City’s McCormack doesn’t care where the goals come from … as long as they come

By nature, strikers are greedy. Single-minded, selfish and desperate to score goals. They don’t mind when they come, how they come or from what part of the pitch.

Just as long as they come.

Ross McCormack, Melbourne City’s on-loan forward,had big shoes to fill when he landed just before the season opener against Brisbane Roar in early October as an injury replacement for the club’s leading scorer, Bruno Fornaroli.

In the absence of Tim Cahill – who has now left, but at the time was not available because of international commitments – the responsibility for scoring was thrust on McCormack’s shoulders. So far he is delivering.

The 31-year-old has netted six goals in eight appearances for City, putting him among the early season leaders in the race for the Golden Boot.

But the strangest thing is that none of them have come from open play. Not a single header, not a drive from outside the area, not a tap-in from close range, not a blistering shot on the end of a dribble.

No, all of McCormack’s goals have come from dead ball situations – free kicks or penalties.

It speaks of excellent technique in the case of free kicks, all of which have been from distance, and steely nerves in the case of penalties, where all the pressure is on the taker and none on the keeper.

But if anyone thought that McCormack might be beginning to have some doubts about himself as a result of failing to score from any free-flowing moves, they should think again. He is quite unperturbed.

“If you analyse the games, it’s only the Western Sydney game that I have had a couple of chances from open play. Apart from that … I have not had much at all,” he says.

“I don’t really mind to be honest whether I score from a free kick, a penalty, a tap-in or a wonder strike. They are all goals, they all help the team.

“I would like to get a few from open play, but if I was to finish top goal scorer and not score one from open play I can’t see anyone complaining.”

His expertise with free kicks has been evident, and it’s a skill he says he has always possessed, right from the time he started out at Rangers in his native Glasgow, through moves down south to Cardiff, Leeds, Fulham and then, most controversially Aston Villa, before he landed in Melbourne.

“I have always scored a few free kicks. The season before I signed for Villa, for Fulham I probably got four or five. It’s nice that they are going in for me here. I am not too fussed whether it’s open play or set piece.”

McCormack would not be here if things had worked out for him at Villa. But he fell out of favour with manager Steve Bruce after a big-money move to the former European champions, now playing in the second tier of the English game.

A well-publicised fallout over a missed training session put him further on the outer, and when the chance came to move to the Manchester City affiliate in Australia he took it.

The alternative was rotting in the reserves and training with the youth team in Birmingham – a waste of a talented player and not the sort of situation what would lead him to find a transfer to another club.

The only downside is the absence from his two young sons, Layton (aged six) and Lawson (aged two) who are with their mother in London, where the family is based.

He misses his sons, but everything else in his Australian adventure – including the quality of the games – has been good. “I have thoroughly enjoyed it, the only difficult part is the kids back home in London. Apart from that it’s been excellent. The boys have been good, the staff have been good. We have not done too badly in the games, we are third in the league so far and looking to kick on.”

But Christmas alone on the other side of the world will, he admits, be a challenge.

“I will have to see them on Face Time. I have got two slots, day and night, that I can speak to them, so I call them at 7pm at night here, which is 8am in the morning, before they go to school, and then between 5.30am and 6am in the morning here, which is half six, seven o’clock at night back there. That’s just before they go to bed, when they have had their dinner and calmed down,” McCormack says.

“It is difficult. The oldest just turned six on Sunday last, so I missed his birthday. I knew it was going to be hard. The kids are at school and nursery, their mum couldn’t really take them out of school to bring them here.

“I won’t see them over Christmas. Just Face Time, which is sad … it will be difficult. But this is something I had to do. If I didn’t come here I would have been sitting at Aston Villa training with the kids.”

McCormack can stay on his current deal until Fornaroli is fit and can resume match play.

Unless things change, the former Scottish international expects to be here until the end of January.

“I am going back after the game on January 25th, I think. As it stands, I think the club are looking to see if they can get me to stay on; whether that’s possible or not I don’t know.

“Bruno will be back as well. I am here as an injury replacement, so when he comes back I am no longer a replacement. But I knew that when I came here with my eyes open, looking to take it all on.”

McCormack, who scored goals at a rate of one in just under every three games in the Championship at Cardiff, Fulham and Leeds, is impressed with what he has seen so far in the A-League.

“The standard here gets a rough ride in the UK. When I was coming here people were saying to me that I would average a goal a game. But it’s not that easy, there are some good teams in the league,” he says.

“For me personally I think the only thing that’s wrong is they don’t play enough games and there’s not enough teams in the league.

“Even 12 teams, play them three times, that’s 33 games. That would make it a little bit better but whether that happens in the future I am not sure. That’s the only downside in the league for me. The quality has been good, the grounds you play in are nice.”

McCormack is complimentary also about several of his teammates and opponents.

“Here at City I think Daniel Arzani [a youth team striker] has got something. I think he will go far when he gets his chance, he just needs to take it,” he says.

“David Carney at Sydney is good every time I have seen him. He’s pretty understated. Everything there, all you read is all about Milos Ninkovic and Bobo, but every time I see him [Carney] he plays well.

“Leroy George at the Victory, any time I watch him he has a good game. There’s been a few others, I just forget their names,” he adds with a smile.

McCormack confesses to some surprise at the number of people in the Australian game he knew of or knew when he arrived here.

Melbourne Victory centre-back Rhys Williams had been a regular Championship opponent when he was at Middlesbrough, while the Rangers connection is also strong Down Under.

It was at the Glasgow giants that he began his journey as a seven-year-old, when he went into the academy system at Ibrox. “Craig Moore [Rangers and former Australia captain] was there, but I was a little bit young when he was in the first team. We didn’t really see the first-teamers much … the youth department is nowhere near the first team department at Rangers.”

Kevin Muscat, the Victory captain, Bob Malcolm and Charlie Miller (both of whom played at Brisbane Roar) and former Central Coast Mariners and Socceroo stalwart Tony Vidmar, who has just started as an assistant coach at City, all had stints at Rangers.

“I always remember his [Vidmar’s] goal in Europe, he scored against Parma, it was a big goal for Rangers in Europe at that time. I played with Rhys’ younger brother Ryan at Fulham, he’s at Rotherham now starting to get his career back on track.

“My first season at Motherwell it was me and Scott McDonald [another former Socceroo striker]. I was only there two seasons. He left in the summer to go to Celtic at the end of my first season … there are that many people who have come out here. You don’t realise until you sit down and talk to people.

“It’s the kind of place where you could end your career well.”

Whether McCormack stays or goes – and whether his wages, the salary cap, marquee status and his family circumstances would allow that is a moot point – he has made an impression in a short time.

If City gets awarded a free kick or a penalty on Sunday against the Mariners, there will only be one man stepping up to take it.

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

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