If there was an award for the Australian whose reputation most understates his output, then it’s likely Scott Chipperfield would be a comfortable winner. The left-back was one the Socceroos’ most consistent performers at the last FIFA World Cup™ and fresh from another superb season with Basel in Switzerland, he looks set to repeat his form of four years ago in South Africa.
While the intervening years since Australia’s breakthrough showing in Germany have been troublesome at times for the veteran, Chipperfield has been in fine fettle during the second half of the 2009/10 season helping his club side to yet another championship. Although injury disrupted the start of the season, Chipperfield belied his ageing 34-year-old legs to return better than ever, with Pim Verbeek’s Australia set to be the beneficiaries.
Long used at full-back for the national team, Chipperfield has a remarkable ability to adapt to any position, and has featured in every outfield position for Basel during the past season. In fact an injury crisis in the Rotblau forward line saw Chipperfield utilised as a makeshift striker. It proved a masterstroke as Chipperfield showed the kind of goalscoring form that kick-started his career in attack with two-time Australian champions Wollongong Wolves a decade ago. A 13-goal haul across 26 matches an impressive return by any measure.
The last-day title triumph was Chipperfield’s fifth league crown with the club, which, combined with five cup medals, marks out the Australian as an all-time legend with Switzerland’s most successful club of modern times. A year ago speculation was of a return to the Australian A-League for Chipperfield, but with a contract extension under his arm another tilt at the UEFA Champions League awaits.
Basel’s gain has been mutually beneficial for an Australian team that features a number of players who have struggled for game time in recent months. "I came back from injury and played a lot of games,” said Chipperfield recently. “'My body feels the best it has for a long time. I played 16 games in the last ten or 12 weeks, so I'm really happy with that and how I'm feeling.”
Hailing from the working-class city of Wollongong, which is an hour or so south of Sydney, Chipperfield is a modest character. A classic laconic Australian nature is reflected in a ‘let the boots do the talking’ approach taken throughout his career. Chipperfield is old enough to be part of a fading generation of Australian players to have experienced the many challenges associated with playing semi-professional football. Famously known in his home-town as a former school bus driver, Chipperfield has even been known to take the wheel of the Socceroos' coach.
At this stage, the evergreen utility is refusing to say South Africa 2010 will mark the end of his 12-year international career. Indeed, his experience would be an invaluable asset for Australia at next January’s AFC Asian Cup with only Mark Schwarzer and Brett Emerton accruing more caps among the current squad. But it is the forthcoming FIFA World Cup that is the focus at present, with Chipperfield a cornerstone of a defence that conceded just four goals in 14 matches during qualifying.
“I'm looking forward to the World Cup,” he said. “I actually feel fitter and stronger than I did four years ago, so I'm hoping to do better.''