It was a memorable day for all that were involved both past and present players at the recent unveiling of the new artificial surface at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Current Reds coach Mark Rudan was one such player that lived and continues to breathe Sydney United.
“Obviously and hopefully the best memories are still to come with Sydney United 58,” he laughs before continuing.
“I have a lot of great memories and spent most of my life here in my childhood and teenage years from about the age of eight or nine.
“I made my senior debut for the club in the old National Soccer League and spent a good 15-years as a player before deciding to move on to Northern Spirit as you well know Brockie, so I have a lot of great memories and all of my best mates today were found here when I was a junior with the likes of Tony Popovic (former Socceroo, Crystal Palace and present coach of Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League), Ante Milicic (NAC Breda and Socceroo) and Zeljko Kalac (Socceroo, AC Milan) and all the other guys who I am still very close to today.
“This club meant and means a lot to us and it’s not just the friends we made but many of us met our wives here too and now have family’s and it’s just a club that brought the community together.”
It isn’t simply the European heritage Rudan remarks on as he comments further.
“We are a very proud community but we were all born in Australia and are very, very proud Australian’s but as a community we stuck together and that was very important as we continued to look after each other, watch each other’s backs and you see a lot of successful people who have come out of it 20-years on in prominent roles as coach’s or in the media or whatever the case may be and I think that comes from our strength in numbers and closeness.
“I have to admit some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent on this field although now of course it is a little bit different, a little bit greener and looks a little more artificial as well (laughing as he refers to the synthetic surface as opposed to the semi-sand patch it had declined into over recent seasons), but the club is planning for the future again and to developing footballers for the A-League clubs and beyond, hopefully, and we’ve changed our mentality.
“Once we were a club that produced plenty of terrific players, and many international footballers, for the club side but we know our place in the scheme of things these days and now it’s more about producing talent for the A-League clubs or even be good enough to skip that and perhaps go straight overseas potentially.”
As part of the celebrations was a Celebrity (loosely termed) match prior to the kick-off including many former players plus officials from A-League clubs and Fox Sports TV with the standout being Kalac, a goalkeeper of note in his heyday but playing in the outfield and netting a hat-trick for the Brave Hearts against Cosmos who wilted woefully to a 5-2 loss however watching the highlights for the final goal of the game to ‘Spider’ Kalac who managed to get one of his spindly legs to the ball for what in now termed as a ‘spider kick’.
Rudan however couldn’t take part with the IGA NSW Premier State League 1 match against Manly United coming up.
“It’s not a cover story or a cop out as I cannot play in the Celebrity game because I have a lot of pre-match work to do of course (more than a slight hint of a smile there) but it’s great to see a lot of my old friends turning up and supporting the club alongside those I work with at Fox (Sports) and some of the A-League guys I played with and I’ll take it in and give myself a little time to enjoy the days gone by with those guys strutting their stuff on the park and then focus on the game ahead.
“It’s business as usual for me and that will be the main point for me today.
“We’ve prepared well again this week and hopefully we can start to turn the corner results wise.”
For the record, Sydney United 58 had what looked a good claim for a goal waved away, a player sent-off and a scoreless draw at the final whistle, no mean achievement when playing for around an hour a man down.
To say one could see the big centre-back’s eyes moisten when reminiscing about his early days at the club would be poetic licence as it never happened but it was abundantly clear the depth of feeling he has and continues to feel for it.
My thanks to Rudes, an absolute gentleman, who gave freely of his time for the interview on a big occasion for the club and a match day for himself and is only one reason why he will always be highly regarded in football circles and by this scribe.
-By Micky Brock