Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold challenges Aaron Calver to fill the void left by Matt Jurman

The day defensive stalwart Matt Jurman departed Sydney FC, the club welcomed back a man long regarded as the future of the Sky Blues back line.
Nanjing Night Net

On Monday, young central defender Aaron Calver resumed full training with the senior squad after being out for eight months with a horror run of injuries.

His long-awaited return to fitness could not have come at a better time for the Sky Blues, who are looking to the 20-year-old to fill the void left by the departure of Jurman to Suwon Bluewings in South Korea.

While Sydney FC are in a position to reinforce their defence in the January transfer window, coach Graham Arnold is in no hurry to find a replacement for Jurman, instead putting his faith in the returning Calver to provide cover in their charge towards a first title in seven years.

“Aaron Calver is back ready to go, so we’re very comfortable at this moment,” Arnold said. “Calver played in the Champions League for us last year. He’s been at the club for a long time, he’s made 20-odd A-League appearances, so we’ve got a lot of confidence in Aaron that he can step in.”

It doesn’t mean the youngster is likely to start against Central Coast Mariners on Sunday with Sebastian Ryall preferred to partner Alex Wilkinson in the heart of defence. But at a time when the club is being inundated with inquiries from all over the world from experienced centre backs eager to move to the league leaders, Arnold’s show of faith has not gone unnoticed by Calver.

“It’s very humbling,” Calver said. “He gave me a lot of faith last year, giving me a chance to play in ACL games. I’ve played nearly 30 games [in all competitions] now and I’m ready to step up and restore the faith he’s put in me.”

Only Terry Antonis made his debut for Sydney FC at a younger age than Calver, who was thrown into the A-League at just 16. However, it has been a long road to becoming a regular for the slim defender who suffered a terrible run of injuries, which began with the Sky Blues away defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande last May. Complications following a knee injury set back his pre-season and prevented Calver from playing any football since two brief trial cameos.

“I’ve had two operations in that time,” Calver said. “The first one was to repair all the ligaments, which was pretty severe, but I got back to training for a couple of months and then had to get another arthroscopy to clean up stuff they couldn’t find in the first one. It was a pain, but it’s all good now.”

A hyperextended knee, suffered in an innocuous challenge gone horribly wrong, then left Calver with ruptured ligaments and damaged muscles. Calver knew it was bad at the time, but never expected to have to wait until the new year to play first-team football again.

“I just went to clear the ball backwards and one of their players ran through my knee, but the bottom half of my leg kept going, hyperextending it really bad and it ripped everything on the inside,” he said. It wasn’t pretty.

“I ended up tearing the ligament and the hamstring tendon came off the top of my fibia, so that was meant to be about four months. I got back from that and eight weeks ago I tore my meniscus in training, which they think was from the first [injury] anyway.”

A chance to return to the match-day squad, albeit on the bench, against the Mariners in Gosford on Sunday will be a major step in the youngster’s recovery, but he knows it will take another major stride to break into the league’s best defence.

“It’s just like clockwork,” he said. “They’ve been unbelievable, haven’t really conceded many goals at all and I don’t think the team is at full potential yet. It will be a big step up to fill those shoes, but I think I’m capable of that.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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