K-League surge for Aussie defender

EXCLUSIVE: Former A-League favourite Alex Wilkinson is buzzing after starting regularly over the last three months and scoring twice as his club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors zoom up the K-League.

Wilkinson, who turned 29 in recent weeks, has been a regular in the side during a stunning run after the arrival of new coach and former South Korean national team boss Choi Kang-Hee.

Despite a 3-0 defeat to Pohang Steelers last weekend, Jeonbuk sit in joint second on the eve of Wednesday night’s clash with Incheon United.

And scoring twice has added to what is fast becoming a stellar season for the former A-League favourite.

“It's been a pretty good run in both the FA Cup over here and the league," Wilkinson said.

"Unfortunately we played the top team on the weekend, it was one v two and we went down to them, so it was the first loss in a while but we have 11 more games in the league to go and still plenty of time to actually climb back up to the top spot,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com

“I'm definitely enjoying life over here. I think at the start of the season I wasn't playing as much as I would of liked, we had a lot of central defenders at the club and I had to bide my time a bit.  But a new coach has come in halfway through the season and ever since he's been back I've been lucky enough stay in the team for the last three months.”

Interestingly, and despite a culture of importing big names from abroad, Wilkinson sees a  trend emerging. He says the toughest side in the K-League, Pohang Steelers, don’t feature any visa players.

Wilkinson, who now has a young family with him in Korea, views the K-League as a destination that is stretching him as a player.

Like fellow Aussie Robbie Cornthwaite, Wilkinson says the league is played at a hundred miles an hour with sides coming at each other for the full 90.

“And that leads to games being quite high-scoring some times and also a lot of end-to-end football, whereas in the A-League it's a lot more structured and there's a lot more tactics involved,” he said. 

“That's a big difference I noticed when coming over here. It takes a while to adapt to new styles and different players but it's also a physical league.

“A lot of people think a lot of the Asian leagues aren't too physical but the Korean league is known for being quite a physical one as well.”

The idea of returning to Australia will be contemplated at season’s end with the former Northern Spirit player not ruling anything out at this stage. 

“I definitely want to come back one day," he said. "I've got another year here after this one, so I’ll reassess things then with the family.  I've got a young boy now so, you know, a lot depends on if my wife and boy are happy being overseas."

He added: “I'm happy here at the moment but a year down the track things can change so who knows what will happen. I definitely want to go back to the A-League at some stage.”

Wilkinson is one of a number of potential Socceroo central defenders for the World Cup and Asian Cup, although it’s understood national coach Holger Osieck is yet to speak with the former Central Coast captain.

“I'm just happy being back playing regularly at the moment," he said. "If the team can do well and I can do well personally then who knows what will happen.

“As everyone always says it's about your club form and concentrating on playing well week in and week out and it's out of my control from that point of view from then on.”