Former Socceroos captain Paul Wade is the first to admit his soccer legacy did not come from unparalleled skills on the field.
“I wasn’t quick, I couldn’t score enough goals and others would stand next to me in team photos so they could look better,” said the former South Melbourne and Australia midfielder.
What did come as second nature to him was his ability to lead a team, earning him the third longest captaincy of the Socceroos with 46 games.
Wade, now 56, says he often gets asked what makes a good leader and at last he thinks he has the answer.
“A leader is somebody who can make people believe in one goal,” he says.
Wade’s club career was spent entirely in Australia, a rarity for players who often travel abroad on the lure of better quality football, a greater fan following and a higher salary.
Socceroos coach at the time, the late Eddie Thomson, put his captaincy down to enthusiasm and anger that reverberated through the players around him.
“There isn’t a formula but for me every single training session was important and the only thing that mattered at the time,” says Wade.
While he worked full-time as a draftsman throughout most of his career, the skipper played a total of 118 games for Australia between 1986 and 1996, with 84 as international appearances in the A league.
When asked why he did well as captain for six years, he says: “It’s amazing the power of ‘well done'.”
“If I shouted to Paul Trimboli, ‘well done’ it lifts him, makes him feel good, all of a sudden it’s important to do it again.”
‘I was humiliated’
In 1993, Wade became the first captain in 20 years to be axed from the national team for a bad attitude.
“You don’t realise how content you’ve become until you’re kicked out right before we played a World Cup qualifier.”
He says the blow to his work ethic, which he prided himself on, was the wake-up call he needed to finding his way back onto the team – and thinks current players should learn a similar lesson in never getting too assured in themselves.
The impending World Cup
Wade who played two unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaigns during his time as captain is anxious to see how the team will play on the big stage.
“You put yourself under so much pressure that you might freeze,” he says.
“This team ... I am so nervous in a way, I just want to get out of the group stage.
“If we do, I reckon it would be like winning the World Cup when you think about the turmoil we’ve had.”
The pressure is on the Australian team, who will face France in the first game. France won the 1998 World Cup.
“If you can’t handle the pressure then I don’t care how quick and strong you are,” Wade says.
“Thinking about the game can wear you down, you start playing hours before the game kicks off.”
He recalls in the days leading up to a big game he would find himself going for a walk to calm down and suggests the boys watch a Matildas game to learn a thing or two.
Wade says he is most excited to see Aaron Mooy and Matthew Ryan on the field, saying they “stand tall next to the golden players of Australian soccer.”
On current captain Mile Jedinak: “It’s an interesting one, the people are speculating about the captaincy and if he fits in … I hope he plays he deserves to play.”
And as for fan favourite Tim Cahill Wade doesn't think he needs to be put on the field.
“I’d be reluctant to put Tim Cahill on unless it was the last ten minutes of the game and we needed a goal.”