Flores: Jets rescued my career

Playmaker maestro Marcos Flores admitted he almost gave the game away as he struggled back to full fitness from a season-ending knee injury while at Central Coast Mariners last season.

Flores - snapped up at Newcastle Jets while still injured - has been through almost half the A-League sides since joining Adelaide United in 2010 where we went on to win the Johnny Warren Medal that season.

Since then, Argentinean Flores, 28, has turned out for Melbourne Victory, Mariners and now Jets in a tumultuous spell in Australia.

But his  anterior cruciate ligament injury while at the Mariners almost finished his career, he admitted at the launch of the A-League season in Sydney today.

“After I did my knee in January, the only thing I wanted was to come back to playing professional football,” Flores said on Tuesday.

“The only thing I want is to be productive for my teammates, for my club, and fight for them to get out of what people think about us.

“I am confident about what we can do as a team and we will be ready to fight.

“I am glad I came here. After I was told I could not continue, I told my dog to stay in Australia because in my heart, I thought someone was going to give me an opportunity.

“It was a long journey of rehab, but for nine months in my head was the thought to give up, to be honest. It’s hard to get the opportunity like Jets, to get the trust the Jets gave to me when you are injured with such a big injury.

“But I always think the universe conspires to give you an opportunity when you work hard when no-one is watching you - and that is what happened.

“When Phil (Stubbins) called me and Jets called me, it was three days talk and I was on the plane.

“I’m excited about facing the Mariners. I’ve dreamed about this game…”

Spirits were high at the packed media launch. Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick shed his dour demeanour to remember how the first season’s launch was held in a telephone kiosk by comparison to Tuesday’s event.

Brisbane Roar genius Thomas Broich laughed off worries about the age of his teammates by insisting he was feeling “old and fragile” and then insisting he was telling the truth when the audience laughed.

“We do have a fairly old squad but if you look back at the grand final, we played 120 minutes and I have to say I’m super proud of that effort. It shows we are still in good shape and should have a few years left ahead of us,” Broich said.

Skipper Mat Smith said the side was now targeting back to back Premierships after achieving back to back Championships in the previous two seasons.

Roar coach Mike Mulvey added: “What we achieved last year was fantastic but that’s been put in the history basket. I think it’s going to be a tremendous A-League season and a great challenge.”

Mariners skipper John Hutchinson is set to be the A-League player to make the most appearances in the competition’s history this season, but he jokingly warned he may miss the landmark through his many suspensions, especially for “booting rivals”.

Western Sydney Wanderers will be juggling their A-League schedule with an Asian Champions League final but coach Tony Popovic insisted his focus would be purely on their first game against Melbourne Victory this Friday.

“We’ve all had to shift our focus very quickly to round one,” he said. “We’ve played less games than we normally do in preseason but we’ve played four big games.”

Sydney FC defender Sasa Ognenovski promised Melbourne City guest star David Villa “a nice Australian welcome” when he marks the Spain star this weekend.

“It’s always good to play against players of his ilk, his class,” Ognenovski said. “We’ll just let our football do the talking and hopefully we can keep him quiet.”

Coach Graham Arnold said the club was aiming for the top this season after ironing out the problems that plagued the side last year.

He added: “We have done a lot of work to change things around. When I first came in, we had a group of very good individuals, the problem was the team.

“The players have done extremely well in what we’re trying to build and the culture.”