2005 Could Be Watershed Year For Milicevic

While they say 2005 is perhaps the watershed year for football in this country, it’s also perhaps the year that has made Ljubo Milicevic as a footballer.

While they say 2005 is perhaps the watershed year for football in this country, it-s also perhaps the year that has made Ljubo Milicevic (pictured right) as a footballer.

The couple of years prior to 2005 were not kind to the big central defender as he battled with injury and a succession of clubs in Switzerland that saw his career heading relatively nowhere.

As captain of the Qantas Under 23 team, Milicevic was looking forward to a productive 2004, but at the Olympic Games qualifying final against New Zealand in January, his whole year was turned upside down by a groin injury, which saw him miss the Olympic Games in Athens and miss a lot of football.

That however is now in the past and since returning to the park for Thun late last year, he and the club have made every post a winner in 2005 and it has come at just the right time for the former Perth Glory player.

“It-s going fantastic at Thun at the moment,” said a delighted Milicevic, currently involved in the Socceroos four-day training camp in The Netherlands.

Thun, a small club that has only been in the Swiss Super League for about seven years, went toe-to-toe with powerhouse FC Basel (home to Socceroos Scott Chipperfield and Mile Sterjovski) before having to settle for second place.

That meant however they qualified for the European Champions League qualifying rounds and they are now just one game away from playing in the lucrative group stages.

“We-ve got one more game to go and we-ve got a 1-0 advantage from the first leg away in Sweden, so its buzzing at Thun at the moment.

“The second leg got sold out in three hours and there will be a 30,000 capacity crowd at home, so there is a lot of excitement around.”

Asked what it would mean to the club to qualify, Milicevic said, “It would be incredible for the club and would be fantastic for me personally to play in the elite competition at club level in Europe.”

However before next Tuesday-s big game, Milicevic has had national team commitments with the Socceroos to deal with and like everyone else at the camp is keen to impress.

“It gives everyone a fresh start and basically everyone has to prove themselves again,” Milicevic replied, when asked if he thought his chances of a starting spot in the team had improved significantly.

“I have only been able to participate in one session so far, as I copped a knock last Sunday (for Thun), so hopefully I will have a good run today.

“I think it gives everyone a fresh chance to show what they are capable of and obviously he will be looking at what everyone is doing at the club level as well.

“The sessions here are pretty intense and I think he will have a clear idea after this camp who he wants and who he doesn-t.”

Since making his senior debut against Indonesia in March, Milicevic has played several roles other than his preferred role as a central defender and clearly would like to be given more chances in that role.

“Ideally I am a central defender. It-s where I have played most of my life, even though I can play in midfield if needed.”

“I will know more after this morning session when we work on team structure, as I wasn-t involved in the other sessions when we worked on this,” when asked if that was where he had been playing during training.

“He (Guus) is obviously going on a lot of team guidance from Graham Arnold, but interestingly they have played every player in quite a few positions either at the back, in the midfield and up front, so they get wary of what they need to do if they are called on to play different roles in a game.”

A win in next Tuesday-s game against Malmo will certainly aid Milicevic-s chances of getting that first team spot and who knows, he may just find himself opposing Guus- other team PSV Eindhoven, who are already qualified as Dutch Champions.