Emerton to call on big-game experience
Finals football is almost foreign to Sydney FC's Brett Emerton these days but the Socceroos star knows he'll have to channel all his big-game experience in Friday's A-League elimination final against Wellington.
Emerton admits to an unfamiliar feeling as he approaches his first domestic finals series in 12 years since featuring in one with Sydney Olympic in the NSL in 1999-2000.
With 11 years spent playing in Europe with Feyenoord and Blackburn, Emerton has become accustomed to the first-past-the-post league system but said another crack at finals had brought fresh excitement.
"It's been some time since I've played in finals football ... it's exciting going from week to week ," Emerton said on Wednesday.
"First past the post rewards the most consistent team during the season but there's nothing like finals football.
"I'm treating this as a very important game in my career and I want to achieve good things at this football club because that's what I came here to do."
Not that Emerton is short on experience in pressure games.
The 33-year-old has featured in plenty of big clashes in the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Cup, and at the World Cup for the Socceroos.
And he knows he'll be counted on to provide a calming influence for some of the squad's younger members at Westpac Stadium.
"Being an older and more experienced player, playing a lot of very important matches throughout my career, it's up to me and some of the other experienced players to drag the boys along," Emerton said.
"I guess the most important thing is although it's hard to treat it like a normal football game, you have to do that and not let the emotions get the better of you."
While Emerton has taken time to find his feet in the A-League, he looked back to his brilliant best in Sunday's 3-2 win over Newcastle.
He said now Sydney had scraped into the finals they could not be ruled out as a championship threat.
"We're finding form at the right time of the season," Emerton said.
"Our performances over recent weeks have been very good, so on that we can beat anyone in this competition."
Sydney were to travel to New Zealand on Wednesday night with virtually a full squad to choose from, with young striker Joel Chianese recovering well from a knock above his eye suffered in the win over the Jets.
Sky Blues coach Vitezslav Lavicka was confident Sydney could turn the tables on the Phoenix, despite losing all three of their previous clashes this season and labelling star Wellington front man Paul Ifill a "nightmare for Sydney FC".
"Every game we played them, he scored the goals but we have a strong desire and this is one of the key points, we need to stop him and we have a chance," Lavicka said.