Living up to the expectations set for his return home was never going to be easy for Harry Kewell.
Living up to the enormous expectations set by his much-publicised return home was never going to be easy for Harry Kewell.
But in the latter part of the season, with the hype dissipated and the level of expectation set to a more realistic level, Kewell has finally started to show why he is regarded as one of the finest footballing talents ever to come out of this country.
With four goals in his past four matches and five in his past six, the Melbourne Victory man is arguably the in-form striker of the Hyundai A-League, despite spending much of his time in a left sided attacking role.
But while the goals are the universal sign of a striker in form, there were indications much earlier that Kewell was starting to produce his best.
The issue at that stage was not the quality of Kewell’s work, but the quantity. What he was doing was very good, but he wasn’t doing enough of it.
The turning point of the season has come since the appointment of Jim Magilton, who has taken a wholly different approach to managing the Hyundai A-League’s hottest property.
The Northern Irishman’s approach has been to get more out of Kewell, switching him on the wings with Marco Rojas in recent weeks.
That has seen Kewell more involved, not just lifting his capacity to create chances, but also the amount of shots he is having himself. The extra workload has tested his fitness and as a result he has been substituted in a few matches.
Magilton’s method is simple. He’d rather have an hour of the best of Kewell, than 90 minutes of cameos from the 33-year-old.
The issue for Kewell with the previous coach, Mehmet Durakovic, was evident from the moment the former Socceroo and NSL star found out that Kewell would be part of his plans for his inaugural season in charge.
Durakovic had played with Kewell during the latter’s Socceroos debut in Chile in 1996 and had watched on in awe as the young kid carved out an incredible career at Leeds, Liverpool and Galatasaray.
It wasn’t quite a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but Kewell felt it was not the right environment for a club looking to compete at the elite level.
“You can talk and maybe have a laugh but you have to know there’s a line you can’t cross, a cut-off point, and Mehm didn’t know that,” Kewell told the Herald-Sun two weeks ago.
“He wanted to be friends with everyone but you can’t be friends with everyone, especially in football. You probably get that in a lot of sports but football’s different. It’s not a friendly game. It’s cut-throat, it’s international and everyone wants to play.”
“He had an idea but I don’t think he stuck to his own idea. I believe he may have listened to other people and got gun-shy.”
“You could see his mind ticking over and sensed he wanted to do things but he thought, ‘I can’t do it’.”
While things on the field have taken their time to warm-up, off-field Kewell has taken no time to settle into Melbourne and next month will be crowned King of Moomba, the city’s community festival.
His coronation sees him join the rank of Melbourne royalty which includes, Molly Meldrum, Mick Malthouse, Rolf Harris, Mickey Mouse, Bert Newton, Graham Kennedy, Kevin Bartlett and Daryl Somers.
His reputation as being the antipodean David Beckham have been enhanced by his work with fashion label Politix and when the footballing gods do eventually call on him to give it away, he has a ready-made career in the world of celebrity.
But this war horse is not ready to be merely a clothes horse just yet.
The competitor burns bright in Kewell, as does the desire to prove those who doubt his talent and his capacity to deliver on the reputation which has preceded him to Melbourne.
Even he falls short in his desire to lead Victory into the finals, you get the feeling that despite another year in his legs, he will be ready to dominate the Hyundai A-League in 2012-13.