The mighty Mark Milligan
When Mark Milligan fell to the AAMI Park turf under pressure from a Del Piero challenge in last Saturday’s Big Blue, I held my breath as the Victory captain held his knee.
When Mark Milligan fell to the AAMI Park turf under pressure from a Del Piero challenge in last Saturday-s Big Blue, I held my breath as the Victory captain held his knee. It-s not that I-m a rabid Victory fan (though I grew up in Frankston and love how they play) but for me, right now, it-s all about Brazil and the Socceroos. And the thought of losing Milligan makes me shudder.
The Socceroos have already lost central defender Rhys Williams to the cruel hand of fate; likewise classy forward Robbie Kruse sustained a Cup ending injury. Losing Milligan would have been a hammer blow because, put simply, he will be Australia-s most important player in Brazil.
Most important in the sense that where he-ll play - as one of two number sixes in Ange Postecoglou-s likely 4-2-3-1 - means he-ll be pivotal on two fronts. First, screening a back four likely to be under heavy pressure from the get-go. And second, as a creative outlet pushing forward from deep to link up with the likes of Tom Rogic, Tommy Oar, Matt Leckie and Tim Cahill.
He does both so well. That-s what makes him so exceptional. Milligan is a shining example of how to play as a six in the modern game. He can pass and create, but also tackle and read the game. And he's got great engines. What an all-round talent. And what a display against ADP and Co.
If Milligan has a storming World Cup - and I think he will - he-ll be a major reason why the Socceroos will have enhanced their reputation on the world stage.
He-s a fine ambassador for Victory and the A-League and having started a family in recent years has clearly helped him on and off the field.
He-s only 28 but seems to have been around for ever - his club career locally has spanned both the NSL (with Northern Spirit) and the Hyundai A-League with Sydney, the Jets (albeit briefly) and Victory.
However, it-s taken some time for this prodigy to reach this high point in his career.
Milligan came to prominence almost a decade ago at the FIFA U-20 Youth Championships in Holland. I remember his leadership skills even then as a right back. Guus Hiddink saw something too and took him to the 2006 FIFA World Cup for the experience.
Over the last decade Milligan-s versatility has seen him play right back, central defence and central midfield. He-s also spent an inordinate amount of time in the earlier part of his career trialling here and there and being linked with a host of overseas clubs. It looked like a soap opera at one point.
It was only when he landed at Shanghai Shenhua some five years ago followed by a stint in the J-League did he begin to mature on and off the park and really establish himself as a force.
Now back in the A-League and in career best form, we as fans are revelling in the finished product. So much so that the Sydney-born talent along with Thomas Broich of Brisbane Roar should vie for the Hyundai A-League player of the year crown. Both are worthy winners.
I-m praying Milligan stays injury free as the Hyundai A-League reaches the business end of the season.
I-m sure Victory fans - and Ange Postecoglou - would agree. For if he stays injury free the world is about to witness the mighty talent of Mark Milligan on the biggest stage of all.