Wanderers FC goalkeeper Ante Covic will take the field for his 100th game in the Hyundai A-League this weekend. It’s a milestone, that’s for sure, but what’s more important to Covic is recognising that this season is right up there when it comes to the highlights of a long and distinguished career. Even if it does fall behind going to a FIFA World Cup.
He may not have played for the Socceroos as much as he has wanted to, but that shouldn't cause one to doubt Covic’s quality. He has it in spades. Going to a World Cup as a keeper along with Mark Schwarzer and Zeljko Kalac confirms that. In fact he’d still love another shot, not that he believes it will happen.
As a result he is focussing on what he is doing right now and the positives that the Wanderers have delivered ahead of their match with Perth Glory.
“One point off Central Coast with six games to go, anything is possible,” says Covic. “We have a lot of confidence and everything is positive.
“The further we go it’s more satisfying because of the way we have done it, whatever happens is historic, from a club to come in from scratch and get so many things right... it’s going to be almost impossible to replicate what we have done this season.
“We can go all the way, this is one of the highlights of my career to be honest.”
“I always believed there should have been a second Sydney term and the club and the fans have been there all the way, and lastly on the field what more can you ask for, with a team that signed their last player one week before the season. To be so close to the top I’m not sure this can be recreated again. This could be a once in a lifetime moment happening for us and that’s why I’m so happy to be part of something that is so different in my career.”
While the season is a highlight for Covic, he’s been creating his own highlights reel throughout the competition and is arguably in as good a form as he has ever been, even when he was in the national team fold.
Rating his current form worthy of a national call-up, just in case Holger Osieck has one eye on the experienced Wanderers keeper.
“I’ve had periods where I have been proud of what I have done,” says Covic. “In my first stint in Sweden I felt I was playing some of the best football of my career, but also in the last 4-5 years I think I have steadily improved my game.
“As a goalkeeper when you mature and are mentally stronger I think naturally your game gets better and I am playing some of the best football I have played and I am proud of that.
“I’d love one ( a national call-up) but Schwarzer is still there and coming to the next World Cup you are looking at developing the next generation of keepers, because this World Cup will be his last.
“Going by form I have no doubt I could be in the set-up, but we have some good young keepers. (Adam) Federici is doing a good job at Reading. If Mat Ryan can make the right move and I hope he does, to see him go somewhere where he will get game time he could be a part of that and Mitch Langerak is a real talent, but unfortunately he isn’t getting a lot of football right now.”
A return to the green and gold may be a long-shot for Covic, but in a way he feels he has unfinished business there and though he doesn’t have a problem with Mark Schwarzer being ever-present he does admit he is somewhat haunted by the site of a substitutes bench.
“You always look back and say I wish I had a few more games and I was part of the squad when we had strong keepers at the highest level, but they deserved to be there and were playing in the EPL and Serie A respectively,” he said.
“I don’t even want to know how many times I sat on the bench for the Socceroos.
“I understand Schwarzer and why he has made himself available for every single game. As frustrating as it was against smaller nations, I understand he wants to play and doesn’t want to give that opportunity to anyone else, he is the No1.
“I can see that in myself; I don’t want to give anyone a chance now. I was happy I got to the levels that I did I got to go to a World Cup and be part of the squad and part of the ‘golden generation’ of footballers and had two very good, world class keepers in front of me.”
That statement about keeping his spot doesn’t bode well for Wanderers No2 man Jerrad Tyson, what’s worse for him is Covic says he doesn’t see the finish line in his career as something that is coming up anytime soon, admitting his passion and desire for the game is as strong as it has ever been.
His fitness levels are also up, and Covic maintains despite the years creeping up he is as strong as ever.
“To be able to come back and get to 100 games is something I’m proud of and I’m not stopping here.”
“I want to go as long as I am enjoying the game as much as I am right now and am capable of giving 100 per cent performance; and right now I feel fantastic. I really do love the game, I don’t even want to think about retiring and I have another year at West Sydney on my current deal.
“There is no reason as long as I am fit that I can’t keep going year after year. At the moment I can’t see myself stopping.”
Covic can’t see the Wanderers stopping either, as they chase the Premiership/Championship double.
The keeper maintaining that despite history being well and truly against the new boys they can create it. Records, are allegedly made to be broken and Covic wants to be a part of one, their fans cheering them all the way in what he termed an ‘amazing’ environment at Wanderland.
“There are no nerves at the moment. It’s more a case of everyone is excited about what we have done and what we can do. Come finals time it might be a different story.”
“Finals is a different game, even the teams you don’t fear could turn up and have a good game.
“Victory are a threat. Central Coast are incredibly organised as a squad and hard to break down and I would say those two will be in the mix, but you look at Sydney they have turned the corner, signed (Lucas) Neill, who could give stability and the back and they could be a dark-horse.”
Whether Sydney are a dark-horse, or whether the Wanderers can keep it going remains to be seen, but Covic will soldier on regardless, keeping a career going that has spanned the NSL, A-League, Scandinavia and a World Cup. Truth be told, he shows no signs of slowing down either.