It hasn’t taken long for Matt Jurman to grasp the enormity of the challenge and expectation at new club Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.
Jurman joined the Tigers soon after the Caltex Socceroos’ campaign at the FIFA World Cup came to an end, making the move from K-League side Suwon Bluewings.
For the 28-year-old, the opportunity to play in the emerging Saudi Pro League – where he’s one of four Aussies in the competition – was simply too good to pass up.
And he’s been blown away by the reception he received from the clubs fans, with thousands turning up to their home ground at the King Abdullah Stadium to greet the team before the season started last month.
“It was amazing. I’ve never been involved in something like that,” Jurman told www.socceroos.com.au.
“To see how many fans were there and the support we all got, being presented as new players was pretty cool.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully winning a lot of games to make sure the fans are happy.
He added: “Every day I’ve been a Tiger I’ve seen how big the fan base is and it’s pretty amazing to see how many fans actually love and support the club. It’s been great so far.”
Jurman made his Al-Ittihad debut in the 2-1 defeat to Al-Hilal in the Saudi Super Cup in London last month, while their opening league match before the international break also ended in a loss, 1-0 against Al-Shabab.
But the former Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar centre-back has settled nicely into life in the Middle East and is hopeful consistent game-time for his club will keep him in the frame for January’s AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.
He certainly feels he’s in the right environment to state his case to Caltex Socceroos boss Graham Arnold, with a host of clubs attracting some big-name players for the 2018/19 Season.
Champions Al Hilal have recruited the likes of Bafetimbi Gomis from Galatasaray and Peru’s ex-Watford attacker Andre Carrillo, while Ghana’s FIFA World Cup hero Ahmed Musa has joined Al-Nassr.
“They are trying to make the league a real big thing,” Jurman explained.
“They are allowed eight foreigners at each club so there’s a lot of great players that have just signed there.
“Personally it will be a good test for me, I’ll be marking some quality strikers every week. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Jurman’s Al Ittihad return to action on Sunday morning (AEST) with a home clash against Al-Quadisiya, the club of fellow Aussies Jack Duncan and Rhys Williams.