Despite a gruelling 12 month non-stop playing schedule, jetset Socceroo Matt McKay's enforced spell on the sidelines at Brisbane Roar has been more torture than a treat for the Premiership-chasing playmaker.
The influential 31-year-old Socceroo made a 15-minute return off the bench following a three-game ankle injury lay-off in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Newcastle Jets and will be in line to start when Roar take on in-form Melbourne Heart on Sunday.
McKay has had a hectic past 12 months, jumping straight into Brisbane’s pre-season upon signing with the club in August, having just left Chinese club Changchun Yatai, who started their season in February.
He also played three games with the Socceroos at the EAFF East Asian Cup in late July, as well as jetting off to friendlies in Brazil, France and England during the A-League season.
But the Roar man would still rather have been playing than miss a minute of football, even with the busy period ahead which includes a Premiership tilt, finals campaign and, of course, the 2014 World Cup.
“To some extent yes (it was a freshen-up), but I didn’t want it,” McKay told fourfourtwo.com. "To miss any games when the season is 27 games long is hard to take.
“I’ve been going for a year from my time in China and didn’t really get a break but I’d rather just keep playing.
“I was enjoying my football. We were playing some good stuff, so I wanted to be involved with the team and help the team towards the finals.”
With Roar well ahead at the top of the table, McKay could be excused for having the World Cup on his mind, having missed out on the 2010 campaign.
But he says his only focus right now is on helping his club towards silverware again, like when he led them to the double as skipper in 2010-11.
McKay said it was difficult to compare the current Roar crop to the invincible 2010-11 side, which eventually went 36 games unbeaten, but said there was a common theme in the mentality and culture of the two groups.
“It’s a bit different with the time and personnel, but we’ve got guys in there who’ve got that same winning mentality,” McKay said.
“They are very reflective after every performance, even if we’ve won. That’s a good sign. We always want to improve.”
The past fortnight has been a good test of that mentality for Roar, missing out on the chance to stretch their seven-point lead at the summit following a draw with Western Sydney and the loss to Newcastle.
It's given rivals a sniff of hope that the race for the Premiers' Plate race is still alive, but McKay denied players were thinking about that.
“We look at the way we play,” McKay said. “If we’re not playing well that’s when we get frustrated.
“It’s got nothing to do with where we sit on the ladder, if we keep playing our best football, we’re hard to stop.”
McKay said it was a “dangerous time” to face upcoming opponents Heart at AAMI Park.
“They are in great form. We beat them up here earlier in the season but we really deserved to be 2-0 or 3-0 down at half-time,” he said.
“We know they are a decent side but underperformed at the start of the season and now they’ve hit their straps.
“It’s a dangerous time to face them but we’re looking forward to getting down to AAMI Park. It’s a great stadium and great surface.”
Meanwhile, McKay said he was a fan of the new Nike Socceroos kit for the World Cup in Brazil.
“It’s great. They’ve done a great job,” McKay said.
“It’s very impressive, it’s got the historic roots to it, but it’s very modern and simplistic, it looks great.”