The versatile 26-year-old is the final signing for Victory's squad ahead of the 2012-13 A-League season, and believes Ange Postecoglou's arrival has already taken effect
New Melbourne Victory signing Mark Milligan can already sense a change of mood upon his return to the club, even despite the "massive loss" of departed star Harry Kewell.
Milligan, 26, became the final piece of coach Ange Postecoglou's 23-man squad puzzle when he penned a three-year deal at the A-League club on Wednesday, joining from J-League Division 2 outfit JEF United.
He had only returned to Australia a day earlier, flying down from his native Sydney to agree terms with his new club.
The Australia international seems likely to fill a key defensive role for Postecoglou, despite impressing primarily in a holding midfield role during a 10-match loan stint with Victory in the second half of the 2011-12 A-League season.
Northern Irishman Jim Magilton - a mid-season replacement for Mehmet Durakovic - was unable to guide his men into the finals in what was a forgettable campaign.
Just one training session into his second stint at the club, Milligan can already see the difference under dual A-League-winning coach Postecoglou.
"There seems to be a big difference in the change room, not that it was bad last time I was here, but it just seems a lot more positive," Milligan told reporters on Thursday.
"I came in at the back end of not a great season, so on the pitch you can see already what Ange is trying to implement with the boys.
"Obviously that's going to take some time to sink in, [but] I think with the long pre-season, that's more than enough time to adjust to what he wants."
Milligan is the eighth signing for Victory ahead of the coming 2012-13 campaign, joining key attacker Marcos Flores, midfielders Guilherme, Jonathan Bru, defensive utility Spase Dilevski, defenders Adama Traore and Sam Gallagher and strike prospect Theo Markelis as the club's new men.
He believes the signings can go some way to filling the hole left by Kewell, whose stint at the club was cut short after just one season by his return to England due to family reasons.
"Obviously he is a massive loss," Milligan said.
"I really enjoyed playing with him last season, even if it was just for a short time. I learned a lot, and he went into the Socceroos and showed that no doubt he still has what it takes to play at the top level.
"Any team would consider that a massive loss. But we can't dwell on it, we need to move on and the club's gone out and tried to fill that hole as best they could, and I think they've been very successful."
Milligan said the main factor in his return to the A-League - having spent time at both Sydney FC and the Newcastle Jets before a move to Shanghai Shenhua in 2009 - was the comfort his young family felt while in Melbourne during his loan stint.
He also cited the influence of Postecoglou, who he played under for Australia's Under-20 team - as key, and believes the move to Victory should help keep his international ambitions healthy.
"I don't think it'll be detrimental [to my Socceroos prospects]," said Milligan, who has been in coach Holger Osieck's last two Australia squads.
"When I came back to Melbourne at the beginning of the year, I'd been out of the Socceroos for 10 months, so it was a chance for Holger to see me here, week-in, week-out.
"It was a lot tougher over [to get noticed in the J-League's second tier] than it will be here, so hopefully we can have a good season and play some good football."