Western Sydney Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley admits he has started contemplating life after the A-League, but says he won’t hang up his boots until he feels he can no longer compete.
The 30-year-old is riding high after going from the doghouse to the penthouse in 12 months, helping guide the Wanderers to a ladder-leading position after a disastrous 2014-15 campaign.
They have a chance to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games when they play Adelaide United at home on Friday night as they aim to start 2016 with a bang.
But having seen the highs and lows of Australia’s premier competition, Topor-Stanley knows better than to get swept away by the hype of a purple patch of form.
The hard-nosed defender has spent almost a decade in the league and is on the hunt for another premier’s plate and a breakthrough grand final triumph.
Topor-Stanley has one more year to run on his A-League deal with the Wanderers and hopes to finish his career with the club where he was a foundation player in 2012.
“I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind,” Topor-Stanley said when asked if he wanted to end his playing days with the Wanderers.
“I’m only 30 and I feel physically that I’m still quite strong. Then again, you never know what’s around the corner for you in football.
“I don’t like to look too far ahead. I’ve got another year after this season and I’ve always said I’m extremely happy where I am. I believe I’m at one of the biggest clubs in Australia, if not the biggest.
“I’m in a happy place at the moment, who knows what happens in the future. Circumstances change for everyone … you can’t really plan. Football doesn’t last forever. I’m happy with my situation and keep going as long as the boat takes me.”
The Wanderers are holding on to top spot on the ladder after the first half of the A-League season and a remarkable turnaround from their nightmares of last year when they won just four games.
Topor-Stanley said a more travel-friendly schedule had helped the Wanderers find their groove as they try to cement their position on the ladder.
“It’s very early doors at the moment, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. We have to keep on pushing the limits to stay up there,” Topor-Stanley said.
“We’re under no illusion, we haven’t won anything yet. We’ve got a hell of a long way to go before there’s any celebrating, but we’re still enjoying it and enjoying the football we’re playing.
“The confidence is very high … apart from last year there has always been a high standard at the Wanderers for winning games.
“A lot of things have changed … the scheduling is far easier on us this year. We weren’t too far off [last year], but just enough. In this league, being 5 per cent or 1 per cent off can be the difference.”
Topor-Stanley is juggling his captaincy duties with a part-time sports science degree at university as he casts one eye to the future and his life after his playing days.
That also means soaking up the atmosphere as the Wanderers play through the holiday period, including a Christmas Eve win against Newcastle and a New Year’s Day clash against Adelaide.
The playing commitments have put champagne, ham and turkey on the backburner, but Topor-Stanley says it’s all worth it as the Wanderers chase success.
“The beauty of this league is that anyone can beat anyone … we’ll be in bed after the 9pm fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but that’s OK,” Topor-Stanley said.
“The [unbeaten streak] is just numbers. I don’t like getting carried away with that. We’re only ever a couple of games away from being in bad form. That’s why you have to find the middle ground and stay hungry – keep pushing yourself.”
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