“If you’d have told me ten years ago I’d be emigrating to Australia, I wouldn’t have believed you!’ Max Rushden tells me.
Yet here we are. Englishman Rushden, afresh from completing his 14 day hotel quarantine, made his Stan Sport Champions League debut alongside Australian football legends Mark Bosnich and Craig Foster as their coverage kicked off on Wednesday morning.
The 42 year old is best known to UK audiences for his work on Soccer AM, TalkSport and fronting the award winning Guardian Football Weekly podcast since 2017.
Rushden’s wife Jamie hails from Australia so the broadcaster had begun to have one eye on a move in recent times. The couple are expecting their first child in March.
“To be honest there were only two jobs I could have left the UK to Australia for – hosting the Premier League or the Champions League,” Rushden said.
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) September 14, 2021
“I just don’t have a good enough knowledge of the A-League and you can’t bluff football fans, they’re an unforgiving bunch!’
“The timing of the move was almost serendipity, I’d already dipped my toe in with a little bit of work for other organisations, but it was a real meeting of minds with Stan.
“It was clear from the outset we agreed on how football should be covered- in a relaxed, intelligent and hopefully entertaining way.
“If fans are getting up at 4am, we don’t want to be filling their heads with tactics. Obviously we will be aiming to give good analysis and I hope we can strike the right balance.”
Joining Rushden on the Stan Sport team are former Socceroos Bosnich and Foster and Grace Gill, who won two W-League Championships with Canberra United.
Foster was a staple of SBS football coverage alongside Les Murray but is now noted as much for his human rights work as his football punditry.
“He’s an inspiration,” Rushden says. “I haven’t had much chance yet to have a deep conversation with him, but I feel we are similarly politically aligned.
“I’ve huge respect for the work he’s done and I’m looking forward to getting to know him better.”
When quizzed about who will take out this seasons Champions League, Rushden admits it’s a tough call.
“There’s a real randomness to it, to be honest,” he said.
“I’ve a sneaky feeling for Bayern this year [the Germans kicked off with a 3-0 win over Barcelona] and I’ll be interested as to how the Spanish sides do – it’s weird Barcelona being seen as one of the underdogs this time!
“I’m sure the English sides will be there or thereabouts too, although I think with Guardiola saying he’s only doing one more season with City after this one, that might put an extra bit of pressure on them.
“Once you get to the knockouts though its hard to predict- you could be the better team for a leg and a half and still lose- look at the Liverpool-Barca semi final from a couple of years ago for instance.”
And what of Australia’s most notable Football export at this point in time- Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou? Rushden admits he’s a big fan.
“I’ve always been a big Ange disciple when I was in the UK, he’s done a great job where ever he has been,” said Rushden.
“I think its probably harder for him to be accepted, as he doesn’t come from a ‘traditional’ footballing country – but to say you can’t be a good footballer or coach because of where you’re from, that’s just ludicrous.”
Stan Sport’s UCL coverage kicked off Wednesday and on Thursday the main focus is on Liverpool taking on Italian giants AC Milan.
Watch football’s biggest superstars in the UEFA Champions League with every match streaming ad-free, live and on-demand only on Stan Sport from Wednesday 15 September.