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Thursday, October 11, 2012
Culina fights back to sign with Sydney FC

By Angela Habashy

A year ago Jason Culina was considering giving the game away but the injury-plagued former Socceroos midfielder now feels his career is back on track after becoming Sydney FC's newest star recruit.

The two-time Australian World Cup player has not played competitively for over 18 months since breaking down with a potentially career-ending knee injury at the Asian Cup in January last year.

He has spent the last four months training with Sydney and regaining full fitness under the guidance of the club's physiotherapist Stan Ivancic.

His persistence paid off on Thursday night when he signed a one-year deal as the Sky Blues' No.6, but the midfielder admitted retirement thoughts had loomed large during his lengthy rehabilitation.

"It's been a very long way back," the 32-year-old said on Friday.

"Twelve months ago I was thinking about giving the game up because I was going through some very difficult times.

"But a lot of people around me convinced me to keep going and not give up and I started to believe in myself again."

Culina, who has played for Dutch clubs PSV Eindhoven, Ajax and FC Twente, sustained his injury towards the end of his second season as a marquee man for defunct A-League club Gold Coast United.

He then signed with Newcastle for the 2011/12 season - the club then coached by father Branko - but was ruled out for the entire season due to knee surgery, resulting in both his and his father's sensational sacking by the Jets just days out from the season starting.

But Culina said there was no other option for him than to make a comeback to the sport.

"I had absolutely nothing else that I could possibly think I wanted to do but play football," He said.

"I've been a full-time professional since I was 16 so football is all I know.

"I didn't want it to finish on the terms that it finished on when I got injured playing for the Socceroos.

"I want to keep playing and show how good I am and hopefully give something back to Sydney FC who've given me the opportunity."

Culina's signing caps an extensive rebuilding phase for Sydney with no less than eight players making the switch to the Sky Blues, including Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero.

Culina, who says it is a day-by-day prospect as to when he plays his comeback game, admits he is hugely excited about getting to play alongside Del Piero.

"He's a world class player and it's unbelievable to even be walking on the same field as him," he said.

Coach Ian Crook described Culina's recruitment as a "coup" and said he fits in perfectly with the style of football he wants to implement.

"We want to pass the ball, and my unbiased opinion is he's the best that there is in our country in doing that.

"So when we can get him fit he will be a massive asset to us."

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