Back to the future for well-rounded Warland

Ben Warland has gone back to the future since his return to the Reds.
2022/23 tickets on sale.

Adelaide United centre-back, Ben Warland, concedes he was particularly nervous to be back where it all began at Coopers Stadium on Sunday.

Warland walked out onto the pitch holding his daughter, Ruby, in what was the little 10-month-old’s very first United game.

It’s the kind of feeling that Warland would have got when he first started attending Adelaide games with his own parents as a fan, before eventually earning his first professional contract in the 2014/15 season.

Warland, the 26-year-old, can’t remember the last time he felt so nervous before a game, and he has played in the Asian Champions League and A-League Grand Finals.

Ben Warland walking out with daughter, Ruby, at Coopers Stadium against Perth Glory in Round 4.

“On the weekend, being the first home game and it being a long time since I last played at Coopers Stadium, the nerves were definitely there,” Warland admitted.

“I was especially quiet leading up to the game thinking about all my family that was going to be there, and the fans.

“My wife, Olivia, was asking during the day of the game: ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’, because, looking back, I think I was really just a bit in my own world thinking about the game and not wanting to let anyone down.

“But as soon as I went out and got the warm-up done and took Ruby onto the pitch, the nerves went away.”

Warland channelled this nervous energy by wandering into the box in the middle of the first half for an assist by the back post for poacher Hiroshi Ibusuki to add United’s second.

He says it was a ‘special moment’ for his family and so great that they had that experience, and one they won’t forget in a hurry.

Ben Warland provided a crucial assist for Hiroshi Ibusuki against Perth Glory in Round 4.

The resolute defender backed it up with a near-perfect second half to ensure the Reds came away with victory, winning at least six aerial duels in a wall with his centre-half partner, Alexandar Popović.

Warland credits the work of his defensive line, who do have a set structure to deal with crosses into the area, assisted by former Socceroos captain and Reds Assistant Coach, Mark Milligan.

“If it wasn’t me winning those headers on the weekend then it would have been Popa (Popović), as we do hold ourselves accountable and this is pushed by the coaches,” he said.

“But Mark (Milligan) has been working with us, especially the centre backs, in dealing with crosses and defending one-on-ones and all these sorts of things.

“Post-training as well, a lot of us will stay back with him individually and he’s been very beneficial to not just the defenders but everyone in the team, and we’re all learning a lot from someone who was such an established player in the game.”

Ben Warland says Mark Milligan has been very beneficial to himself and his teammates since joining the Club.

Warland initially had a frustrating beginning to his professional career with his hometown club when he was a fresh-faced 17-year-old.

You are always eager for more opportunity at any age in the game, and they were just too few and far between for the aspiring central defender.

Things turned around rapidly as they so often do in football when current Socceroos boss, and then Sydney FC coach, Graham Arnold, began calling Warland’s personal phone in a bid to move him across to the Sky Blues.

The plan worked and Warland made the switch at the start of 2018.

He finally found regular A-League starting roles for Sydney particularly in the lead up to the side’s Grand Final victory against Perth Glory in 2018/19.

But Warland was missing on the night due to a season-ending ACL injury that cruelly occurred two months prior. He had also broken his foot in the pre-season of that campaign.

He spent the next year working his way back and admirably made it onto the bench as an unused substitute when Sydney won the Championship in 2019/20. Then he played a key role in the Sky Blues’ Grand Final appearance against Melbourne City at the end of the following season.

While he was on the wrong end of the result that night, the professional that is Warland, who still boasts a winner’s medal, will be doing everything in his power to play as many minutes as possible for Adelaide in the hope of more finals football.

Ben Warland celebrating with teammates following a goal against Perth Glory at Coopers Stadium.

“It was pretty crazy for me at the time to be recognised by a coach like Graham (Arnold) especially at a stage when I had only played a couple of A-League games,” he said.

“It wasn’t like he was trying to sell Sydney to me as well, he actually said ‘we want you here’, which was really something for me to hear and I was really happy that I took that step at the time.

“It was an awesome experience and even though game time was limited at stages through injury, I found myself playing in Grand Finals and the Asian Champions League as well.

“But the timing was right to come back, and I’ve found myself back at home in Adelaide and couldn’t be happier.

“It wouldn’t get much better than winning a Championship with this team.”

The resilient Warland also returns with a self-proclaimed improved work-life balance and fresh perspective after several years away from Adelaide, owing largely to his new family and devoted wife, Olivia.

“My family mean the world to me and Olivia’s always been really good in helping me switch off and talk about something other than football when I get home from training or games.

“Once I step onto the training ground and pitch it’s all football, but otherwise Olivia and Ruby help me switch off and it has changed my perspective a fair bit.

“I’ve found that good work-life balance and it’s going well at the moment, we now need to keep winning and getting as many points as we can.”

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