City defender hails Caltex Socceroos’ progression

Socceroo defender Alex Wilkinson has paid tribute to the progress made by the national team in the 30 months since Ange Postecoglou took over.

Wilkinson, 31, has been called up for the upcoming Socceroos FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan in Adelaide and Jordan in Sydney.

He comes in as a replacement for injured Chinese Super League based defender Matt Spiranovic.

Caltex Socceroos squad for March WC qualifiers

Wilkinson, an Asian Cup winner, missed selection initially for these two games as Postecoglou sought to strengthen the squad’s depth.

What's more, Wilkinson was lacking in match fitness when this squad was picked having only just joined Melbourne City in Feburary, with his last game in the K-League the previous November.

But having played regularly since his arrival at the high-flying Melbourne club Postecoglou was comfortable in recalling the two-time K-League winner at Jeonbuk Motors, who has never let him down in his 16 caps to date.

Alex Wilkinson has been drafted into the Caltex Socceroos squad for this month's FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

“I was a bit behind but now I’ve got four or five games under my belt my fitness is a lot better and I’m getting through games a lot easier. It’s definitely getting close to full fitness,” Wilkinson told reporters on Tuesday.

Wilkinson was in the first Postecoglou squad, winning a call up for the Costa Rica friendly in November 2013 at Allianz.

He’s played in all three World Cup games at Brazil 2014 and filled in when needed at the Asian Cup admirably. At 31 the former Mariner will be key over the coming cycle of Confederations Cup 2017 and World Cup qualification for Russia 2018.

“The difference from the first camp to now is night and day," said Wilkinson. 

"It took a while to get across the way he wanted to play and go about things, but now when you go into camp it’s like clockwork.

“What he’s implemented is definitely working. But we’ve still a long way to go to where we need to be and there’s still a lot of improvement we can make.

The Socceroos squad take instructions from coach Ange Postecoglou in Perth.

“The squad’s in a pretty good place at the moment and over the last two years he’s built a lot of depth with exposing boys to international football.

“The pool of talent is bigger than when he first took over.”

One of those new faces providing the Socceroos with greater depth is Apostolos Giannou.

Wilkinson is looking forward to seeing the new striker in the group even if he doesn’t know much about the former Greek Super League forward.

“Ange is great at unearthing people the public might not have heard of. We saw that with Mass Luongo," said Wilkinson. 

Apostolos Giannou celebrates after scoring in the UEFA Europa League for Asteras Tripolis.

I’m sure the Australian public don’t know much about him [Giannou] and I don’t know much about him, but from what I’ve read he’s done fantastically well in Greece.

“Looking forward to meeting him and seeing him in camp.”