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Published June 02, 2021 at 20:13:10

Tilio: Starting is a huge reward

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He may have been turning heads with his performances on the pitch in recent times, but it’s been far from smooth sailing for attacker Marco Tilio in his first season at City.

Moving away from home at the age of 19 turned out to be far tougher than Tilio first expected, re-locating to a new city in the midst of a lockdown certainly not making things easy on top of an already tough training schedule.

“It was a lot harder than any pre-season I’d done before and given the restrictions at the time, it was pretty much just train and go home,” Tilio said.

“It was a big change, but it’s good to have that change sometimes.”

While he may have been a regular fixture in the City starting XI for the last month or so, regular minutes have been far from handed to Tilio.

His City debut came in Round 2 against Adelaide where he started and saw 54 minutes of action. He would go on to make cameos off the bench in the Club’s next two fixtures – a win over Western United and a loss to Perth – before a frustrating period followed.

Tilio would go on to play a total of just six minutes across City’s next nine fixtures, remaining an unused substitute in six of those.

“It was just another learning curve for me because at the time, there were things in my game that we had spoken about needing to improve,” Tilio said.

“Over that period, I was able to improve those parts of my game immensely and put my best foot forward for what was to come in the second half of the season.”

Becoming stronger both physically and mentally were the two items at the top of the agenda for Tilio, who said many don’t realise the fitness level required to play the style of football City do.

“When I first came, I probably wasn’t as strong mentally as I am now, and from a physical sense, I wasn’t capable of playing the way they wanted me to,” he said.

“I was able to build those things throughout the pre-season and early parts of the season. I was able to push myself further than I thought possible and I feel like I’m as fit as I’ve ever been right now.”

A ten-minute substitute appearance in Wollongong back in early April saw Tilio’s big moment come, the 19-year-old burying a late header – also his first City goal – to give the team all three points against the Phoenix.

He’s appeared in every fixture since and further proved his worth a couple of weeks later, providing two assists in some extended minutes off the bench in the Club’s 7-0 demolition Derby win.

It may’ve taken an injury to Socceroos winger Andrew Nabbout for him to get a regular spot in the starting XI, but once the opportunity came, Tilio wasn’t letting it go.

“It’s a huge reward but at the same time, when you get those rewards as a young player, you need to take them with both hands because there’s always other players that want your position,” he said.

Joining the Club as the reigning Y-League Golden Boot winner, City fans will have been surprised to see Tilio stand out more as a provider rather than finisher this season. To date he’s recorded four assists and won a further two penalties.

“I go into every match trying to prove something and contribute goals, whether that’s by scoring or getting my name down for an assist,” Tilio said.

“When you’re playing with a guy like Macca (Jamie Maclaren) up-front, he does the goalscoring, so as long as I can get the ball to him, I know it’ll end up in the back of the net.

“For me, it’s more about trying to get myself into those positions with the ball where I’m able to find him in dangerous areas.”

Unfortunately for City, Maclaren, along with Connor Metcalfe and Curtis Good, will be missing from the Club’s Finals campaign.

While this may now put more pressure on the younger players in the team to perform, Tilio isn’t worried about it and is eager to show what he can do on the big stage.

“For me, I like that pressure,” he said. “These are the times that you want to be able to prove yourself and show that you can step up and perform in those big games with a lot on the line,” he said.

Although he was involved in the preparations to a couple of Finals while he was a scholarship player at Sydney FC, Tilio has never played in an A-League final.

“It’s something that I’m definitely looking forward to and I can’t wait to have that opportunity to get out there and play in some big games,” he said.

Tilio and his City teammates will return to the pitch to take on Melbourne Victory at 4.05pm on Sunday. This fixture will be played behind closed doors at AAMI Park but will be live on Fox Sports, Kayo and the My Football Live app.