If one thing can be said about the playing career of Mile Jedinak, it’s that he does not do anything in half measures. In the space of two years, the dominant midfielder went from state league football to the Australian national team. And now, several seasons on, Jedinak has burst into the Crystal Palace starting side to become a key player.
After starting his career with Sydney United, the defensive midfielder made a brief switch to Croatia, before returning home to a short term contract with A-League side Central Coast Mariners. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, and a rocky start saw Jedinak complement his football with study and some part-time work in a family member’s office. Eventually the appearances began to flow, and Jedinak helped his team capture the Premier’s Plate in 2008 before accepting a permanent move to Turkey.
Despite regular game time during his stints at Gençlerbirliği and Antalyaspor, Jedinak decided to seek new challenges in the middle of 2011 and secured the release of his contract. An offer from Crystal Palace was eventually forthcoming, and the midfielder followed the footsteps of many Australian footballers in heading to the British Isles.
Having missed the pre-season, and perhaps a little over eager to impress, Jedinak initially struggled to adapt to the Championship, showing his international quality but also making silly mistakes and losing possession easily. Although he eventually settled, an injury in March cut short the Sydneysider’s season just as he was showing real talent.
Nonetheless, with the lure of a promotion campaign on offer, Jedinak rejected a lucrative deal from the Middle East prior to the start of the current campaign, a decision that could prove shrewd if the Eagles can propel themselves into Premier League football.
From Palace’s 33 games played at the time of writing, Jedinak has notched up 30 appearances. Having missed two recent games due to injury, and being forced to sit out one game due to suspension, the robust midfielder has therefore started in every game he was available to play. Not a bad improvement on last season, where he was named in the starting XI a respectable but not outstanding 29 times throughout the season.
Along with cementing his position in the Palace midfield, Jedinak was also promoted from vice-captain to skipper, due to a groin injury suffered by usual captain Paddy McCarthy. After an initially rocky start to life at Selhurst Park, the Australian has not only become one of the first names on the team sheet, but also a key leadership figure – in just over a year and a half.
Speaking to the Croydon Advertiser in October, the 28-year-old was quick to express delight at being given the armband.
“Being captain is something I’m thriving on and it’s a great responsibility that has been instilled in me…to lead the current bunch of boys is a great privilege.”
Jedinak’s impressive performances for the Eagles – which led some to claim he was the most important player in a team containing the likes of Wilfried Zaha – did not stay secret for long however. Rumours surfaced during the transfer window’s tail end of interest from Stoke City, although nothing eventuated and the midfielder remained at Selhurst Park – to the undoubted relief of manager Ian Holloway.
That relief quickly turned to disappointment though, as Jedinak suffered a broken eye socket after receiving an elbow in the face during Palace’s clash with Huddersfield. Despite initial fears for his eyesight, the Sydney United youth product recovered well and returned two weeks later against Middlesbrough. The quick turnaround wasn’t enough to placate a furious Holloway, with the outspoken boss launching a passionate attack in his Mirror Football column.
“He looked like he had gone 15 rounds with a young Mike Tyson. I was incensed – and so were my players. In fact, I can’t remember ever feeling as angry in my life before.”
Another manager disappointed by the injury was Australian number one Holger Osieck, who was forced to drop the no-nonsense mid from his Socceroos squad to take on Romania. After playing a bit part role with the national team for several years, Jedinak has recently muscled his way into the team, in part due to several impressive performances at the 2011 Asian Cup.
As the ‘Roos fought to the competition final, ultimately finishing runners-up to Japan, Jedinak scored two important goals and hasn’t looked back since. Alongside Carl Valeri, the midfield pairing have added dynamism and work rate to the national team, and could both play vital roles in a tricky set of forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.
With Premier League promotion on the cards and an increasingly assured position in the Socceroos starting line-up, Jedinak would have every reason to smile and look forward to good things ahead. But if his on field attitude is some indication, the midfielder won’t be taking anything for granted.
Australian journalist Kieran Pender is the deputy editor of news website Green and Gold Army and its online magazine I Told You So. You can follow him on Twitter here.