Former Socceroo Mitch Nichols admits he felt like an A-League pariah until the Wellington Phoenix came knocking.
Nichols spoke of his relief at accepting a two-year offer from Phoenix coach Mark Rudan, fearing a brush with the law in 2017 could potentially end his sparkling career at the tender age of 29.
Gifted attacking midfielder Nichols and former Melbourne City FC striker David Williams were unveiled on Monday as the latest cogs in a promising group being assembled by Rudan.
It is the fifth A-League club for Nichols, whose reputation for enjoying himself off the field took a sinister turn 14 months ago.
He was arrested in a Sydney nightclub and subsequently admitted possession of cocaine.
After escaping a conviction Nichols was handed a four-game ban by Football Federation Australia.
Having joined Perth Glory, Nichols was released in February for “family reasons,” eight months into a two-year contract.
He then spent less than a week at Indonesian club Persela Lamongan.
Nichols was convinced his reputation was tarred and that he wouldn’t add to his 219 A-League games.
“I left Perth in February, so it’s been about five months,” he said.
“People can call you and all that but until someone offers you something, you’re just waiting.
“Not many people wanted to give me another chance so I’ve got to owe that to the gaffer [Rudan] and work hard and put my hand up for selection and win games.”
Rudan said he spoke to successful coaches such as Kevin Muscat, Ange Postecoglou and Tony Popovic, who had got the best out of Nichols.
Rudan backed the five-match Socceroo to thrive on a second chance but warned there would be little sympathy if he strays.
“He made a mistake but haven’t we all,” Rudan said.
“If you make the same mistake twice then it’s a different thing altogether. It’s up to him now and what he wants to do.”
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