While Adelaide United grabbed all the headlines in the A-League after winning only their second Grand Final in the club’s history following their 3-1 victory against Western Sydney Wanderers, Leicester City were enjoying their own fairytale story in the English Premier League.
A team that narrowly escaped relegation last season have surpassed all expectations by lifting the title, and while many waited for Leicester City to slip up, it failed to materialised as they finished ten points clears of Arsenal at the summit.
Both stories illustrates the pure magic and unpredictable nature of soccer, and while it may take a brave person to back Adelaide United and Leicester City to repeat the feat next season with Bookies.com, there is no reason why they cannot defend their respective trophies. Leicester are not the only team in the English Premier League to have an Australian amongst their ranks, but although Mark Schwarzer retired from international soccer in 2013, national team manager Angelos Postecoglu will have been keeping his eye on the others with World Cup qualifying matches against Iraq and UAE on the horizon.
The 43-year-old Aussie may have failed to play a single league game for Leicester City as they stormed their way towards becoming Premier League champions, but Mark Schwarzer made history by becoming the first player to win back-to-back titles with different clubs. Schwarzer, who remains the most capped player for Australia with 109 appearances, was part of Chelsea’s title-winning season in 2014/2015, although he only made four appearances at Stamford Bridge.
His experience has proved invaluable at both clubs, and while Schwarzer has hinted that this season may be his last, the former Marconi Stallions star will forever remain one of the best players to represent his country.
It may have been a disappointing season for Liverpool in the English Premier League, but for Brad Smith it could signal his rise to prominence. The 22-year-old left back managed to force his way into Jurgen Klopp’s team during the latter stages of the season, starting in three games and coming off the bench on one occasion. Smith is highly regarded as a promising player at Anfield, and although he may have to do with a place on the bench for Liverpool’s upcoming Europa League Final against Sevilla, he has done his chances of enjoying more game time new season no harm at all.
More importantly, Smith has broken into the Australia team, with Postecoglu clearly a fan of his pace, willingness to get forward and ability to put in dangerous crosses with his left foot; strong performances for the Socceroos should see Smith add to his six appearances for the national team if he continues to fulfil his potential.
Australia’s captain remains an integral player for both club and country, with Mile Jedinak hoping to end the season in style with an FA Cup Final at Wembley against Manchester United on the horizon. Soccer fans may choose to look on Bookies.com or another odds comparison website for the best odds on Crystal Palace to prevail, and in a year when the underdogs have succeeded, it would be no surprise to see Jedinak lift the FA Cup trophy aloft.
The 31-year-old has endured an injury-hit season, having been sidelined on no less than six occasions as his time on the pitch has been limited. However, his leadership qualities and strengths as a holding midfielder are likely to be utilised by Postecoglu as Australia look to get the next phase of their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the best possible start.
Postecoglu may have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in the goalkeeper department, with Australia having three top players who will all look to emulate Schwarzer and what he achieved with the Socceroos. Matthew Ryan appears to be the number one choice, but although Adam Federici may have hoped that his move to English Premier League Bournemouth would provide him with enough first-team football to challenge Ryan, it has not proved to be the case.
The 31-year-old has made just six appearances for Bournemouth as Artur Boruc’s understudy, but although it appears unlikely that he will become a regular at club level unless he moves onto pastures new, Federici could remain a valuable option for Australia if Ryan is injured or suspended.