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Milligan stakes Socceroos claim

17 March 2013-SBS: Philip Micallef

mark milligan melbourne victory

On the mark ... Mark Milligan, centre, celebrates his goal against Sydney FC (Getty Images)

Defensive midfielder Mark Milligan laid a strong claim for a starting spot in Australia's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Oman with a commanding performance for Melbourne Victory at the weekend.

Milligan, who was captain on the night, led his team by example as Victory snared a 1-1 draw with former club Sydney FC in a compelling A-League clash at Allianz Stadium.

After scoring Victory's goal in the early stages of the game Milligan went on to play a starring role in protecting his defence with his customary vigour and serving his strikers with telling penetrative passes.

Milligan has been picked in the Socceroos squad for the crucial clash with Oman in Sydney on 26 April and with coach Holger Osieck watching from the stands Victory's Mr Versatility could not have chosen a better night to play a blinder.

"Getting called into the camp is only the first step," Milligan, 27, said later.

"We've got a long camp this time but if you're going into camp and you're missing a Victory game next weekend I want to fight for some sort of game time if not a starting spot."

Then 20-year-old Milligan became the youngest player to represent Australia in a World Cup when he was named by Guus Hiddink in 2006.

Milligan has since played for his country 19 times and with Carl Valeri out injured he stands a reasonable chance of partnering Mile Jedinak in a joint holding midfielder's role against the Omanis.

It is a match Australia must win to be able to look at qualification for the finals in Brazil with confidence.

"Yes, absolutely," he said when asked if he aspired to a start against the Omanis at ANZ Stadium, which for the occasion will be referred to as Stadium Australia due to international regulations.

"Whenever Holger calls me up he tends to use me as a (holding) midfielder.

"I feel settled in that position and I think I have done enough in the last few weeks and hope to do enough next week in camp to be selected so, yes, I will put my hand up."

Milligan conceded that his reputation as a versatile player sometimes has worked against him in the past.

Coaches love players who can fill more than one role and they tend to move them around to suit their needs.

Such players are a rare commodity but the downside is that they do not always get enough time to settle and excel in one particular role.

"This used to be a little bit of a disadvantage for me," Milligan said.

"This year has been perfect however because Ange (Postecoglou) has pretty much played me in midfield bar the first two games.

"It does make a big difference to myself and my form when week in week out you know where you are going to be.

"It also makes a big difference when after a few weeks you are asked to change your position and try to get used to new players around you.

"So this season has been very good for me."

Milligan said he was happy with his overall performances for Victory this season after spending four years in China and Japan with Shanghai Shenhua and JEF United Chiba.

He returned to Australia on a loan deal with Victory in 2012 but is now under contract with the club.

"It has not been too bad, I knew it would be tough coming back from overseas," Milligan said.

"Especially if you have been in and around the Socceroos.

"Everyone tends to keep an eye on you and be very critical, I guess, so you have to work hard and try to make a difference every week.

"I've been very lucky since I came back because I have some boys around me who are in good form.

"Actually my form this season has been flattered by the form of the boys around me."

Postecoglou was full of of praise for his combative captain, who was the most influential man in a game full of action and attacking intent from both sides.

It was an uncompromising contest that brought the best out of Milligan.

"Mark has been great for us all year and we needed him tonight because of his experience," Postecoglou said.

"He is one of those guys who can do it all: he works hard, he is a good passer of the ball and he scores goals."

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