Mark Schwarzer: Australia's number one
From Australia to Germany to England, Mark Schwarzer has certainly clocked up the air miles in his bid to become a successful goalkeeper. In the first part of an exclusive interview with FIFA.com he reveals why he was first placed between the sticks, who he rates as the best in his position and offers a unique insight into the working methods of three big-name managers.
FIFA.com: Mark Schwarzer, how did you become a goalkeeper?
Mark Schwarzer: Genetics - pure and simple! That's what my father tells me. When I was about eight years old, he was the coach of our local club team and because I couldn't run, he put me in goal! It's just spiralled from there!
Do you feel that you're getting better with experience?
Yes. I hope people would agree! I feel that I am. I feel that I'm becoming more consistent and I am still learning. Hopefully, people are able to see that I am still progressing, even at the age of 33.
Who do you rate as the best keeper in the world today?
It's difficult to go past the likes of Buffon, Dida and Cech. They are all doing tremendously well for their club sides as well as on the international stage. I would say that they are the top three.
What's the most important lesson that you have learnt at international level?
That you can't take anything for granted. I think you have to be at the top of your game on each and every occasion you play for your country. You are playing at a higher level than your club games. You are playing against the best of each country that you are facing and therefore you need to lift your game. You need to be 100% focused and dedicated to achieving your potential in each match.
How are things at Middlesbrough?
Good. We've had some good results of late, including a 4-1 win over Manchester United. It was a tremendous performance and it wasn't a lucky result by any means. We played extremely well and was arguably our best performance since I've been at the club. We are in the UEFA Cup for our second consecutive season - and we are doing quite well in that also. Things are going quite well and we are hoping to progress again this season. As a bare minimum, we're looking to finish in the top six in the Premiership.
Steve McClaren has been tipped as a possibility to be an England manager in the future - do you think he has the skills to succeed at international level?
That's a difficult question. When someone hasn't had experience of managing a national side before, it's hard to say whether they will be successful. I think he has as good a chance as anyone really. Obviously you don't get experience until you are given an opportunity and it will be very interesting to see if the English FA do appoint someone like Steve McClaren when Sven leaves. Domestically he's proved that he's a very good manager and like all of us, he's still learning. But he is doing very well.
Your Middlesbrough team-mate Mark Viduka has been made captain of Australia by Guus Hiddink. Do you think he is enjoying the role?
Very much so. You could see the smile on his face from miles away when it was announced that he would be captain. It's great for him. It's great for anyone when they have the opportunity to captain their country. Mark is very well-liked and respected by all of the players, which is important.
How did you feel about your showing the FIFA Confederations Cup?
In one way it was quite pleasing in the sense that we proved to people that we were able to mix it with and held our own with the likes of Germany and Argentina, but on the other hand, we did concede a lot of goals and came away with no points. But I think people did admire the way that we played in certain aspects of the game. We know that if we play to our strengths and work hard then we can cause a real threat to teams in the World Cup, providing we qualify.
Were you disappointed when Frank Farina left?
You are always disappointed when a manager leaves, especially when he has worked with you for a number of years. Frank helped to re-instate me as the country's number 1. I was out of the national team for quite a number of years prior to his appointment as manager and I will always be grateful to him for inviting me back into the side. It's disappointing, but unfortunately these things happen in football, just as they happen in all walks of life. You have to move on and I think everyone has moved on. I know that Frank is very excited and very happy for the players and he hopes that we will qualify.
What has Guus Hiddink brought to the team?
First and foremost, he has brought a lot of experience. He has been to numerous World Cups. In the last World Cup he took the Korea Republic to third place. That was an incredible achievement. Nobody expected it, but he proved that he has got the know-how and the experience to do great things. He is bringing that experience to us. He knows how to qualify. He knows what to do when you get there as well.
Plus, I think he has improved our whole game plan. He has challenged the whole team to improve. He is making us worker harder for each other and defend as a unit. That's something we didn't do too well, particularly in the Confederations Cup. He's been great on the training pitch as he is continually trying to put right the difficulties.