Another Socceroo schooled in the Dutch system having spent the early part of his career at Dutch Eredivisie giants Feyenoord. Emerton came of age in three seasons under current Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk helping Feyenoord to the UEFA Cup and at the same time establishing himself in the Socceroo line-up.
Known since his teenage years as a wide-man with speed, ball control and creativity. His tireless work-rate and aggressive running on the flanks seemed to have improved with age.
Long identified as a talented prospect, Emerton debuted for Australia as an 18-year-old in 1998, and was given the honour of captaining his country on home soil at the Olympic Football Tournament Sydney 2000.
Emerton will likely be one of the first selected by Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek, having now accrued over 70 caps, behind only veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer among the current squad. At 31, Emerton is in sight of the national record tally of 87 appearances currently held by former captain Alex Tobin.
The Sydney-born Emerton has featured prominently in Australia’s international rise over the past decade playing in three FIFA World Cup™ campaigns, as well as both the 2001 and 2005 FIFA Confederations Cups. A sparkling performance in Australia’s breakthrough win over traditional sporting rivals England in 2003 precipitated his move to Blackburn Rovers.
Emerton played in both legs of Australia’s historic FIFA World Cup play-off against Uruguay in November 2005, when the Socceroos ended a 32-year wait to appear on the world’s greatest football stage. He also started all three group matches at Germany 2006 but missed the Round of 16 encounter against Italy after receiving two cautions in the final group match against Croatia. Though a strong on-field presence, Emerton is not known for overt physicality yet he was also dismissed during the Sydney Olympics, and missed Feyenoord’s 2002 UEFA Cup triumph through suspension.
Emerton has an excellent goalscoring record internationally but has found goals for Blackburn to be scarcer, a record which contrasts with his Socceroo midfield colleague Jason Culina. Four goals in just six matches en route to South Africa were backed by a crucial late winner against Oman last November which virtually ensured Australia’s qualification for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Emerton has displayed his versatility at Blackburn by featuring at times as a central midfielder, or in his more accustomed role on the right, either in midfield or defence. He signed a four-year deal with the Lancashire club in 2008. Despite mostly operating at full-back in the English Premier League, Emerton seems more likely to fulfil a midfield role for the Socceroos in South Africa.
Rarely injured, Emerton suffered a torn knee ligament in early 2009 and missed much of the year before returning to action last September. Despite the lengthy absence Emerton has returned with his trademark energy and seems to be playing with confidence.