Djite: It's finals time in February

The desert derby between Adelaide United and Perth Glory takes place this Sunday in what looms as a crucial six pointer for both teams and Reds striker Bruce Djite is treating the contest like a final.

A fit again Bruce Djite who was substituted early in Adelaide United’s last week’s shock loss to the Central Coast Mariners says that a win in this weekend’s game will be crucial for the Reds’ title aspirations.

“I feel good about this weekend,” Djite told FourFourTwo.

“I picked up an Achilles problem after 15 minutes (last round), it wasn’t really settling down so I’ve had the cortisone injection in it now and I should be fine for this weekend’s game.”

He added: “It’s a massive game for us. It’s certainly like a massive final, because if we do win this game we are right up amongst it.

“If we fail to win this game at home in front of our own fans, we really put ourselves under pressure, we are really fighting an uphill battle.

“The confidence is still good amongst the boys. If we have our full squad, then there is no reason at home, why we can’t beat Perth.”

The nine-time Socceroo has already equalled his goal tally from last season (five goals) and the 27-year-old feels that while his form has improved, he hasn’t reached his peak performance yet.

“I’m heading in the right direction, I’ve got a lot to give,” Djite said.

“In football it’s very much a team game, especially the more and more it evolves, especially in the style we play at our club.

“Maybe my statistics are better, the midfield is moving better, the whole attack is moving better, the defence is a lot tighter as well.

“I think collectively as a unit I am one of the many boys that is benefiting from the extra year under Josep (Gombau).”

Even though three of Adelaide’s five losses this season have come when silky skilled Argentinian Marcelo Carrusca has been missing, Djite denies that the team struggles when the playmaker is absent from the squad.

“I agree that Marcelo is a key player and is a massive part of our team.

“He is a guy that with or without the ball conducts a lot of what the team does.

“In saying that I think losing Nigel Boogaard (for the game against Central Coast) as well was difficult.

“In our team we’ve got a lot of great players and we definitely do have the depth, I think the problem when you lose a few players is the shuffling that occurs, all of a sudden Tarek (Elrich) is not your right or left back. He is your centre back.

“It makes a big difference, so there is a lot of shuffling that occurs when you do miss key players, we have a deep squad.

“We’ve got a good squad, we are sitting in third, we are just a couple of points from the top spot so we are not far off.

 “It’s better to win the majority of your games than to lose the rest, than to not win many games and draw and lose.

“The stats don’t lie, at the end of the season we’ll see where we are at. I think we are on the right track, we’ve let a few games slip certainly this season like every A-League team has, like every team in the world does.”

Last season’s criticism of the Reds’ midtable results has turned into plaudits for this campaign and Djite says that while Gombau’s methods are shaping the team’s success, it still has a way to go before the team reaches its optimal performance.

“It was always going to take a bit of time,” he said. “Especially when you are trying to bring in some strategies, tactics and movements that can be relatively complicated.

“It’s not just me understanding where I have to go, it’s about the number 10, the number six, and the defences and everyone understanding where I am going to. It’s understanding where I am going to get the ball and what runs to make.

“You can work on things like that, but it’s impossible if you think you are going to see the benefits of that after one year. I think after two or three years you will start seeing that, and we are all benefiting from that now.

“We are not there yet, but we are getting closer and closer to everyone executing at a higher level on a more regular basis and that has put us on a relatively promising position where we are on the table.”

Djite doesn’t just focus his energies playing football, he also devotes his time to Adelaide United’s football school which is based on the methodology of FC Barcelona. 

The idea initially came from Adelaide United head coach and ex-Barcelona youth coach Josep Gombau and the program was developed in conjunction with former Director of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and current Adelaide United technical director Guillermo Amor as well as assistant coach Paul Marti.

“For Josep (Gombau) to give the time and the energy to do these clinics I think it’s fantastic,” Djite said.

“It’s not just the professionals but also from the youth, from the age of six and seven are also learning the same basic tactics, rules and fundamentals as we are and it is unique.

“I reckon we have about 300 kids that are doing these clinics every Monday and Tuesday and they are in different regions. The players are the coaches (Djite is a coach), for the players that want to be involved and are involved it’s a big commitment.

“I think it’s great interacting with young players, we already know all the drills and all the skills. They give us the training programs, and watching them improve, week by week, each time they come they are a little bit better and we work on different things.

“You can see that improvement and most of all they enjoy it and it’s great to be able to give something back to the community.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Check out Episode Five of his latest Football Snobcast: The Asian Cup Experience with co-host Rob Toddler.