Players Have Firm Focus On Solomon's

The Socceroos have continued their four-day stay at Fulham, with a firm focus on October’s OFC Nations Cup Final series against the Solomon Islands.

By Ben Coonan   The Socceroos have continued their four-day stay at Fulham, with a firm focus on October-s OFC Nations Cup Final series against the Solomon Islands.   All of Frank Farina-s 22-man training squad have arrived in camp, including two of the more untried talents in Australian soccer - Vince Grella (pictured right) and Archie Thompson.   Both players can lay to claim to being relative newcomers to the national scene, more so Thompson who is enjoying his first stint in a QANTAS Socceroo camp since 2001-s Confederations Cup in Korea/Japan.   Conversely, despite his tender age, Grella has gone a long way to cementing his place in Australia-s starting line up recently, following a string of reputable performances for his country against Turkey in May and June-s OFC Nations Cup.   Fresh from inking a deal with Italian giants Parma, Grella is salivating at the chance to link up with childhood friend Marco Bresciano once again when the Serie A resumes next week.   “It is a big move for me,” said Grella from the Australian teams Fulham base.   “They made me sweat it out, because I signed about six hours before the transfer deadline! But, I-m just happy to be there, it-s an important move for me.”   Refreshingly for Australian soccer fans, Grella assures green and gold devotees that his high profile move will not affect his commitment to the national team.   “Considering that already with this camp they were very upfront and ‘go with the national team, do what you-ve got to do.- Already there-s been taken a reasonably good position on Parma-s behalf,” said Grella of his new bosses.   “I didn-t really go too strong, but I basically said to them that my involvement in the national team is going to be 100% so I think they understand because they really encouraged these couple of days that I left.”   More pressingly for the Melbourne born boy is October-s Solomon-s series and Grella, like the vast majority of his QANTAS Socceroo team mates, will be experiencing the idyllic surrounds of the South Pacific haven that is Honiara for the first time.   “I-ve never been there and I-ve got no idea what it-s like,” said Grella.   “We-ve got a goal that if Solomon Islands are going to get in our way, we-re going to have big problems, I think if everyone puts their heads down and does what they know how to do, I think we should be OK.”   Grella said the Socceroos four-day stay in central London was vital to the development of the team and will have only positive repercussions come October-s series.   “We-ve been doing a fair bit of tactical work, talking about how we can play and different types of systems we can use,” Grella explained.   “It-s just good to get back together and see all the players and as much as we can - work together, it-s always going to be an advantage.”   An issue of conjecture in the Australian media has been the absence of former QANTAS Socceroo ‘skipper Paul Okon from Farina-s training squad.   Having not fronted for the national team since late 2003 when the Socceroos downed Jamaica 2-1 at Reading-s Madejski Stadium, speculation is rife that Grella may have finally secured Farina-s position as holding midfielder.   Grella has refused to celebrate just yet though, professing to have been somewhat of an Okon fan in his younger years.   “I followed him from the days he was playing at Marconi,” said Grella of the KV Oostende midfielder.   “The fact that he went to a big Italian club I followed minute by minute, I-ve always liked the way he played and having him in the team in my first couple of games was very important.   “He-s an experienced player who-s always willing to help and talk to the younger players.”   Belgian based striker Thompson, currently enjoying regular game time with Lierse is equally as thrilled to be a part of the national set up.   The former Marconi marksman defied the notion that his Australian teammates were feeling frustrated to have been left without a game.   “I think everyone-s happy,” was Thompson-s view of the innovative camp.   “There-s an advantage to it, it-s good just to get everyone in and get a chance to see each other again and have a kick around.”   Having shot to global prominence courtesy of an astonishing 13 goal haul against Oceania minnows American Samoa in 2001-s World Cup Qualifiers, Thompson has virtually disappeared from the national scene in recent years and is looking forward to getting the chance to return home to play the Solomon-s.   “I-d definitely love to come over and play for Australia, especially in Australia because it-s been such a long time,” said Thompson.   “I-m really enjoying my life at the moment and to be called back into the team is an added bonus.”