Mile Jedinak, the beard and that stare. Picture: Toby Zerna
Mile Jedinak, the beard and that stare. Picture: Toby Zerna

Jedinak is the hard man for the job

"IT'S that cold stare," says the man who handed Mile Jedinak his crucial break when others were telling him not to bother. "He has incredible mental toughness like no other and for me, he plays against Denmark."

Newcastle Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna, currently in Russia with the Green and Gold army supporters group, knows the Socceroos captain better than most and insists the Danes won't relish seeing the midfielder's name on the team sheet tomorrow night.

While there is speculation Jedinak could make way for Massimo Luongo, McKinna is adamant he would stick with the Aston Villa man.

"Mile has just got incredible presence and that presence has just grown as his career has progressed," McKinna said..

"He is not the most vocal but leads by example, driving the boys on. He has a big ticker, for sure. If I'm picking the team, then, yes, he plays (against Denmark).

"And there's that cold stare, even the beard makes him seem bigger. He's a scary looking fella.

"You saw him gather the players in a huddle after the France game and I'm sure the message was a positive one. To push on and to believe."

Jedinak talks to the team after the loss to France. Picture: AP
Jedinak talks to the team after the loss to France. Picture: AP

The midfielder's perfect record from the penalty spot is no surprise to McKinna either. His record leaves the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi trailing in his wake.

"It's that mental strength again," McKinna said. "He has scored some vital goals for the Socceroos. And when he steps up to take a penalty, there's millions of people watching around the world and he just coolly slots it home. No panic, just slots it. He maintains that poker face and I know he's going to score."

Not bad for a player who could have been punted before his professional football journey had even begun.

McKinna was coach of the Central Coast Mariners when a young Jedinak was signed on a short-term injury replacement deal.

Giving his all in his first pro season as a Mariner. Picture: Mark Evans
Giving his all in his first pro season as a Mariner. Picture: Mark Evans

During the 2006/7 A-League campaign, Jedinak had been juggling work in Sydney with driving up to Gosford three nights a week to train.

He had to be extremely patient and when his chance finally came, in a derby loss to the Newcastle Jets, voices in McKinna's ear were nonplussed about signing Jedinak.

"I was very happy with his performance and for me he nailed it the first night (earning a contract) but I remember someone else (a club official) telling me they didn't think much of it (his performance) and was it worth signing him," McKinna said.

"I'm glad I chose to ignore that opinion. He came into the team, was fantastic at just breaking up the play and gave 100 per cent in everything he did. Scored some cracking goals too. He was probably just above minimum wage as well, but it was about getting the chance and making everything of it, which he did.

Slotting home the penalty goal against France at Kazan Arena. Picture: Toby Zerna
Slotting home the penalty goal against France at Kazan Arena. Picture: Toby Zerna

"When he left to go and play in Turkey (signing for Genclerbirligi in 2009) we really missed him, struggled to win a game for the rest of that season.

"He has worked hard for the success he's enjoying and it hasn't always been easy. Turkey wasn't a bed of roses for him and he got loaned out but then he's gone to England and taken his opportunity at Crystal Palace and now Villa."

Another player McKinna is delighted to see getting his chance is young striker Andrew Nabbout.

The Jets CEO was instrumental in giving the former Melbourne Victory forward a chance to resurrect his A-League career when nobody else would.

Back in Australia after a spell playing in Malaysia, offers were thin to non-existent. But the Jets agreed to let him trial, impressed by the fact the player would pay his own way and his hunger to impress.

"Andrew was given his opportunity (by McKinna and the Jets) but it's him that took it," McKinna said.

"He's gone on to Japan now but we loved having Andrew with us. He gave so much, not just on the pitch but to the club and to the community.

"We've not seen everything of him yet. There's more to come there."



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