Sydney United 58 FC head coach Mark Rudan said that he doesn’t have too many happy memories of travelling to Somers Street from his National Soccer League playing days, as the current FOX Sports pundit looks towards this Sunday’s Friendship Cup with the Knights.
Speaking to melbourneknights.com.au ahead of the annual pre-season fixture, the 39-year-old said the Knights Stadium crowds were “intimidating” in their heyday, when asked of his memories of the stadium.
“Not very good [memories] because we always lost,” Rudan said.
“I do remember we got thumped 6-1 one game, I think. It was quite early on, I think it was my first time that I went down and played against the Knights at that time.
“So not very good. It was a pretty intimidating, very passionate for the Melbourne Knights side even though we were a sister club. So probably bad memories I’d say but that was a long time ago.”
Even though it has been a while since Rudan played at Somers Street, the Sydney Croatia youth product did guide his team to a pre-season win over the Knights as head coach two years ago for the 2013 installment of the Friendship Cup.
Having been involved at Sydney United for some time, and now heading into his third Friendship Cup, Rudan said he valued the relationship the two clubs have had over “many years and decades”.
“They’re two proud clubs with a lot of history and I guess growing up, one thing I wanted to do before I did anything else was to play for Sydney Croatia/Sydney United and it’s exactly the same for a lot of the juniors at Melbourne Knights/Melbourne Croatia, also of Croatian heritage.
“So, like I said, both clubs have a lot of history and tradition attached to it, so it’s nice that this is happening annually considering where both teams are in the game today.”
However, Rudan also said that the 2015 version of the Friendship Cup may have come at an inconvenient time for him and his players, with the squad only recently starting their pre-season training schedule.
“We only started [pre-season] two weeks ago, so this game hasn’t really come at a good time for us because my players would do well to last 45 minutes, let alone 90 minutes,” Rudan said.
“So it’s more about team bonding rather than about anything that happens on the pitch. We’ve done nothing tactically at all. We’ve just done bits and pieces here and there.
“So the whole weekend is about, like I said, getting the boys together, taking them out of the city, interstate, and getting to know each other a bit better – I think that’ll be the most important thing that I’ll take out of it.”
Although only in the embryonic stages of preparation for the 2015 NPL NSW season, United have made a number of additions to its squad ahead of the clash with the Knights, but Rudan did say that some of those players could have limited minutes on the pitch come Sunday.
“We’ve made three or four new signings,” Rudan confirmed.
“Two players from Sutherland – Panny Nikas and Nick Stavroulakis. We’ve also got Jason Pastfield who’s been an A-League ‘keeper for 10 years. He’s been in Singapore and obviously he wants to join us as well because I guess with what happened with Liam Reddy – when he had a really good year with us two years ago and got himself back into the A-League.
“We don’t look to chop and change too much; I’m not looking to change things too much. We’ve still got a very young squad but we have brought these guys who have a little bit more experience and add a little bit more steel to the team as well, some quality.
“They’re all good guys and they’ve fit in really well. But one of them might not be travelling, and a couple of those won’t get too much game time.
“It’s more a team bonding thing, but they’ve settled in really well.”
Looking ahead to the season proper, beyond this Sunday’s Friendship Cup, Rudan said his hopes and ambitions were unchanged from the previous campaign.
“It’s the same as it is every year – to improve every day and play to the maximum and obviously try to win things.
“That’s the key component to what we do. Sometimes you do it, sometimes you fall short, sometime you’re way off the mark but there’s no difference this year – the key is to improve when we come into training and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Mark Rudan’s Sydney United 58 FC take on Melbourne Knights FC this Sunday, with kick off at 6PM. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium, and 2015 Knights memberships will also be available for purchase from the stadium office.