Wilkinson hoping to build solid defensive partnership at Sydney FC

Alex Wilkinson said it was time to get serious and build combinations with his new Sydney FC team mates starting with Wednesday night’s trial game against Earlwood Wanderers at Leichhardt Oval.


. Source: AAP

The central defender, who has been a member of Ange Postecoglou’s Australia squad as recently as May, was a prized signing for Sydney coach Graham Arnold, who prides himself on his teams having a solid defensive base.

Wilkinson previously played under Arnold at the Mariners, where current Sky Blues strength and conditioning coach Andrew Clark and goalkeeping coach John Crawley were also situated at the time.

The 31-year-old will presumably be paired with Matt Jurman in the central defence, although Sebastian Ryall is also an option there as well as being a right-back. Arnold wants to increase competition for all positions.

Wilkinson, who returned from several years of playing in Asia to join Melbourne City for the second half of last season, said that if Wilkinson and Jurman did join forces he would look forward to them working together based on what he saw Jurman do for Sydney last season.

“I haven’t played with Matt before and we’ve only been in training for a couple of weeks, so in terms of combinations I have no idea what Arnie’s plans for the A-League are at this stage,” Wilkinson told The World Game.

“But Matt had a fantastic year last season. I thought he was one of Sydney’s best every game and from what I’ve seen at training he has come back looking great again and if I was partner him I’d be very happy about that. I’d look forward to it.”

Wilkinson said the pre-season games would be very important to him as a new player in the side, because he needed to get used not only to his central defensive partner but all of those around him so that he could get his distribution strategies right.

“It always takes time when you come into a new team,” he said. “You gradually get to know each player’s individual traits and how they like to play and when they like to have the ball and where they like the ball played. That’s what all the pre-season games are for.

“It takes time to gel and work out what every player wants and it’s the same with your specific centre-back pairing. The more games you can play together in pre-season, the better the understanding.

“Hopefully, whatever combination Arnie chooses we can get it sorted pretty well in pre-season and be ready to start the A-League knowing exactly how best to work together. I think everyone who has been in training will get a run on Wednesday night, whether it’s half a game or a full game.

“The first week of training was more about injury prevention and last week was about getting a bit more volume into the legs and once the games start it’s pretty important because you can train as much as you want but you need to start getting match condition.”

Wilkinson said he could have stayed at Melbourne City for another season, but with his family living in Sydney it made most sense to join the Sky Blues when the opportunity became available.

“I was down in Melbourne by myself because it was for a shorter period of time to start with and I wasn’t sure what would happen beyond  that,” he said. “So we kept the family in Sydney until I knew what was going to happen more long-term.

“And being originally from Sydney and having worked with some of the staff at the club before, and played with a few of the guys here, it made for a decision that suited me both professionally and personally. It was something that works for everyone involved.

“I could have stayed at Melbourne City because I had a good time down there and they looked after me and there are a lot of great people involved at the club, but like I said it was more suitable to come to Sydney. So far it’s been great.”

Wilkinson said he could already sense the determination at Sydney to make the finals after surprisingly missing out last season.

“Sydney had a terrific run in the Asian Champion League and were unlucky not to make the quarter-finals of that, but the A-League was disappointing for the club and something we’ll look to put right this season,” he said.

“That’s what all the boys are focused on. Sydney isn’t involved in the ACL this year, so everything is about doing well in the A-League and being there with a chance come finals time.”

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5 min read
Published 19 July 2016 at 12:31pm
By Greg Prichard