The Melbourne Knights are a new-look outfit in 2010, coach included, with an eclectic group of players coming together in the hope of improving on the Knights’ ninth placing in 2009.
New coach and former Knights player Ivan Duzel has been in charge since October, and said it had taken some hard yards to piece together the playing list.
“The club was without players, only 22 players left (after 2009) with two or three young ones staying, so we worked very hard to get this competitive side together.
“We’re carrying players from everywhere – Canada, Perth, Croatia, England – so all these 15-16 players, I believe we’re going to be competitive this year.”
Speaking after the Knights’ 1-1 draw in a pre-season friendly with Green Gully, Duzel said the Knights had compiled a strong list with international experience, which was bound to improve on 2009’s results.
“Ivica Praiz from Croatia, Joseph Magdic from Perth Glory, Tomislav Ples from Toronto, Canada, then we got Kevin Townson from Dandenong City, an ex-England player.
“Bryan Bran, went to Romania one year, big stopper, we picked him up too, we got Ben Surey who was an under 19 player at Crystal Palace. All these players are getting some sort of attitude and character and respect within themselves.
“We’ve got 60 new brains and attitudes coming together for a short period of time; it was just a friendly game (on Wednesday), but still looking OK.”
Duzel said his new captain Praiz had a brilliant resume on the pitch.
“He’s 26 years old, played for Duisburg in Bundesliga when he was 19, 20 years old, then he played in second division in Germany, then played first division Marsonia in Croatia.”
Duzel said he was satisfied with the side’s structure during pre-season matches, and acknowledged player fitness was still an issue in mid-February.
“I’ve been pushing that in training (structure), having five or six games, we didn’t concede that many goals, we scored a couple, we played with the system, and once they know each other a little bit more, the players will work.
“There’s a couple still returning from injury, they’re not fit to run 90 minutes, so with everything coming together, I believe we’re going to be a very hard opponent for everyone.”
Duzel started his Knights career back in 1987, and played for the Sunshine-based club for a total of six seasons, and also played in Germany’s second division.
Another former Knight Mark Viduka has been on the lips of soccer fans across Melbourne given he is without a club in 2010 and is rumoured to be returning to his home city.
Duzel said it would be a big coup for the club, but unlikely at this stage.
“The club’s going to have contact with him. Who knows? Mark Viduka is a superstar, it would be great for the club to watch, but that’s up to him to decide.”
Duzel is looking forward to a successful comeback to Knights Stadium in 2010.
“The club means a lot to me, I always wanted to be coach of this club, and I get my chance, now I want to take it right. A lot of players left, leaving the club without players. We had to work very hard to get these players united, so I’m not going to expect them to go straight to the top, I’m just concentrating myself on being competitive, that this team gets better year by year.”
Knights begin their campaign against Dandenong Thunder at George Andrews Reserve on 27 February, kick off at 7pm.
– Star News Group