Comeback keeper Mark Bosnich has revealed his desire to play for Australia again - nearly eight years after his last appearance for his country.
The intervening years have been doused in enough controversy to cram several lifetimes following his positive test for cocaine, nine-month international ban, sacking from Chelsea, retirement from the game and admission that drugs had taken a grip on his life.
But the route to redemption is now his chosen path and the 35-year-old, currently training with English second tier strugglers Queens Park Rangers, hopes the yellow brick road could lead to a second coming for the country he represented just 17 times.
Six years out of the game - and a realisation that he had not fallen out of love with football after all - have revived his appetite with the former Aston Villa, Manchester United and Chelsea keeper declaring: ''If I ever get the chance to play for Australia again, I will never make the mistake of saying 'no'."
"In 1993, it came out wrongly that I had rejected playing for Australia and I made a vow to myself then that I would never allow that to happen again."
After shedding 13kg in three months with QPR at the Harlington training base under the flight path at Heathrow that he once frequented in Chelsea colours, Bosnich is within two kilos of his former playing weight, the reflexes are back - and he is working hard on his stamina and endurance in the bid to convince somebody - anybody - that he's worth taking a gamble on.
He is hoping a contract offer comes his way, either from Rangers or elsewhere and is convinced he has it within him to reproduce the form that one had been labelled as the world's best shot-stopper.
"I won't bore people with the details but back in 1993, I got into a position while at Aston Villa where it was wrongly understood by many that I'd quit the national team," he said.
"I missed both World Cup qualifiers against Canada and got a lot of stick for it. The opening game of the English Premier League season fell on the same date as the first game with Canada and I ended up not being able to play for my club or my country."
"I just sat there doing nothing while two huge games went on without me."
"I tried to do the right thing by everybody but got burned. That will never be allowed to happen again."
Bosnich's absence opened to door to Mark Schwarzer, then just 20, who became an instant hero by saving two penalties in a second-leg penalty shootout to see Australia through to a final World Cup qualification eliminator against Argentina, when, in a puff of smoke, Bosnich re-emerged to regain his mantle.
Bosnich let hedonism get the better of him as his life slid out of control following his axing by Chelsea - and he insists he has only bothered watching five games in the past five years - two of which were at the World Cup. The Socceroos' 3-1 win over Japan and 2-2 draw with Croatia.
"The boys did incredibly well and I salute them and Guus Hiddink what they achieved," he added. "But, in truth, I never missed any of it - until now. I just got a text from Arnie (Graham Arnold) and it's good to hear from people like him again."
Bosnich stands accused of treating his talent with a flagrant disregard and in England - his home of 20 years - there is deep cynicism, even disbelief, at his attempts to generate his own resurrection.
But upbeat and eternally optimistic, he doesn't look back with rancour - though he admits there may be some regrets. They are only fleeting and, to quote Frank Sinatra, too few to mention.
"Who doesn't have some regrets?" he added. "But the truth is I came to England I was young and majority of young boys who did the same would have given their right arm to achieve what I have."
"I've led a charmed life, played for Aston Villa, Manchester United and Chelsea and won four trophies."
"I had great experiences and I hope there are many more to come. I'm not financially strapped, I played at a time when rewards were great. But I never played for the money, I played because I loved it and to be the best that I could be. That's what I'm trying to do again now."
Bosnich says that a mentor from the land of his lineage, Croatia, was the catalyst for his re-emergence from the twilight zone. But, for now, he declines to identify him.
There is another mentor, too, his former rival for the No.1 jersey at Chelsea and now QPR's goalkeeping coach Ed de Goey.
The Dutchman says of Bosnich: "His past isn't the best and there's a danger some people will judge him on that. There's nothing he can really do about that. But all I can say is that he's close to fitness now, his attitude has been second to none, he's looking sharp and he's smiling again."
"I think he can make it back to professional football - he just needs somebody to take a chance on him."
For the time being, Bosnich is reluctant to reveal too much of his descent into drugs, and the ravages and challenges of his life during his five-year exile. He says that discussion is 'for another time'.
"I've been doing all sorts of things ... I experienced things I've never experienced before in my life - and I've found out who my true friends are in football and in life," he added.
"But the most important thing now is my present and my future. I'm not going to go begging to people for a contract. I know I'm close to full fitness now and I know I can do a job at the top level still."
15 Nov 2012 - 6:54pm
Bosnich targets comeback
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