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Matt Jurman: The Wall of Suwon

It was some 2017 for Matthew Jurman and as he prepares for the upcoming Australian national team friendlies in Norway and London we at Kleagueunited caught up with the 2018 World Cup bound Kleague star to discuss his thoughts on last year and what the upcoming season may bring for himself and Suwon Bluewings. (photo courtesy of  https://www.a-league.com.au/)

A little over a year ago, the defender moved to Korea, deciding to leave a Sydney FC team that was marching it's way to the A-league title, to instead venture to pastures new in Korea. However, despite having a glowing reputation from his time in Australia, playing for Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar, he found himself starting the season as an unused substitute in the Seoul vs Suwon derby on the opening day of the season. At that point it is hard to believe that Jurman could find himself in the national team set-up just 6 months later but the Australian never had a doubt.

"Of course after just signing you understand it takes a little time to adjust" Jurman told us. "But of course I would have loved to have played the first game in Seoul's big stadium. I haven’t had the chance to play there as of yet but Big Bird (the nickname of Suwon's home stadium) for the derby was a top atmosphere and hopefully this season we can beat them on every occasion".

But it wasn't long until he made his debut for Suwon Bluewings in a 2-2 home draw against Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande, immediately endearing himself to his new home crowd and looking relaxed from the get go and enjoying his football, something which he acknowledges himself.

"I really enjoyed it (the start of his Korean career). Being part of a different culture, different league and playing against different players every week was enjoyable and a great test for myself" he adds. "The Kleague is a difficult league where every game is a good test and every game is played at a very high intensity".

Jurman continued to go from strength to strength and established cult status for himself scoring 2 goals in a 2-1 away victory against Gangwon FC at the Alpensia Ski Resort which later became a venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics. A last minute penalty save from Shin Hwa-yong was enough to hand Suwon their first league win of the season in spectacular circumstances and leave a lasting impression on Jurman.

"That day was one of the best days of my professional career. I had never scored two goals in one game and to help the team to our first league win of the season was a special day. I will never forget it".

(The Olympic Ski Jumping Stadium in Pyeongchang. The home of Gangwon FC in 2017. Photo courtesy of https://www.theguardian.com/football/these-football-times)

The good times continued to roll in for Jurman and by the time the first quarter of the season was up he had established himself as Suwon's first choice centre-back. It usually takes time for new foreign players to adapt to the style of Korean football but that is something that the Australian didn't struggle with.

"Seeing a different part of the football world, where games are won or lost in the last minute, and just trying to better myself against good players on a daily basis really helped me adapt quickly. I’ve enjoyed, a totally different culture here (Korea) so I’ve enjoyed seeing that as well as testing myself every day in training and playing 3 games in a week sometimes". But Jurman was also keen to tell us about the attributes he has also brought to the league. "I love to win and I’ll try do that for my team and fans at all costs. I think a bit of aggression, passion and leadership is something I’ve always tried to have in my game and will continue to bring".

Plaudits in Korea eventually led to that debut call-up to the national team squad, a moment that he had spent his entire career working towards. And with Ange Postecoglou's decision to involve Jurman in the World Cup Qualifier against Syria he went from established first team player in Suwon to superstar over night.

"Honestly it was one of the best weeks of my life (being involved with the Australian national team). To get the call up was something that meant a lot to me and to play four games and help the team qualify for the World Cup was something special that’ll stay with me forever".

However, not everything has been smooth sailing for the 6'3 foot defender and as the summer season set in Jurman saw first hand what playing in some of the cruelest conditions on Earth can do to your body.

"I think the worst thing was playing in the grueling humidity and heat during summer. It feels like your playing in a sauna for 90 minutes. Added to that, training is different to what we have back home in Australia. At Suwon, training is very intense and every session is done at game level intensity".

Perhaps the darkest day for Jurman during his Korean adventure was when he was involved in an incident with regular scandal instigator,  andKorean football legend, Lee Dong-gook during Suwon's home draw against Champons Jeonbuk Hyundai. With the game petering out to a vital Suwon win a contentious VAR assisted penalty was awarded to Jeonbuk after Lee had tumbled under the slightest of contact. The incident was dealt with poorly by the KFA who, unjustly, handed Jurman a 2 game ban. Despite that though, Jurman can still see the positives of VAR but states that it must be quicker if it is to have a positive effect on the game.

"I think it can be used but only if it’s quick and possibly less stoppage in the game to be looked at" Jurman said to us.

Going into the 2018 season Jurman has clear goals and achievements but is under no illusion as to how difficult it will be to achieve them.

"The Kleague is a massive battle and every game is played  until the final whistle. Every player gives 150% every game and it’s definitely a tough league and a test every single game. Especially the end to end type of football being played is a huge challenge".

And as for Suwon's chances this season Jurman added, "most definitely, we must be near the top of the table at the very least. Our aim is to win the competition this year, no doubts about it. Every year Suwon is expected to win and this year we really have to live up to that expectation".

With the World Cup only months away 2018 may stand as the biggest year in his life so what exactly are Jurman's aims this year?

"Personally, I want to play more games than last year and score a few more goals. But as a team, to play well and win as many games as possible. We have the Asian Champions League, FA Cup and Kleague 1 trophies to play for, so silverware is a must".

If Jurman can achieve even half of those goals his spot on the plane to Russia will be assured and his place in Korean football folklore will be assured.

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