MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia defender Trent Sainsbury has put his hand up to replace Mile Jedinak as captain of the Socceroos and, as the son-in-law of coach Graham Arnold, might have the inside track.
The centre back married Arnold’s daughter Elissa late last year, having first dated her while at the Central Coast Mariners, the A-League club where her father was coach.
Arnold was unaware of the relationship for the first six months and took a dim view of it when it was brought to his attention, but years later that is all water under the bridge and Sainsbury is highly favoured to succeed Jedinak.
Handed the armband by former coach Bert van Marwijk for a World Cup warmup against Czech Republic, Sainsbury enhanced his reputation in Russia by containing some of the world’s top forwards and secured a move to Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven.
He is also part of a Socceroos leadership group that includes fellow centre back Mark Milligan, another contender for the captaincy.
Arnold intends to anoint a new captain for Australia’s Asian Cup defence in the United Arab Emirates in January.
He will reveal his leading candidates when he rotates the captaincy for their next three matches, starting against Kuwait on Monday, followed by further friendlies against South Korea and Lebanon.
Sainsbury said he would jump at the chance to captain the side.
“I’d like to be captain, no way around that,” the 26-year-old said from Kuwait City.
“Anyone who has the chance to captain their country, it’s a huge honour.
“But in this team we have so many players reaching the 25-30 cap mark and they’re all leaders in their own right.
“Whoever gets the job will have 23 other players behind them just as strong mentally.”
Arnold, who took over from Van Marwijk after the World Cup, said he had made Sainsbury’s life “tougher” at the Mariners when he eventually found out he was dating his daughter.
And nothing would change at international level, he told Australian broadcaster Fox Sports with a laugh.
“He’s my son in law away from the team but just another player on the park,” said the 55-year-old.
“He probably cops more than the others, to be honest.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford