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James Brown to dance his way back into Melbourne City line up

These days it’s quite common for footballers of any code to use pilates, yoga and core exercises to strengthen muscle and improve their flexibility – not to mention their mental discipline.
Nanjing Night Net

Ballet dancing as a fitness tool is, however, not such a familiar program.

But such was the scale of Melbourne City midfielder James Brown’s foot problem, and so difficult was it for the talented 26-year-old to speed his recovery, that he turned to the barre for assistance. He might share the same name as the Godfather of Soul, but Brown eschewed funk for a spot of “flic flac”.

While coach John van ‘t Schip does not expect Brown to be completely familiar with ballet terms like “en avante” or “en arriere”, he will certainly expect him to be “en pointe” when he makes his return to first team action for the first time in almost a year on Friday night when City take on Wellington Phoenix.

Brown has shown remarkable mental strength and determination to get his injury ravaged body back to the sort of condition it needs to be to play top level domestic soccer, while van ‘t Schip has shown great patience and belief in a player whose whole career has been dogged by the question of how good he could have been had he not constantly succumbed to injury.

Brown, one of the handful of indigenous players to have made a mark in the A-League, turned 26 earlier this month: time, if not running out for the former Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets attacking midfielder, is passing quickly.

His coach does not expect him to start against the Phoenix, but if he is needed van ‘t Schip is sure he is ready enough now to play his part.

Brown and another victim of long term injury, young striker Marc Marino, are both included in the travelling squad which headed across to New Zealand on Thursday morning. Also in is Anthony Caceres, back from a second suspension having received two red cards in the two games he has started for City since joining the Melbourne club from Central Coast in the January window.

Marino has been out all season after requiring surgery for a knee injury he picked up in a pre-season friendly in the winter but, like Brown, has done enough to convince van ‘t Schip that he is ready to play some part in City’s run in to the race for the Premiership.

Wade Dekker and Steve Kuzmanowski are the two who were in the squad for the 4-1 win over Central Coast who have been left out to make way for the newcomers.

“Both boys have been training for weeks now and deserve a chance to be with the team. James can be a player coming in from the bench as we used Kuz, he can play in three or four positions, Marino is more specific (as a striker).

“I am not doing it to lift (their) morale, they have worked hard and they deserve to get an opportunity. Both are now to a level they can have a role with the team.

“James had a very difficult to treat injury. Mentally it was not an easy period for him. There was a moment when everyone was doubting what was going to happen. But if we need him to do something up front we have seen that he is training well.”

Brown’s last games were in March of 2015: he scored the only goal of City’s 1-0 away win against Sydney, but a week later he went down after half an hour in the home match against Brisbane and has not been seen since.

“He is over it mentally, he is happy, he is feeling great, he is running, he doesn’t have any problems physically. Things happen, other players get an opportunity, if someone doesn’t take it another one gets a chance,” his coach said.

Competition for places will only hot up over the next few weeks as more City players regain fitness. Connor Chapman, the centre back who has been out for more than two months, is expected to be back in contention for a squad place next week, while Harry Novillo, on a club suspension after a domestic incident made the news pages, will also be available for the next home match against Sydney FC.

Jack Clisby retains his spot in the squad because of the versatility he offers as he can play as a left back as well as a central defender, hence the lack of urgency about recalling veteran injury prone defender Aaron Hughes.

Van ‘t Schip is set to continue with the successful left sided combination of Michael Zullo and Ben Garuccio against a Nix team he feels should not be written off just yet.

“Wellington is always a strange game for us. We have won there 5-0, lost there 5-1, had a draw. It’s always very difficult. We know they didn’t have a lot of home games in their own stadium and they will have five home gams in the last seven and they will try to make something of their season,” said van ‘t Schip, who regards Ernie Merrick’s team as very threatening going forward but one who can be fragile if they concede goals.

He is also wary of the threat posed by his countryman, Roly Bonevacia.

“He is important for Wellington. He had a great first year, a big impact on Wellington’s game… this year the same….but this year they don’t have Nathan Burns and that was a big strength of theirs.”

Van ‘t Schip has impressed on Caceres the need to tailor his game and avoid any more unnecessary dismissals.

“I have spoken to him about the way he has to approach the game, he has to be a bit more careful. But I think two of the four fouls he made were not yellow yards. The way he is playing now is different to what he was used to at Central Coast. He has to be more careful when he comes in.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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