Lustica slips into Bridge's spot at Wanderers

Steven Lustica believes he has the skills required to play wherever Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic places him, with his most likely role replacing Mark Bridge in attack.

Steven Lustica

Steven Lustica playing for the Wanderers in the FFA Cup. Source: Getty Images

Like Lustica, Bridge was also very adaptable, becoming a fan favourite playing on the left-hand side of the attacking third and that is where Lustica, in his first season with the club, has been playing during the pre-season.

He played as a left winger in Western Sydney's 5-1 win over Edgeworth Eagles in their FFA Cup round of 16 tie on August 30 and it will be interesting to see if Popovic uses him in the same position in the quarter-final against Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Wednesday night.

Lustica is best known as a midfielder, but he said he was also comfortable playing further forward and that players had to be capable of moving around to fit in with what the coach wanted and the team needed.

"I'll play wherever the coach wants me to play," Lustica told The World Game.

"You've got to be able to play in different positions and adjust.

"Midfield, attacking midfield, on the left-hand side in a sort of wing position, like I was against Edgeworth. I've played there before. I'll do a job wherever the coach wants me to do it. You've got to be adjustable and I'd like to think I am that.

"My main goal is to fit in well enough to help the team perform well and at the same time I'm always looking to improve, so that's my main focus.

"I'm working very hard and we've got the game on Wednesday night that I'm looking forward to and right around the corner is the first game of the season in the A-League."

The Wanderers are preparing for an absolute blockbuster to begin their A-League season, with a derby game against Sydney FC scheduled for ANZ Stadium on the evening of Saturday, October 8. The game, at an 80,000-capacity venue, is tipped to draw the biggest A-League crowd ever.

Popovic loves using wingers and they are traditionally very busy within the Western Sydney playing structure, often coming inside and back out to try to confuse and unsettle the defence.

The workload is high, but Lustica isn't bothered by that.

"It's no different to any other position in that respect," he said.

"Every position on the field you've got to work hard and run and fight for the team, so if it's on the wing, or up front, in the midfield, or as a wing-back, you always work hard. You expect a tough workload.

"I've been here since the start of pre-season, going back to near the end of June, and it's a great environment at the club and I'm really excited about the season."

Lustica, 25, grew up in Canberra but recognised that he would need to relocate for the sake of his football career.

He started in the A-League as an 18 year-old with Gold Coast United before making an overseas move, playing in Croatia for teams including Hadjuk Split.

Popa says he plans to name the strongest available XI for tomorrow night's FFA Cup quarter final #WSW — WS Wanderers FC (@wswanderersfc) September 20, 2016
After originally returning to Australia on loan to Brisbane Roar from Hadjuk Split, he was then released from his overseas contract and played for Adelaide United and Roar again before joining Wanderers.

"There's no A-League team in Canberra, so there weren't any opportunities there once I got older," Lustica said.

"I had to look elsewhere and it has been a different path for me to many other players, but it was one I was prepared to take and which I've enjoyed and I'm really happy at the Wanderers.

"I really enjoyed my time in Croatia. I went there at a young age and I signed for one of the biggest clubs there, so it was a great experience for me and it was a very important step in my development."

Lustica said Wanderers were expecting a difficult game against City, for whom Socceroo Tim Cahill will be looking to step up his preparation for the A-League with plenty of game-time.

"Obviously they've made some quality signings this year and they're going to be a top team, but we're going to Melbourne confident," he said. "We've just got to make sure we're switched on and that we focus on our own game."

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4 min read
Published 20 September 2016 at 6:06pm
By Greg Prichard