Reds striker Tomi Juric is so content with life in Adelaide that he’s in danger of falling into the dreaded “comfort zone”.
Back in the A-League with Adelaide United after five years of mixed fortunes in Europe, Juric admits feeling so comfortable doesn’t sit easy with him.
And with good reason. At 29, Juric is at the crossroads.
After a tough couple of years in Bulgaria, the former Western Sydney Wanderers marksman has come home to rekindle his career at club and national team levels, with Juric not having played for the Socceroos since November 2018.
It’s why he can’t afford to drop into cruise mode while enjoying Adelaide’s laid-back and stress-free lifestyle.
“I don’t like getting too comfortable, to be honest,” Juric said.
“Staying in that comfort zone doesn’t make things more difficult and make you get out of your comfort zone and improve.
“I keep trying to think and prepare as best as I can, don’t let my guard down and make sure I’m kicking on each session and making sure I put in the hard yards each session.”
Despite his concern with becoming complacent in Adelaide. Juric can’t think of a better place than the South Australian capital to kickstart a career that has also included spells in Croatia, the Netherland and Switzerland.
“Coming back to Australia and trying to refocus myself and get everything right to get back into the football swing of things, Adelaide was just the right choice,” the Sydney product said.
“In Sydney if you’ve got to go somewhere half an hour away you have to leave half and hour earlier again.
“I do prefer the lifestyle of Adelaide because I don’t spend half my day in a car. It’s so easy and so simple to get around.
“It’s really hard to be late if you’re going somewhere.”
“Somewhere” includes Coopers Stadium, United’s home ground where Juric earlier this month scored his first A-League goal since April 2015 in the Reds’ 2-0 win over Melbourne City.
Juric’s relief and joy was obvious after he found the back of net, and was further vindication for his decision to come home after a forgettable stint with famous Bulgarian club CSKA Sofia.
“As a footballer you want to play as many games as possible, so when that’s not happening you seek other opportunities,” said Juric, who in two seasons with the Sofia club made just 11 appearances in all competitions and scored only one goal.
“Maybe I was a little bit too patient in my time there but with everything that happened with COVID and all the uncertainty with the A-League and what was happening here, coming home wasn’t an option at certain stages, but things changed.
“I enjoyed the lifestyle in Bulgaria because it’s quite similar to Croatia, where I have family and where I spent a lot of my time while I was in Europe, but football wise, not playing minutes makes you step back and really assess what’s important as a footballer.
“It was quite disappointing. The chat I had with the club before I joined (from Swiss team Luzern) was really promising. A lot of things they said was what I wanted to hear as a player, but unfortunately none of those things really eventuated.
“It made things a lot more difficult for me but that page and chapter is closed now and a new one is upon me.”
Juric’s second “chapter” with Adelaide United after a short stint with the Reds in 2013 has the added bonus of being coached by former Socceroos striker Carl Veart.
“Carl understands the attacking side of the game and for me right now the best thing I can get out of a coach is someone who can direct you sometimes when you’re a little bit off your game, someone to push you in the right direction,” he said.
“This is the time that I need it the most. I think he’ll do a whole lot of good for me personally and for team as well.”
Another former Socceroos forward who could give Juric some guidance is national team coach Graham Arnold.
Juric said he was yet to hear from Arnold since signing with the Reds in November.
“Everyone’s just going about their jobs. I’m not here to wait on a call from anybody,” said the 2015 Asian Cup winner and the scorer of eight goals in 41 Socceroos appearances.
“I’m just doing my thing and I’m sure everything else will come into place if that’s what it takes.
“Fingers crossed. It’s just up to me to keep doing what I’m doing here in Adelaide.
“The most important thing for me is to do my job here and hopefully everything comes together and we’ll see how things eventuate.
“My main focus is to do well with Adelaide and enjoy it because I haven’t done it for such a long time.”