Words by Ahmed Yussuf
There are few players more celebrated in the A-League, as Mark Milligan has been in his most recent stint with Melbourne Victory. It was no mean feat, as the former Victory captain was an out of favour centre-back in the second tier of Japanese football before restarting his career with the current A-League champions.
If there’s anyway to sufficiently describe Milligan’s footballing pedigree it’s his ability to adapt and reinvent. The aspects of his game to be adaptable hurt him in his younger years, as he was seen more or less as a utility man. But all the time, pining for a role at the base of the defence, to marshal teammates into position.
It wasn’t to be, the move to Victory at the time seemed to be a relationship of convenience, opposed to a desperate desire from either side. Milligan wanted to recapture the form that saw him ride the World Cup wave in 2006, and Victory just wanted a centre-back who didn’t fall over.
The coach that ultimately changed the way Australian football fans, reporters and pundits saw Milligan was Ange Postecoglou. Milligan was always a versatile player, but never thought to be a midfield specialist just someone who could do a job every now and again.
Milligan’s worth as a midfielder grew almost overnight. His ability to reinvent himself from a centre-back who was kind of good on the ball to a metronomic midfield anchor was some task.
He was transformed into this all action midfielder able to compliment high energy running and precision passing into his game. He was the heartbeat to an well-oiled Melbourne Victory midfield, anchoring from deep with his then partner in crime Gui Finkler at the tip of midfield threading the needle whenever he saw fit.
The Socceroo changed all of minds, quickly becoming one of the integral pieces to the national team setup. And in no time his former club boss was coaching the national. That saw him play an important role in the success of the Socceroos in the 2015 Asian Cup.
After the year he’s had, winning almost everything he could’ve, Milligan said goodbye to Victory leaving for Abu Dhabi side Baniyas Club, who’ve been chasing the Socceroo for almost two years.
The Socceroo has now left home for pastures new in the Gulf, but what I’ll be eager to see is how Milligan reinvents himself once again in a new football environment.
Highlight of 2015: Featuring prominently in Australia’s Asian Cup victory
But whatever way you look at it, 2015 was the defining moment of Milligan’s career to date. It saw him lift prize after prize, from the Asian Cup to Premiers Plate and finally the A-League most coveted prize, the toilet seat.
However, the highlight of 2015 has to be winning the Asian Cup. Milligan was a part of a historic side winning the Socceroos’ first Asian Cup, the biggest prize in Asian, on home soil has got to rank up there as one of Milligan’s career highlight, let alone 2015.