Queensland Boy Won't Forget 2004 In A Hurry
“The last year has been a bit chaotic with moving to Romania then the Olympics and now this,” says Jon McKain, one of the Socceroos new brigade gearing up for tonight’s OFC Nations Cup final clash with the Solomon Islands at Aussie Stadium.
By Ben Coonan “The last year has been a bit chaotic with moving to Romania then the Olympics and now this,” says Jon McKain, one of the Socceroos new brigade gearing up for tonight-s OFC Nations Cup final clash with the Solomon Islands at Aussie Stadium. “It-s all happening at once but I-m enjoying it mate.” McKain is one of three Qantas Under 23-s called up by national coach Frank Farina for the two game series that will ultimately decide Oceania-s representative in June 2005-s Confederations Cup in Germany. The former Brisbane Strikers defender is joined by fellow Olympians Ahmad Elrich and Luke Wilkshire in Farina-s plans for the Solomons series and made his full senior debut in Honiara last Saturday when coming on as a second half substitute for Lucas Neill. McKain-s senior breakthrough completes an extraordinary list of achievements by the Romanian based man marker in 2004 and adds further credentials to Farina-s already impressive table of defensive options. In the company of Craig Moore, Tony Popovic, Tony Vidmar and Steve Laybutt, McKain is aware of the elite opposition he faces in order to nail down a permanent berth in Farina-s Socceroo squad. But, if McKain-s versatile and thorough Olympic Games performances are anything to go by, Australian soccer fans will be seeing plenty more of the Queensland boy in the green and gold. “It-s been a while coming and a bit of a dream I suppose,” said McKain from the Socceroos appearance in Martin Place on Monday. McKain-s debut came two months after the Under 23-s credible finish in Athens, where McKain played a significant part in Australia-s charge towards the quarter finals. Despite the end result looking somewhat convincing on paper, McKain remembers the Athens games with a hint of frustration. “It was a bit disappointing, but we got to a quarter final of a major tournament and we can-t complain how we went, but there-s also a bit of regret there, we could have done a fraction better,” said McKain. “We lost to Iraq in the quarter final and that-s a team we think we could have beat so it was a bit disappointing for us.” McKain had the privilege of learning from one of the best in Athens, that being Socceroo teammate Craig Moore, who was at the heart of a stubborn Australian defence in Greece. The impact of the current Socceroo captain on the rest of his team was evident and McKain is just one player who cannot sing the praises of the Rangers defender loud enough. “Moorey-s a good guy and he-s quality mate,” says McKain of the Socceroo icon. “He-s a world-class defender. You realise when you play with him how much he really does help the team and just the little things he does really help you as a player. “I was playing in front of him rather than beside him, which was a bit interesting, but he-s quality mate, he-s world class. “With him in the Socceroos we-ll be fine.” Since and before Athens, Brad Jones, David Tarka, Alex Brosque, Adrian Madaschi, Jade North, McKain and current squad members Wilkshire and Elrich have all made transition from Under 23-s to Socceroos, a vindicating sign for coach Farina, who has always advocated the need to blood youngsters into the senior set up. McKain believes he and the likes of Wilkshire and Elrich are just a few of a host of Under 23-s that will impact the senior set up in the coming years. “We had a good (Olympic) team, the team did well and a few of us have been called up and we feel good here,” said McKain. “We feel quite confident and the boys have made us feel welcome and hopefully it-s the start of a few years with the national team. “Particularly in my position where the defenders are quite experienced and, not older, but they-ve only got three, four or five years left in them which is good for me. “I think it-s good to blood a few youngsters, myself and Wilko and Ahmad obviously doing really well, it-s good I think for Australian soccer.” McKain has no doubts that the current Socceroo crop has the potential to end Australia-s agonising 32-year wait for a World Cup berth. “Definitely mate,” says McKain with purpose when asked of the Socceroos chances for qualification for Germany 2006. “The whole starting eleven are playing in Europe with big teams and even to make the squad is quite difficult now. “It-s difficult how we always get the one off match, which, anything can happen home and away, but we can-t keep using that as an excuse. We-ve got a great chance next year, as we have had in previous years, but hopefully we-ll learn from that.” Should McKain make his home Socceroo debut in Sydney tonight, 2004 will truly be remembered as a special year for the QAS graduate, who has well and truly earmarked himself as one of Australia-s greatest prospects on the international scene.