The chance invitation that changed Jedinak's career
"What he's done for Crystal Palace on and off the pitch should never be underestimated."
That was the view of ex-Palace captain Paddy McCarthy speaking of Caltex Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak.
McCarthy, like most fans, was surprised the Eagles had agreed to sell Jedinak to Aston Villa having been the backbone of the London club's climb from middling Championship outfit to consistent Premier League presence.
It's easy to forget the impact Jedinak has had during his seven-year stint in England, including leading Palace to Premier League promotion in just his second season, appearing in every match of their first campaign back in the top-flight, and leading them to within 12 minutes of an FA Cup final win over Manchester United less than three months before his departure.
Jedinak has since gone on to become a key cog in an Aston Villa side that came one game away from winning back into England's top division.
All that, as the iconic Caltex Socceroo revealed to socceroos.com.au, would have been impossible if not for a chance invitation to trial from the Central Coast Mariners, then a phone call from a former 'Golden Generation' stalwart.
WATCH MILE JEDINAK SPEAK ABOUT CAPTAINING THE CALTEX SOCCEROOS IN THE VIDEO ABOVE
Jedinak, at 26 having broken through in the Hyundai A-League, had just spent three seasons in the Turkish Super Lig and ready to pursue the next career move.
"I had a couple of conversations with the assistant at the time, Tony Popovic [who, like Jedinak had come through at Sydney United 58], and told him I had a desire to try something abroad and to move out of Turkey," Jedinak told socceroos.com.au.
"My decision was pretty clear in mind that I wanted to work with them and to try to make something happen.
"It's just being in that environment, in a country where football is the be-all and end-all from a sporting point of view. There are still memories to be made as well."
Jedinak, now a respected figure at Villa, has been on a mission to make up for the time lost in a truncated start to his professional career.
He was 22 and "at the crossroads" when the Mariners offered a foothold - if an unsteady one - in the Hyundai A-League.
"I went up there [for a trial] with no guarantees about anything," he remembered.
"I got invited up by Lawrie [McKinna] and as soon as I came up, it felt natural, homely and everyone made me feel welcome.
"The thing you remember the most is the journey we went on as a group. We were always written off, the 'small Central Coast', but we fed off each other and we knew there was a special journey to go on.
"That filtered down from the staff and the fans and supporters.
"They knew they were watching something that was going to be special and we travelled all along the coast to reach out to the community and to see it filter back not just on the pitch but in the stands, I'll have very fond memories of that."
There are perhaps parallels to be drawn with Jedinak's experience in Gosford and that which he will encounter in Russia.
The three-time FIFA World Cup™ veteran is certainly familiar with shaking up the established order on the grand stage.
As captain, an honour he insists is a shared responsibility, the nerveless leader gave Australia a come-from-behind lead over eventual semi-finalists the Netherlands in the second of three monster Group of Death matches at Brazil 2014.
His team fell frustratingly short on that occasion, but four years on a simmering feeling something greater is in store.
"For me it's about going there and giving our all. Where that will get us is yet to be seen," he said.
"But knowing the group and where we've come in the last World Cup cycle, there's a lot of optimism and a real belief that if we stick to our principles and we're right bang at it we can do whatever we like.
"Maybe that will be something special."
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