3: Captain Marvellous Mile Jedinak
3 MILE JEDINAK
Position Midfielder Club Crystal Palace
International Debut: vs Singapore, 200
Crystal Palace legend, midfield hardman, captain courageous – Mile Jedinak fills many roles for club and country, and the past 12 months have been very productive for the Sydneysider. Jedinak led the Socceroos to the 2014 World Cup, helped his club avoid relegation in the English Premier League and skippered his country to success at the 2015 Asian Cup.
The quiet but dominant leader drove Australia to a famous 2-2 draw with world champions Germany in Kaiserslautern, but also faced his fair share of challenges along the way with injury and suspension.
“It was demanding from a physical point of view but one I thoroughly enjoyed,” Jedinak admits to FourFourTwo. “There were a few highs and lows, as you get in a footballing career, and I got a lot of it in one season. But it’s definitely one I can look back on very fondly. I think one of the things I learnt was, whatever the circumstances, whatever adversity you may have to face – not only yourself, but as a collective – you can overcome it all if you stick together. I’ve known that for a while but I think last season particularly, maybe more so at club level, when you’re under a bit of pressure it shows the togetherness, the harmony within the group. We get the right balance and you can fulfil your potential and what you’ve been wanting to achieve. “
At club level, Jedinak had to deal with managerial changes and instability, as well as a four-game ban for elbowing an opponent. An established fan favourite after four years at Selhurst Park, boss Alan Pardew has described the Socceroo as a “legend” of the club.
Statistics point to the powerful influence Jedinak continues to have in the UK – he was ranked the fifth best player in the EPL by Opta, behind Chelsea pair Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas and Arsenal dup Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla. The 30-year old averaged 3.5 clearances, 3.4 interceptions and 3.3 tackles per match in 24 appearances in another impressive campaign.
Jedinak’s grafting qualities are well known, and his spectacular free-kick goal against Germany in March demonstrates he’s more than a one-trick pony. But it is the leadership qualities of the quiet achiever that have blossomed and grown, as he led his country from a difficult World Cup campaign in Brazil to regional glory at home in January.
In a rebuilt and remodelled young Socceroo squad, Jedinak’s experience and composure as one of the most senior members has been vital. That Asian Cup win remains a special moment for the midfielder.
“Being on home soil, in my backyard in Sydney when we won the final, so you can imagine the loads of family and friends at the game,” Jedinak says. “It was very, very overwhelming and obviously that’s going to rank right up there. There’s no doubt about that.”
Jedinak’s next challenge just might be his greatest. Taking the national team to brave new heights, building on its historic Asian Cup success and mounting a serious attack on the next World Cup in Russia in 2018. It is one the former Central Coast Mariner is up to.
“It’s going to come with challenges, but I think in order for us to improve we need to go to that level and that’s where the challenge comes,” Jedinak says. “Obviously you’re going to have some tricky tasks and tricky oppositions when you face opponents where you’ve never been before but that’s football, that’s what football is at this level. We’re going to be asked to do things maybe we haven’t been doing before but that’s part of the philosophy of growing. Hopefully we can do and take on board what the boss has said and go to the next level.”
As Australia’s only representative in the Premier League, and as Socceroo captain, Jedinak carries a heavy burden. But it’s one the broad-shouldered skipper relishes. Much wiser than when he first broke into the national team and moved to Europe six years ago, Jedinak continues to strive to improve.
“The experience side of things helps a lot. You’re able to manage games, assess things maybe with a bit of a calmer side, more often than not. You’re feeling good, you know you’ve got the balance right on and off the field and that plays its part, particularly with me over the last few years.
“You’ve got things to work for. It’s always a challenge, you’re never the finished article. But as you get a bit older and more experienced you see things, you experience things, that make you, maybe if you were in the same situation next time, you learn from that. Being able to see those things puts you in a pretty good place moving forward.”
HE SAID: “I’m a professional footballer and I demand the maximum. When I go out on the pitch I want to play at a consistent level, I always want to give my maximum."
THEY SAID: “He is an outstanding team player. He is a real soldier. He has great leadership qualities, sets an example and is a real decent lad.” Tony Pulis