It was an uncertain off-season for 21-year-old defender Nathaniel Atkinson, who was set to join Perth Glory before COVID-19 related complications arose.
Atkinson was officially announced by Perth but just a few weeks later, found himself back at City and he said he had been welcomed back with open arms and was enjoying being back in training.
"Obviously I didn't know where I was going to end up during the off-season but it's good to be back and good to get back into the routine,” Atkinson said, “You get a bit bored even though you’re on holidays.”
“Through the times we are living in now you can't really do too much so it’s good to be around the boys and back around the club."
Atkinson and his teammates spent over six weeks living in a Hunter Valley hub in order to finish the 2019/20 season, and he said that the experience had been far less challenging for him than it may have been for other players.
“I've been living away from home since I was 14 so it was no big difference for me,” he said.
“I think for the other boys that have families you could tell that while it might not have been a struggle as such, it was always in the back of their minds that they missed home and missed their families.”
This will be Atkinson’s fourth season as part of City's first team and large parts of the squad are set to be the same as last season. He said this can be a critical factor in the team’s performance this season and he was looking forward to building on what was started in the 2019/20 season.
"Throughout the Club’s history, one of the issues was the large amount of turnover of players and when you are bringing in a lot of new players, you have to start all over again really,” Atkinson said.
“You have to get your system right and get your formation right, but now we've kept the majority of the team and also bought in a few players that can boost that and help improve the team even more."
A few seasons have now passed since Atkinson debuted as an 18-year-old and he said he now feels very comfortable at the level and has a lot of confidence in his abilities.
“I got chucked in there at an early age, I started my first ever A-League game and from there I was playing regularly,” he said, “I think I've built on my game throughout the years and especially last season.”
“I think I'm ready to take my game to the next level now."
As part of doing this, Atkinson is eager to contribute on the scoresheet. He showed he can do it last season when he scored his debut A-League goal against Brisbane Roar, a cracking strike from outside the box.
"I want to contribute goals and assists to the team and help us win at all costs,” Atkinson said, “I also want to make sure I continue to be a good team player around the boys."
This season, Patrick Kisnorbo will become the third head coach Atkinson has played under in his time at the Club and he said he has learnt plenty from all of his previous coaches and is enjoying the way Kisnorbo is running the team.
“Warren Joyce was more of the hard-style old school English coach,” Atkinson said, “Erick (Mombaerts) was a lot more tactical and he set a big foundation for the club.”
“PK has really fallen in love with the way that Erick set up the club and he's also added in his own style of hardness to the team which has been good."