November 21, 2014 – 7:03PM
Warming up: Wanderers winger Nikita Rukavytsya. Photo: Getty Images
New Western Sydney Wanderers signing Nikita Rukavytsya says it will take him a little while to hit top gear but he has no doubts he can reproduce the form that made him one of Australia’s most promising talents.
Along with fellow recruits Romeo Castelen and Seyi Adeleke, Rukavytsya made his home A-League debut in Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against the Central Coast Mariners and was deployed as a left-side winger as Tomi Juric took up the focal point in attack.
While Rukavytsya wasn’t quite able to impose his authority on the contest, the exhilarating pace that made him such a star with Perth Glory five years ago clearly remains intact and the Ukrainian-born forward is convinced he’ll only get better from here.
“That was just my second start since joining the club and I’m getting much fitter with every game. I’ll be at my best soon,” he said. “I had a full pre-season in Germany [with former club Mainz] but I didn’t play so many games. My fitness is good but as everyone knows, the difference between training fitness and match fitness is huge. It’s a totally different thing. I was obviously lacking match fitness but I’m feeling better and better and it won’t be long until I’m at 100 per cent.”
Perhaps an indicator of his current match fitness came when coach Tony Popovic brought Rukavytsya off for Mark Bridge after 65 minutes.
“That was the coach’s decision, which is understandable,” he said. “I felt like I could have gone for 90 minutes but we have so many games coming up that I want to get through all of them and be available whenever the coach wants to use me.”
While concern mounts that the Wanderers aren’t picking up enough points to stay in touch with the top six – they’ve taken just one from their first five games – Rukavytsya mirrors Popovic’s view that there’s nothing to panic about.
“It’s still only the beginning of the season and the boys have already had a lot of games and a lot of travelling, so it’s a challenge,” he said. “But that’s not an excuse. Obviously a few new boys are coming in as well and we’re all trying to gel as a team. That will take some time but we’re progressing with each game and, soon enough, it will be much better.”
The Wanderers had ample chances to finish off the plucky Mariners, especially in the second half, but couldn’t find a way past visitors’ goalkeeper Liam Reddy.
“We played some good football. We had some good chances to score but unfortunately the ball just wouldn’t go in the net for us,” he said. “Now we have a short turnaround before the Newcastle game at home on Saturday night and it’s important everyone starts thinking quickly about that game and what we can do better.”
Upon arriving in Australia last month, Rukavytsya declared he wanted to resume the striker’s role after being used as a winger in Germany – which he did to great effect at Hertha Berlin. However, he may have a battle on his hands, especially when the talented Juric is playing.
“Of course that’s what I like but it’s really no problem and we have great attacking players. I can play anywhere up front,” he said. “I just want to do my best for the team. If I have to play on the left, it doesn’t matter. It’s something I got quite used to in Europe.”
One of the main attractions for any prospective Wanderer is playing in front of one of the league’s most vocal supporter groups, something Rukavytsya clearly relished in his first home appearance.
“The fans are amazing here and every game they come out in support, even during the week. It really does make a difference for the team,” he said. “I had some idea of what to expect because of the Asian Champions League, where I was able to watch the last few games, so I knew what the atmosphere was going to be like and today was no different. They sing and support us all for all 90 minutes and that’s great.”
The 27-year old still hasn’t given up hope of working his way into next year’s Asian Cup squad but admits it’s not his immediate priority.
“I watched the game against Japan and I still have a lot of friends who are in the national team. It’s a little bit hard to watch when you know that you want to be a part of that and representing your country,” he said. “But I can’t really think too much about that right now. My focus just has to be on doing well for the Wanderers and if I do well here I’m sure things will happen.”
Source : The Brisbane Times