Mark Milligan has managed to do plenty in his days of professional football – but some of his happiest times came in Edinburgh with Hibs.

A well-established player down under, Milligan has captained his country Australia at the Asian Cup and represented them at the World Cup. Having spent most of his career in Asia though, he opted for something different in 2018. Moving from Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia, the defensive midfielder made his first move into UK football.

Mark Milligan joined Hibs in 2018. (Photo by Callum Landells/Getty Images)

It’s something he embraced fully during his sole year at Easter Road, making 31 enjoyable appearances in Leith. Despite strong performances over the 18/19 season, he wasn’t offered a new deal, moving to Southend where he thought he could kickstart his coaching career.

Things didn’t work at Roots Hall though, and now 35, Milligan is back in Australia with the new boys on the A-League block, Macarthur FC. Reunited with former national team boss Ante Milicic, starting anew with a recently former club is something Milligan is looking forward to.

RONALDO NEEDS TO STOP WHINING.

“We were sort of forced into coming home with COVID and everything that came along with that,” Milligan told NTOF. “Once we came to terms with that I had to sit down and think whether I was going to keep playing.

Southend United v Tranmere Rovers - Sky Bet League 1

Southend last season. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“I was lucky that the coach at Macarthur, Ante Milicic, is someone I’m very close with. When he came to me with the opportunity to continue playing and build a club from the ground up, it was the spark that I needed with the last year at Southend being quite difficult. The chance to build something new in Australian football is very exciting.

“With us being a new club we’re hoping to get together in September. The whole reason I went to Southend was the player-coaching role but with COVID the situation changed. The chairman changed his position but that’s football. There are a lot of people in tougher situations.”

Loving Edinburgh

There was time for reflection on his SPFL spell before embarking on his latest adventure. As Hibs went on a 10-game unbeaten Premiership run in Heckingbottom’s early days in charge following the exit of now-Celtic boss Neil Lennon, things looked rosy for Hibs and Milligan. He was playing a vital CDM role in that side as the Hibees marched towards a top six finish.

Heckingbottom started well. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

They looked to be a real force heading into last season but the former Australia captain wasn’t to be part of it. As Heckingbottom attempted to bring in younger players and his own men, Milligan was let go. It was an unsettled start for the midfielder initially in Scotland, but by the time he was told he no longer had an Easter Road future, he didn’t want to go.

“It was a little bit unsettling with Neil Lennon leaving and the mid-season tournament with the national team but I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Hibs,” Milligan started. “From a football point of view, the second half of the season was a lot better for me.

“It’s often hard travelling with the national team but once that second half of the season kicked in I was able to settle in more. I was very disappointed that I had to leave but it got taken out of my hands a little bit, I’d 100% have stayed, my wife still gets angry at me for leaving!

Well respected man. (Photo by Callum Landells/Getty Images)

“It’s always hard to adapt when you switch countries but knowing you have such a good following makes things easier. Paul was a very talented coach and I really enjoyed the way he had us playing. That was the disappointing thing for me, I think I started every single game under him when I was there.

“It is hard, he was trying to build a longer-term goal and mould the way Hibs play and the culture of the club. But you always have to be careful with a club like Hibs where the culture in the changing room is very strong.

“If you come in and try to change too much too soon, especially at a club that has a good culture, you can find it difficult. There are a lot of strong personalities at that club in a good way but when you try and make such big changes it can be very difficult to get that right.

Hibernian v Celtic - Scottish Ladbrokes Premiership

Wanted to stay. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

“But I understood what Paul Heckingbottom was trying to do at the club. It obviously didn’t work for him but they are back on track now. He was looking long-term and wanted to go younger, which happens when you get towards the end of your career. To see him depart so early in the campaign last term was a bit hard to watch as we were very happy in Edinburgh and Scotland.

“But that’s football. Hopefully now I’m in the right place, I’m back at home, the kids are spending a lot of time with their family that they haven’t seen too much. So there are positives in everything.”

Brilliant Boyle

Milligan had seen Australian players come and go from Scottish football so he knew what the script was when arriving in Scotland’s capital. There’s one player in particular he keeps an eye on.

Boyle has been brilliant. (photo by Alan Rennie/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Martin Boyle, who recently signed a new deal until 2023 with Hibs, has pledged his allegiances on the international scene to Australia. It’s something that Milligan is very pleased about as Boyle will be a useful tool for the Socceroos, not just on the park, but off it with his bubbly personality.

“I think Boyle is excellent for us now and he is a massive pickup for Australian football,” Milligan said.

“He’ll get the chance to do some great things I think and he’s someone very different to what we’ve had over the last couple of years. I think he’ll enjoy the way the national team are setting up.

Socceroos Media Opportunity & Training Session

A national team asset. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“When you have those players in the changing room who keep spirits high when things are tough, it’s very important. It’s all good having Boyle when you’re winning, but it’s probably when you’re not that means more to the team.”

‘Unbelievable’ Easter Road

A club still close to his heart, Milligan feels a connection to Hibs, keeping in contact with those still at Easter Road and checking all their results. Despite spending only a year with the club, he quickly grasped a sense of how big Hibs are and what it means to play at Easter Road.

“I knew a little bit about Scottish football because there have been a few Australians go through there,” he explained. “I was fortunate to have a decent enough knowledge of what I was going into without experiencing it before.

Australia v Peru: Group C - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Fortunate. (Photo by Simon Hofmann – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“Edinburgh was wonderful, we lived right in the middle of it. My family settled quickly which made everything a lot easier. Especially towards the end we found all the nice restaurants and things like that. It’s a big little city in a sense you can get a real feel for the place. We really enjoyed our time there. I don’t think I’ll get used to driving to training and seeing painters with no shirts on when it’s four degrees outside!

“Easter Road is unbelievable to play at. We were there a few years earlier with the national team but it’s a totally different feeling playing there as your home ground. It’s unreal, I was fortunate not to live too far away from the stadium so you feel that support during the week.

“Even when you’re leaving, the fans still hang around. Their facilities are wonderful, I don’t think you truly understand until you play there the size of the place. I was able to enjoy the crowds and the added pressure, that’s what got me through the second half of the season.

Fans got him through. (photo by Alan Rennie/Action Plus via Getty Images)

“I still speak to people at the club. It’s got a wonderful culture and there’s wonderful people at Hibs both within the playing staff and people behind the scenes. It’s great to see them start the season so well.”

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