Fully Focused

Friday 12 October 2012 13:48

He may have turned 40 earlier this month – but Mark Schwarzer is far from finished yet.

Fuham’s evergreen goalkeeper, who made his 475th top-flight appearance when the Whites drew 2-2 with Southampton last time out, has no intention of winding down his time between the sticks.

Indeed, he’s still resolutely determined to represent Australia at the next World Cup in two years time in Brazil.

“All I’m focusing on is playing well for Fulham, winning games, having a good season and qualifying for the World Cup with Australia,” he said. “They say you know when it’s time to step aside. Maybe I will, but I’ve got goals ahead of me. It’s all part of the grand plan.”

That grand plan involves helping Fulham to another successful season, an aim Schwarzer believes will be aided by the arrival in SW6 of Dimitar Berbatov.

“Whenever any player comes to the club you wonder if he’ll fit in and flourish, and if he’ll reproduce the form he’d shown previously at Manchester United,” stated Schwarzer. “But you could see straight away in training that the guy has amazing talent.

"It was just a matter of how long it would take him to gel with the Team, and he’s settled in almost instantly and been outstanding; his level of commitment, his skill and vision on the ball, and the demands he makes of other players. The younger players in particular. He’s hard with them, but also quick to praise them if they do something well. That’s something we’d lost.”

He continued: “We’ve lacked a bit of that demanding of players to really produce at a high level. Berba’s developed that at Tottenham Hotspur and United, that attitude of expecting the best from everyone, and he’s brought that with him. We, as the experienced players, set the standard.

“Some would say the young guys get in too easily these days, are looked after too quickly, and then get carried away with themselves. It’s our job, as senior players, to knock them down a couple of notches sometimes, give them a reality check, to get the best out of them.”

Born in New South Wales, Australia, Schwarzer’s career has taken him from Marconi Stallions to Dynamo Dresden, Kaiserslautern, Bradford City, Middlesbrough, and now into a fifth season at Fulham.

It’s a 22-year professional career that shows no sign of letting up. Having recently made history by earning his 100th cap for Australia, Schwarzer reflected: “To be the first to reach that landmark makes it all the more special. [But] this is a transitional period for the national team, and we don’t have the numbers playing in the Premier League that we used to. The reality is our success hangs on the quality of the players coming through, and we need them to step up.”

Schwarzer remains a model of consistency every week for the Whites in the Barclays Premier League and no other foreign import has played as many top-flight games as the shot-stopper. Long may it continue.

Schwarzer was talking to the Guardian’s Dominic Fifield.