Football 2 years ago

Poljak ready for first trip back to Pirtek

  • Poljak ready for first trip back to Pirtek

Newcastle's Mateo Poljak returns to Pirtek Stadium for the first time on Thursday night after being cut from Western Sydney last season.

The Croatian-born midfielder was a foundation player at the Wanderers and a key part of their historic A-League Premiers' Plate and Asian Champions League triumphs.

But after three years' service he became a casualty of coach Tony Popovic's off-season roster overhaul, released from the final year of his contract in July to join rookie coach Scott Miller at the Jets alongside injured Labinot Haliti.

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In November the 26-year-old came face to face with good mates in Wanderers captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley and striker Mark Bridge at Hunter Stadium.

That was a frustrating 2-1 loss on a controversial 79th-minute penalty equaliser, then sealed by Mitch Nichols' winner four minutes from regular time.

On Thursday, in a league-first Christmas Eve fixture, emotions could run even higher when he returns to the Parramatta venue he used to call home.

"It's exciting, and I'm looking forward to being there," Poljak said.

"I have a lot of great memories from there.

"Obviously playing in a different shirt now changes things quite a lot, but I know it's going to be a great crowd.

"They're great fans."

The Wanderers' passionate fan base, including active supporter group the Red and Black Bloc, can be an intimidating presence for any visiting team.

But Poljak, who knows them well, said it won't affect him.

"Personally, I (only) see that energy and see that crowd when I first walk out, and at the end of the game," he said.

"While I'm playing I really don't concentrate on that, I just concentrate on my performance and my team's performance."

Poljak described the table-topping Wanderers as "very dangerous" and observed how rapidly the myriad of new faces - most of whom he's never met - have gelled.

He said the seventh-placed Jets have analysed their opponents, including that Nichols goal, and learnt where they can improve for the rematch in their bid to shut down Western Sydney's eight-game unbeaten run.

It will be tough work however - the Jets are without a win from their last seven matches and have just one goal in their last five games.

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