King Bosnich back in the black, learning the lessons of life
FIFTEEN years ago, at the first leg of the world cup qualifier against Argentina at the SFS, all eyes were on one man, Diego Armando Maradona. He had been drafted back by a desperate Albiceleste after a terrible qualifying campaign had seen their USA '94 hopes come down to a two leg play-off against the Socceroos.
Standing between the might of Argentina and Maradona that night was a young Aussie custodian who had been making quite a name for himself over at Aston Villa. As a budding state league keeper, a few years his junior, I couldn't help but go down the path of hero worship, so I spent the day before the game creating a giant "King Bosnich" banner, and paraded it proudly from my vantage point in bay 24.
Fast forward to the Bluetongue Stadium this afternoon and the King was Back; back from a dark place, back on the pitch, back between the sticks and back to his brilliant best, much like the equally controversial Argentine 15 years earlier.
There was little doubt who the majority of the 7000 odd crowd, and what must have been the biggest media contingent to a pre-season game in Australian football history, had come to see. Ever the showman, Bosnich lived up to his end of the bargain, producing a string of top-class saves, including one from the spot, to help the Mariners to a thrilling 3-0 win over fierce rival Sydney.
Midway through the first half, when Bosnich flew high to tip-over a Terry McFlynn volley, Bluetongue Stadium erupted. Later, in the second half, when he dived to his left to block a Steve Corica spot-kick (pictured above courtesy of John Dewberry of Action Sports Images, and the Central Coast Mariners), the place went potty.
In an around that he produced a couple of other smart saves, one flying to his right to tip over a Mitchell Prentince banana, and another with his feet as he was falling to his right.
Overall, from a technical perspective, the movement of the feet was good without being brilliant. Sharpness will come with more training and games. Bosnich was most pleased about his ability to deal with a couple of Sydney crosses, but, in truth, the standard of Sydney's crossing wasn't the greatest. Better tests will come.
Overall though it was a throw-back to the Bosnich of old, and when he was replaced in the 81st minute, there was a standing ovation all-round, and even a bit of banter from the travelling Cove, which the keeper took in his stride.
Bosnich has been through so much over the past five or so years, he claims he is not about to let any of this get to his head.
In the past, he said, he may have gotten carried away after such a performance. Now he was keen to re-iterate that "one swallow doesn't make a summer", a point he made numerous times in a candid and engaging post-match press conference.
He spoke of the importance of turning up to training on time tomorrow, setting a good example for the kids around him, and starting again.
His goal, he said was "to look good again", to get the chiseled features back and get himself in shape.
Seemingly, he is also on his way to grabbing at least a short term deal with Mariners, who continue to push the "one day at a time" mantra. While Vukovic will be available for the opening two matches, Bosnich should certainly be in better shape by the time the Mariners travel to Suncorp to take on his old national team boss Frank Farina. With Craig Moore and Danny Tiatto also around, that would certainly be a reunion of sorts.
Beyond that Bosnich was non-committal, but made no secret of the fact he still enjoys London and has many friends there. Perhaps in the back of his mind he knew the news of this performance would spread around the world, at least in his old stomping ground. A solid few months here and the next transfer window could indeed be a window back to some unfinished business in the UK.
That would certainly be some way to round out a turbulent career.
He was certainly dressed for the high life after the match, decked out in a smart black suit, with black shirt and black tie, and admitted he held up the media conference because he was blow-drying his hair.
Not a hair out of place, not a sentence out of line. Whether he is up to playing at the highest level again, even he wasn't quite sure, reminding all that he was just happy for now to have his health back and be re-united with his family, who he was planning to celebrate with tonight.
In the battle that is life, Bosnich was just glad to be back in the black.