and against, it’s a very experienced squad.
“One of my mates Scott McDonald plays for Western United so it will be great to come up against him.
“That’s what you want in the league; you want new teams to come in and bring quality, and I really look forward to playing against them.”
Other player features
MELBOURNE VICTORY: The unfinished business driving Victory star Toivonen
SYDNEY FC: The overwhelming odds Ninkovic's Sky Blues continue to defy
WESTERN UNITED FC: The vital trait that has Kone convinced in new club's instant success