When you're playing in somewhere like Oman or Thailand, preparation is everything.
In the two or three days prior to the game, you're acclimatising, getting used to the surroundings and also the conditions you’re going to be up against.
The travel won’t affect the boys because it’s something Australian lads are so used to. With so many of them being based in Europe it’s second nature now. They know how to travel, to make sure they’re getting plenty of fluid, taking their rest, and getting up every couple of hours on the plane to walk about and stretch.
Despite the long hours, I never found the travel hard. I was always so looking forward to getting back and catching up with everyone that at the time I never really thought of it as something that drained me. The excitement of turning up to whatever country you were playing in or even coming back to Australia, you were absolutely shattered but when you catch up with the boys all that tiredness goes away.
We had such a great squad, a great bunch of boys and everyone got on so well. It was well known that the game is about business but it’s still always good to catch up and see different environments as well. Although I don’t remember ever doing anything in terms of sightseeing... Normally, you see a hotel, a training ground and a stadium.
The biggest problem playing in Asia is the humidity. I don’t know how hot it’ll be now in those countries, the advice from the backroom staff is always to focus on your recovery, making sure you get enough rest – all things really that nowadays we know – eat well, eat the right food, have enough fluids. All that’s taken care of; the medical team have salt tablets to prevent cramp, everything’s there for you.
You just have to make sure you’re well rested - in Asia, not everyone’s guaranteed to see out 90 minutes.
I never played in it but I look back at the 2007 Asian cup and someone like Vince Grella, who is one of the fittest guys I’ve ever come across, yet really struggled in those conditions because he lost so much fluid. His body couldn’t cope for 90 minutes in those conditions, and these are things we’ve learnt over time, in terms of the players we look to field.
A campaign like this does help to focus the professionalism – you go over there, do the job, not even think about entertaining the crowd, then go back to your club.
That is the best way you can describe international football away from home. it’s turn up, check in, have your meetings, prepare well, train, rest, get to the game, lets go in and get the result and get out. It really is as clear-cut as that and that’s all that’s going through the players’ minds.
I don’t think playing in Asia has changed the mentality of the team but what has made a difference is the campaign; it’s a tougher campaign, rather than just two tough games, and that has helped our national team and players develop.
Playing 10-15 games to qualify is a far better fit for us and allows the team to really develop, as oppose to the previous cycle – four years, two games against New Zealand and then the two biggest games of your life against South American opposition!
It’ll be a tough game on Friday night, but I don’t think Oman are the team of the last campaign we played in 2009, when we won 2-1 when Rhys Williams got sent off and Brett Emerton scored the winner.
But they were a tough team back then, they had so much more going forward and they had that unpredictability about them, they were positive and looked to attack at every opportunity. We went down to 10 men away from home and went down 1-nil – that was an unbelievable result to come back and win the game 2-1 in extremely tough conditions.
Sometimes, away from home, you’re not going to dominate games, certainly not for long period of time. But that’s the cruel thing about our game; it’s not like rugby league or union. In our game you can dominate for 90 minutes and lose 1-o. It’s all about taking your chances.
I’m fairly confident Australia will get through both games, whether or not we win them both. I don’t see us losing them but they’ll both be tough in different ways.
Against Thailand, the boys will try to put things right and show their performance in Australia was out of character. Against Oman, with the surroundings and the conditions, it won’t be played at an electrifying pace and you’ve got to be selective about when you up the ante. But we’ve got the payers to have our moments and score our goals.