Western United veteran Nikolai Topor-Stanley has revealed he considered giving up on his professional dream as a 21-year-old when he struggled to even pay the road tolls while trialling with Sydney FC.
Topor-Stanley will become just the second player to notch 350 A-League Men games when he lines up in Saturday night's clash with Melbourne City at AAMI Park.
Andrew Durante holds the record with 358 ALM appearances, but Topor-Stanley will pass that mark this season barring a serious injury or a dramatic form collapse.
Topor-Stanley has played for Sydney, Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, and now Western United during his decorated playing career.
Winning the 2014 Asian Champions League with the Wanderers and being able to walk out on the pitch with his young family are among Topor-Stanley's career highlights.
But it was a career that almost never got off the ground as Topor-Stanley struggled to find a home after the collapse of the NSL and the launch of the A-League.
Topor-Stanley credits an encouraging pep talk from his mum for convincing him to stick it out.
"I was a part-time student, I was 21-years-old paying my own way to go train at Sydney FC," he said.
"The bank account was very low. Tolls were kind of hard to even pay.
"I had to juggle a lot of things -- rent, food.
"After you get disappointment after disappointment, it's natural to think, 'will this happen?'
"She (my mum) said, 'you've come too far to give it away'.
"I'm glad I stuck it out ... 349 games later it's proved to be a wise decision to hang in there."
Topor-Stanley ended up scoring a spot with Sydney for the 2006-07 season, with his 14 games helping him land a deal at the Glory for the following campaign.
Although Topor-Stanley is close to snaring the all-time games record in the ALM, it's trophies he craves the most.
"I've said all along these (individual) things are secondary to trophies," he said.
"Those are the things that really matter at the end of the day.
"Yeah, it's nice to have something next to your name as an individual, but it's not something that I hold dear.
"I hope in the future there are more players playing as many games as that too."
Western United currently sit fourth on the ladder, and Topor-Stanley has high hopes the team can challenge for silverware this season.
Australian Associated Press
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