Farewell Captain Socceroo: Mile Jedinak
With Mile Jedinak announcing his international retirement on 1st October, we share this profile from the recently published 'Encyclopedia of Socceroos'03 October 2018 | Ray Gatt
To understand what makes Mile Jedinak tick you have to go back to his days growing up as a kid in the sometimes rough and tumble outer western suburbs of Sydney.
Much like his own game, there is no pretence to the working-class suburb of Rooty Hill, which is part of the more widely known Blacktown City, about 45km west of Sydney.
If you understand the area, the down-to-earth people, the tough times they have gone through, then you get a good understanding of how Jedinak developed the mental strength and determination to go on and succeed on one of football’s greatest stages — the English Premier League - and what has turned him into the warrior-like figure in the middle of the Socceroos midfield.
The unfashionable suburb is where his Croatian-born parents, who came to Sydney as kids, grew up and, like many before and after them, bought their first home.
On the back of the typical migrant work and family ethic, the Jedinaks helped instill all the right values in their children, Mile especially.
“I was born in Camperdown, but I grew up in Rooty Hill. I went to school there (St Augustine’s),” Jedinak told me in an interview in The Australian prior to the Socceroos departing for Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
“My grandparents were also in the area so we had a great family network.
“Mum and Dad worked pretty hard. They probably did it a bit tough, but I wouldn’t say it was extreme.
“The thing is, what they gained they worked very hard to get. It didn’t come easy and I guess a lot of my upbringing was based on working for what you can get.
“I look back and I can say having those values growing up is something I am hugely proud of and hugely grateful to my parents for the way they brought me up.”
Jedinak has never, and will never forget where he came from, which is why he will carry a good slice of his family values and Rooty Hill in him when he hopefully leads the Socceroos on to the field against France in the opening game of the World Cup in Russia in what will be his third finals appearance.
It took the keen eye of then Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna to identify all the positive qualities of the tall, solidly built midfielder and take him to the A-League.
He may have been unremarkable as far as some talent identifiers were concerned, but McKinna knew there was something about Jedinak that separated him from the ordinary.
Of course, still there were the doubters but Jedinak refused to be bowed and he drew on the lessons learned from his family.
“I think had I not gone through what I did growing up then maybe I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the early disappointments as a player (in Australia),” he said in the interview. “I was mentally tough and I was determined. I knew that would push me and get me through.”
Mile Jedinak - Fact Box by Andrew Howe
Jedinak made his couple of seasons with the Mariners in the fledgling national competition count, earning himself a contract to play in the tough Turkish league where he linked with Genclerbirligi between 2009 and 2011.
In between that, he made his full Socceroos debut against Singapore in a friendly in 2008 under Dutchman Pim Verbeek.
By the time the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 came around, Jedinak was a fully fledged member of the national team and was named in the 23-man squad for the World Cup that still contained a large slice of Australia’s ‘Golden Generation’.
He came on as a 74th minute substitute for Brett Emerton as Australia crashed 4-0 to Germany in the opening game. While he was hardly to blame given his short time on the field, Jedinak paid the price and did not see any more game time at the tournament.
The toughness and resoluteness he learned in his early days helped him cope with the dog-eat-dog world of professional football in Europe.
Not only did he survive in the excitable, often impatient and cut-throat world of Turkish football, but he would go on to make a mark in England.
Jedinak joined Crystal Palace in July 2011 with the club languishing in The Championship, the tier directly below the Premier League.
But, it was in the 2012-2013 that he would make his biggest impact. After being handed the captaincy at Palace - a massive honour - Jedinak led them to the playoffs for a spot in the Premier League after scoring an 89th minute winner in a 3-2 win over Peterborough United in the last match of the regular season.
Palace would go on to win the playoffs and earn promotion to the EPL with Jedinak being recognised for his feat by being named the club’s Player-of-the-Season.
Tipped by most to head straight back to the Championship, the Jedinak-inspired Palace defied the critics by safely avoiding the drop with the Socceroos captain playing a pivotal role during the season.
Such was his importance to Palace that he almost played every minute of every match during the 2013-14 EPL season, suffering an injury in the final game of the season and having to be replaced.
By now, Jedinak had become a regular in the Socceroos squad under German Holger Osieck. He was outstanding during the 2011 Asian Cup finals, where the Australians went under to Japan in extra time in the final.
Jedinak was still a pivotal player for the national team when Osieck was sacked in 2013 and replaced by Ange Postecoglou, who quickly realised his leadership values. With Lucas Neill now out of the scene, Postecoglou handed him the captaincy in a friendly against Ecuador in London on March 5, 2014.
The best, however, was yet to come when Postecoglou announced that Jedinak would be Australia’s fourth World Cup captain, naming him ahead of the likes of the celebrated Tim Cahill.
He would play every minute of all three matches in Brazil and scored via the penalty spot in Australia’s memorable 3-2 loss to The Netherlands.
Unfortunately, the Australians bowed out of the tournament after also losing to Chile and Spain.
A year later, Jedinak and the Socceroos were the toast of Australia after pulling off an historic win in the Asian Cup finals at home. Jedinak was a tower of strength as the Australians accounted for South Korea 2-1 in a gripping final that went to extra time.
This is an edited excerpt from the feature profile on Mile Jedinak by Ray Gatt included in Andrew Howe's Encyclopedia of Socceroos, published by Fair Play Publishing in May 2018.
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