Aussie Premier League legends: Aaron Mooy - 'He looked good from the off'

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When Aaron Mooy left Melbourne City to head to Huddersfield Town, via Manchester City, in 2016 I must confess to thinking it was not the best move.

Here was one of the best midfielders playing in Asia and he was not only joining a team that was in the second tier of English football but a team that had finished 19th the previous year -a spell in England’s third tier looked likelier than one in the promised land of the Premier League.

Mooy’s decision-making has turned out to be almost as good off the pitch as it is on it.

He has since established himself, helping Huddersfield to the top flight and then, when that dream ended, moving back to the Premier league with Brighton & Hove Albion to establish himself once more.

David Hartrick is a rare thing. Not only is he a journalist with football365.com, the sports book publisher is also a native of Brighton, a resident of Huddersfield and a fan of both.

He admits to not knowing too much about the new Australian addition when he arrived in the north of England.

“Very little was known in truth,” Hartrick told The World Game. “Town were in a period of huge transition and he arrived right in the midst of that.

"He came in during a summer of recruitment, one of 17 players who joined the club, and he was just another name to be excited about whilst not really knowing what he was going to bring.”

If many expected another battle to stay in England’s Championship, the form of Mooy helped the Terriers to a tilt towards the play-offs under coach David Wagner, now in charge of Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga.

“He looked good from the off. He was initially at the club for a season long loan but there was a clamour to buy him straight away.

"Wagner’s system needed Mooy to work and he looked pivotal to Town’s intentions early with the two wins against Brentford and Newcastle that opened their campaign.”

It was an auspicious start to what was going to be a successful campaign and then helping the team to a famous win at the home of bitter West Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.

“The promotion season as a whole he was incredible. He made 51 appearances and was, for my money anyway, the best midfielder in the division.

"The performance and goal that sealed his status at the club was at Elland Road where he was excellent on the day, got a yellow card for a challenge that proved he understood the rivalry with Leeds, and then scored the winner from 25 yards out.”

Those two Terriers seasons in the Premier League ended with relegation to the second tier in 2019. Mooy left last August, on a season-long loan, but with the blessing of fans.

“Town fans and staff were disappointed to see him go but it was clear over their two seasons in the Premier League he was no longer a Championship player so there was no malice at all.

"Brighton were delighted to have signed someone they’d been tracking since he ran a game against them in 2017, a game I was at and I would argue that was the club’s best performance under David Wagner.”

On the south coast, it took a little time for the now 29-year-old to earn his starting place but for those who were there, it was nothing to worry about.

“It didn’t take him time to settle, it took him time to find a place in the first team. At Town he had played as a deeper-lying playmaker, a ‘normal’ central midfielder, and a number 10 – all positions that don’t really exist in the format under [Brighton coach] Graham Potter.

"In each cameo he looked good and then when he got a start against Newcastle he was excellent and went on to have a decent run."

A red card against Aston Villa in October was a turning point and he signed a three and a half year deal in January.

"He returned feeling he’d let the club down and wanted to make amends, he was then just brilliant through December and January.

"Brighton fans love him, his apology on Instagram for the red card went a long way to convincing them this was a loan player who cared and wanted to join the club, his performances then went on to prove that.”

Hartrick is not too worried about losing the star to a bigger club with Mooy enjoying plenty of responsibility at Brighton.

“I think the level he’s at – lower half of the Premier League is about right. His lack of pace would expose him at a bigger club I think and the freedom he gets at Brighton to come in from wide positions or drift centrally seems to suit him.”

It also suits that fellow Socceroo Mat Ryan is also a Seagull.

“He loves being at the club and one of his best mates is there with him so I think he’d be happy to become one of the best players in the Championship rather than move if we do get relegated.”

That is a possibility as Brighton are just two points clear of the relegation zone with nine games remaining but if Aaron Mooy can maintain his standards when the Premier League finally restarts then the Seagulls should be fine.