Proudly donning the red of Wollongong Wolves, Luke Wilkshire took to the field with his boyhood club on Sunday afternoon for a first home appearance in over two decades.
An exceptional footballing career that has stretched across England, Holland, and Russia has come full-circle with the former Socceroo making an idyllic return to the South Coast club after completing a successful first season back in Australia with Sydney FC.
The 36-year-old’s signing is an exciting coup for Wolves, who seek to recapture their early season form whilst boosting the former NSL champions’ bid to secure an A-League berth for the football-hungry region.
Speaking after their 1-0 victory over Marconi Stallions, the versatile Wilkshire was all smiles having helped the Wolves return to the winner’s circle from the centre of midfield in front of a loyal home crowd at WIN Stadium.
“You enjoy football better when you’re winning,” said Wilkshire.
“I thought we played some better football last week (in the 5-1 loss to Sydney Olympic), but I think today we had a good structure.
“We changed things around and I think the boys put in a good shift today.”
Having grown up in Wollongong, Wilkshire played his junior football with Albion Park White Eagles before joining the Wolves youth setup in 1995.
A few formative seasons later he would then spend a year within Canberra’s AIS Football Program before his big move to Europe launched a career that would take him around the world to represent club and country in football’s pinnacles, including two FIFA World Cups and the UEFA Champions League.
Wilkshire now begins to write his next chapter, returning home to where it all began.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Wilkshire.
“I’m really enjoying life since we’ve moved back down here, my wife also for her first time living here.
“I guess I’d forgotten how good life really is living here in the ‘Gong.”
Wilkshire returns as a marquee player, an assistant coach, and an ambassador of the game for the region, bringing with him a wealth of valuable experience.
Having played in England with Middlesbrough and Bristol City, Holland with FC Twente and Feyenoord, and Russia with Dynamo Moscow and Terek Grozny, Wilkshire humbly boasts 80 caps and 8 goals for the Socceroos, making him our eighth most capped player of all time.
Now in the latter stages of a decorated playing career, Wilkshire seeks to give back to Wollongong’s football community both on and off the field.
“I want to be involved in football – even when I stop playing – in some shape or form,” Wilkshire explained.
“I want to give back my experiences and the knowledge of football from around the world that I’ve got to the area.
“In which form we’ll see as it unfolds, but I’m definitely here to try and play my part here in the future and I’d love to see nothing more than for Wollongong to have a A-League club.”
– By Michael Shoolman