For Sydney FC youngster Joel King, Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium holds a special place in his footballing memory.
It was at the Hunter venue in April 2019 that the then 18-year old Academy product made his A-League debut for the Sky Blues, playing a full 90 minutes in a 2-0 defeat against the Jets.
While a disappointing result in isolation, that appearance set King on a course to become one of the club’s most consistent youngsters, starting every game this season and already boasting two Championship medals and one Premiership medal in his short career.
“That night in Newcastle was pretty special,” King said.
“I’d been around a few matchday squads but it was my first opportunity to play. I remember the nerves pre-match but I think once I was on the pitch it all sort of faded away.
“It wasn’t the best result for us that night but we’d already cemented second spot anyway.
“That game showed me the pace of the A-League and really opened my eyes up to what I needed to do to become a professional.
“I think it allowed me to go away and work on the areas I needed to work on to become the player I am today.”
King would feature once off the bench and start once in the Sky Blues final two AFC Champions League group stage games that season and has now amassed 55 appearances across all competitions for Sydney FC.
And while almost a guaranteed starter with Michael Zullo remaining absent through injury, King knows he cannot let up in his hard work if he wants to remain a Sky Blues’ regular and help guide the squad to a third A-League Championship.
“It’s really unfortunate that Zulls [Michael Zullo] is out injured,” King said.
“I really enjoy competing for a place with him and he’s been a huge mentor to me since I joined the A-League team.
“I’ve tried to model my game of his [Zullo’s] and he’s a great sounding board for advice pre- and post-match.
“I’m still confident of picking up silverware this season,” he continued.
“We’ve got the squad to set more history for this club, and with Alfie [Adam Le Fondre] coming back we’ll be even more competitive.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday’s game, it’ll be nice to be back up in Newcastle and I’m expecting another great result up there.”
Sydney FC return to A-League action away against the Newcastle Jets this Saturday at McDonald Jones Stadium (kick off 5pm AEST). Catch the match LIVE on Fox Sports and ABC TV, or streamed on Kayo Sports and the My Football Live app.