As the Caltex Socceroos prepare to kick-off their Dodoni Series with Greece Trent Sainsbury believes the squad's freedom to express themselves on and off the pitch is one of the main factors behind their recent success.
Despite last weekend’s loss to England Ange Postecoglou’s squad have only been beaten in three of their last 17 internationals dating back to the start of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
It's an enviable record and one Sainsbury attributes to the positive dynamic in the Socceroos camp. Something he says has been a hallmark of Ange Postecoglou’s tenure in charge.
“I love it. When you first come to the Socceroos you’re a bit timid, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes but you find your feet pretty quickly with these boys because they’re very welcoming,” Sainsbury told FFA TV.
“I just want to be a part of this every time there’s a camp coming round.
“It’s the first thing I look forward to is when the next camp is going to be and coming in here and just being yourself shows you can be bright and bubbly or you can be really quiet, it doesn’t matter.
“I’m being the vocal one because that’s who I am.”
With 14 caps to his name Sainsbury is a relative veteran amongst the current squad of players who'll take on Greece in Sydney on Saturday night and Melbourne of Tuesday.
Having missed last weekend’s match against England due to club duties in China the 24-year-old is hopeful of another start, with Postecoglou set to continue to rotate his squad.
The Socceroos coach has tried a number of combinations at the back in recent times - in fact you have to go all the way back to the Asian Cup final to find the last time Postecoglou started the same back four in consecutive matches.
However amongst the rotation Sainsbury has struck up a promising combination with Bailey Wright in recent World Cup qualifiers, with the former Central Coast Mariner confident whoever is chosen will do a good job against the world no.40.
“It’s chopped and changed quite a bit. There haven’t really been any normal set-ups in terms of the back four but at the same time pretty much every result we’ve played well in,” said Sainsbury.
“Whoever’s there at the end of the day I’ll be cheering them on. If I’m on the pitch I hope they’re cheering me on.
“Obviously I’d like to be the one starting but I think he [Ange] is getting pretty close to the depth that he wants in the central defence.”
On the club side of things Sainsbury admits he’s still adjusting to life in China following his recent transfer from Dutch outfit PEC Zwolle to Jiangsu Suning.
Amidst the transition Sainsbury’s side have started the CSL season strongly, sitting second behind powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande - although they did lose ground to the league leaders when one Tim Cahill jumped up to head home a late equaliser last weekend.
Sainsbury is clearly taking the experience all in his stride and while game faces will be on at ANZ Stadium as the Socceroos return to the scene of their Asian Cup triumph, he’s happy to not take himself too seriously away from the pitch.
“It’s been good. It’s been a challenge that’s for sure,” said Sainsbury.
“Adapting to the new environment, the culture shock, the food.
“But at the same time I’m not a footballer forever so I’m trying to embrace these new adventures and be on as many roller-coasters as I can before my time to be a house Dad comes calling.”
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