Mark Viduka: The Premier League’s favourite Aussie

In a country as big as Australia, you’d expect that we could sit here all-day reminding ourselves of all of the great Australian footballers who made their mark in the Premier League. The reality in-fact is that there isn’t many; but those that have, quickly achieved cult hero status. 

Mark Viduka is one of few Australian attackers to make an impact in the Premier League.  The former Socceroo’s captain was the complete forward; tall, strong, quick feet and a versatile finisher. Whilst other physical players stalled, Viduka’s technical skills set him apart – and ultimately made him one of the Premier League’s best strikers. He was different – he wasn’t just a target man.

If you were inept at defending, then the Australian forward was someone who you wouldn’t be looking forward to playing. Similarly to Luis Suarez, there was so many ways that he could score; amazingly accurate with his head and a lethal finisher. There was simply no textbook way of defending him – a trait which distinguishes the great forwards from the good.

It didn’t take long for Liverpool fans to discover that.

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Horrific viewing for Liverpool fans, great for just about everybody else. But yes, Viduka did indeed score four goals against the Reds before Arsenal’s, Andrey Arshavin. Premier League history for the former Leeds man, a fete that neither Tim Cahill or Harry Kewell could  reach, but will an Australian ever be able to match this? Seems unlikely.

 

 

Whatever happened to the Leeds United scout who was able to discover all this Australian talent? Let’s not forget Harry Kewell either, who was quality for Leeds before going on to win the Champions League with Rafa Benitez at Liverpool. The Aussies had a very respectable core back then – they were probably a prime Tim Cahill away from winning the World Cup.

 

The man who had destroyed the Scottish Premier League with Celtic was finding the net with ease in England. How often do supporters call for the need of a ’20-goal a season’ striker? – it’s hard enough finding one to buy in this era of football! So when Viduka had conjured up consecutive seasons with 20+ goals for the Elland Road fans in all competitions, it was clear his name deserved to be mentioned alongside Premier League best forwards.

The Aussie forward’s natural strength meant he was particularly good at holding up the ball, which back in the era of the 4-4-2 was hugely beneficial. The focus that the defence had to use on the forward meant his teammates would often benefit and have great opportunities; whether it was releasing the winger down the line or playing in his partner, Mark Viduka was an excellent player to play alongside. When his team mates actually finished their chances he made, he ended up with 28 Premier League assists.

92 goals and 28 assists in the Premier League over 240 games? An exceptional rate. Any player who will contribute to a goal every other game is indispensable to any club. Effectively, this shows that Australia had a player who was a match-winner. He’d never be too far away from a goal, and opponents knew he was a constant threat.

 

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The Australian finisher continued his goal-scoring for Middlesbrough – and was so close to European glory, but of course, they lost in the UEFA Cup final to the team who win it every single year, Sevilla. It seems almost unfair, a player of this quality deserved European success, but he didn’t even win a trophy in England.

It can’t always be a fairy-tale – but Viduka’s achievements alone in the Premier League are enough to solidify his legacy, the striker was unstoppable on his day. When you look back and think of the greatest players from down under, the man who enjoyed spells at Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle will always be there. Undoubtedly, he is Australia’s best ever striker.

Will there be an era of solid Australian, Premier League talent again? Surely at some point. But currently, there isn’t any Socceroo’s who even start for their club. It’s crazy when you think you used to see them every couple of pages in your Premier League sticker book. Hopefully, they can return someday – the country deserves a quality national pool of talent.

 

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