WELLINGTON Phoenix defensive midfielder Jon McKain is determined his 200th appearance at national league level goes much better than his 199th.
The 26-year-old will record a significant career milestone at Westpac Stadium on Sunday should he turn out against Perth Glory in the Phoenix-s first home game of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season as the team seeks to bounce back from a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Newcastle Jets in round one.
McKain was unaware of his shot at a rare achievement in professional football, a reflection of a long and successful career to date.
“No, I didn-t have a clue. My career has been quite long, I guess.”
McKain began his professional career as a 16-year-old with the Brisbane Strikers in the old National Soccer League, before leaving Australia to play in Europe with Romanian top-flight clubs FC National Bucharest and Politehnica Timisoara during a five-year stay.
Capped 12 times for the Socceroos, he returned Down-under to join the Phoenix for their 2008/09 campaign, instrumental in leading the club to a creditable sixth-placed finish as the Phoenix just missed out on a playoffs spot.
Now he-s likely to go 200 not out against the Glory at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
“I-ve never really thought about those sorts of milestones, but yeah, to notch up 200 games will be quite special. Hopefully I-ve got another 200 to come.”
What has been occupying McKain-s thoughts in the lead-up to Sunday-s match is last weekend-s effort against the Jets. The Phoenix paid the price for a tentative start at EnergyAustralia Stadium, going 2-0 down in the first quarter before fighting back to level the scores at the break. Despite a much better second half, the Phoenix were ultimately pipped in the dying minutes.
“We-re going to be up for this weekend-s game against Perth regardless of whether I-m playing 200 or not,” McKain said. “I was disappointed personally with my performance in Newcastle. We-ve all had to face some harsh truths this week and hopefully in our first game at home and in front of a good crowd we can get the three points. Anything else isn-t acceptable.”
McKain will need to be on his game defensively on Sunday to combat the threats of a very good Perth side while also distributing the ball and creating opportunities for the Phoenix on attack.
“Perth have built a very good squad and on paper they-re a much better team than what they were last year,” he said. “But having a good squad on paper isn-t always the main thing in this league, it-s about being consistent and ensuring everyone-s doing they-re job.
“If we-re consistent at the weekend, everyone-s taking responsibility and we play the way we know we can then I think we-ve got nothing to worry about. They do have dangerous players but we-re aware of what we have to do and it-s our priority to look after our own performance.”
McKain-s midfield partner from the Jets game, Tim Brown, could miss Sunday-s match. The New Zealand international has a groin strain and a final decision on his selection will be made after the captain-s run on the eve of the Perth game.
Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert said Brazilian creative midfielder Diego was a near-certainty to start against Perth, indicative of the Phoenix-s attacking mindset.
“Westpac Stadium is all about that for us. We-ve got great fans and if we can get them on their feet and swinging their shirts then they-ll become the ‘12th man- for us. So yes, it-s about being creative, attacking and entertaining.”
Herbert was looking forward to seeing Diego turn things on.
“He-s a key signing for us and I-m excited. He-s ready and he-s hungry – that-s important.”
That hunger runs through the entire Phoenix squad.
“It is all about performance and we weren-t up to the required standard last week as a group,- Herbert said. “There-s been a lot of discussion this week but now all that counts for nothing – the performance on Sunday needs to speak for itself.”
Sunday-s match kicks off at 5pm NZT (3pm AEST) and will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1 and Fox Sports 3. The Radio Network broadcasts the match live on 1035AM (Wellington).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 16. David MULLIGAN. 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES *four to be omitted
Perth Glory squad: 1. Tando VELAPHI (gk), 4. Andy TODD, 6. Chris COYNE, 7. Jacob BURNS (c), 8. Victor SIKORA, 10. Wayne SRHOJ, 11. Branko JELIC, 12. Scott NEVILLE, 14. Eugene DADI, 15. Howard FONDYKE, 16. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17. Todd HOWARTH, 18. Brent GRIFFITHS, 19. Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20. Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI, 23. Andrija JUKIC * two to be omitted