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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Fall and Rise of Mark Bosnich

The Telegraph (Australia)September 27
Bad boy Bosnich is back - By David Davutovic

THE last time Mark Bosnich saved a shot competitively, 30,000 people were watching.
This week, when he finally donned the gloves again, six years on, there were barely 30 spectators and it was raining so hard the game only just went ahead.
But for Bosnich, none of that matters. Finally, after so many comebacks as brief as they were hyped, the one-time Manchester United star, now 35, is putting in the hard yards and, with no fanfare, could be serious about a return to the game.
Monday's return couldn't have been less glamorous - a friendly between Queens Park Rangers, with whom Bosnich has trained for the past few months, and League Two side Barnet.
With exquisite irony, the match was at QPR's training ground near Heathrow - the very turf where Bosnich used to train with Chelsea until his career imploded in 2002 - and only came because QPR's reserve keeper fell ill.
But according to Nick Ward, Bosnich's fellow Australian in QPR's slice of west London, Bosnich deserves every opportunity.
"He's going really well, he's got it together and he's pretty keen on playing again," Ward said yesterday, who scored QPR's opener in the 2-0 win.
"He wants to do it for himself as much as anything. But even if he doesn't play, he's fit and healthy and stable, which is the main thing."
Ward is stunned by Bosnich's progress since joining the Loftus Road club for pre-season in July and believes he's lost as much as 20kg.
"I remember his first day at training, we were running and he couldn't do it - he was walking," Ward recalled. "He was probably 120kg when he started and now he's probably about 100kg.
"He was massive when he came in but he's been training his a... off and he's still got it. Now he's running around no problems and he's really flying - he's lost so much weight and he's loving it."
Ward was only a young attacker when Bosnich was at his brilliant best, but the Olyroo regular believes the former Premiership star can play professionally again.
"He's still got that shot-stopping ability and his positioning is great," Ward said.
"It was his first game in four years and he did well, kept a clean sheet and made some good saves. He's got a lot of offers to do TV and coaching - I'm sure he could coach."
No one has ever doubted Bosnich's ability. Socceroos goalkeeping coach Tony Franken was Sydney Croatia's No. 1 when the "teenage sensation" was coming through the ranks and has been associated with Bosnich on and off throughout his career.
"We (the Socceroos) were playing New Zealand - they had a free kick 25 yards out and the players went to set a wall" Franken recalled.
"Bosnich said, 'get away, I don't want a wall. If they beat me from 25 yards I may as well give it away'."
Franken has watched Bosnich's rise - and fall - as closely as anyone. One of his earliest memories was making way for 15-year-old Bosnich in a 'state of origin' match in the 1980s.
He was also the keeper coach when Bosnich played his last game for the Socceroos in 2000 against Hungary. Even then, Bosnich's life was on a steep downward spiral.
When Alex Ferguson signed him at Manchester United for the second time, many judges predicted he would take the next step and become the world's best gloveman.
After a solid debut season as Peter Schmeichel's successor, he was eventually relegated to No. 3.
He spectacularly fell out with Fergie and in 2001 switched to Chelsea as third choice.
Bosnich was still earning almost $90,000-a-week and many believe the money and lavish London lifestyle sucked in a renowned party boy.
While Australian fans were excited as Bosnich's breakthrough at Chelsea came just months before the World Cup qualifier against Uruguay, they were unaware he was a mess off the field.
He tested positive to cocaine in 2002 and the nine-month suspension spelled the end of his career.
Bosnich later made some startling confessions about his rock-star lifestyle. "There was a stage where I got up to 10g (of cocaine) a day when I was really down in the dumps," he revealed in 2004. "I have got an addictive personality. The most important thing is to get back into good habits and shelve the bad ones."
Many of Bosnich's closest companions in Australia have not heard from him in years.
But Ward recently passed on a cheerio from Bosnich to his former teammate and coach Franken at an Olyroos camp, who is delighted "Bozza" has his life back in order.
"It's fantastic. All the negative stuff has been well documented so it's great for Mark to be training again and playing" Franken said.
"Along with Schwarzer, he's arguably the best keeper we've produced. He's a natural keeper.
"At Aston Villa he was in the top two or three keepers in the Premiership - he was absolutely world-class."
Ward has socialised with Bosnich and says has been an utterly positive influence on his life.
"He's even helped me out heaps - he's a loud character in the dressingroom but he's always trying to help out," Ward said.
Player agent Leo Karis knows Bosnich better than most, having managed him for seven years.
"He's the most determined and single-minded person I've ever met. I learnt that if he sets his mind to something he will do it," Karis said.
Which is why, even after all the false dawns, you can't rule out a Bozza return."
Telegraph (Australia)

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