Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview with Alex Cisak

Photos (Top to Bottom): Cisak at training with the Australian Under-20s; Cisak clears in an Australia Under-20 practice match [Photos courtesy of Alex Cisak]

Walter Pless: How old are you and how long have you been in England? How tall are you and how much do you weigh?

Alex Cisak: I am 21 years old and I have been in England since July 2004. I am 6'3" tall and my playing weight ranges from about 88kg to 92kg depending on what stage of the season we are in and how many games, as opposed to how much training, I am doing.

WP: What prompted you to go to England to pursue your football career?

AC: It was always my dream to play football professionally. Michael Soszynski arranged an agent for me in Adelaide (Dean Cosenza) who believed I was good enough to make it. Dean flew me to Adelaide where he had the Leicester City goalkeeper coach Glan Latheran look at me, and I flew to England for pre-season the following week.

There are a lot of people who come for trials only to leave just as soon as they have arrived, so I am grateful to have been able to follow my dreams and be playing in England, as well as playing for Australia.

WP: For how long were you at Leicester City, and which level did you reach with the club?

AC: I was at Leicester for 6 seasons. I became part of the first-team squad in my third season. I took over the 2nd choice keeper’s role at 17, and benched the final five games of the 2006/07 Championship season where we were relegated back to League 1. I was 2nd choice again in our 2007/08 League 1 campaign, where we took out the League 1 title. Unfortunately, I fractured my wrist during the League 1 campaign and missed the next 18 months. It ultimately spelt the end of my time at Leicester. I also won the English Premier Youth League title in the 2006/07 season.

WP: Why did you move to Accrington Stanley?

AC: I signed for Accrington to get the benefits of playing first-team team football, which is what every young goalkeeper needs. I knew it was getting to that point in time where taking one step backwards and playing regular football would serve to take me two steps forward. I had several offers from other League clubs, but felt that this would be where I would get the best opportunity.

WP: How is it going at Accrington?

AC: It’s been going very well. I got the number 1 jersey at the club but, unfortunately, I sustained a groin injury in the last week of pre-season, so I missed the start of the League 2 campaign. Ian [Dunbavin] has done very well so far and was nominated for League 2 player of the month for August, so it’s meant that I have been limited to cup ties. This said, I am keeping Ian on his toes in training and waiting for the chance to take back the number 1 spot.

I have played against Championship side Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup, winning 2-1. I was also Man-of-the Match in beating Tranmere Rovers from League 1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the JPT. I met Simon Miotto before the game and had a good chat. It was great to speak to another Tasmanian who is currently a professional footballer in the UK. It makes home feel that much closer.

WP: What are your daily and weekly routines as a professional footballer?

AC: On a normal week we train Mondays and Tuesdays, with Wednesdays off. Thursdays and Fridays we train again with Saturday afternoon as match day. We have Sunday off. We do have games on a Tuesday or Wednesday night also.

Monday normally consists of a light session for the players who played on the weekend, and the players who didn’t play have a slightly harder session. Tuesday is a hard session for all as normally we have the following day off. Thursday and Friday we complete preparation for games, for example back-4 work, shadow play, crossing and finishing, 5 v 5, 7 v 7, and set pieces.

WP: What made you become a goalkeeper?

AC: I met Michael back in 2000 and went for a few kicks with him. We would have a kick maybe once or twice a week with guys like Aaron Brazendale, Fabio and Dante Di Tomasso, the Rybaks and Jonny Ladic. When Michael had enough, I would go in goals. It was really only for fun at that stage, but when Michael went to play in Poland, I decided it was what I wanted to do. I remember him telling me on the phone from Poland about training with Artur Boruc and that I could be every bit as good as Artur. That was really when I took my goalkeeping seriously.

We started training full time when Michael came back from Poland and, eight months later, I had a contract in England.

WP: You have played for Australia at Under-20 level. Are you hoping to be called up again?

AC: I am in regular contact with Tony Franken, and Michael sends him an update on me every week. I probably missed opportunities in the past with the National teams due to missed or poor communication with the FFA, so it’s something that we're trying to get right from here on. When I was playing for Poland, they literally didn’t even know that I existed. With the Olympic qualifiers starting next June, I am looking to be playing then. Along with the other European-based players, I elected to sit out the coming trip out due to club commitments, but will be in frame for the starting spot come qualifiers in June 2011.

WP: Do you hope to be called up for the Australian senior side?

AC: It would be a great achievement, but it is a long way down the track. I would need to be playing Championship football at least. Maybe in the 3-5 years’ time I might get a look in, but for now I am focussing on re-gaining my start at Accrington and then with the Olympic team.

WP: Why did you pick Australia ahead of Poland?

AC: It was a very tough choice as on one hand as I was born in Poland and still have a lot of family still living in Poland. I have played for the Polish U/17 team and turned down a call up from the U/19s. The reality is that I grew up in Australia, am grateful for being able to grow up there, and I wanted to give something in return. To put it another way, I don’t go home to Poland in the off-season, I come home to Australia. In the end it felt right.

WP: What is your aim in the next five years?

AC: My aim is to play regularly, and get a move to a Premiership club, and to be in the Australian national team. I am currently training with Billy Stewart, who was Liverpool’s goalkeeper coach last season. He is a great help and has told me there is no reason why I can’t make it in the Premiership. You have to remember that I hadn’t played for 18 months with my wrist, and in fact went to the U/20 World Cup with it still broken. We are working hard on tightening up my technique, and just waiting on the chance to play and show what I can do.

WP: What do you think of the A-League and can you see yourself playing in it?

AC: I have some team mates from the Aussie U/20s team there, and there seem to be some decent players. To be honest, I haven’t watched any games live, just TV highlights here and there, but I have heard good things. From what I have seen, it wouldn’t be any better than Conference level here in the UK. I had a few solid offers from A-League teams in the off-season, but it’s better for my career to stay in the UK and be playing in a higher level and a more watched level than the A-League. I would love to come home to play for Tasmania in the A-League one day.

WP: What is the most difficult part of goalkeeping?

AC: Decision making. You need to get your decisions right. You may be the best shot-stopper in the world, but if you have poor decision making then you cost your team plenty of goals. Mark Schwarzer is a great example of this. He makes saves look so easy because his starting position and timing are so good. Great goalkeepers make playing off their line look so easy.

WP: Do you hope to come home to Tasmania soon for a visit?

AC: Yes. I love coming home every May/June. Most of us Aussies in the UK are hanging out for it by Christmas time. I may not be back this time round, however, depending on what happens with the Olympic team.

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