The Players Pod: Why Vukovic felt he ‘deserved’ to go to the World Cup

It was the Socceroos selection decision that dominated all the headlines.

On the eve of the FIFA Men’s World Cup, Socceroos boss Graham Arnold opted to select Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic ahead of in-form Mitch Langerak – who had recently come out of international football retirement – in his 26-man squad last November.

The decision raised eyebrows given Langerak’s form in Japan, and by the fact he was convinced to come out of retirement at the request of Arnold for the September friendly series against New Zealand.

But at the behest of goalkeeping coach John Crawley, Arnold decided to trust the process and go with Vukovic as one of Mat Ryan’s back-ups alongside Sydney FC’s Andrew Redmayne.

As a result, both goalkeepers were part of the squad that achieved history, as Arnold led Australia to their best ever World Cup finish – bowing out in the Round of 16 at the hands of eventual world champions Argentina.

Almost two months later, both Vukovic and Redmayne sat down with Robbie Cornthwaite for this week’s edition of the Players Pod, where the former was asked whether he felt that he deserved to be at the World Cup ahead of Langerak.

And in response, Vukovic didn’t mince his words.

In season 2022-23, you can listen to Robbie weekly on his new KEEPUP podcast – The Players Pod, with Robbie Cornthwaite. He chats to Danny Vukovic and Andrew Redmayne on the 13th episode. Listen below or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

“It was disappointing. Because it’s a huge thing to go to a World Cup and be selected and a huge moment in someone’s career,” Vukovic said on the Players Pod.

“Then when you have some negativity around that, yeah, that’s disappointing. But did I deserve to be there? 100%. Did Mitch deserve to be there? I don’t think so. I think he made his choice. It was a three year campaign to get there, we made a lot of sacrifices.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to play for the Socceroos. No player is that big in Australia that they can say they’re not going to come to a national team camp and then expect to be there when everything has been achieved. I don’t feel sorry for him at all. It is what it is.

“I know you (Cornthwaite) were highly critical of the decision as well and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I was there through all of that COVID. I was leaving my family in Europe by themselves.

They made sacrifices. I made sacrifices. So I think I deserved to be there at the end of the day.

Back at club level, Vukovic is still playing an important role in Central Coast’s rise up the table this Isuzu UTE A-League season – helping the club up to second on the table after 14 games.

The Mariners have won plaudits across the league for their attractive on-field performances under the guidance of head coach Nick Montgomery – whose stocks continue to rise with each passing week.

Vukovic believes there are similarities in the coaching styles, between Montgomery and Arnold – who was the Scotsman’s coach during his playing days at the Mariners.

“Definitely the man management side of things… that is certainly apparent here,” Vukovic said.

The fact that he’s willing to give the young guys ago as well, more so than any other team. I think we have the youngest average squad in the league and you can see now with some of the players that we’ve attracted here in January, that players are starting to want to come to the Mariners, which is probably not something that was apparent a couple of years ago.

“So that’s a great thing and it’s starting to get a reputation for being able to develop players and it’s a club that… don’t shy away from the fact that they want to sell players, that it’s a great thing.

“But yeah, Monty has been amazing… He puts that belief in us, we have a distinct way of playing I think everyone can see. We want to keep the ball, we want to play out from the back and we want to be dangerous going forward.

“I didn’t know Monty before I came into the club, but I’ve really enjoyed working with him and the role that I have within the team has been something really pleasing for me.”