Ufuk Talay: North Queensland Fury's "rudder"

A virtual football lifetime spent at Galatasaray has Ufuk Talay bulletproof to the expectations of fans and a demanding management.

A virtual football lifetime spent at Galatasaray has Ufuk Talay bulletproof to the expectations of fans and a demanding management.

Which is just as well, given Talay's latest adventure will be with the new Australian A-League franchise, North Queensland Fury.

Fury coach Ian Ferguson, the former Rangers captain, is thrilled with his capture and has clearly mapped out what is expected.

"He's a brilliant ball distributor who is well-travelled and has loads of experience, including playing at the highest level in Europe and winning premierships with Marconi and Sydney FC," Ferguson said.

"There aren't many midfielders going around with his ability, quality and experience."

Fury owner Don Matheson went a step further, telling the Townsville Bulletin: "He's going to be the rudder in the club, he'll steer the younger guys and most of the play around the field.

"From our point of view it's a critical signing, because that's experience and direction the club will need."

Talay, who will leave his J2 club Avispa Fukuoka this year to settle in Townsville, is happy to face head-on the responsibilities of leading a new franchise. And why not? A career spent playing with and against some of the game's modern day greats has armed him with all that is needed to guide a new club in their inaugural year.

"I was fortunate enough to play along side Gheorge Hagi and Gica Popescu at Galatasaray," Talay recalled to tribalfootball.com. "They both were great players and also have great personalities.

"I was 18 when I first went to Galatasaray for trials. I was just lucky enough to win and sign a contract."

That was over 13 years ago, during which time Talay has clashed with former Fenerbahce star Jay-Jay Okocha, "he was the best I ever faced" and learned his trade alongside Hagi in a Gala team regarded as one of the club's greatest ever.

It wasn't always smooth sailing for Talay at Gala. The midfielder spent time away on-loan at no less than six different clubs - including a short spell in France's second division with Nimes Olympique.

"I found it easier to move around in Turkey," Talay shrugged. "I never really thought of moving away to Europe."

However, it is Talay's experience as a foundation player at Sydney FC which Fury management will be seeking to tap.

Talay, now 32, was part of a team which boasted Sunderland midfielder Dwight Yorke and Japanese legend Kazu Miura and swept all before them in the opening season of the A-League. He boasts winner's medals from an Australian preseason title, Oceania Club championship and the A-League, while also helping Sydney win a game in the Club World Championship in Japan.

"The first year at Sydney FC was a very hectic season," smiled Talay. "Preseason was in Dubai, we had the Club Championship in Australia, a tournament in Tahiti, then the Club World Championship in Japan.

"That was all done before winning the A-League! So overall it was a very successful year. It's probably something unique in the history of clubs playing in their first season.

"I enjoyed every minute of it."

Indeed, despite leaving Sydney 18 months ago for Japan, Talay won't have a bad word said regarding the club.

"I believe the A-League is getting stronger each season - as you can see in the expansion of the competition with two new teams entering.

"Also, I believe the Socceroos doing so well in the World Cup has really helped football in Australia.

"Sydney FC, with the squad they have got ... I don’t see why they cannot win the league again."

By his own admission, Talay's move to Japan has helped him financially. But he will also bring back to Australia a valuable insight into how the game has flourished in Japan - and what is needed for the likes of Fury to compete successfully with J-League teams.

"I was coming off contract in Sydney and was offered a lucrative deal here in Japan," said Talay. "Football is a funny game, you never know where you might end up.

"I found the game to be a little bit quicker and the Japanese players are quite technical. But they lack the physical side that us Aussie players have, the never say die attitude.

"The media interest in football is very big here. The fans at Avispa have been great. You even see them waving Australian flags in the crowd while you're on the pitch."

At Galatasaray, Talay blazed a trail for Australian players in Turkey. With Sydney FC, he helped the club to a historic trophy-laden first season and in Fukuoka has Avispa fans singing 'Waltzing Matilda'. The odds are good that Ufuk Talay's impact at North Queensland Fury will again be positive.

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