Is Leckie the Socceroos' most underrated player?

Australia attacker Mathew Leckie has every reason to feel that he does not get the accolades he deserves from an Australian public and media that are starstruck by English football.


Mathew Leckie celebrates scoring against the United Arab Emirates Source: AP

Leckie, 26, plays his club football in Germany's highly rated Bundesliga.

On the opening day of the season, on a bright afternoon in Berlin's Olimpiastadion, he had a debutant's ball to remember.

The Australian helped his new club Hertha Berlin to a 2-0 win over Stuttgart with two well-taken goals that augur well for the Socceroos' do-or-die 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Japan in Saitama. 

The Socceroos need a draw against the Samurai Blue on Thursday and a win in their final qualifying match against Thailand in Melbourne five days later to book their ticket to the Russian extravaganza in less than a year.

This is Leckie's third straight season in Germany's elite competition and if his form is any indication - he also played a key role in Hertha's 2-0 win over Hansa Rostock in the first round of the DFB-Pokal - this season could be the one that takes this composed performer to another level.

Leckie ran his socks off with no reward in Hertha's second league game of the season at Borussia Dortmund but the home side were too good on the day and won 2-0.

If he adds more goals to his blistering pace, commendable work rate and considerable ball skills, Leckie would go a long way towards endearing himself to an Australian public which probably does not fully appreciate how hard it is to just be on the bench at a Bundesliga club, let alone play regularly. Just ask Robbie Kruse.

Australians would know about every move Aaron Mooy or Mat Ryan make for Huddersfield Town or Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League ... and I say this with the utmost respect for two genuine stars and without any hint of belittling their extraordinary achievements.

But similar exploits from fellow Socceroos in places like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium or Switzerland usually would attract far less attention, essentially because for many Australians the Premier league is sill seen as the be-all-and-end-all of club football.

Australian players face a big challenge to establish themselves at a foreign club because of stiff competition for places and often they would need to be much better than their local teammates to get into the side.

“You are not really looked after in Europe … you’re a foreigner and you have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as the locals, wherever you go, just to get into the team,” Josip Skoko once told me. The former Socceroos playmaker played in Croatia, Belgium, Turkey and England.

In roughly the same way, current Socceroos playing on the continent or in Asia must just about walk on water to earn the recognition from the public and media.

This is an unfortunate if understandable scenario and I would sympathise with those who feel they are being forgotten or unappreciated by the football fraternity down under.

Fortunately, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is not one to be influenced by what is written or said about his players.
No way will any Socceroos squad member feel abandoned by Postecoglou who has a team of observers who scout the globe to keep tabs on our elite players at home and abroad.

It certainly is not a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' with Postecoglou, who is a passionate believer and supporter of Australian football and its players but who also understands how difficult it is for any Aussie coach or player to crack it abroad.

Leckie has done it the hard way ever since he made his debut for Adelaide United in September 2009 as an exciting 18-year-old right winger.

Two years later he was on his way to Europe and after several spells in both Bundesliga divisions with Borussia Monchengladbach, VSF Frankfurt and Ingolstadt he now plies his trade with Hertha Berlin, a famous club that draw massive crowds to their games at the venue that hosted the 2006 World Cup final.

If Leckie can just manage a few more goals for his country - he scored only five times in 44 internationals - to go with his overall strong contribution to the Socceroos team he would go a long way towards establishing himself as a player of genuine international class.

In the next few days he will get two glorious opportunities against Japan and Thailand to finally win the hearts of Australia's discerning fans who can be very hard to please.

Leckie will always be judged by how many goals he scores regardless of how he plays and he knows it all too well. So a couple of goals that give the Australians a ticket to Russia would boost his stature at home and abroad.

In so doing, he might become more appreciated in Australia.

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5 min read
Published 27 August 2017 at 5:23pm
By Philip Micallef