Why Matthew Spiranovic is back in the old routine

IN a whole bunch of ways, Matthew Spiranovic has come back.

Back to the club where it all started 16 years ago, back with the coach who knows him best, and back in football after an apparently mysterious two-year hiatus away from the game.

The Socceroos defender, winner of Asian titles with both Western Sydney Wanderers and Australia, is ready to be part of the Melbourne Victory revolution being overseen by Tony Popovic – and at 33, even after two years without kicking a ball, Spiranovic is confident he has plenty left to give.

In his first major interview since joining Victory, Spiranovic revealed he feels fully fit and pain free for the first time in years, and detailed the chain of events that has meant his last competitive appearance was in June two years ago, playing for his country against South Korea.

Though he is on a tapered training regime after two years’ absence, Spiranovic is confident he will be fit for the scheduled start of the season at the end of October – and that he can play a significant role in Popovic’s mission to lift Victory off the foot of the table, under a coach who previously signed him for both the Wanderers and Perth.

“I felt like I’d had a successful season at Glory in 2018-19 and I was talking to a number of clubs, including Perth, as I went into those Socceroos games,” Spiranovic  told a-league.com.au.

“As the off-season went on, nothing felt quite right. To be honest I still had an ambition to play overseas, and possibly to end my career there, but for various reasons either the clubs or the countries I was looking at didn’t feel like the right move.

“By the time COVID began to spread, it made me think a bit differently about what to do next – at the time I just wasn’t prepared to go into a situation where I’d be training and playing in lockdown.

“Then about six months ago I started to get the itch and the hunger again – I hadn’t kicked a ball in the whole time so initially it started with me and a personal trainer a few times a week.”

The hiatus away from football starts to make sense in the context of the injuries and operations that Spiranovic has had, and the number of campaigns where he has been playing through pain.

“For the past three or four weeks I’ve been training with the team, and the long pre-season works in my favour,” he said. “This is the first time for a decade that I’ve had no issues with my body, the rigours of professional football mean you’re always recovering.

“I feel like I’m still at a good age, and I’ve still got plenty left to give.”

Matthew Spiranovic

All being well he will be ready come Round 1 to make what will actually be his second competitive appearance for Victory – 16 years after the first. Spiranovic was part of a youthful Victory side that played Adelaide United in the 2005 OFC Club World Cup qualifier, before being offered a trial by Bundesliga side Nuremburg where he then signed.

“It was the pre-season of Year 1, before Victory had even played an A-League game, and there were a few of us as young players effectively as train-ons,” Spiranovic said.

“Soon after that I went to Germany on trial and signed there, so that meant I’ve never had the privilege of playing at home in front of friends and family. That’s a luxury I’m looking forward to, at a club with the best facilities, and aiming to get back to the top – there’s a lot to look forward to this season.”