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Favourite son Martin John is back

A FAMILIAR face will stand between the posts for the Melbourne Knights in the Victorian Premier League this season.
A blast from the past to a time when the Knights were in the old National Soccer League has seen enigmatic shot-stopper Martin John find his way back to Somers Street after a long stint with cross-town rivals Sunshine George Cross.
John decided to leave George Cross after the club was relegated at the end of last season.
The 30-year-old did not want to take a step back to the state leagues, so the one and only option was to return to the club where he made his name.
“It’s fantastic to be back to the club where I spent six years of my life,” John said.
“It’s a good club, good people and the community behind the club is always very strong.
“I’m not one of those guys that goes around and chases money.
“I prefer to play with good people at a good club.”
John arrived at the Knights in 1998 as a fresh-faced youngster from the Victorian Institute of Sport.
A teenager with spiky blond hair and an infectious smile, he was an understudy to Ajax Amsterdam-bound Joey Didulica.
John got the chance to impress in his rookie season when Didulica went down with osteitis pubis and impressed coaches and fans alike.
“I was only 18,” he said with an element of surprise in his voice.
“I got thrown into the deep end and played my first game against Wollongong at our ground, which was amazing.
“He went to Ajax at the end of that season and I got promoted to No. 1 after eight or 10 games and they were happy with me.”
John’s career at the Knights went on in leaps and bounds until 2004.
He missed 16 weeks with a shoulder injury and his replacement Lupce Acevski gained a stronghold on the position and never let up.
Like a 2am curfew at a bar in Boston, the lights came on and the party was over at the end of that season.
The NSL folded to make way for the A-League, the Knights stepped out of the spotlight to make way for the Melbourne Victory. John fell out of favour at the Knights and moved to George Cross, which proved a mutually beneficial relationship.
“I’ve pretty much been at two clubs my whole life,” John said.
“If Georgies were still playing in the premier league, I would probably still be there.
“Like the Knights, they have good supporters.
“They’re the only two clubs that I would go to.”
John’s return to the Knights prompted a reflective gaze over his career. He discovered his last game for the Knights was his 97th and if all goes to plan he will play his 100th in round three this season.
Such is his loyalty, he played 109 games with George Cross, but left for the right reasons.
“It will be a proud moment to play my 100th game for the Knights,” he said. “I like playing in a good league because you get to play on good grounds, you get good crowds, it’s where I want to play.
“I don’t want to be playing second division.
“You want to play at the highest for as long as you can.”
It will be an emotional season for John.
The Moonee Ponds resident was devastated when his mum, Rosa, passed away too young after a three-month battle with cancer.
“She was my No. 1 fan,” John said.
“My dad gets real nervous so he never watches me play.
“He’s probably watched two games in my whole life.
“Mum used to come to all the games and take me to the soccer.”
John will have specially made gloves imported from the United States with “Rosa John 1” and will dedicate this season to his mum.
“Hopefully I will have them for round one,” he said.
BY LANCE JENKINSON

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