How are you enjoying London?
I’ve been here three and a half years now, and I’m in my fourth season at Fulham, and I love it. My wife and I and our kids have really enjoyed moving down here and spending our time here. it’s been brilliant.
Where do you go in your spare time?
We love central London. We love to tour around Harrods and Brompton road and the streets around the back of Harrods. There are a couple of streets which are really nice and boutique-y, with cafés and bistros, too. London is just a fantastic part of the world to be in, and the best place to be in England, that’s for sure.
Are you happy playing at Fulham?
Very much so. I’ve committed to Fulham for another 18 months and very much enjoying the Premiere League.
You wanted to move to Arsenal at one point. Do you still harbour ambitions to join the Champions League?
Those ambitions are always there. Whether they are feasible or not, who knows. But I’ve enjoyed my time at Fulham and there are no plans for me to move on as yet. If the opportunity ever arose, and the club thought it would be good to let me go, then so be it. You always have to look at that opportunity, but until such time I’m enjoying every minute of being at Fulham.
You’re turning 40 in October. When are you going to hang up the boots?
I’m supposed to not be playing any more! But I like defying the critics and I like surprising people and I’m enjoying my football as much as ever. As long as I’m still performing at my highest level and I’m still doing well enough and I’m fit enough, and being expected to play, then I want to be playing as long as possible.
My ultimate goal is to get to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with Australia and I want to continue playing with Australia until that time. 2014 would be the maximum for me with a national team, that’s for sure. I can’t think of a better way to go out than playing for your country in a World Cup.
Do you think you’re still improving as a player?
I look every day to try to improve on being a goalkeeper, and as a player, as best I possibly can. The work you do on a training field – and even off the training field to a large extent – is always designed to try and improve you as a player, as an athlete.
How is the Australian team shaping up?
So far it’s been very, very positive. We’re through to the final stages of the qualifiers, with one game to spare. We’re at the top of the group and can’t be overtaken, and we’ve got another game in February, which is a big game against Saudi Arabia. It’s a big game more from the perspective of the stability of the group. Any one of the three teams that are in our group can still qualify through to the final stages, so for us it’s always about wanting to win every possible game as well. We’ve got every intention of going out against Saudi Arabia in February to win the game.
Do you think there is enough fresh talent coming up through the ranks?
I think so. There’s a good mixture of players at the moment coming through and they’re trying to gain valuable experience slowly, but surely. They are showing a lot of promise. It’s a transitional period, and it will be an ongoing transitional period, because there will be a whole lot of us over the next couple of years that will be retiring.
Do you watch the A-League in Australia?
I do, as much as I possibly can. I’m always having a look to see how the teams are going and in particular Sydney because I’m from there. It’s always interesting to see players there that you play with in the national team. You like to see them play well.
Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton went back home to play in the A-League. Would you do the same?
Of course! it’s very well documented how well they’re doing over there in Australia and the impact they’ve had on the A-league. That’s brilliant for Australian football.
What do you miss about home?
The obvious things – weather, beaches and lifestyle. I have to say, it’s one of the best places in the world to grow up and ultimately it’s always home. I was born there and so far I’ve lived most of my life there. It’s a place I have a lot of fond memories about and I love going home to play for Australia and on home soil.
What song always reminds you of home?
For me, having played for the national team for so long, every time you line up for your country and sing the national anthem, that’s a very special moment.
How will you be celebrating Australia Day?
We’ll wish each other a happy Australia Day and look online to see what’s happening and how people are celebrating. It would be very nice one day to be there to take part in the celebrations.
Who has impressed you the most in football?
It’s hard to go past the likes of Lionel Messi, who has just been awarded player of the year again, for the third time running. The guy’s an amazing talent and the way he conducts himself on and off the field is exceptional. He’s the only one that I think is truly deserving of the accolade he received.
Who do you deem football’s biggest characters?
Paul Gascoine. I was very fortunate to play with him at Middlesbrough for nearly two seasons – he’s a fantastic person. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s a really nice guy. His problems off the field have been well documented, but the guy was also a maestro on the field and he’s a great person to be around. He’s a real prankster, a real joker, and a larger than life character.
What are your thoughts on Australia losing out to Qatar in hosting the World Cup?
It was obviously a huge disappoint to receive only one vote. I agree with most people in that I don’t think it was dealt with in the best possible way. There wasn’t a lot of clarity – in fact, it was quite the opposite. The way the decision was made was left open to be questioned. I think what that whole process unveiled is that there are big issues in the way World Cups are decided upon, or awarded to countries, and hopefully out of everything that’s happened, things have changed and people will start to really apply pressure on the governing body to really get it back together.
Do you think there was corruption in the ranks?
Transparency wasn’t there and that was the biggest issue. People will start to make a lot of assumptions when it comes to transparency. There’s a lot of backtracking and a lot of trying to protect, and trying to hide things, and that always leads to a lot of speculation. I can’t sit here and say that it was completely unfair, but the biggest issue was the transparency, and that was the biggest let down for me.
Do you think goal line technology should be introduced to football?
One hundred per cent! The technology’s there the game needs it and demands it. There’s too much at stake now for it not to be involved in the game. I think all this talk about it potentially slowing the game down, ruining the game, is a lot of rubbish. Peoples’ livelihoods on and off the field – players, managers, staff at clubs – depend on fair and honest hearings or judgements of a team’s performance. When you’ve got a ball over the line, it’s over the line. There’s a fine example at the last World Cup when England scored against Germany, but the goal wasn’t given. That could have been a major turning point in the game for England, but it continued to flow in Germany’s favour. At that level, it’s invaluable to have the technology, as it is with the premier league. There have been wrong decisions over the years that have cost teams and have cost managers their jobs, but it’s not the fault of officials because human error will always be an issue.
What advice do you have for Aussies trying to be successful in London?
There’s always opportunities for anyone who wants to apply themselves. They’ll always find their feet, which will hopefully one day make them a very successful person. You’ve got to be a doer and be prepared to get on your feet and off your backside, and get up and do some work. Sometimes, I think you go two steps backwards to get one step forward, and that’s applied throughout my career as well.
Go see Mark play at Fulham Football Club’s Craven Cottage:
Wednesday, February 1, 8pm Fulham v West Bromwich Albion
Saturday, February 11, 3pm Fulham v Stoke City
Tickets: call the Fulham Ticket Hotline on 0843 208 1234 or visit fulhamfc.com