Melbourne City FC marquee man Ritchie De Laet says he can’t wait to start the season, as he looks towards City’s blockbuster Round 1 Melbourne Derby at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
The 29-year-old says he is excited to kick-off the season, not only because it’s a Derby but also because it’s a chance to demonstrate the results of a tough pre-season.
“We’re excited for the season to start, not just because it’s a derby, but because it’s been a long pre-season,” De Laet said. “The boys have been jumping to the bits really just to get the season started.”
“We’ve got one more week of preparation ahead of us and then on Saturday, it’s go time.
“As a group the preparation has gone really well and we are ready for whatever Saturday might bring us.”
Since joining Melbourne City on a season-long loan deal from English Championship side, Aston Villa, De Laet says he has been impressed by both the quality of his teammates and the league.
“It’s been quality,” he reflects. “It’s what I expected really, hardworking and lots of technical ability from players here as well too – just looking forward to the challenge ahead, not just Saturday and the derby, but for the season ahead.”
Ahead of the season opener, the Belgium international believes Warren Joyce’s side is a strong chance of pushing for a title this season.
“At the training ground everyone’s excited, everyone really thinks we have a good chance of being up there this season,” De Laet said. “We are going to take it one game at a time, but we’re quietly confident that if we do take it one game at a time we can really chase something this season.”
“Obviously I’ve had the gaffer before and his training sessions are pretty tough and he wants everything quick, and I think if you train that way you’ll play that way.
“That’s what we try and do in games, we try to up the pace and play quickly through the lines, which is something I’m used to obviously so it hasn’t been a big change in tempo.”
Speaking on his own pre-season, De Laet believes two pre-seasons will hold him in good stead this season.
“It’s been good for me, two pre-seasons really,” he said.
“I didn’t really get my chance in the UK to go and play football so I was only training there so I came here and got another pre-season into me which really helped getting fit, got a couple of friendlies in and now I’m just excited that the season is close by and we can get going on Saturday.”
After stints together at Royal Antwerp and Manchester United, De Laet and Joyce have rekindled their partnership together in Melbourne.
“He [Warren Joyce] is still exactly the same, I had him when I was 17 at [Royal] Antwerp, I’ve had him when I was 19 at [Manchester] United and I’ve got him now when I’m 29 at Melbourne and he hasn’t changed one bit,” De Laet said.
“He still does the same training sessions, he’s still as honest as he has been to every player out there, and the only thing that he wants from you is that you put 110% into everything every day on the training pitch and obviously on the match day as well.
“Everyone makes mistakes, you’re a footballer, everyone’s going to make mistakes but as long as you work hard, that’s all he asks of you.”
Reflecting on his time in Melbourne thus far, De Laet has praised his teammates and the Club for welcoming him and his family with open arms.
“From Day 1 the boys have been really open with me, it’s been really easy to settle in for me and my family as well,” he said.
“The Club has been very helpful with everything outside of football as well, to help my wife and my kids to settle in too, so it’s been a smooth transition for me and I can’t thank the club enough.”