Sydney FC recruit Luke Wilkshire believes young Australian footballers should take the chance to ply their trade in Europe – even with the rebirth of the domestic game.

Having left Australia to join Middlesbrough in 1998, Wilkshire is no stranger to European football. In his 19 year career he played in England, the Netherlands and most recently in Russia and he believes the benefits have extended beyond the pitch.

“Any young player who has the opportunity to go and experience different lifestyles – not just football but lifestyles – can absolutely broaden their horizons on and off the field,” he said.

Wilkshire admits that Europe isn’t for everyone and suggests that young players looking at making the move overseas need to be focused and malleable.

“Learn to adapt to different cultures and ways of life. If you do that, and you work hard, and do your thing on the field then you can be very successful.”

For now the defender is handling the transition back into Australian life with his Russian wife Kristina and his children. With the exception of brief holidays and Socceroos duty Wilkshire has spent his whole adult life away from home.

“We’re very settled and very happy to be back,” said Wilkshire. “I think I can appreciate things here more now than when I was younger.”

On the football side of things Wilkshire is relishing the season ahead. Even though keeping up with Australian football was difficult in Russia he knows from his Socceroos teammates that the domestic game has improved since he left.

“The A-League has developed and come a long way,” he said. “It’s an exciting challenge that I’m looking forward to. With this group of players and coaching staff it’s going to be a very exciting season.”

It won’t be all new faces as former FC Twente man has been reunited with Graham Arnold, who coached him under Guus Hiddink during the 2006 World Cup campaign.

“I’ve known Arnie for a long time. I know the kind of person he is. I know the kind of coach he is,” said Wilkshire.

“When that call came in from him it was a big reason why I came back.”

He joins Arnold and a Sky Blues team that are running hot off the back of the club’s third Hyundai A-League title. Sydney have already looked sharp in the FFA Cup but face the daunting prospect of the Asian Champions League on top of their domestic commitments.

“We have a lot of competitions that we’re in this year and I look forward to getting out there and winning,” he said.

When asked if he was thinking about a return to Russia as part of a potential Socceroos World Cup squad he dismissed it with a laugh.

“I’m just concentrating on winning trophies at Sydney at the moment.”

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Football fan, writer, and post-grad journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. Joined the team in 2017 to cover Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners.