Selfless Simon puts Sky Blues first

Matt Simon said the fact he and George Blackwood were competing for the same spot at Sydney FC would never stop him from giving the A-League rookie all the help he required.

Matt Simon

Matt Simon Source: Getty Images

Blackwood, 18, said last week that there a few experienced teammates and coaching staff at the club whom he relied on for advice and direction and who had given him enormous help during the early stages of his senior career.

He said fellow striker Simon, 29, was one of those players.

In last week's game against Newcastle Jets, Blackwood started and Simon came off the bench to replace him after 64 minutes.

It now remains to be seen how Sydney coach Graham Arnold, with Alex Brosque still unavailable because of a hamstring injury, sets his team up in the derby against Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday.

But Simon insists he will continue to do all he could to assist Blackwood. He said that to be unselfish and let the youngster fend for himself would not only be counter-productive for the team but also go against all of the principles he had learned as a player.

"I know when I was younger and I got advice off the older players it always made me feel better and more confident, so helping the younger players out is naturally something I want to do," Simon said.

"George is a young player and all the older boys have been in that place. He's got huge potential and he's showing it at training and in games at the moment, how good he's going to be.

"I think it's natural all the senior players want to help the younger boys like him coming through, having been in that sort of situation themselves when they were young.

"We're all working towards the same goal. Of course everyone wants to play, but whoever isn't playing wants whoever is playing to win and to do well.

"For the team to be successful we need each individual player to perform well and if there's advice you can pass on to the younger players you do that. Even I still ask for advice from older players. Wherever you can help each other out, you do what you can."

Even in the absence of Brosque, it is hard to get a run in the front-line for Sydney at the moment. Shane Smeltz, the second-highest goal-scorer in A-League history behind Archie Thompson, was on the bench against Newcastle and didn't get a run at all.

Former Central Coast Mariners star Simon knew it was going to be difficult when he joined Sydney, so he took the view that he would make absolutely sure he was ready whenever he did get a chance.

Beyond that, he is looking at the bigger picture and an increasingly crowded playing schedule for the team once Sydney's campaign in the AFC Asian Champions League begins, meaning the club's depth will become even more important than usual.

"It's a challenge to even get a spot on the bench every week, because we've got so much depth," Simon said.

"I've come off the bench most of the time this season and wherever I can help, that's what I'll do. Of course everyone wants to start, but I enjoy it, coming off the bench to try and help the team, and if that's what's asked of me I'm happy to do it.

"You have to be switched on right throughout the week and whenever you're called upon to play you've got to go out and do the job and produce according to the tactics the coach is using."

Simon was ready against the Jets, coming off the bench to provide the perfect back-heel pass for fellow substitute Ali Abbas to score the match-clinching goal in a 2-0 win.

Now it's on to the derby in front of a packed house at Parramatta. Simon played in his first Sydney derby in round three, when Sydney won 1-0 at Allianz Stadium.

"I came on with about 15 or 20 minutes to go and the game wasn't decided at that stage," Simon said. "It was 0-0 and I was lucky enough to be on the pitch when Milos Ninkovic scored the winner in the 88th minute.

"It was a great feeling to be out there and be a part of those celebrations and I really enjoyed my first derby. I'd watched the derbies over the years and seen the size of the crowds and how special an occasion it is and it was great to finally be a part of one."

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5 min read
Published 14 January 2016 at 6:53pm
By Greg Prichard