Socceroo Archie Thompson is urging Melbourne Victory fans not to turn on Harry Kewell despite him signing for A-League arch-rival Melbourne Heart.
Thompson has given an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Kewell's impending A-League return - even though it is not to his Victory club.
Kewell left the Victory to return to England with his family to be with his sick mother-in-law, but was unable to find a club there - prompting his decision to sign with Heart to aid his hopes of making next year's World Cup squad.
Thompson says because of the way Kewell left, he should be afforded respect by Victory fans when they cross paths in what should be a spicy season-opening derby in October.
''It's great for our sport, great for Heart, great for the Socceroos, great for the derby and great for my golf game,'' joked Thompson of Kewell's signing - the pair spending plenty of time indulging in their passion for golf during their time at the Victory. ''It was personal reasons why he left, and I hope there's no hard feelings from our supporters, because he's been a fantastic player for our country and for our club, too.
''I would have loved [for] him to come back to Victory, but I'm just glad he's back on the pitch.''
Kewell, 34, signed a one-year deal with Heart this week and has made no secret his priority is selection for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil should the Socceroos qualify.
He was not selected for the current series of World Cup qualifiers - including Tuesday night's clash with Jordan in Melbourne - because he was clubless and lacking match fitness.