The Socceroos veteran mentoring Sydney FC’s emerging King

When you’re 19 and at the start of your professional football career, playing for the defending Hyundai A-League champions can be a daunting prospect.

But that hasn’t been the case for unassuming left-back Joel King, who has fitted seamlessly into the backline of the league-leading Sky Blues in 2019/20.

An injury to first-choice left-back Michael Zullo in pre-season opened the door for King to get a consistent shot in Steve Corica’s first-team plans.

Feature image thanks to Sydney FC

And the Shell Cove-raised youngster has taken his chance, making 10 appearances (six starts) as the Sky Blues have opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the ladder.

Underlining how consistent King’s form has been is the fact Zullo’s lengthy absence has barely been noticed.

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King says the influence and leadership of skipper Alex Wilkinson has been pivotal in his sensational start to life as a Hyundai A-League player.

“I think 100% he [Wilkinson] is the reason I’ve slotted in so well. If he wasn’t there I wouldn’t be playing at the level that I am now,” King told Sydney FC’s official website.

“It’s great playing alongside him, it makes it all a lot easier as a left back. As a young boy, playing in any other team I think it’d be a lot harder. I’m grateful that I get to play next to him and even behind Ninko.

“I’m getting a bit more comfortable in the team I think, the more minutes I get the more experience I get.

“I’m learning a lot and there’s a lot of things you learn in games that you don’t in training, so I’m happy with the minutes I’m getting and I’m just grateful.

“I’m just learning little things off the ball, like where to position yourself. Wilko has been telling me where to be and I think the last few games he hasn’t had to tell me as much which is good.”

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King’s consistent form has given Sydney FC the luxury of taking their time with Zullo’s calf injury, which has taken longer than expected to get right.

Zullo is edging closer to full fitness, coming off the bench in Sydney’s 2-1 win over Adelaide United last Saturday night.

Whether the teenager is able to retain his spot in the starting side is a dilemma for the Sky Blues boss but King is just enjoying the ride.

“I didn’t think this is where I’d be at this stage of the season. After last season where I only got minutes in the last game, I really had to be patient,” he said.

“I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity in Round 1 and that gave me a bit of confidence and I think I’ve earned the trust of Steve [Corica] for him to throw me in at any time.

“It’s difficult competition with Zullo, he’s a very good player and he teaches me a lot in training. If he’s not able to play I’m happy to play.

“My goal is to continue playing as much as I can and to keep our lead going at the top of the table. We don’t want to lose this lead, we want to keep it going and not slacken off.”

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Friday, 10 January 2020
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports