by Jeremy Walker
Sydney FC’s clash with Brisbane Roar on Monday night in the Isuzu UTE A-League sees Sky Blues captain Alex Wilkinson set to make his 600th appearance in club football.
And before the legendary Sydney FC skipper takes the field to mark his 600th club game, we sat down with the veteran centre-back to look back on his stellar career.
“I’m so grateful to have been able to do what I love for so long” – Alex Wilkinson
“I feel really lucky to have been able to have made that many appearances,” Wilkinson said. “It’s an honour to have played with so many great players and I’ve made many good friends along the way.
“Never would have imagined I would be lucky enough to play that many games when I first became a professional footballer and I’m so grateful to have been able to do what I love for so long.”
A significant feat to achieve, Wilkinson is also one of only four male players to have a career that spans over 20 years in the Australian national leagues – a milestone made even more impressive as the defender spent over four seasons in Asia.
And with the 38-year-old enjoying many golden periods in Sydney FC’s recent history, winning three A-League Premierships and three Championships, Wilkinson has seen it all in Sky Blue.
“That first season I was here in 16/17 was really special,” said Wilkinson. “We only lost one game all year and then obviously won the double and it was a really, really special season to be a part of.
“And then after that the success was just built on consistency, we had a really good core group of players who got on really well off the pitch which helped on the pitch as well. The culture we created was a really good one and it just rolled on from there, we had a lot of success under Arnie [Graham Arnold].
“Then when Stevie [Steve Corica] took over, he continued on a lot of the key principles but put his own spin on things and managed to change things up enough to keep us going and keep us successful … it was an unbelievable ride there for those four or five seasons.
“The amount of trophies we won and the amount of big games we played in, it was pretty special.”
One of the best players to grace the A-League, Wilkinson holds the record for winning the most Premierships (5) in the entire competition – claiming his first two titles with the Central Coast Mariners.
The defender also boasts two K-League Championships from his time with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, with the centre-back’s form in South Korea helping him gain selection for the Socceroos at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.
“It all happened really quickly for me,” Wilkinson explained. “It was something that was really unexpected I guess you could say but the experience in Brazil was unbelievable.
“Just to be part of a World Cup is obviously extremely special but to do it in Brazil as well where they live and breathe football … it made the experience even better and that’s by far and away the best experience of my life in football and it’s something that I’ll never forget.
“We didn’t get any wins or any good results but we were building, and I think that’s what Ange [Postecoglou] had in mind – to get that squad playing his way in the World Cup with the Asian Cup the next year in mind.
“And leading into the tournament in the Asian Cup it was obviously on home soil and were really confident we could make a good mark on that tournament … and then we ended up winning it which was extremely special to part of a Socceroos team who’s won a major trophy.”
A champion for club and country, Wilkinson remains a fan favourite at Sydney FC – with Sky Blues supporters admiring the captain’s leadership and willingness to win.
And with the 38-year-old currently assessing his options for the future, it will certainly be a sad day when the skipper calls time on his decorated career.
“I’m just weighing it up at the moment and deciding what I want to do,” said Wilkinson. “The club have been great in that regard in terms of just leaving the decision up to me which is fantastic.
“And I’m still really enjoying playing and coming into work each day and spending time with the boys and the culture we’ve created, so it’s just a matter of me weighing up different options and ensuring that the body and the legs can still keep going.
“But I haven’t made any decision as of yet so we’ll just wait and see.”