JUST over four weeks ago, Clint Bolton reached the zenith of domestic football when his goalkeeping heroics helped Sydney FC claim the A-League championship. But while others still bask in the afterglow of that memorable March night, Bolton has already shifted his sights to a new challenge.While he admits he ”soaked it all up” in the fortnight after the grand final, the 34-year-old thought better than to savour the moment too long. Rather, Bolton has already started his pre-season with new expansion club Melbourne Heart.Bolton ruffled more than a few feathers with his exit from Sydney – most notably when he controversially posed in the new Heart kit while still contracted to the Sky Blues – but there are no hard feelings from his end. His energies are channelled on starting from the bottom with a fledgling franchise, just like he did when he signed with Sydney FC for the A-League’s opening season five years ago.”The obvious comparisons you can make is that there’s going to be teething problems and there’s going to be issues that need to be fixed,” Bolton said. ”In Sydney, we had a lot of problems at the start – even just small things, like training, kits and equipment. We’re going through the same things here but the good thing here is that they’re getting on top of it straight away, and they’re listening to the players.”It’s all worth it, though. I can start to sense the buzz, and I look around and I feel this is the start of something special. When you look at the coaching staff and the playing squad, you can see why they’re expecting big things from day one, just like they did in Sydney. And with what we’ve got already, there’s no reason we can’t compete for trophies in the first year.”Last week the Heart literally took their first steps as a team. Of the small group of players involved in the start of pre-season training, only Bolton, his former Sydney Olympic teammate Wayne Srhoj and ex-Newcastle Jets striker Jason Hoffman have played in the A-League. The rest of John van’t Schip’s squad, including departed Sydney duo Simon Colosimo and John Aloisi, will link up in the coming months.Bolton had the option of starting his pre-season training at a later date, but just a year after hitting rock bottom following John Kosmina’s push to elevate Ivan Necevski, his enthusiasm for the game is that of a wide-eyed debutant and he couldn’t spend winter twiddling his thumbs.”The coach wanted those of us who were around to get us together and I was more than happy to keep training. I was in good nick in the finals and mentally I’m feeling very fresh,” he said. ”A break would take me away from football, which is not where I want to be.”Still, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. If holding out Necevski was tough, then digging in and producing his best when it was public knowledge Sydney FC were pursuing Liam Reddy took Bolton to the edge.”The reports were as far back as September and October in the paper about the Reddy signing, so I knew back then my future was clouded,” he said. ”But I couldn’t control who they were talking to. I could only control how I played and putting all my efforts into playing well. It was an easy sell [for Heart] after not being offered a contract by Sydney. I pretty much signed up the next day and knew this was the next step for me.”But with the final chapter closed on the harbour city, Bolton wants it known that he relished working under Sydney coach Vitezslav Lavicka. ”The hard work, discipline and team unity were what ‘Vitja’ instilled us and we learnt a lot from him,” Bolton said. ”But I’m just as confident John [van’t Schip] already has plans to bring those same qualities here.”
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