The 2013 season could not have started more positively for the Shanghai Shenxin, with them avoiding relegation from the Chinese Super League thanks to the disbanding of Dalian Shide, while some quality signings brought optimism following the threat of life in China League One.
Amid an influx of many Australian players arriving in the Chinese Super League at the beginning of 2013, 26-year-old right back Michael Marrone joined Shanghai Shenxin from Melbourne Heart knowing they would be keeping their status in China’s top tier. Marrone is a graduate of the same school as Shandong Luneng’s Ryan McGowan and Dalian Aerbin’s Daniel Mullen—Para Hills Knights—and linked up with fellow new signings Yu Tao and Kieza in Shanghai.
Talking with Wild East Football writer Peter Davis, Marrone tells of an injury that brought a stop to his Shenxin start and how watching from the sidelines has him raring to go once he is back in CSL action.
Mick, I understand you are currently injured, how serious is it?
In the game against Jiangsu Sainty in round three, their centre back Eleílson tackled me very hard, got a red card and looks like he cracked a bone just below my knee. At the time I didn’t know this was the case because an X-ray showed I was fine, but later an MRI showed the crack. I managed to play through until round six against Hangzhou Greentown before the pain got to be too much. Since then I’ve been recovering but it has been frustrating; I had to stop running and have been doing rehab. I’m hopefully due back soon but it’s all down to how quickly the bone can heal.
Your first match was a 5-1 defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande, how can you explain that first match playing a side like that?
After the first six games I felt a lot more comfortable with how Chinese football is played and it’s disappointing that I’ve been sidelined through injury. The first game was definitely an eye opener, Evergrande play great football, have a great manager and squad, the pace of that game being set by the home team was extremely high.
After this was the derby with Shenhua, I was frustrated with how we conceded a goal early on and couldn’t break the deadlock as they sat back and absorbed pressure. After having plenty of time watching from the sidelines and watching more Chinese football games I’m hoping when I return to the pitch I can fit in even better.
Shanghai Shenxin should technically be relegated, was it a relief to you that they got a reprieve?
When I initially began talks with the club, they were extremely confident they would stay up so for me that was never a problem.
It looks a bit better this season but Shenxin are not out of the woods yet, are you relegation candidates? What is going to be considered a successful season for you?
I guess glancing at a few articles on the internet, people had written our team off, given that we were in relegation last year. But, this year I think the new faces added like Kieza and Yu Tao have boosted the depth of the squad.
You also have to remember our fixture list at the start of the season was extremely difficult; Guangzhou and Bejing away from home in first five rounds. I’m confident we can hold our own against any team in the league and because of this I don’t think we will be relegated. In saying that, we have a lot of areas to improve on in both defense and attack if we are to compete in this league. I think if we play an attractive brand of football consistently the results will come and we will stay in the CSL.
How important has Kieza been this season?
I was not here last year when they had Anselmo playing in the striker position so I can only comment on how he has influenced our team this year.
He has firstly provided goals which is what you want your strikers to do, and secondly is a focal point of the team. Opposition teams are now getting two or three players around him when he has the ball which in turn gives free space to the other players.
Yu Tao moved from Shenhua to Shenxin and the move was met very negatively by Shenhua fans, with three sides in the city do you sense much of a divide?
Again I can only go on what I’ve been told about the history between the three Shanghai teams but my last team had another team in the same city and the derby’s were excellent.
Anywhere around the world when a player leaves a club to join a rival the fans will generally be extremely negative even if there is a reasonable explanation for the move. I know from speaking to people around the club, not only the position on the league table is crucial but also where you rank out of the three Shanghai teams is very important, and so it should be, we want to be the highest ranked shanghai team on the table!
Are you satisfied with your international career so far?
I’ve been involved with three Australian camps during my football career and got my first cap earlier this year. It’s definitely something I want to build on but the only way to get noticed and get called up is to be playing good football for your club, so I’m anxious to get back from this current injury.
Why is China so appealing for Australian footballers?
I did play with Daniel Mullen at Adelaide, and I have crossed paths with several other Australians in China—for example McGowan, Mullen and I all come from the same junior club, Para Hills Knights. I can’t speak for the other Australians but I personally have always wanted to play overseas and when that opportunity came up I grabbed it.
What do you make of Harry Kewell signing for your former club Melbourne Heart?
Given the amount of experienced players that have been released this year, I think signing a player like Harry Kewell will only benefit the team; he should be able to help the younger guys in the squad with all of his experience.