AUGUST 7 2017 – 6:40PM
Luke Wilkshire playing for the Socceroos in 2013. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
The grounds will be harder, the climate much hotter and the air far more humid, but Sydney FC signing Luke Wilkshire has no concerns over his ability to jump from Russia to the A-League at the age of 35.
There could be a difference of 50 degrees Celsius from games he played last season to this season for the veteran Australian international. Throughout his recent past, Wilkshire has battled through the ice and snow of winters with Dynamo Moscow since the Russian Premier League switched from a summer competition in 2012 where average temperatures sit at minus 10 degrees in the winter months.
While the heat of the Australian summer, the hardness of the playing surfaces in the A-League, the extensive travel and the physical nature of the competition poses risks for older players, Wilkshire believes the warmer climate could prolong his career.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in the heat. In the cold, the air is challenging so I’m looking forward to playing in the warm weather for a change,” Wilkshire said.
His move to Sydney FC will be his first chance to play club football in Australia in his 18 years as a professional. While he’s unaccustomed to the often much harder playing pitches in the A-League, he isn’t concerned with the potential injuries that could arise.
Wilkshire will fill the void at right back left by a long-term knee injury to Rhyan Grant. He joined his new club last week and completed his first full training on Monday after undergoing a conditioning session.
The 80-time Socceroo and veteran of two World Cup campaigns says he will be back to full fitness in a matter of weeks and could be available for selection as early as the FFA Cup Round of 16 in two or three weeks.
“I’ll talk to Arnie [coach Graham Arnold] but I’ve had a couple of good sessions already. We’ll build it up slowly, there’s plenty of time to get 100 per cent. Touch wood, fitness has never been a problem for me. I’m clearly not at my peak at the moment but I got through OK,” he said.
Wilkshire had more lucrative offers from Russian second-tier teams but opted to return home to be in an environment that matched his motivation.
“People thought I’d died or something in 2014 [since missing the Socceroos final World Cup squad], but I’ve been plying my trade in Europe in the top leagues. Whether people have seen that or noticed, I’ve been doing my thing. I still enjoy my football, and I still have that drive and hunger to play and win,” Wilkshire said.
“Everyone speaks about the A-League improving and it has over the years. Sydney won the league convincingly last year, and the challenge for me and the team to go back to back is an exciting one.I’m here to help Sydney win the league and have a good run in the ACL.”
Source : The Canberra Times