Why fit and firing Jedinak is primed to lead Villa's play-off final promotion push

Mile Jedinak has been there, done that and now he's back for more.

As their players prepare to face Fulham in front of a worldwide audience of millions, Aston Villa fans will be comforted by the knowledge the mountainous man in the middle has previously scaled the Championship play-off final and returned with the trophy.

He will make another expedition to Wembley early Sunday morning (2am AEST), five years on from leading Crystal Palace to a gritty 1-0 extra-time win over Watford.

His then-manager, Ian Holloway, labelled Jedinak's performance in that match as "outstanding".

Mile Jedinak
Jedinak was at the forefront of Palace's promotion in 2013.

Just over a year later he would captain the Caltex Socceroos – and score – at a FIFA World Cup.

It's remarkable enough this time around that the 33-year-old is poised to play a central part in the drama of a match billed as the most lucrative in world football.

His present situation makes for a stark contrast to the uncertain ground Jedinak found himself traversing at the start of the campaign.

READ: 'King among men' Jedinak puts Villa into play-off final

Plagued by a groin injury, the midfield enforcer managed just three appearances for a combined 98 minutes throughout the opening three months of the season.

The interruptions cast doubt over his role in Villa's first-team plans and raised fears regarding his involvement in Australia's attempts to qualify for Russia 2018.

But the former Central Coast Mariners man defied a difficult preparation to deliver a match-winning performance in the second leg of the intercontinental play-off against Honduras in November, firing his country to the FIFA World Cup with a rare hat-trick.

Mile Jedinak
Australia's rock has overcome early-season injury issues.

His boss at Villa Park, Steve Bruce, has never failed to recognise the veteran's importance, describing him as "tough as teak" and remarking that he would have loved to have had Jedinak screening him during his playing days.

The reverence is such that the former Manchester United defender now carefully selects the biggest assignments in which to deploy his destroyer.

Called on for all 180 minutes of the semi-final meeting with Middlesbrough, Jedinak repaid the faith with two colossal performances and the only goal in the 1-0 aggregate victory.

READ: Jedinak lauded for 'best on ground' play-off display

The bearded bruiser led his team for tackles, clearances and blocks in the scoreless second leg to ensure his header at the Riverside remained the difference between the teams.

An inspiring performance to give his team a shot at catapulting back to the summit of English football encapsulated everything valuable about Jedinak and his timely return to form over the second half of the season.

And while he won't wear the armband at Wembley on this occasion, the 75-time international has chipped away any and all doubt over his readiness to lead club and country through treacherous terrain.

The Championship play-off final will be broadcast LIVE on beIN Sports Australia from 1:55am (AEST) on Sunday, May 27.

Stay tuned to socceroos.com.au for highlights and reaction from the match as we wrap up the best bits from Mile Jedinak and Aston Villa's clash with Fulham!