Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ex-Socceroo to add steel to the Heart

Patrick Kisnorbo.

Patrick Kisnorbo. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

It was, by his own admission, a bit "last minute.com", but, having only arrived in the country two days ago, former Socceroo centre back Patrick Kisnorbo is already training with his new Melbourne Heart teammates and looking forward to Wednesday night's pre-season practice match in Western Australia against Perth Glory.

The 32-year-old defender, who has played for some of Britain's well known clubs - Leeds United, Hearts in Scotland and Leicester City - says that he opted to come home to finish his career and find regular football rather than take up offers he had from England's Championship, lower divisions and abroad.

Heart boss John Aloisi, who played with Kisnorbo in the national team, believes Kisnorbo is exactly the sort of player he needs to provide steel, toughness and aggression to a defence which far too often crumbled under pressure, particularly in away games, last season.

Kisnorbo, as he readily acknowledges, is a no-frills player. He was known in England for his toughness, his preparedness to take knocks for the team and to do a job for the manager: the most used photograph of him, one in which his head is swathed in bandages after he took a bad knock but continued playing, is an eloquent testimony to his major attributes: courage and commitment.

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Aloisi wants him to provide that, and leadership, another commodity Heart often seemed to lack last season on the road, a campaign in which it did not win a single away game.

"He's someone that adds experience, he's a great defender, he's a leader. He captained Leicester. I spoke to Paddy four months ago about coming back, he was weighing up options in Europe and Asia. We recently got back in touch with him, and he wanted to come back and play. He's still only 32 and he's desperate to play football," Aloisi said at a training session on Tuesday morning.

"I know what he's like as a character, a person and a player, he will be good for the squad and he will fit in quickly.

"Last year I feel that we won our games when we played well, but sometimes you have to win when you are not playing all that well. Paddy's that sort of player, he's played a lot of football and he knows how to win ugly, win when you are not at your best. He relishes the challenge, and he likes defending. He's a defender that loves defending, and I think you will pick up a lot of points with players like that in your side."

Kisnorbo has endured plenty of highs and lows in a career that began as a youngster at South Melbourne in the old NSL. He had forced himself into the starting line up for the Socceroos under Pim Verbeek, and looked a certainty to go to the 2010 World Cup before being struck down by an Achilles injury.

Subsequently he also sustained an ACL injury, but, he said on Tuesday morning, he is now fit and well and over any problems he might have had in the past.

"The main thing about coming back here was that I wanted to play games. I had a few injuries a couple of years ago, so I thought why not come home and play with a great coach and great players," he explained.

"I did have options to stay in England, but I have just had a family so I thought I might as well come home, bring the family and hope I can do well.

"I haven't been injured for the past year and a half, when I did my ACL."

He is relishing the chance to re-establish himself in the domestic scene, and while he dismisses talk of a national team recall - "I am not realy thinking about the Socceroos. I just want to play as many games as I can and let the rest take care of itself"' - he will certainly bring a wholehearted commitment to the A-League.

"The English game is rough and quick, and that's the the sort of player I am. I am a defender, and I have had a few battle wounds ... I am not one of those fancy footballers, I just want to do a job and do the best I can."

Looking back on the World Cup campaign that never was, he admits that it was the biggest disappointment in his career.

"I was told that I was in the team, we knew a couple of months beforehand what was happening. It was the biggest disappointment, every kid growing up wants to go to the World Cup and play for their country. But you have to get up and keep fighting and playing.

"Certain things happen, for good and bad. Its just part of football. I looked at it positively. I played professional football for 12 years for some great clubs against some great players."


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