Paul Wade OAM
If ever a player got the utmost out of his talents that was Paul Wade. He is the seventh most capped Socceroo and captained the national team for six years. He had or developed the most astounding aerobic capacity and drove the midfield of club and national sides like the Energizer bunny. He allowed a generation of highly talented midfielders to flourish because he did the grunt work for them. Micky Petersen, Oscar Crino and Con Boutsianis were among those who benefited from Wade’s selfless running, tackling and short passing. He could always be a threat with his box-to-box runs and shots and he was lethal in the air in defence or attack.
Paul Wade was born on 20 March 1962 in Altrincham, Cheshire. His parents were from Barnsley in Yorkshire, but they moved to Lancashire when Paul was young and he grew up supporting Liverpool. His parents emigrated and arrived in Dandenong in October 1973, where he joined Dandenong City Under 11's. After a move to Doveton juniors he joined Prahran Slavia in 1978, making his senior debut as a 17-year-old under Harry Chalkitis in 1979. In 1981 Wade transferred to Croydon City where Jimmy Rooney was playing, the Socceroo star putting a stop to Wade’s drinking habits. Rooney took Wade to Green Gully when he coached there in 1984. Wade won the Soccer Action NSL player of the year award and then moved to Brunswick United Juventus in 1985 finishing second in the Southern Division. Wade scored the winning goals in both the semi-final against South Melbourne and in the final against Preston to win the Divisional title. Then Juventus won the two-leg inter-conference final to become Australian champion.
His club form did not go unnoticed, and he was selected for Australia B by Frank Arok in 1984 and 1985 and gained his first full cap against Czechoslovakia in the three-match series in 1986. He helped Australia qualify for the Olympic Games in Seoul and reach the final of the Bicentennial Cup against Brazil in 1988, scoring against reigning World Champions Argentina in a famous 4-1 win at Olympic Park.
By then Wade was at South Melbourne, having joined in 1987. He was awarded the NSL Player of the Year title in 1988. He helped South Melbourne to become Australian champions in 1991 and league leader at the end of the home-and-away season in 1993. After eight years at South Melbourne he was effectively discarded by the club and then forced to go on loan to Heidelberg United. He returned to South Melbourne in 1994-95, then transferred to Canberra Cosmos for two years. In all he played 331 games in the NSL and scored 54 goals.
He had one of his finest hours in the latter stages of the qualification for the World Cup in the United States to be held in 1994. In the final qualifying match, Australia had to play Argentina over two legs, the first of which was to be played at home at the Sydney Football Stadium. Diego Maradona, who had been out of the game for some time, was prevailed upon to return to help Argentina get to the finals. Wade was given the job of marking one of the greatest players the world has ever seen and doing so without kicking the icon off the park. He did so very effectively and it really had nothing to do with his efforts, that the ageing magician was able to conjure up a goal for Abel Balbo, with a pin-point cross. Though Australia got on terms and then held Argentina goal-less in the away leg for an hour, a cruel deflection resulted the only goal of the game to the home team. So Paul never got the chance to play on the greatest stage of all.
Wade played 84 A-Internationals in all for Australia, and scored 10 goals. He took part in qualification campaigns for the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups. He was captain of the Socceroos for six years at a particularly difficult time, when half the team was playing in Europe and earning huge sums of money and the other half were part-timers in the National Soccer League on much, much less. The strains within the camp were considerable, and it is unlikely that anyone could have held this group together better than Wade. Reading his autobiography all you will learn is about his mistakes and his naivety, but he did a marvellous job.
He received the Order of Australia Medal in January 1995 for his services to the game and service to youth and community through the Anti-Smoking and Drug Offensive campaigns. He became media commentator and journalist and promoter of the game at all levels. He and Jane Oakley were the public faces of the Victorian Soccer Federation promotional campaigns for several years. He battled epilepsy and is now an inspirational speaker and runs a Skills for Life program.
Wade was inducted into the Football Australia Hall of Fame in 2000 and was honoured with Life Membership of Football Victoria in 2014.
His autobiography, Captain Socceroo, the Paul Wade story, story co-written with Kyle Patterson, is fearsomely honest, perhaps too honest for his own good. He has been an ornament to the game throughout his career, setting an example of team, club and country before self that has set the standard for all his successors.