ROSTYN Griffiths has set himself some big goals this year but admits that in one respect the best may well be behind him.
Coming to the end of a punishing pre-season with Guangzhou R&F, Griffiths is hoping to help the Chinese Super League outfit to a top three finish.
On top of that he’s targeting a Socceroos recall after injury cruelled his big opportunity at the East Asian Cup Qualifiers in Hong Kong in December.
But with years of football still ahead of him Griffiths, 24, says he’ll never replicate the camaraderie he enjoyed during two seasons with the Central Coast Mariners.
“I’ll never forget that time in my football and I think I’ll probably never play for a football club like that again,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“Everyone is first and foremost mates. I went back to the Central Coast in December and joined in with the boys in training and it was just like I’d never been away.
“The boys there are great, they’ve got a good coach in Arnie and it’s just brilliant. I keep in touch with them regularly and every now and then smash them a bit on Twitter.
“I’ve seen a lot of football clubs now and although I’m only turning 25 this year I know enough about football to know that was probably a one-off time to be honest.”
It’s a big call for someone who spent six years with Blackburn Rovers and has played against the likes of Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba in the CSL.
Not to mention some fairly memorable conversations chatting all-things English Premier League and Mark Viduka with team-mate and former Middlesbrough and Everton player, Yakubu.
But you certainly wouldn’t accuse Griffiths of being stuck in the past. He still has aspirations to return to Europe and admits the national team dominates a lot of his thinking.
“I’d like to play at the highest level possible but in saying that I’m not unhappy here,” he said.
“I quite enjoy myself here and I like the lifestyle outside of football as well. It’s always busy in the cities.
“Football is so short term and this Chinese deal came out of nowhere. In football a lot of things just come out of left field and then obviously you have to make the decision whether to take it.
“I’ll get this season under way and then I’ll start weighing up my options. I don’t know, but if I get the chance to get back to Europe again I definitely wouldn’t turn it down.”
In the meantime his first match of the new season, his last under contract to Guangzhou R&F, kicks off in March.
“The club has the ambition to make the top three – definitely to make the Champions League because we were disappointed last season in letting it slip away from us,” he said. “Personally, I'd like to help the team get to that level.
“And I think having that little taste of being involved in the national team over December has made me want to have another go at that.
“I didn’t feel like I fulfilled my potential there – obviously I got injured after the first couple of days training. I’d like to get another shot at that and hopefully get a game instead of just training.”
Another former Mariner, Tom Rogic, has been getting all the headlines for sealing a $750,000 transfer to Glasgow giants, Celtic this month. But Griffiths can rightly claim to have set the A-League benchmark with a $1.3 million move to the CSL in February last year.
It’s a point worthy of some light-hearted ribbing on Twitter following a farewell presentation to Rogic at Bluetongue last weekend.
Griffiths added: “It was so weird for me because I literally found out there was an offer of a contract, three days later I was in China and within five days I’d moved there.
“I didn’t even realise what the transfer fee was until a month later and I thought, oh right, the club has done all right there. And I didn’t even get a signed shirt when I left.
“I was joking with Daniel McBreen about it because I looked on Twitter and Tommy Rogic got a big presentation and signed shirt and I thought, nice one – mine must be in the post.”