Wilkinson: Socceroos will shine on home patch
Wilkinson, who played in all three games for Australia at the World Cup in Brazil, is coming off an outstanding club season in Korea. The defender, whose club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors recently won the K-League title, has 11 caps for the Socceroos.
“I think it’s going to be a huge difference for us playing at home,” Wilkinson told FourFourTwo on the Asian Cup, which kicks off on January 9.
“I think we’ve played two games at home in the past year so it’s been tough travelling all over the place, especially into Asia. I think being at home for the tournament will be a huge advantage for us.
“As an overall we’re travelling OK. I think the boss has made it pretty clear since the World Cup that he’s really wanted to widen the talent pool and give as many guys exposure to the national team and give as many guys a possible a taste of it, which can only be good for the team going forward.
“The boss has been quoted as saying the depth is a lot better now than it was before heading into the World Cup and that can only be a good thing.
“Once he announces the (final) Asian Cup squad he’s got two weeks to work on the team that he wants to play with in the first game and I guess we’ll know a bit more then. But we’re heading in the right direction, definitely.”
Wilkinson was one of seven centre backs in the provisional 46-man Asian cup squad announced on Monday. That will be cut down to 23 for the tournament and the 30-year old is hopeful of getting the nod.
“It doesn’t help that I’m out of season now,” said Wilkinson who returned to Australia last week.
“By the time the first game in January comes round I probably won’t have played a game for a month or five weeks, which won’t help, but I only plan to have a week off and get straight back into training.
“If I do get selected we’ll be in camp a couple of weeks before the first game as well so I’ll be able to work on the fitness and keep my conditioning going well. I’d love to be involved and I’ll be doing everything I can to hopefully make the team.”
The former Central Coast Mariner made 22 appearances for Jeonbuk in the K-League, and eight in the Asian Champions League, as his club ran way with the domestic title by 14 points ahead of Suwon Bluewings.
“It’s been a bit interrupted at club level this year obviously with the Socceroos commitments, (but) I love playing for the Socceroos and that will always come first,” Wilkinson said.
“I missed a few (club) games here and there but when I was available I played most games which is great and stayed injury free, touch wood. We had a great year and I personally did quite well.”
Wilkinson was also selected in the K-League’s Team of the Year for 2014, only one of two foreign players to make the cut.
“It was a really good year for our club,” he said.
“We did really well all year and it was obviously a big honour for myself to get into the team of the year. Jeonbuk got five other players in the team, which was a great result for the club as well. It was a huge honour.”
Wilkinson moved to Korea in 2012 from the Mariners and his contract finishes at at the end of next year.
“I’ve been there now for two and a half years,” he said.
“Obviously when you first move over it’s a bit of a culture shock with English not being too widely spoken.
“But the longer you’re there the more you get comfortable, you get to know the surrounding areas and get your creature comforts, which is good.
“I’m pretty comfortable there. The club’s great, they look after me and the results have been good so I’m more than happy to see out the next year.”