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Perfect timing for Danning (SBS – The World Game)

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13 August 2010-SBS: Daniel Phan

Sydney FC attacker Kofi Danning is looking to cast aside his injury frustration of last season when he lines-up against North Queensland Fury on Saturday.

Danning showed great promise last season before he was untimely struck down by a knee injury, forcing him to watch on as Sydney went on to claim the second A-League title in its history.

It was against Fury in round one last season when he scored one of the league’s most explosive goals in 2009.

“I’m feeling very good,” Danning told The World Game. “I’m very confident. I’ve been working on a lot of things in training just to return to the level where I was at last year.

“At training I just try to focus on my strengths and try work on that: my speed, the off-the-ball movements that I make and how I take on defenders one-on-one.

“If I can do that and I can come on the last 20 minutes and make a difference then I’d be happy.”

“All my team mates and the coach have been encouraging me to try some news things and to see if they work.”

The 19-year-old, expected to start alongside Alex Brosque this weekend in place of injured Mark Bridge, is keen to redeem himself following a year-long absence from the domestic competition.

“It was very frustrated that I couldn’t be playing because there were a lot of opportunities at the end of the year because of the injuries that happened within the squad,” he explained.

“I felt frustrated but I just worked on my rehab, focused on getting my knee strong again and regaining my confidence. And I know if I can do that then I’ll return to my best.”

Danning, who can operate as a dedicated striker or wide attacking midfielder, admitted his time spent on the sidelines shored up his mental resilience which, in effect, has turned him into a more complete footballer.

The time away from the pitch also offered him the chance to improve his football smarts, by watching endless amounts of footage of his own performances and others.

“Psychologically, I think I’m stronger,” he said. “I see the game a lot differently now because I had a long time away from football.

“I’ve watched a lot more games, which allowed me to see what I did and didn’t do and I think it’s made me a lot smarter as a footballer. And everyday I’m trying to improve on my mental strength and become a smarter player.”

He is aware Holger Osieck’s appointment as Australia boss could open doors for him in the future; with the Ghana-born striker admitting a potential call-up to the senior Australia team would rate as his greatest achievement to date.

“I’ve always set a goal to play at the highest level and obviously the Socceroos is the highest level,” Danning said.

He won a late battle to represent Australia in last year’s under-20 World Cup in Egypt, where he played with now overseas-based James Holland and Tommy Oar. And he is adamant he can pave his own path into the Socceroos.

“I guess, looking at the younger players who’ve been capped and who I’ve been team-mates, with like James Holland, Tommy Oar – fantastic players; if they can get a cap, then I don’t see why I can’t.

“I just need to keep working hard and hopefully I’ll achieve that goal.

“But at the moment, I just want to get some games under my belt and try to get back to where I was last year.

He went on to sprinkle praise on coach Vitezslav Lavicka for imparting his tactical astuteness on the club’s players.

“We just respect everything he says and does and we all know that if we listen to him we can get better as players,” Danning said.

“In terms of tactics, what he teaches makes a big difference, and the longer I spend with him the more tactical knowledge I’ll gain and the better player I’ll become.”

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