IN AN era when rags-to-riches stories in football are being touted as possible film scripts, Aaron Mooy’s own rise probably doesn’t quite make the grade.
Certainly, the Australian midfielder’s four-year ascent from Scottish Premier League reject to joining arguably the world’s richest club and then playing a starring role in the Championship isn’t yet on a par with that of Jamie Vardy.
Nevertheless, Mooy’s own journey is one that should serve as an inspiration to any youngster who initially sees their dreams falter.
“I am enjoying playing for Huddersfield Town and Australia,” said the 26-year-old Huddersfield Town loanee about a career that brought a move to England at just 15-years-old only to then return home six years later via an unsuccessful stint north of the border with St Mirren.
“I am not someone who looks too far ahead.
“Or who looks back to the past. I had always wanted to play in Europe, that was my dream. And I am doing that now.”
Bolton Wanderers were the club who initially gave Mooy a shot at his dream. However, after three years as a scholar, he moved on to St Mirren and initially things went well with his then manager comparing the young Australian to Kenny Dalglish.
In time, though, Mooy fell out of favour and, in 2012, called time on his stay in the UK. “I didn’t think my chance had gone when I went home,” he said ahead of Town’s home clash with Birmingham City.
“I was still only 21, that is young. I hadn‘t given up or anything like that. I had always wanted to play in Europe since I was 15 at Bolton but things hadn’t worked out. But I didn’t give up. Instead, I just worked hard and hoped my chance would come in the future.”
Opportunity did come knocking again last summer in the form of Manchester City. Mooy had starred for the Premier League outfit’s sister club, Melbourne City, in the A-League.
Eleven goals and 21 assists from midfield had caught the eye of the Blues, who made Mooy the second signing of Pep Guardiola’s reign. Huddersfield made their move soon after that, David Wagner having seen enough in video clips to know that the midfielder could be a huge asset.
Mooy’s level of performance – even allowing for a couple of jaded-looking efforts in the wake of the last international break -–have justified that thinking and made him an early contender for Championship Player of the Year.
“Compared to my first spell in Europe, I am older and more experienced,” he said.
“In Australia, I played more than 100 games and that experience is the difference.
“The standard of the A-League gets better all the time and people notice it a lot more because of the big name players who fill the marquee slots. That exposure helped me get to where I am now.
“St Mirren was my first professional club and I learned a lot about men’s football. And how important points were because the club was in a relegation fight.
“It was completely different to what I had played before. The step-up was quite a hard transition. It was very different to playing with youth teams and reserve teams.
“That is why I wouldn’t say it (coming to Europe) was too soon. You have to learn somewhere.”
Mooy’s assured displays in the Huddersfield midfield certainly suggest he heeded those early lessons.
He has become integral to how the Terriers play, quickening the tempo or slowing things down as required by head coach Wagner.
So crucial has he been to the club’s unexpected promotion push that, when his own form dipped following last month’s 21,500 mile round trip to join up with the Socceroos, Town’s own form followed suit.
Mooy will jet off again after today’s clash with Birmingham for a 10-day training camp in Thailand that will be followed by a key World Cup qualifier. To try and avoid a repeat of those below par displays against Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End, Wagner recently contacted Australia counterpart, Ange Postecoglou, to thrash out a solution.
“I don’t know exactly what happened in the chat,” said Mooy. “But they both just want to keep me fresh and available.
“I have been getting a few extra days off recently and that has helped.
“Playing for your country is a huge honour and I just want to make the most of it. Recovery is crucial and it can be difficult with the time difference and distances.
“But I do love it. There are no complaints from me.”