As the Socceroos prepare to face England, Brett Emerton shares with the PFA his recollections of that historic night at Upton Park in 2003, where he and his Socceroos teammates triumphed 3-1 over the old enemy.

For most around the world it was meant to be a fairly routine match. England, with all their Premier League stars, would continue their Euro 2004 preparations with a comfortable win over the Socceroos. When the full-time whistle blew, the score was: Australia 3 – England 1. The Socceroos were not interested in routine.

“I grew up watching the English Premier League and I guess, basically following the English National Team, so to get the opportunity to play against some of your heroes, like David Beckham was a great opportunity for us as individuals and as a team to go out there and test ourselves against some of the best players in the world,” said Brett Emerton of the feeling ahead of the match in 2003. “It was a fantastic opportunity for us to put Australian football on the map and that game made people stand up and take notice.”

Starring in the Netherlands at the time with Feyenoord, Emerton and teammates had been determined to give a good account of themselves. With Emerton eager to seal a move to the Premier League and much of squad plying their trade in England, no one relished the thought of going back to their clubs to face the waiting banter of their club teammates.

“We spoke about that before the game,” said the scorer of the 3rd Socceroos goal of the night. “We knew what the lads in England would be in for if we didn’t give a good account of ourselves.

The first half could not have gone any better. Tony Popovic scored the opener, then Harry Kewell made it two nil at the break to leave an England team, which included the likes of Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham, stunned.

“I don’t think many of us would have thought we would have been leading 2-0 at half-time, although we were confident,” said the former Blackburn Rovers man.  “At half-time we just thought we were on the verge of doing something great and we didn’t want to let it slip.”

Emerton’s second half goal sealed the 3-1 win. Socceroos coach at the time, Frank Farina, would say afterwards that they could have scored more in a performance he described as ‘magnificent.’

For the Socceroos it was the start of a remarkable period. In the years that followed, three consecutive FIFA World Cup Finals qualifications would be secured, along with an Asian Cup win in 2015. For Emerton this result was the spark.

“It played a huge part in what was to come for us. As individuals we were all confident as we were playing at high levels with our clubs, but I guess as a group that proved to ourselves we could match it with the best and that was the start of an outstanding decade or so for the National Team.”

Not long after the result the former Sydney Olympic star would seal his dream move to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers and the night at Upton Park would often be brought up in conversation with his English teammates.

“I probably threw it around a bit during my time at Blackburn . I took every chance I got to rub it into the English and reminded them of it.”

Early Saturday morning the current crop of Socceroos will get their chance against England. Emerton’s advice for them is simple – ‘seize the opportunity.’

“The players should embrace it. It is a massive opportunity for them to test themselves against some of the best players in the world and that is how they should look at it. If they can do that who know what opportunities might arise from it. They will be underdogs but they are very good players and they are there for a reason.

“Under Ange in the last couple of years we have performed very well against the big teams. At the last World Cup versus Holland we were unlucky not to get a result. If we continue to play the same way there is no reason why we can’t come out on top.”

Here’s to another memorable night against the old enemy.