As one of just two Socceroos to have been to four World Cups, Mark Milligan’s longevity is legendary.
- Mark Milligan’s playing career will end when Macarthur FC’s debut season does
- He will continue at the A-League club in a coaching role
- Milligan played for four A-League clubs and in six countries, and travelled to four World Cups with the Socceroos
So it may come as a surprise that he credits his remarkable durability to an injury-prone former Socceroo and a player well known for his nightclub exploits.
Milligan, 35, began his career at the Northern Spirit back in 2002. Along with his 80 Socceroos caps, he played for four different A-League clubs, as well as clubs in Saudi Arabia, China, UAE, England and Scotland.
His final game is to come in the next fortnight when the curtain comes down on Macarthur FC’s debut A-League campaign.
He said lessons learned from his former Sydney FC teammate Dwight Yorke — who received the nickname “All Night Dwight” for his partying expertise during his playing career — proved crucial in the long run.
“Dwight Yorke comes with a lot of stories, and you hear a lot of things about what he is off the field, but I can say this with all honesty — he was always the first one at training and the last one off the pitch,” Milligan said.
“His work ethic was really second to none and you start to understand that there’s a reason behind the success.”
Milligan earned selection to the Socceroos’ 2006 World Cup squad through his performances with Sydney FC as they won the championship in the inaugural season in 2005/06. In camp in Germany, the learning curve continued alongside luminaries such as Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka.
He says that Kewell, in particular, was a great influence.
“We all know Harry’s troubles that he had with his groins and where he played and what he achieved, but just his daily schedule just to make sure that he was able to be on the training paddock and to be able to play was actually unbelievable,” he said.
“It’s very easy to finish training and go out with the boys to lunch to relax, but he’d be in the treatment room, doing his pre-hab and doing the work that he needed to after to make sure he was alright for the next day.
“We’d be going out for dinner and he’d have another ice bath.”
Milligan said the professionalism of that squad, which was made up almost entirely of players plying their trade in Europe’s big leagues, left a lasting impression.
“It didn’t matter if we were preparing for a pre-tournament game against a small club side in Holland or whether we were preparing to play the Dutch, the preparation and the effort that they put in on a day-to-day basis was constant,” he said.
“That taught me a lot and made me quite resilient going forward and gave me a good understanding of what it would take to be involved, not only in the game for a long time but to play at a high level for a long time.”
Milligan has been a constant for Macarthur on the field in its inaugural season and will join the club’s coaching staff when he retires.
He wants the teach the next generation what it takes to succeed at the top.
“It’s not just the weekend, it’s how you present yourself every morning, how willing you are to take information and understand that information, that’ll be the biggest thing from a coaching point of view going forward.”
Macarthur FC coach Ante Milicic is confident Milligan’s time in the game will continue for many years to come.
“He is a student of the game who wants to learn and we’re going to really gain a lot from him, he’s a very modern thinker of the game and he will definitely bring a new angle.”