Second Bite At The Cherry

Currently enjoying his best start to a season, Sydney FC’s STEVE CORICA says the squad is the strongest he’s ever seen at the club and another title could be on its way as a result.

Currently enjoying his best start to a season, Sydney FC-s STEVE CORICA says the squad is the strongest he-s ever seen at the club and another title could be on its way as a result.

It-s a sunny and blissfully hot spring day in Sydney - one when you want to be in a pair of boardies and thongs at the beach. Poor Steve Corica, though, is in a photo shoot, under the studio lights and in a suit. Worse still, he has his Sydney FC jersey on underneath to add even more layers. But he-s all smiles, as he jokes around while having his picture taken for AFW. It-s hardly surprising Corica has a smile permanently etched on his face throughout the shoot because this season has started exceptionally for Sydney-s experienced creative drive. After numerous shots, we think it-s only right we treat him to a cool and refreshing coffee as reward. Okay, so the coffee wasn-t cool, but Corica-s response to our light-hearted probing certainly was.

You could say the blazing sun that shone upon us as we sat down for a coffee was an apt setting; Corica has, after all, been setting the league alight this season. Corica, at the heart of everything positive about Sydney-s impressive early-season form, has had one of his best starts in years. And, coincidentally, so have Sydney. “It-s my best start to a season, I-ve got three goals in four now and that-s the best I-ve started,” Corica says. “More importantly, though, it-s been a good start for the team - it-s probably been the best start we-ve had in the four seasons of the A-League.”

Whether Corica is smiling more broadly because of his approval at how he - and Sydney - are playing, or whether the sunshine is making him more relaxed, it-s hard to tell, but we find Corica in a light mood.

If he-s relaxed off the pitch, though, he-s certainly not on it. Corica-s had a busy start to the season, heavily involved in Sydney-s play, as well as becoming the senior figure at the club while captain Tony Popovic and marquee signing John Aloisi sat out the early rounds with injury. So certainly an onus has fallen on the 35- year-old to lead the charges, and a slow start had to be avoided if Sydney were to make a statement of intent.

“We-ve started slowly in the three versions of the A-League so we wanted to get off to a good start this year,” he says. “Obviously we-ve strengthened the side and brought some good players in, but with experienced players out I took over as captain and you have to lead by example, and I-ve tried to do that in the first few games.

“Plus, being one of the experienced guys in the team you try to help out the young boys if you can.” Regardless of age, Corica believes this Sydney side is the best in its A-League history, and morale, too, has never been better. “We-ve got a good bond,” he explains. “The team spirit is even better this year than it was last year and the new boys have fitted in really well and that should stand us in good stead for the coming year.”

It-s the way Corica becomes animated and emphasizes the words when he speaks of his teammates that you know he-s on the level. It-s not a cliché-ridden string of words, but he also knows, through all his experience, that a decent comradeship will only take a team so far.

“We-ll need to be consistent to win the title,” he says. “The most consistent team over the 21 games will win, experience does help when you go into the finals series.” It-s a recipe for success Corica believes coach John Kosmina has been plotting for a while… and the results are about to unfold. “We-ve got the right blend of youth and experience and maybe that-ll be enough this year,” he says.

But what about beyond this year? “I thought that maybe this year will be my last,” he confides. “And I said I-d decide at the end of the season, but I-ve started well and if I can keep my form and not get injured, then I-ll look to play another year.

“But there-s a long way to go yet [laughs] so we-ll see how I go and assess it at the end of the season.” And there are immediate goals in his sights, too. One of them is as assistant manager to Steve O-Connor at Sydney FC Youth. It-s as much about his love for the area, as it is the club, and, as I point out, with weather like this it-s not hard to see why Corica is so enamoured with the Harbour City.

Before all that, however, there-s the matter of the A-League this season and Corica is only too aware how teams raise their game when they come up against Sydney, like Newcastle did in round four.

“Opposition teams know they have to stop our forwards playing otherwise we can create a lot of opportunities for the strikers,” Corica says. “But each game-s different, although you do enjoy playing against some teams more than others.” Corica-s main aim this season is to turn Sydney-s early-season promise into an A-League title, and it-s a feeling - having been part of the victorious Sydney team in season one - he wants to experience again before he calls time on his distinguished career. Will it mean the time is nigh should the Blues succeed this year? Would it be a fitting way for him to retire? Corica, in a relaxed state of mind as he basks in the afternoon sun, is happy to see what happens. “I did say that it would be nice to win (the title) and then maybe retire, but I-m not sure - [laughs] even though it-d be great to win it again.

While the team battle on the pitch, there-s a different battle within the team happening off it. And no, there-s nothing tabloid-style; it-s the friendly battle for places in coach John Kosmina-s starting XI. “It-s been a good turnaround at the club (since Kosmina took over) and we-ve started this season well.

The boys are all competing for places and it shows because we-re enjoying our football and playing some good football too, which we probably haven-t done in season two or three.” There-s no denying the positive influence Kosmina has had on Sydney FC, even if he remains misunderstood as a coach outside the club. “Kossie-s actually pretty relaxed, he-s not as aggressive as people think and I haven-t seen that side of him, perhaps it-s because we-ve been doing well!” Corica says through a laugh.