18 years since he last stepped foot on Lakeside Stadium in an official capacity, Melbourne City boss Patrick Kisnorbo is excited about the opportunity to return to where his footballing journey started at South Melbourne.
Kisnorbo, who started his career at the NSL giants in 2000, played 67 games over three seasons and won the 2000-01 NSL Premiership in his first year in the senior side.
His efforts at Hellas provided the springboard for him to establish a successful decade long tenure in Europe, including stints at Hearts, Leicester City and Leeds United – while also representing the Socceroos on 19 occasions.
Now, Kisnorbo, who is fresh off securing the A-League Men’s double in his first season in charge at City will look to complete his own personal ‘infinity gauntlet’ of domestic trophies – in the men’s, women’s and youth sectors – when his side kick-off their FFA Cup campaign in the Round of 32 against Hellas.
The City boss couldn’t help but brandish a Cheshire Cat grin when asked about the prospect of returning to where his professional footballing journey began on Friday evening – an occasion he never believed would happen.
“It’s a weird one, to be honest,” Kisnorbo said.
“I started my professional career there at 15. It’s crazy that we drew them. It’s going to be great. I haven’t been to the stadium for ages and hopefully, there are a few people I can see,
“But I think the main focus is the game and how we go about it,
“I never thought the day would come that I would return there in some sort of capacity. Obviously tomorrow night is a chance that I can do it.”
There was a once time, like many football-starved pundits will do on Friday evening, that Kisnorbo would hop on the tram to Clarendon Street and walk down to Lakeside over two decades ago.
However, instead of sitting in the stands of the then ‘Bob Jane Stadium’, it was part of a pre-game ritual for the teenaged Kisnorbo who reflected on some of his memories at the club – in particular, his time in the youth set-up.
“Because I was still underage, I used to catch the tram to Clarendon Street and walk down,” Kisnorbo said.
“That whole process of walking down and going to the change rooms, I always used to be nervous because (of) all the big players, Ange (Postecoglou) started,
“It was the whole thing of going to training knowing that you’re playing and training with some of the best players in Australia. That was probably the start of my education,
“The other bits were great, winning a title and winning a best and fairest, that’s okay, but the start was when the most exciting time was,
“They taught a lot things to me about environment, expectations, hard work. Good people. I owe a lot to them in my education in football.”
City will be without their star-studded attacking trio Matthew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, who are all on international duty this week and may miss their A-League Men’s opener against Brisbane Roar next week.
Marco Tilio, Stefan Colakovski and Nathaniel Atkinson are expected to lead the line as they did in both their Preliminary Final and Grand Final wins last season.
Italian signing Manuel Pucciarelli, should he get through training, is also in line to make his club debut as he builds his match conditioning since emerging from hotel quarantine.