Tommy’s sleeve trick benched

Tom Pondeljak is known for his ice-cool demeanour and his composure on the ball. But the veteran Melbourne midfielder admitted he choked in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Brisbane.

Tom Pondeljak is known for his ice-cool demeanour and his composure on the ball. But the veteran Melbourne midfielder admitted he choked in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Brisbane.

After slotting a superb goal to put Melbourne in front early in the second half at AAMI Park, Pondeljak embarked on what he said was a well-planned goal celebration.

The idea was to remove both arms from the shirt and pull it around to face backwards. The execution was somewhat wide of the mark. Pondeljak only pulled one arm out and ended up looking a little foolish flapping an empty sleeve at the crowd.

“I think literally I’ve got another one up my sleeve,” he joked when asked about the celebration on Tuesday.

“It was a little bit outrageous, I got caught short I couldn’t finish it off, I was trying to get both my arms in and twist my top around and it didn’t quite work out. The boys caught me too quick. I’ll have to think of a new one next time around. Something a bit simpler.”

“When I saw the replay and the photo in the paper, it didn’t look the greatest. It was a celebration that didn’t get finished off. I think I’ll put that one back in the locker.”

Thankfully for Pondeljak, who scored the famous goal to win Melbourne the 2009 Grand Final, that botched effort didn’t take the shine off his excellent second-half performance against the Roar, where Melbourne showed their best form of the season.

“Second half me and Billy (Celeski) coming in changed things around bit and it paid off really well. Hopefully there’s more to come,” he said.

Melbourne’s much-vaunted depth has made it harder for Pondeljak to earn a permanent spot in the Victory starting XI so far this season. He has started in four from six games, but has been given an early mark on a few occasions as coach Ernie Merrick looks to mix things around.

Pondeljak is understanding, but still believes that at 34, he still has 90 minutes in his legs every week.

“With all our players back on deck, it becomes hard for Ernie and there’s a lot of competition for places, especially up front. Hopefully, scoring week in, week out will cement the position for me,” he said.

“You want to get out the 90 minutes, but Ernie’s got a job to do for the team and if he thinks a tactical change is the right thing to do on that particular day, so be it. You have to go with the flow.”

Pondeljak’s excellent goal against Brisbane was overshadowed somewhat by Ricardinho’s audacious effort in ‘reverse nutmegging’ Luke DeVere to score the second and then Grant Brebner’s powerful long effort for the third.

Playing second fiddle is not something that worries Pondeljak, especially to a player as exciting as Ricardinho.

“Ricky has come on really well. Hopefully that great goal on the weekend is the start of a few good things to come from Ricky. He’s fitness is a little bit behind at the moment, but he’s definitely got the touch and the skills,” he said.

Pondeljak is ready to step out against on Wednesday against Wellington Phoenix, which is set to be the first of at least four games without skipper Kevin Muscat. He believes Muscat’s absence will be a good test of the older and experienced players in the side..

“We’ve got enough older and experienced players to try and fill those shoes. You never fill Kevin’s shoes, but you do the best you can. We’ve played without him before in the past, probably last time around, it was a bit hard, but we have to get used to it. He won’t be around forever. We need to step up and do a job for the team,” he said.