Meet the Aussie battling lockdown, injury, new surroundings in English football

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England might be in the middle of a national COVID19-caused lockdown but former A-League footballer Matt Millar is determined to make his name in League One.

Millar swapped the Newcastle Jets for Shrewsbury Town in October on a short-term loan deal until January.

But it just his third training session with the Shrews, the 24-year-old strained a hamstring and was tipped for a long spell healing on the sidelines.

However, Millar recovered quicker than expected and this week bagged his first goal for his new club with a header in a 4-3 EFL Trophy win over Crewe Alexandra.

With the chance to make his switch to the League One outfit permanent in the new year, the fullback is out to impress.

“It’s been a bit of a slow start, picking up a little bit of a hamstring injury,” he told The World Game.

“But it’s good to be back now and get to get on the scoresheet as well and get the win. I was just happy to get on the park to be honest, the goal was a little bonus.

“Originally the scan of my hamstring said three months, but it really progressed well and it ended up being four weeks. I think I did it on the third training session I was there, so it wasn’t ideal.”

Millar is enjoying his time his Shropshire, despite Town sitting at the bottom of the ladder and in the relegation zone with just one win from its first 10 fixtures.

The Australian has also had to deal with a new month-long lockdown that began on November 2, with his partner unable yet to join him in the UK.

“The club’s a really good set-up,” he said.

“They got a really training facility, it’s got a really good pitch, good stadium. I know results haven’t really gone our way this season but they’ve got a really good squad together and well-coached team, so I think we’re playing really good football as well, so I think the results will come.

“To be honest, it’s been quite lucky [with the lockdown] because League One has been allowed to continue. So training routines are still pretty normal, the big ones are just not going out after training and going to cafes, which is the main change.

“I guess the routine of going to training and playing games has continued, which is good. That’s the main thing.”

Millar, who made his name with South Melbourne before breaking into the A-League with Central Coast Mariners, has found the rough and tumble of League One different to the style of football back home.

“Obviously in the A-League there’s less importance about being down at the bottom of the ladder and here there’s a real emphasis on winning games,” he said.

“It’s a different culture that I’m finding, a bit of change from Australia where there’s no promotion and no relegation. It’s definitely one that adds to the value of the game and the intensity of the game.

“It’s definitely a very physical league. A lot of the challenges are ones that maybe you’d get cautioned for in Australia. But here it’s sort of encouraged, which I don’t mind at all, I like the physical nature of the game.

“That’s been a big difference that I’ve noticed. Probably technically it’s very similar and I guess it’s a bit more direct as well, which is something I probably prefer, it kind of suits my game quite nicely.”

Able to play in midfield or in defence, the ex-Melbourne City junior has featured mostly at right fullback for Shrewsbury.

“We’re sort of tinkering with the formation,” he admitted.

“I know they used to play a back five for parts of the season last year. They’ve sort of being going back and forth with that, so it’s been a back four or a back five. I’m enjoying that fullback role because you can get forward.”

Millar wants to make his transfer to the Blues permanent and has been praised publicly by club manager Sam Ricketts, a former Premier League defender with Hull City and Bolton Wanders.

“I’m really enjoying the culture and the lifestyle here,” he said.

“For me that’s a big goal – put some games together, put some good performances together and show that it’s worth making it a permanent deal. I’m settling into England and building on that.

“It’s a big focus for me in the next month and a half. There’s plenty of games, we play every two or three days which is good, so there’s plenty of opportunity to do well and impress, and hopefully make this permanent.

“I think it’s going to be a rally good opportunity as well because he [Ricketts] was a right back when he played at a really good level, so he’s got really good experience. It’s something I can draw off and use to improve my game.

“That’s another selling point, to continue to develop under him. We’ve had some chats and he likes my attributes, he likes the way I play so I can only get better and better under Sam.”