New Central Coast Mariner, Mitchell Austin, has finally returned to Australia after he left Manly United as a junior to pursue a professional career in the UK around six years ago. Here is the first time we caught up with Mitch back in September of 2012.
Can you tell us who was your biggest influence in football growing up?
I had some of the best years of my life at Manly and have made some friends for life there, all the coaches I had there when I was coming through the ranks had a big influence on my development.
Which footballer did you look up to when you were a kid?
Ronaldinho, he plays the game the way it should be, with a smile and skill.
You started off your youth football in the UK with Rotherham United. How did that move come about?
I came on a tour with Manly United and I stayed back an extra week to do some training with a few clubs. I was asked to play in an under 16s match while I was training with Rotherham United and ended being offered a scholarship. I went back to Sydney to finish my school certificate and then moved back to England.
Was it hard to adjust to England’s weather and lifestyle at first?
I’d lived in England before when I was younger because of my dads’ rugby so I knew what to expect but it was still hard going from 30 degrees to -4 in the space of 24 hours.
What are your memories from your time there?
It was a real eye opener into professional football for me. The pace of the game was much different to what I was used too so I had to learn to adapt to that. I really enjoyed my time there though and played in some great stadiums.
You even spent some time in Sweden. Can you tell us about that?
When I left Rotherham I was contacted by a club in Sweden who had seen some of my highlights on the e-scout website and were interested in signing me and three other English players. I signed for six months and had a great experience. We didnt loose a game the whole time I was there so it was good to be on a winning team.
You are now into your third season at Stalybridge Celtic FC. What has it been like for you there?
Its been great at Stalybridge, Jim Harvey is a great manager and has really helped develop my game the last few years. The club is full time as well which is an added bonus as not many in our league are so it gives us an advantage.
Can you tell us about the team? Do you think the club have a chance of promotion this season?
Alot of teams in our league like the long ball tactic, but our manager has got us playing football on the deck as we’re all technically very good, our oldest player is 24 so we are a really young team but everyone wants to do well and push up the leagues.
What is the standard like in the Conference League?
Its a high standard in the Conference as most of the players have played in the Football League and higher throughout their career. It’s a very competitive league as everyone wants to get back into the Football League.
Are you friends with any of the other numerous Aussies in the UK?
I haven’t actually met many. We had a few Aussies come on trial over pre season so it was good to have a chat with a few of them.
What has been your highlight since you moved abroad?
Playing at Elland Road and St James’ Park. They are the places you aspire to play every week.
How would you describe yourself as a player? And how have you changed as a footballer since moving abroad?
I’m quite skillful and have good pace so they are my main attributes. I’ve had to become much more aggressive in my style of play as it I s so physical in the English game.
What are your goals this year? And beyond?
This year they’re to consitently play well and help the team to gain promotion and get myself some goals. Long term I want to play in the Football League and to try and progress as high as I can in the game.
Have you heard about the possible move of Del Piero to Sydney FC? What are your thoughts on that? Are you a Sydney FC or West Sydney fan?
Del Piero would be great for the A-league! He will bring a lot of experience to Sydney FC and some exposure to the league. I for one will be watching him play when I get a chance. I’m a Sudney FC fan as well! I went regulary to watch them play in the debut season of the A-league.
Do you think that the Sydney derby will be good for the league?
Yes, it’s exactly what the A-league needs I think. It should bring a big crowd in as well which will make it a good atmosphere for the players. I can see there being many passionate matches between the two teams in the years to come.
Finally, what advice would you offer other youngsters wanting to play abroad? Would you recommend the Conference as a springboard into the higher leagues in England?
My advice would be if you have the chance to go abroard and play football then take it with both hands. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done and I have improved as a player immensly.
The Conferece is a great place to start. There are loads of players every year that are getting signed up to higher league teams. It’s a great shop window to show what you can do as there are scouts at nearly every game.