Having battled through almost two years without a competitive appearance, the former Australia midfielder is now on the brink of a much-awaited comeback
|By ADAM LUCIUS
Sydney FC's comeback man Jason Culina admits he could be reduced to tears when called into action on Friday following a tortuous two-year campaign to rebuild his damaged body.
The former Australia midfielder has not appeared since breaking down with a knee injury while playing for Gold Coast at the end of the 2010-11 A-League season.
Culina underwent two bouts of surgery and an aborted comeback with the Newcastle Jets before signing with Sydney in the off-season and continuing an exhausting and painful rehabilitation program.
His time has finally come, with the 32-year-old to be used off the bench when the struggling Sky Blues host Adelaide at Allianz Stadium.
"I had nothing else I could possibly do. Football is the one thing I love," Culina said on Thursday when asked what kept him going.
"I've been a full-time professional since I was 16. You grow accustomed to doing one thing and when that's taken away from you then you're left with nothing.
"It ultimately comes down to how hard you work and how much you want and I wanted it pretty badly.
"It was hard and there were doubts but at the back of my mind I knew I'd make it back.
"I love the game too much to give it up."
Culina is likely to be introduced at half-time or just after the break as the Sky Blues attempt to end a three-match losing streak at high-flying Adelaide's expense.
He said: "I've dreamt about this for the past two years. There will be a few tears. It's an emotional time for me.
"I will be nervous but once I step over that white line I think instinct kicks back in.
"I have belief and trust in the work I've done. If I had doubt I wouldn't have put my hand up."
Interim Sydney coach Steve Corica, who endured a similar injury setback during his playing career, knows what Culina has been through.
"I know how hard he's worked to get himself right," the coach said.
"People said he wouldn't play again and he's going to prove them wrong.
"He could have [retired] and I think it crossed his mind at one stage but it's testament to him that he's fought his way back.
"He's just buzzing around waiting for his chance...you can see it in his face.
"He's ready for the challenge."
Asked what Culina would bring to his side, Corica said: "He gives you leadership, he's very good on the ball and that's something we'll be looking for him to give us."
And while the immediate aim is getting through Friday unscathed, the Culina is still daring to dream of a return to the international arena.
"Do I want to play for the Socceroos again? I'd love to," Culina said after completing Thursday's training session with the Sky Blues.
"I've played 58 times for the Socceroos and enjoyed two great World Cups.
"I was almost seven years on the national team and had awesome times and really enjoyed myself.
"It does come back to club level and I've got to do the job there first before I can consider playing for the national team again."