Monday, July 31, 2006


A Modest Move

In one of the more pleasing transfers of the summer from an Australian perspective, Luke Wilkshire has completed his anticipated move from Bristol City to Dutch Eredivisie club Twente Enschede.

In my opinion, Wilkshire sorely needed, and deserved, to move away from the rough-and-tumble mediocrity of the English “Division One” (a ridiculous appellation). The Dutch league should suit him well.

Guus Hiddink, during his time in charge of the national team, placed a great deal of faith in Wilkshire, and suggested at one point in Australia’s preparations that the 24-year-old was masking his batteries in his appearances for the national team. In what seemed to be an over-reaction to his coach’s words of encouragement, Wilkshire launched into two wild tackles in the pre-World Cup friendly against Holland, and got himself sent off.

Many coaches would have discarded him from their World Cup plans then and there, but Hiddink persisted; Wilkshire was used at right wing-back in Australia’s opening game against Japan. He failed to impress, allowing Japan’s attacking left-back, Alex, to cut inside him far too easily, and not contributing substantially to Australia’s attacking moves. It seemed, once again, that we had seen the last of him.

Not so. In the absence of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton, Wilkshire stepped up to the first eleven again in the second round game against Italy.

It was in this game above all that he repaid Hiddink’s faith, and won over many of his often vociferous critics.

Tackling neatly, distributing simply and effectively, he played with the poise and assurance that had been lacking in his previous few appearances. Towards the end of the game, he did give the ball away cheaply once or twice, but these were small blemishes. He had, on the whole, looked the part.

It is probably no coincidence that Wilkshire has found employment in Hiddink’s native Holland; Australia’s Dutch supremo hinted after the tournament that a move to Holland would be beneficial, and one hopes that he will be proved right.

Even after the tournament, Hiddink returned to the theme of Wilkshire’s timidity. “He doesn't know his own possibilities because he is a modest player, too modest,” he remarked. It was noticeable in the Italy game, as it has been in the past, that Wilkshire is not at his best in advanced positions. He tends to hesitate when he should be looking for the incisive pass, or the quick one-two.

Let’s hope he can make the most of his “possibilities” in Holland.

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