Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson could easily have been making his 300th A-League appearance with – rather than against – Melbourne City.
The 36-year-old former Socceroos defender’s memorable career reaches another milestone at AAMI Park on Tuesday night when he chalks up a triple century of A-League matches.
His opponents will be Melbourne City, who offered him the chance to again play in Australia in 2016 after his contract expired with Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
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“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen afterwards when I headed overseas (in 2012) but I always thought that at some stage I’d come back,” Wilkinson said.
“The Korean season finished in November-December, and a lot of the A-League squads were full so I was really grateful that Melbourne City gave me the opportunity to go down there and play.
“It was by no means a short-term fix. I was really open to the possibility of staying down there for the following season.”
But when Sydney FC showed interest in signing Wilkinson for the 2016-17 campaign and beyond, the chance for the former Central Coast Mariners skipper to return home to New South Wales was too good to refuse.
“It worked out really well when I did come back to Australia. My wife was pregnant with our second child and the timing to come back to Sydney worked out perfectly,” he said.
“It ticked all the boxes off the pitch and also on the pitch as well … but I had a fantastic time in Melbourne and I’ve only got good things to say about Melbourne City.
“It’s funny how it works out that my 300th is against a team I played for, and it’s nice in a way, but once you’re on the pitch, you’re not thinking about it too much, you’re just out there to win the game. It doesn’t matter who it’s against.”
Even if it was against the Mariners, despite his ongoing admiration for the Gosford-based club with whom he made 172 A-League appearances.
“I’ve got so many positive things to say about that club,” Wilkinson said.
“To see them go through some hard times is never good, but it looks like they’ve definitely turned the corner this year.
“It’s good to see them doing so well – just hopefully not against us again.”
The Mariners beat Sydney 2-0 last month. It has been the Sky Blues only loss this season.
“We’re tracking along OK I think. We’ve still got room for improvement but so you should at this time of the season,” three-time A-League championship-winner Wilkinson said.