Ryan GriffithsNew Western Sydney Wanderers striker Ryan Griffiths has urged fans to watch him back in A-League action before denouncing him as an ageing has-been.
The 35-year-old has joined the Wanderers until the end of the season “in good nick”, charged with providing the goals that have eluded the grand finalists this spluttering campaign.
Sydney-born Griffiths, the brother of Jets football operations manager Joel, played more than 100 games for Newcastle in the A-League and National Soccer League.
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has been in the hunt for another striker since the Kerem Bulut experiment failed and left him low on goalscorers.
A host of high-profile foreigners, including Eduardo, Robbie Keane, Didier Drogba and Dimitar Berbatov, have been linked with a move to the red and black.
But Popovic, severely inhibited by salary-cap restrictions and the rejection of his guest marquee bid for Eduardo, settled for an n with Asian Champions League experience to help guide the club on the continent next month.
And no sooner had news of his arrival from Hong Kong outfit South China leaked, Griffiths was already on the receiving end of criticism.
“Everyone’s bagging me about my age,” he said on Tuesday before his first training session.
“A lot of people do criticise older players, but also a lot of people criticise players when they haven’t seen what they’ve done recently.
“People are quick to jump on anything, and, while I respect everybody’s opinion, I guess they can only judge after watching me on the field, hopefully on the weekend [against Wellington].
“I’m in good nick, and I’m going to run 100 per cent in every challenge until I fall over and they have to drag me off the pitch.”
A true journeyman, Griffiths’ diverse career spans 18 years, mostly in Asia and particularly China, along with a stint in Romania and two prior A-League spells at Newcastle and Adelaide.
The former Socceroo believes the mental strength he has gained in that time will serve him well as he enters the Wanderers pressure cooker midway through a below-par seasonat a club whose devout fans demand success.
“I’ve played at clubs before where the fans would rock up to the training field as a group and yell at the players, sledge us as we’re sitting there,” Griffiths said.
“It’s very similar to the Wanderers’ passionate fans, so it’s a challenge.”
Griffiths admitted the transition from Asia’s steady-paced football to the comparably quick A-League shapedas another testbut assuredfans need not worry because there would “definitely be goals there”.
It comes as Popovic defended churning through63 players since the club’s 2014 ACL triumph.
“They’re entitled to their opinion, but we made a decision after we won the Champions League to change 18 players,” Popovic told Fox Sports on Monday night.
“The fans were certainly happy last year with those 18 changes.”