Mitchell Duke can’t wait to head back to Western Sydney Wanderers on loan after a tough spell in Saudi Arabia and carry on where he left off in the Australian goalscoring stakes.
Al-Taawoun, the club he left the Wanderers to join in August, announced Monday that the striker was heading home on a loan deal until the end of the A-League season.
For the 30-year-old, despite interest from Europe and Asia, it was the right move for all parties after just one goal in 18 games and none at all in the league.
“There are a lot of reasons, especially my happiness on and off the pitch. I missed the birth of my child and it has been mentally tough,” Duke told The World Game.
Duke has failed to settle on the pitch too, despite fourth-placed Al-Taawoun having a good season, with the fact that coach Vitor Campelos was fired soon after he arrived complicating matters.
French boss Patrice Carteron has been playing the Australian in an unfamiliar position.
“The coach got sacked in my first week, there was a caretaker for a couple of weeks and then a new coach.
"There was also a new president of the club and they all had new ideas. I was bought as a striker by the first coach but have been on the wing with no goals or assists. It was hard. I was playing as a winger and not enjoying the football. I wanted to play in my position but I didn’t get the chance.”
The former Wanderers skipper, who enjoyed four seasons in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse from 2015-18, decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I am 30 now and I know what I am capable of and what my strengths are and how the team can best benefit from that.
"So I went to the club and told them that if I don’t get the chances then I want to look at other opportunities.
"The conversation went a little downhill after that and they said I could cancel my contract but that was an escalation from me asking to go on loan so I could enjoy my football again. It was a long three week discussion... it was a bit of a battle but they agreed to let me go back.”
Duke, who scored 14 goals last season for the Wanderers, is very happy they did.
“I am going back to the club I love and that is worth a lot personally and mentally," he said.
"I almost took it for granted but I now realise how mental health and happiness are so important.”
“I leave on Wednesday but the response already since the announcement was made has been amazing.”
With his contract in Saudi Arabia expiring in mid-2022, it remains to be seen what happens when this A-League season ends.
“I will go to England, see my family and assess the situation and by that time, hopefully, I will have been scoring goals. I can’t wait to get started.”