As the Socceroos begin to arrive in Melbourne to kick-off preparations for the Asian Cup in January, one national team star may take time to reflect on an extraordinary last 12 months in his career.
Socceroo defender Matthew Spiranovic has had a year like no other, playing and starring on the biggest stages at club and country level.
And in doing so, the 26-year-old, 21-times capped Socceroo from Geelong in Victoria racked up more air miles than most do in a lifetime, criss-crossing the globe in 2014 on an incredible football odyssey for his club Western Sydney Wanderers FC and the Green and Gold.
Let's recap: Spiranovic started all three group games for Australia at the World Cup in Brazil; scored a brilliant header in a Hyundai A-League Grand Final last May; played in sizzling, sell-out Sydney Derbies and had a key role in winning the Asian Champions League final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
And as if his passport wasn’t stamped enough, Spiranovic was part of December’s Club World Cup campaign in Morocco with the red and black.
Superimposed over this year were two Hyundai A-League campaigns and an ACL run that saw his club in China, Korea and Japan – and with a training camp in Dubai thrown in for good measure.
But there’s more! Spiranovic was due to fly in to the Socceroo camp from New Zealand, where he was part of the Wanderers’ Round 12 clash with Wellington Phoenix in the Hyundai A-League. In 2014, the Wanderers were true to their name.
For the Socceroos, Spiranovic played in London against Ecuador in a 4-3 friendly reversal last March. He missed the send-off match against South Africa in Sydney before returning to the fold for the Croatia friendly in Brazil.
Spiranovic then anchored the Aussie defence against Chile, Holland and Spain in the World Cup.
The 26-year-old Geelong-born leader’s only quiet time was a brief spell out for an ankle operation in August.
Other than that, it’s been a full year of games, training and endless trips on airlines across the globe.
However, that ankle operation meant he missed the Socceroos' September and October friendlies as well as the Japan clash in November.
Nonetheless, a busy year for “Spira”; and it’s just the way he likes it.
“Look it’s been an incredible year,” he told www.socceroos.com.au.
“It’s something as a player you really look forward to with the big games.
“As a player these big games are what you prepare for and you want to play in front of the big crowds.
“It’s a real adrenaline rush. A buzz. It’s something players embrace.”
Now, in camp with the Socceroos, he can concentrate on preparing for the first game against Kuwait with no distractions or airport trips to exotic locations around the globe.
“For myself personally it’s been a fantastic year. Coming back after seven years abroad to my home country… it was nice.
“One of the main reasons I came home was Western Sydney and Popa (coach Tony Popovic).
“I knew I’d be in the best football environment to get myself back to full fitness and hopefully play regular football.
“That worked out last season and I wanted to give myself the best chance of going to a World Cup; and fortunately it all fell into place.”
The question now is: can he top it all by helping the Socceroos to a trophy in January 2015 at the Asian Cup?
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