Socceroos legend and PFA Life Member Stan Lazaridis discusses the beginnings of the PFA, the battles to improve the game, his time with the National Team, playing in England and much more.

PFA: You emerged into the old NSL prior to the start of the PFA, what was life like as a footballer without a players’ association?

SL: It was very different, we know that now only because of how far it has come, but we didn’t really know any different at the time and you just assumed everything was ok, but looking back at it the word professional certainly doesn’t come to mind. From the PFA to all the other parts of the game there has been so much progress since when I played in the NSL. These changes have coincided with us being successful; making World Cups is almost a given now, winning Asian Championships and the care afforded to players is so different. I remember my first camp and we were all eating steak and chips and having a beer afterwards, now it is a wagyu steak and you have to know where it came from, what it was feed and it is how it should be. Everything is analysed and you are trying to get that edge.


PFA:You were part of the first PFA Executive, what drove you to be involved?

SL: I guess it was tough, we were trying to get things improved and when you are doing that things can get personal. All of a sudden ‘Stan is the ringleader’ and they will try to crush you down, so you could jeopardise your own position, but I guess the way I looked at it was we were trying to do the right thing for the game. Since then it seems like their is much more mutual respect between the PFA and governing body.


PFA: In 1997 you were part of the Socceroos side that took a stand prior to the Confederations Cup to secure the first collective agreement for the National Team, how satisfying is the growth of the game since that moment for you?

SL: It was not easy to do what we did. I’m really satisfied with what we achieved and the players no longer have to worry about all the things we did. There are protections given to players so they can go out on the pitch and give their best. Players want to play free in their mind and not be worrying about anything, you don’t want players to be thinking that if I go and play for the Socceroos I might be dropped for my club because the travel arrangements mean I’m really tired when I get back to my club. Now all those scenarios are taken away from the players, I know that you play your best when you are free in your mind and don’t have to worry about things.


PFA: How much did qualification for the 2006 World Cup mean to you?

SL: It was always about succeeding and that moment was a brilliant moment for me personally and the nation. For me it was shame that it was at the end of my career, I would have loved another campaign. I also would have loved to have seen some game time at Germany, but everyone did a great job and I love all those boys to death. I was one of the senior boys and we got a lot of respect and it was one of the best moments of my life. When the boys play now and they get a bad tackle I’m feeling it as well; I miss being out there.


PFA: Getting Australian footballers plying their trade at the very highest levels is a challenge for all connected to the game, what was the key to your success in the UK?

SL: I was on a hiding nothing when I first went there. There were only a few Aussies there and we weren’t really taken in that well and they still thought we had kangaroos in our backyards and I remember talking to players and they asked questions like that and we weren’t really noticied on the world stage and that has changed; Terry Venables played a big role in that changing. I had the attitude that I wasn’t going to fail. It was bloody hard adjusting to the weather and the conditions, to the way the players were, coaching and training and I just kept saying to myself I’m not going to fail.

Harry Redknapp told me ‘it is going to take you time to settle but I know you are going to do well and I know I am going to make good money out of you.’ At that time West Ham was a selling club and they made good money out of me. If I’m happy somewhere I will stay loyal, I probably could have made more money jumping around from club to club but I always had in my mind that the grass is not always greener. I only had two clubs and I’m very well liked over in the UK at both clubs, even when I wasn’t having good games they could see the effort was there and that is one thing they loved about Australian players, they knew we always gave 100 per cent.


PFA: You returned to the A-League with Perth Glory, how important do you think it is that we attract our best players back to the competition at some point during their careers ?

SL: It is great for the profile of the league as we have seen with Tim Cahill, probably alongside Harry as the two biggest players in Australian football, for me Tim can do for the A-League what Beckham did for the MLS. The more players like this the better. We have to compete with the other codes and it is very tough.