Nick Carle set to take off

Will Nick Carle's career take off a little later than most expected.

Just over three years ago, Nick Carle must have been thinking his footballing career was set to take off, after making his international debut against Venezuela in Caracas. His brief 10-minute cameo in the Socceroos 1-1 draw would propel him and his mercurial talents onto greater heights.

Many believed that is what should have happened, but it hasn-t quite turned out that way for the Newcastle Jets midfielder, who was recently crowned the Johnny Warren Medal winner for the Hyundai A-League-s Player of the Year.

Since that day in February 2004, Carle has been waiting for the chance to once again don the national team shirt as a Qantas Socceroo, with nobody doubting his talents, just whether they could be applied at international level.

Well the wait is finally over for him and his many supporters, who believe he should have been part of the Socceroos during last year-s Asian Cup qualifiers. Having just being named in a 20-man squad to play against China on Saturday March 24 in Guangzhou, China, Carle is hopeful of a second cap and that this will hopefully take his game to the next level.

“International football is that one step sharper, that one step quicker and it is a higher level,” Carle said from his home in Newcastle. “Looking long term, I want to be part of it (the national team) for a while, but that is all in my court at the moment. I will take it one game at a time, do the best that I can do, try and keep myself as fit as I can and see what happens from there.

“I only played 10 minutes against Venezuela, bit it was a great experience for me,” when he reflects on his only previous international experience. “It was a great result for us, but it was only 10 minutes and you couldn-t really do much. It was a good learning experience and there were some great players there at the time as well.”

No doubt a place in the Asian Cup squad will be his short-term goal, although he faces a tough challenge to force his way into that squad, with Australia-s midfield stocks arguably the strongest its ever been.

But Carle brings something different to the table, in that he is a natural playmaker and is arguably the most naturally gifted player in Australia. His skills are a rare treat, but for Carle in some ways they have been a hindrance rather than a help, as he tried to balance his skills with the other aspects of his game, which haven-t always caught the eye of the national team coaches.

However his first two seasons in the Hyundai A-League have gone a long way to proving his all round game has improved significantly and it was no coincidence that Newcastle-s remarkable revival was led by its playmaker and duly noted by all his fellow professionals in the league, who voted him Version 2-s Players Player of the Year.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” Carle said of his award. “The last two-thirds of the season I thought I played really well. If you look at the whole season, I thought I had a pretty good season, although I believe there is always room for improvement and there are a lot of things I can fix up in my game.

“In saying that the Melbourne boys had done so well and it such an honour with some of the players we have got in our league at the moment, so I was stoked, over the moon with the award.

So with things going well, Carle was always optimistic his chances to wear the green and gold again would come his way and when he got a call from national coach Graham Arnold he knew he was in with a strong chance of getting picked in the squad.

“I had a brief chat with him the other day and he just told me to keep as fit as I could. He said I had an excellent second half to the season and that I was in line to get picked and thankfully I made the squad of 20.

“I am over the moon, very happy to have being called up. It-s been a long time since my last call up (2004), so look I am ecstatic and I just hope I can do as well as I can.”

Given the talk around him playing for the national team for so long, Carle could be forgiven for being relieved more than anything.

“Yeh, you could say that. A lot of people have spoken about it, while I tended to say look it-s not my decision and it out of my hands and I tried to do the best I can on the pitch and hopefully get recognised that way. This was a big motivation for me because playing for the national team is an honour, the highest honour any player can have.

“So look I-m stoked, but I know it-s hard getting there, but its harder to stay there, so I know I still have a lot of hard work in front of me to improve my game and I need to try and keep as fit as I can, while we are not in season. There is a lot for me to do to stay there and if I do get a chance, I would love to repay the faith in selecting me.”

Given that the Hyundai A-League is currently in its off-season, this match will possibly be Carle-s only chance to impress Arnold before June, although he has sort permission from the FFA to play in the NSW Premier League to keep himself match fit.

On his side for this week though, is the fact that this camp will be five days, rather than the normal two or three days and will give him plenty of training sessions to get used to the step up in intensity of international football.

“Playing obviously, but working extremely hard during the week, to show that I am more than capable of being there,” he said, when pressed on what his main aims were. “Learning off the other players there that are more established, that have been there a lot longer than I have.

“It-s a learning curve for me and look, any game time that I get I want to give my 100% and show that I deserve to be there. I-ll take any game time that I get, but I will take it one step at a time.”

One of those established players he is sure to be watching carefully, is World Cup captain Mark Viduka, a player who possesses the same silky skills that has embarrassed many a good player in his time. He is one of the few players in the squad he has yet to play with and is really looking forward to training with him.

“Viduka, everyone always speaks so highly of him and I really think he is a great player,” Carle said of the in-form Middlesbrough marksmen. “It will be good to be training with him in person.”

There is no doubt fans of the Hyundai A-League would love to see Carle play a role in the match against China and if he does and plays to the capabilities we know he is capable of, then his career may well finally take off like many thought it would three years ago.