Ninkovic: The overwhelming odds Sydney FC continues to defy
Under the constant weight of expectation looming over Sydney FC, Milos Ninkovic stands tall.
With less than a month until the new Hyundai A-League campaign gets underway, the classy playmaker is envisaging lifting more silverware in Sky Blue in the 2019/20 Season.
It’s been almost four months since Ninkovic won the Joe Marston Medal for his man-of-the-match performance in Sydney FC’s Grand Final victory over Perth Glory.
The triumph took Sydney FC's tally to four Hyundai A-League Championships, with Ninkovic part of two of those titles in the last three seasons.
But the level of success he's enjoyed - which has also included two Premierships and an FFA Cup - hasn't dwindled the Serbian's appetite for more.
And he expects the Sky Blues to achieve similar levels of success when the 2019/20 Season kicks off on Friday, October 11.
“I can’t wait to be honest,” Ninkovic told a-league.com.au.
“Especially because we’ve had three months of pre-season, it’s always tough mentally and physically as well.
SIGNING NEWS: All of Sydney FC's Ins and Outs for the 2019/20 Season
EVERY GAME: Sydney FC's 2019/20 Season Draw
“Like always if you play for Sydney FC the goal is the same: we want to win two trophies and to play better in the Champions League.
“We are looking forward, we are ready.”
The expectation of success at Sydney FC stems not only from the players but from the coaches and fans alike.
While understanding the pressure that comes along with being a Sydney FC player, Ninkovic is confident those expectations will be met once again.
“We have high standards,” the 34-year-old said.
“The last three years we have been unbelievable, we’ve won so many trophies and we’ve played unbelievable football.
“It’s not easy but it’s always a pleasure to work with a good group of people.
“I’ve said many times it’s the reason why we’ve won so many trophies in the last few years, because we have unbelievable people and the atmosphere is amazing.”
KEY FIXTURES: The Sydney Derby clash guaranteed to get blood boiling
Replacing a Sky Blues legend
One of those people that Ninkovic has grown to rely on in the pursuit of silverware is Alex Brosque.
But the Sky Blues legend and the club’s former captain won't be there next season after retiring following the 2018/19 title success.
“It’s a big loss, he was our leader on the pitch and off the pitch,” Ninkovic admits.
“Brosque is a legend, he did so much for the club.
“It’s not going to be easy (without him) especially when the season starts, but it’s a good challenge to see how we can fix that.”
Sydney coach Steve Corica responded to losing Brosque with an aggressive recruitment drive in the off-season.
It's seen the club add the likes of defender Ryan McGowan and midfielder Luke Brattan, while Kosta Barbarouses and Alex Baumjohann joined the Sky Blues from their bitter rivals, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers respectively.
In gaining two of the league’s biggest stars from Sydney’s two main adversaries, Corica sent a message to the league that the champions were not prepared to rest on their laurels.
“They’re unbelievable players,” Ninkovic said of Barbarouses and Baumjohann.
“Kosta has spent so many years here [in the A-League] and Alex as well, they are awesome players.
“They just probably need the time to adapt to our team, but pre-season is long and they will have enough time.”
Dealing with being the hunted
Throughout their pre-season, Sydney have played friendlies against a variety of opponents; the most notable a clashes against European giants Paris Saint-Germain in July, which they lost 3-0.
But perhaps the most telling result of the off-season so far was a 2-0 defeat to Robbie Fowler’s Brisbane Roar in the FFA Cup 2019 Round of 32.
It was a result which Ninkovic believes proves his side will go into every game this season with a target on their back.
“Look, everyone wants to be champions,” he said.
“We already saw in the FFA Cup when we lost against Brisbane, that was a wake-up call for everyone.
“Brisbane is a new team with a new coach and it was hard before the game to analyse them because they signed so many players and a new coach.
“Sydney FC in the last three years have been unbelievable and everyone will play against us and give more than 100% and we need to be ready.
“Now we know what we can expect from other teams.”
NEW JERSEYS: Every club's Hyundai A-League kit for the 2019/20 Season
15 YEARS OF HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE: The evolution of the ball
Sky Blues targeting more glory
As for what to expect from Sydney FC, Ninkovic says to expect more of the same from his side which continues to prove their critics wrong by surpassing those high expectations which fall upon them each year.
“Every year is the same,” Ninkovic said.
“If you remember last year...we lost five or six players and Graham Arnold as well and Steve Corica was the new coach.
“Everyone said ‘they’ve lost so many players, they have a new coach, they can’t win again’, but we made it.
“It’s not easy, but last year we signed good players and this year as well.
“I think we have a very good squad this year and we can win two trophies.”