OLIVER BOZANIC knows what it’s like to go to Northwich on a chilly Tuesday night – and now he’ll experience the red-hot atmosphere of facing Spain, Holland and Chile in boiling Brazil!
The Lucerne midfielder was selected in Australia’s 23-man World Cup squad this week, much to the surprise – and delight – of his former colleagues at Conference club Woking.
Bozanic had just turned 20 when newly-appointed Cards manager Phil Gilchrist took him on loan from Reading in January 2009.
He made 18 appearances, scoring twice, including the winner in a home game with Barrow, but couldn’t prevent the Surrey side being relegated to Conference South with youth boss Graham Baker taking over for the final month of the season.
Paul Lorraine was centre-half at Kingfield at that time, and the man who left Ebbsfleet last month had this reaction to being told his former team-mate was going to the biggest tournament in the game.
“Whaaat! Oh my word,” said the 30-year-old, who is expected to sign for relegated Dartford in the coming weeks. “You can’t predict life and especially football, can you?
“I know he was a youngster but I wasn’t an old man at the time, I was only 25, and I cleaned the sweep that year, winning three player of the year awards and I almost nicked a move to Brighton.
“It didn’t happen and I went to Wimbledon and had a bad year there, but life is so different, isn’t it? I’m without a club in Conference South and working in a school, while he’s going to Brazil.
“Not that he doesn’t deserve it. There weren’t many highlights from that season, but Oliver was certainly one of them. I’m not saying I could ever see him making a World Cup squad, but he was one of the positives to come out of our relegation.
“He had a lovely left foot and his crosses were outstanding. His technical ability shone through and even during a relegation battle in a physical league like the Conference, he stood out.
“But football’s weird, isn’t it? This sums it up. When you texted me, I thought ‘No, he couldn’t have got into the Australian squad’. I’m not saying he’s not good enough or anything like that. But the way his life has gone on an upward spiral is amazing.
“I’m so pleased for him and I’ll certainly be tuning in to the Australia games with a bit more interest now.”
Baker was sacked by the Cards in January 2011 and hasn’t worked in football since a spell as youth boss at Aldershot Town, where Bozanic also spent time on loan in 2009-10 during their League Two days.
“We already had Dan Spence at the club, who Oliver knew from Reading,” said Baker, recalling Bozanic’s spell at Woking.
“It’s always good if you know someone at a club, it helps you settle, but he had no problem anyway because the lads could see his quality straight away and respected it.
“He was a smashing lad who really knuckled down and became one of the group. Everyone will be hoping he does well in Brazil.”
*FOR MORE NON-LEAGUE WORLD CUP STORIES, CHECK OUT THIS SUNDAY’S NON-LEAGUE PAPER