New lease on football and life for Milligan

Mark Milligan has travelled and played all around the world, but he feels right at home at Adelaide United.

Mark Milligan has travelled and played all around the world, but he feels right at home at Adelaide United.

The former Socceroos Captain, Sydney FC, and Melbourne Victory versatile defensive/midfield utility has spent many a minute playing against his former rivals in United, but found it impossible to turn down the opportunity to become an Assistant Coach under Carl Veart.

Milligan, 37, concedes like any would that he had formed his own views of United both on and off the pitch.

It might come as some surprise then, given the heated nature of the Original Rivalry, Milligan says the Club was everything he had thought it to be and more.

“Coaching in Adelaide and being part of the Club has been excellent so far,” he said. “And for a long time, I sort of looked at the Club from the outside and formed my own opinions and perspectives.

“I think generally, the way that I’ve viewed Adelaide United is very much what I’ve walked into.

“It’s a wonderful place to be and I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by some wonderful people.

Mark Milligan alongside fellow Assistant Coaches, Damian Mori and Airton Andrioli at the VALO Training Centre.

“It was extremely exciting to be offered this role and really begin my coaching path, and to get that call from Carl to come in and work under him was an extremely exciting prospect.

“What I’ve been able to take on board already, and what Carl has allowed me to step into and take responsibility for, has been fantastic.”

Deep down his connection to Adelaide was always strong, considering his wife Rhia hails from the City of Churches and the sea change was exactly what he needed after a vastly-travelled playing career.

“I was very clear that coaching was the path I wanted to go down as my playing days were coming to an end, and even earlier,” Milligan outlined.

“But I needed that buffer period after finishing up at Macarthur to get my ducks in a row and maybe even reflect on what I had done as a player and to reset a little bit mentally as much as anything and prepare for that next journey.”

Milligan has spent so much of his playing career travelling and moving between hotels, that the juxtaposition of the school drop-offs and pick-ups for his four girls was duly needed, and well-deserved.

Mark Milligan with his daughters at the end of his final match as a professional.

He did have a stint coaching Macarthur and St George FC in Football NSW League One at the end of the 2020/21 season which marked his playing retirement, but it allowed him to be with his family a lot more.

The timing could not have been better for the Milligans to move to Adelaide prior to season 2022/23, with Rhia always eager to move back to her home city.

“Rhia has been away from Adelaide for 18 years and she’s probably spent the last 10 of those trying to get me back,” he laughed.

“The familiarness for Rhia was very important and she always spoke very, very highly of her childhood here, and the chance to give our four girls what she’d experienced was very enticing for us.”

Milligan’s approach to coaching is not only to pass on his footballing prowess, but he sees value in the people leadership and management that shaped him so much as a player.

“What I think I took from all of my coaches was the way that they were able to impact me not just as a player, but they helped mould me as a person as well.

“That was very appealing for me to become a coach.

“Coaching puts you in a position where you can help people not only with their football, but with life experiences in general and that interests me greatly.

Mark Milligan with Louis D’Arrigo, who has praised the guidance his Assistant Coach has given him since joining Adelaide United.

“And then on the tactical side of the game you can get into the intricacies that come along with that, and so from a young age really the coaching path was very interesting to me.”

It is a sentiment that has been backed up by every Adelaide player so far this season, including young midfielder, Louis D’Arrigo, who this week said Milligan has had a huge influence on his form to-date.

“I feel like my game is getting to that next level since Mark arrived in Adelaide this pre-season,” D’Arrigo said.

“On day one he sat down with me and told me some things that I could work on, and we’ve been working on them each game and looking at my positioning and where I can get the ball and go forward as much as I can.

“It’s been very important and I’m loving it.”

Milligan recorded 80 caps for the Socceroos, went to four FIFA World Cups, won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, and later captained his country in a career worth more than two decades.

Besides stints at Sydney, Victory, and Macarthur, the versatile midfielder and defender also played for Newcastle Jets before heading to China, and Japan following that.

Milligan finished his international club career with Hibernian in Scotland and Southend United in England, before playing a final season as inaugural Captain of Macarthur.

Mark Milligan and Craig Goodwin at a training session with the Socceroos during the former’s playing days.

He looks back fondly on his playing days but is also excited for Craig Goodwin who has just secured a place on the plane to Qatar, and the next generation.

“Goody is such an important figure for us, not only for what he brings from a football perspective on the pitch, but that leadership he provides as well.

“The boss (Veart) spoke in a press conference a few weeks ago and made it very clear whether it was Craig or anyone else in the squad that we would do everything we possibly could to help that player fulfill their dream.

“We’ve got a number of players doing extremely well at the moment.”

The shorter-term focus remains squarely on Victory in a huge Friday night clash under lights, and it is something Milligan can’t wait to witness from the other side of the white line.

Carl Veart alongside Mark Milligan in training at the VALO Training Centre.

“The rivalry to me was always fierce and one that, as a player, you always looked forward to because it was always so competitive and there always seemed to be something on the line.

“Even when I was a youngster, I think my first-ever start in the NSL for Northern Spirit was against Adelaide City at Coopers Stadium, or Hindmarsh back then.

“It’s always been a place I loved going as a player and a fantastic atmosphere and all very, very intense games and big games.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge because we know it will be tough on Friday night, but I can’t wait to feel such an incredible crowd.”

Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.