Sukha's big step

In old fashioned football parlance, Melbourne Victory recruit Surat Sukha is not in Australia for a holiday.

In old fashioned football parlance, Melbourne Victory recruit Surat Sukha is not in Australia for a holiday. If the near single-digit temperatures didn't reinforce that then the prospect of playing against two English Premier League teams in the space of ten days will be enough to remind him that the toughest year of his career is looming.

Sukha arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday, in the middle of winter without much English to his credit. But the defender describes his move to Victory as the most important of his career and one which he thinks will make him a much better player.

"I needed a challenge," the former Chonburi man said through a translator. "This is something I'm looking forward to. Melbourne is the champion team in Australia and there is no doubt this is a step up for me."

Sukha's first match in Victory colours is likely to be against EPL side Fulham on Saturday July 11. With Melbourne short on defensive options at the moment, he is likely to slot in at full back. A week later he will fly back home to prepare himself for a match with the Thai national team against Liverpool on July 22, where he is likely to get the man-marking role on none-other than Reds superstar Steven Gerrard.

"There are two very big clubs. To improve yourself you need to play against the best and this is a great opportunity to test myself," he said.

Victory football operations manager Gary Cole has been impressed by Sukha in his short stay, and thinks he can be a vital cog in the club's championship defence.

"He's a fantastic player. He's someone who has played about 15 or 16 times for his country. I spoke to Steve Derby, who's the assistant coach in Thailand. They're playing Liverpool on the 22nd of July, and he's got a man-marking job on Steven Gerrard. They obviously think highly of him, so we think highly, we think we've done well," Cole said

"Seventy games for Chonburi, he played with Ney Fabiano against us in the 2008 ACL. He's got great experience in the ACL and the AFC Cup. We're expecting big things of him and it will take him a little time to adjust as it does with all our foreigners, getting him used to the cold weather for one, he's a really nice man."

Cole said the key to Sukha is his flexibility to play either in the midfield or in the defence as one of either a back four or a back three.

"I think we brought him because he can play as a full back. He can play, if need be, as a central defender, and he can certainly play as a holding midfield player. I think Thailand see him as a defensive midfield player. If you are going to mark Stevie Gerrard then you have to give someone the job that's got the discipline to do that."

"While he's a bit rusty, he's got a wonderful touch. His passing is very good, he'll be able start things. We're comfortable once he settles in that he'll be able to play anywhere through that region."

Cole predicted Surat's arrival could be the start of a trend for Hyundai A-League clubs, with the Southeast Asian region becoming a more attractive recruiting area.

"Surat, we believe will be the first ASEAN, Southeast Asian player, to play in any national level in Australia. That's in the Hyundai A-League or the old National Soccer League. Perhaps in years gone by we may have thought that they were a bit too small for the physical style of game, but I think world football has changed. It is more technical now," he said.

"Predominantly, they are always technically very good, with good pace, and they are playing football at a higher level all the time. I think it's a great market if you can find some people in there that you trust and you're prepared to do the work."

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