Wilkshire up for another summer of football

He is one of the most underrated of players of the Australian national team, but rarely has he put a foot wrong since he becoming a regular in the team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

He is one of the most underrated of players of the Australian national team, but rarely has he put a foot wrong since he becoming a regular in the team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Wilkshire will be the first to admit he is not a flashy player, which doesn-t appeal him to many, but his versatility across the park makes him an ideal player to have in the squad.

There is no doubt Wilkshire will play an important part in the World Cup qualifiers coming up in June and the FC Twente midfielder is looking forward to the games, despite it meaning not having another off-season.

“It-s been a long few years and quite a while since I-ve had a free summer,” he said via phone yesterday. “But that-s part and parcel of international football.

“They-re exciting times. When you have something to aim for, it keeps you going.”

There is no doubt that Wilkshire will be looking forward to the qualifiers in June, given it was the 2006 World Cup finals where from nowhere, Guus Hiddink picked Wilkshire, then at lowly Bristol City, to play in two of the four matches, including the quarter final against Italy.

However since then it hasn-t been plain sailing for the Socceroos, with the disappointment of the Asian Cup finals a year later, in which Australia lost 3-1 to the eventual winners Iraq.

Iraq is one of Australia-s group opponents and currently sits last in the group, while Australia has enjoyed an unbeaten start at the top of the group. The next two matches in the qualification process are against Iraq, first in Brisbane on June 1 and then seven days later in Dubai, and could ultimately decide the fate of both nations in advancing to the next round.

Wilkshire insists though that Australia-s main focus will be gaining the necessary points and not trying to exact any sort of revenge on Iraq. That will ultimately come if they get two positive results against the Asian Champions.

“It-s not a case of getting revenge, we just want to win the game and get through the group,” Wilkshire said.

“Obviously the players are aware of what in the past, but it-s a different game a year on, we are on our home turf this time.

“We want to get through the group as quickly as possible - it settles any nerves and doubts in the squad.”

One of the biggest things Wilkshire believes Australia has going for it will be its physical and mental strength for the big matches.

“That-s for sure. We have that willingness to fly across the other side of the world to play for our country and back for your club whenever its necessary.”

Wilkshire won-t quite know where he will be playing in the qualifiers, but with several injury concerns, his flexibility will be important to Pim Verbeek.

“I am pretty flexible,” he said. “When I am on the pitch I am happy. I just want to play, that-s my mentality.”

However before the all-important qualifiers, Wilkshire has two more highly important games for FC Twente in the next couple of weeks, with the club aiming for a place in next season-s European Champions League.

A play-off over two legs against Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam looms, but as one of the form teams, unbeaten in their last 10 including 9 wins, Wilkshire is confident they can overcome their more respected rivals.

His importance is also noticed at club level, where he is currently involved in a major play-off final (over two legs) against giants Ajax Amsterdam for the final Dutch place in next season-s European Champions League with his club side FC Twente.

He is first team regular and with FC Twente one of the form sides in Holland at the moment confidence is riding high that they can get past their more respected rival in the play-off.

"Head to head against them, we drew 2-2 then we beat them at home 2-1," Wilkshire said. "We've actually got a good record against them and we-ll go into the game confident, but its two games of soccer and anything can happen.”