Preparing to play in his fourth Hyundai A-League season, Reds midfielder Lucas Pantelis is fully aware of the importance of kick starting the new campaign with a win at home against Perth Glory on Friday night (7 August 2009).
While it is always a bonus securing a win in Round 1, Friday night's match at Hindmarsh Stadium carries even more significance for United, the club having five of its first seven games at home. Securing a large number of points from the first seven rounds, particularly at home, could set United up going into the rest of the season, and this is a point not lost on Pantelis.
"The first seven weeks is really going to set up our season and it's always good to get a win at home first up and get the crowd involved," Pantelis said.
Pantelis has been a member of United's squad since the Hyundai A-League's inception in 2005, the 27-year old accumulating 51 Hyundai A-League appearances heading into season five. This number would be greater if he had not missed the entire 2006/07 season after undergoing a knee reconstruction, and while it was a major setback for the pint sized midfielder, it gave him a greater appreciation of making the most of his time on the field.
Now, after gradually building up momentum during the pre season after recovering from a groin problem, Pantelis cannot wait to be part of the action and is ready to hit the season at full pace starting against Perth at Hindmarsh on Friday.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store. I'm really looking forward to Friday night. It's the start of a massive year for the club and hopefully we can get off to a good start with a win," Pantelis said.
"I had a setback early on in the pre season but I've been training fully for the past 6-7 weeks so I'm right as rain to go and looking forward to a huge game on Friday."
Friday night's season opener starts off another massive 12 months for The Reds, who will compete in their third AFC Champions League campaign in 2010. Expectations are high after the club reached the final of the prestigious club competition last year, but Pantelis says the squad's top priority is capturing that elusive Hyundai A-League championship, a title United has been the bridesmaid in twice.
"Training throughout the pre season has been fierce and intense and hopefully we can bring this into the game on Friday."