Favourite son helps celebrate Saints’ qualification

A week to remember was made even more memorable for Victorian NPL 1 side St Albans Saints as they welcomed a special visitor to its club rooms.

The visitor was Socceroo Ivan Franjic, the defender having returned to Australia after his World Cup was cut short by a hamstring injury in Australia’s opening match of the tournament against Chile.   Franjic grew up playing and learning his trade as a youngster at St Albans, having been in junior teams before being promoted to the first team at the age of 17 in 2005.   Currently signed to Hyundai A-League champions Brisbane Roar, Franjic made 39 senior appearances and scored five goals for St Albans as a defensive midfielder, which led to him joining NPL outfit Melbourne Knights before heading to the Roar.   On his return, Franjic presented his former club with the boots and playing shirt he wore in the Socceroos’ pre World Cup friendly against Croatia.   Receiving a hero’s like greeting, Franjic spent almost two hours signing autographs and having photos with the juniors.   “St Albans was my first senior club and it’s very special to me,” Franjic said.   “To get the reception I did was unbelievable, it was overwhelming and I didn’t expect that many people to be there to welcome me.   “There are a number of people still at the club from when I was there and it’s always warm and welcoming when you come back and see familiar faces. They used to support me then and they still support me now so it means a lot.”   Now one of Australia’s elite players, Franjic’s return to his grass roots club epitomises the magical connection football has and emphasises the excitement that the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup is sure to bring.   Now that St Albans are into the Westfield FFA Cup, there is a chance Franjic could come up against his former club in the Round of 32 if they get drawn alongside each other at the official draw on Friday 27 June.   “St Albans is a club that’s close to my heart and I follow them week in week out, so it’s exciting (that they’ve qualified) and it would be exciting to get drawn up against them,” Franjic said.   “Anything is possible and I’d love to play against them in a game so hopefully we can get them in the draw.”   St Albans qualified for the last 32 of the Westfield FFA Cup following a penalty shootout win on Wednesday night over the higher fancied Northcote City.