Callum McManaman’s return has been highly anticipated at Melbourne Victory – in more ways than one.
Aside from helping lift the club out of the rut it finds itself in after six matches as well as returning from an ankle injury; the 29-year-old finds himself driven on more of a personal level.
After reaching the pinnacle of English football when his Wigan Athletic defeated Manchester City to lift the FA Cup in the upset of all upsets back in 2013, opportunities for the winger at the top level dried up following the side’s subsequent relegation from the top flight.
“It was unbelievable [winning the FA Cup] at that point I was flying – getting man-of-the-match against Man City doesn’t get much bigger,” McManaman said.
“I thought my career was going to keep going up from there but it didn’t to be honest and that disappoints me. I ended up moving to West Brom and didn’t play as much as I’d like and it set me back a few years and killed my confidence. It took a while to get back and now I’m starting to feel like I’m wanted here and I’m needed here.”
What McManaman saw as a failure to realise his potential at the highest level had a profound impact and saw him fall behind the pace after spells at various clubs around the UK.
The opportunity to “try something different” in a new environment was just the break the 29-year-old needed after 12 years playing in a system which had become tiresome for him.
Though life half-way around the world has not been without its setbacks for McManaman.
From quarantines to extended breaks, in addition to a month on the sidelines due to an ankle injury, has seen the 29-year-old grow desperate for a return to the action.
“It’s been very tough. I’ve got to know the lads but haven’t been able to help which has been tough,” he said.
“I’ve been going to the games and it’s been frustrating so I’m desperate to get involved and help. I’ve probably set myself back because I’ve been pushing myself too hard.
“Before with Qatar in the quarantine it was tough to get match fit but I caught up pretty quickly playing over there. Then we had another long break here and we were probably not as fit for the first game but now I need to get back up to speed.
“I wanted to try something different. There’s a lot going on back home and when the offer came I found it difficult to turn down.”
McManaman is expected to line-up for the first time in over a month when the Victory host Newcastle on Sunday.
In what has been a frustrating start to life as a manager for Grant Brebner, he will at least have a lot more options to choose from with several players returning from injury.
Marco Rojas is only notable omission for the Victory after he left Bankwest Stadium covered in blood after a collision with Western Sydney midfielder Graham Dorrans.
The All-whites forward was left with a fractured nose and a concussion after the match.