Melbourne Heart’s Richard Garcia has returned to Australia determined to shine in an A-League sprinkled with gems.
The arrival of Alessandro Del Piero at Sydney, Emile Heskey at Newcastle Jets and, most recently, Shinji Ono at Western Sydney Wanderers have set tongues wagging as fans eagerly anticipate the impact of their star qualities.
Garcia, a West Australian who left Perth as a 15-year-old to join West Ham United, acknowledged the added value the big names would bring to the competition but was more concerned with making his own impression after 15 years overseas.
“It’s good that these players are in the league and it’s created a bit of a buzz but for me it’s about producing my best,” said Garcia, who moved from the Hammers to Colchester United before heading to Hull City.
“It’s definitely a bit of a learning curve and I’ve got to adjust a little bit. But I’m very positive about the start of the season and it’s just about getting fit and getting into the form I know I can produce.”
Garcia, whose older brother Michael is a development coach with Perth Glory, will make his competitive domestic debut in tonight’s season opener when Heart take on city rivals Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium.
The match will be significant also for coach John Aloisi, who has taken over the reins at Heart following John van’t Schip’s departure.
Former Socceroos striker Aloisi, who famously scored a penalty against Uruguay to seal Australia’s passage to the 2006 World Cup, has tipped Garcia to force his way back into international calculations.
“That’s one of his goals this year,” Aloisi said. “He wants to do well for us and get back into the national team. He’s still young enough and the national team needs good players. He’s got that experience so it’s not like you’re throwing him in at the deep end.”
Garcia has made 14 Socceroos appearances, including playing in Australia’s 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa. But a knee injury last season limited his opportunities and he slipped out of international contention.
The 31-year-old’s desire to play for Australia has not been dimmed by last season’s disappointment, but he knows his priority is to be playing well in the red and white of his club before he can again think about wearing green and gold.
“I need to concentrate on playing well for Melbourne and hopefully I’ll get a sniff,” he said.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Heart (5.30pm)
Wellington Phoenix v Sydney (2.30pm); Western Sydney v Central Coast (5.30pm)
Newcastle v Adelaide (12pm); Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar (2pm)
All matches live on Fox Sports 1 and 1HD