Meet James Donachie – Sydney FC’s new defensive dynamo

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James Donachie joins the Sky Blues as a highly regarded defender with two A-League Men championships and a decade-long career with different teams under his belt.

A skilful expert in countering aerial threats on the backline, the 28-year-old is an esteemed asset for the Sky Blues’ defensive strategy.


Despite being a defending powerhouse in the Asian Champions League for five different seasons, he wants to push himself further playing alongside the legendary Alex Wilkinson for the largest club in the A-Leagues.

“I’ve always wanted to test myself at the big clubs, to be there and train with the good players as well, which is what Sydney FC has,” Donachie said.

“A big one was Wilko [Alex Wilkinson]. He’s been in the league for such a long time that when you go to training, you realise how good he is and why he’s been good for so long.”

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Donachie initially found it challenging adjusting to the 24-hour rigorous schedule of the South Korean Jeonnam Dragons when he joined them mid-season in 2018.

There was no clear distinction between his personal life and professional career, and he had to compete every week for a position on the team against five foreign players.

“It’s high intensity and high pressure every day. If you don’t have a good training session, you’re kind of out of the team and you have to make your way back in,” he said.

“For the relegation battle, they’ve got player dorms at the clubhouse, where I stayed for four weeks. You had to be there for breakfast, lunch, dinner and training and they would come and check the room to make sure that you’re sleeping by 10pm.”

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However, the experience taught him to maintain a consistent training schedule and to remain calm under pressure to be noticed as one of the best players on the field.

“The pressure was on the foreigners at the time to be the best players on the field was high because you’re usually getting paid more than the Korean boys and we’re fighting relegation. You’re kind of dealing with it from all angles,” Donachie said.

“It was a bit of a test, but it was a very good experience because you’ve done it before, and you know how to deal with the pressure better.”  

After joining FC Goa in the 2019/20 season, Donachie helped the team become the first Indian club to enter the group stage of the AFC Champions League.

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He believes one of the best parts of his time with FC Goa was helping out the local players to improve their football skills and technique during training.

“The Indian training regime was a lot lighter because there were so many games and they’re still developing as a football country,” he said.

“The foreigners have more of a role to coach other players as well rather than just concentrating on playing as well.”

As an aggressive centre-back with his Spanish partner Iván González, Donachie was the second-highest passing defender in the league with a 76 per cent win-ratio in aerial battles and had an 89% pass completion better than several midfielders.

He said one of the major factors in joining FC Goa was their attacking style of football. This involved trying to outscore their opposition, which placed less pressure on the defence but made for a more exciting game for their exhilarated fans.

“Their games are at a slower tempo. But it was good just to get heaps of touches in and there were lots of gains with more possession [of the ball],” he said.

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He is excited to be playing with Sky Blues’ seasoned veterans and to bring his overseas experience into the upcoming game against Western Sydney Wanderers.

“I’m really looking forward to getting started,” Donachie said.

“I know there’s a capacity at the stadiums at the moment in Sydney, but hopefully it’ll all open up and we can get back together to enjoy a good first game.”

Featured Image Credit: Sydney FC

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Olivia Nunes-Malek
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/2022 season. Currently studying a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism and Digital and Social Media) at the University of Technology Sydney.

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