After earning just a second senior start for Western United, Nicolas Milanovic returned to the dressing room with his teammates delighted to have advanced to the Round of 16 of the Australia Cup.
Almost immediately after United’s 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory last Wednesday night, the draw would decide the team’s next opponent, and the emotion of the night would only grow for the 20-year-old.
As Sydney United’s name was drawn from the pot, a special return home was on the cards for Milanovic, and sure enough, Western United was pulled out next.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Milanovic said.
“We saw after we beat Victory that we drew United in the changeroom, and all the boys got around me and knew (what it meant).
“I’ve spoken to family and friends and even players there, it’s a bit like, I actually can’t believe that’s the game. I’m just looking forward to going back because I know it’ll be a bit of a goosebumps moment, going into the changerooms. I haven’t been there in a long time.”
Milanovic learned how to play football from the age of seven at Sydney United, a Club rich with history in New South Wales and with a strong Croatian community.
United’s No.26 detailed how he was able to grow in that community and become the person, and the player, that he is today.
“It’s obviously Croatian heritage, obviously growing up there it’s good for any player, but more so Croatian young players because it helps you grow in a community where you’re comfortable,” he said.
“They accept you there, they teach you, they always have good coaches there, and you always see in the NPL and in all divisions, they’re always fighting for titles. It’s a good club to be at, and it’s one of the heavyweights in NPL around Australia.”
Milanovic will be eying another start in front of his friends and family back home, building from what was an impressive 70-minute display in the Round of 32.
The youngster played the hockey assist for the opening goal and threatened Victory’s defensive line throughout the contest, taking his chance to impress John Aloisi.
“It was good, because that doesn’t come around often as a young player, so you’ve got to take your opportunity,” Milanovic said.
“I’ve worked hard in pre-season and I was happy the boss gave me that opportunity. It was good to get on the ball and get around with the boys, and obviously the win is the most important thing, so we’ll try that carry that now into the game (against Sydney United).”
Milanovic is eager to help the team remain in the Australia Cup for as long as possible, seeing it as an opportunity to continue to impress the coaches ahead of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men campaign.
“It’s good to stay in the Cup because then you can stay competitive and train hard and look forward to something to play until the season starts,” he said.
Milanovic and his teammates will look forward to a first away trip of the season, looking to rekindle the team spirit on the road to move on into the Australia Cup quarter-finals.