Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson is determined to lead his team to victory over Melbourne City in tomorrow’s A-League Grand-Final. The veteran is looking to add another championship to his trophy haul with the Sky Blues.
Wilkinson has already won three titles with Sydney throughout his five-year stint at the club. He admitted to Kick360 earlier this week that he was still hungry for more success before his career comes to a close.
“I don’t think you’ll ever be satisfied. I think you achieve something, and then you celebrate that for a couple of days, and then you move on to the next thing,” Wilkinson said.
“That’s the nature of sport and football that you’re always striving to achieve more. We at Sydney try and do that every year, and I’m the same.
“I want to keep trying to achieve things before the career’s over and you hang your boots up.”
Wilkinson has had a long and distinguished career. His domestic success with Sydney has complimented titles in Asia with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Korea. He was also a part of Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos side that won the Asian Cup in 2015.
His CV also includes a brief stint he had with Sunday’s opponent’s City, where he featured ten times under the tutelage of John van’t Schip in the 2015-16 campaign.
The defender felt he was well-received during his time in Melbourne. Still, the opportunity to move back home to Sydney ahead of the 2016-17 season was ideal for his young family.
“When I come back from Asia, it was mid-season in the A-League, so a lot of clubs’ rosters were full [but] Melbourne City gave me the opportunity to go down there, and I had a really great time. They treated me very, very well.
“They’re a great club. At the end of the season, I had the option of staying at City, but with my wife being pregnant and us being away for four years beforehand, heading back to Sydney was the right thing on and off the pitch.
“Being close to family when you’ve been away a long time was important to us, and on the field, knowing Arnie and the coaching staff, and quite a few of the players, sort of ticked both boxes.”
Wilkinson was grateful for City’s part in helping him transition back into the A-League after an extended period overseas. He believes his former side are rightful hosts of the decider on Sunday.
“I think it’s good that the game’s in Melbourne. I think Melbourne City earnt the right to host it, so it’s definitely the right decision.”
Sydney has a good track record in Grand Finals away from home. They won both in Perth in 2019 and did it in Melbourne before when they edged past the Victory on penalties way back in 2010.
The 36-year-old was a part of the side that beat Tony Popovic’s Glory side at Optus Stadium two years ago.
He believes the confidence of knowing they can win a game of this magnitude away from home could play a part in the outcome this weekend.
“We’ve shown in the past that we can go away and win Grand Finals. Not too many teams have actually done that, I think, in the A-League era.
“Sydney FC’s managed to do it twice. That gives us a lot of confidence going into this game.”
Steve Corica’s side faces a stern test in City, who proved in last week’s win over Macarthur that they have enough depth to cover the absence of Jamie Maclaren.
Stefan Colakovski and Marco Tilio were superb last Sunday, stunning the Bulls with two quickfire goals in the second half to secure City’s passage through to the final.
Wilkinson is fully aware of the challenge Sydney’s back four will face in handling the dangerous players Patrick Kisnorbo’s side has in the final third.
“[The key is] to stick to our defensive structure. We pride ourselves on every player chipping in defensively, and that starts from the front line.
“When we’re playing well is when our structure’s at its best. They’ve got some dangerous players in the attacking third of the field, but if we can stick to our structure and defend the way we like to, that’s going to go a long way to helping us win the game.”
In the past five seasons, Sydney’s structure off the ball has been a significant factor in their success under Graham Arnold and now Corica.
As a defender who has played in several huge one-off matches, Wilkinson knows all too well the importance of preserving that structure to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible.
“I think it definitely helps [keeping a clean sheet]. We’ve got a lot of talent in the front third of the pitch [and] we’re confident going into every game that we’re going to score goals, but it’s important that we keep our structure defensively.”
Sydney’s ability to stifle their opponents in crunch games has given them a foundation for their star quality in attack to flourish.
Wilkinson believes their ability to do it consistently is a testament to both the culture at the club and the continuity within the squad in recent years.
“I think the culture’s a really important part of the success we have. The club do a great job of not only recruiting very good players but also very good people that they know are going to fit into the family culture we’ve got at the club.
“Also, the fact that the club have managed to keep the core squad over the last six or so seasons together. That always helps when you’re not chopping and changing too many people each year [and] that everyone’s quite familiar with each other and how they play.”
Image Supplied: Sydney FC