MARK Milligan felt like he was hitting his head against a brick wall.
The hard-nosed midfielder had not long captained the Olyroos against a Lionel Messi-led Argentina at the Beijing Olympics.
Before that he had been at Arsenal, training alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie under the astute gaze of Arsene Wenger.
There were also visits to Manchester City and Bundesliga club Werder Bremen.
But here he was sitting in the London flat of Olyroos teammate Adrian Liejer without a club and not knowing when and if he would find one. He had not been paid since his contract at Sydney FC ended in March, but most of all he craved football.
"I needed to get back playing for my own sanity," Milligan told The Herald yesterday.
That wish is almost certain to be granted tomorrow night when the Jets take on the Central Coast Mariners in the F3 derby at Gosford.
The Jets signed Milligan on Tuesday for a seven-match guest stint which was due to start in round 11. But he is now expected to make his debut against the Mariners after Football Federation Australia yesterday allowed the Olyroos captain to be used as a replacement for James Holland, who was one of four Jets who left for the under-19 Asian Cup.
Apart from the Olympics, where the Olyroos bombed out at the first stage, Milligan has not played a competitive game since Sydney FC went down to Queensland Roar 2-0 in the second leg of the A-League minor semi-final in February.
"I was talking to my mother the other day and said I have not felt like this since I was a little kid," Milligan revealed. "I haven't wanted to play so much and just get back involved.
"The past few years for me have been pretty hectic. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the World Cup and the Asian Cup.
"I have not had a lay-off like this, being out of the game, in a very long time. I just miss playing, I miss training and I just want to get back on the park."
There were some mainly Sydney FC fans who questioned the manner in which Milligan left Australia.
Despite failing in his overseas quest, Milligan holds few regrets.
"There was a lot of speculation on where I was at and what I was doing," he said. "There were only a couple of clubs I went to."
He spent 10 days at Premier League Arsenal, a period in which he missed an Olyroos camp and was suspended for two matches.
"It is a different world over there," he said. "Arsenal was an unbelievable experience.
"I was there for a week and a half. They put me up in a hotel and I trained with the first team.
"[Manager] Arsene Wenger was very hands on.
"He was involved for some part in every session, which is a bit unusual.
"A couple of times he pulled me aside on my own to talk to me.
"He also got me and another boy doing drills so he could have a better look at me.
"He was very personable. He was always talking to me after training, I guess trying to get a feel for my character."
Of the clubs Milligan trialled at, he went closest to securing a deal at Werder Bremen.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it there," Milligan said.
"Foreigners cannot play in the reserve league in Germany, and had I have signed there I would have had to go out on loan [in another country]. They were very selective in where they wanted to loan me.
"One of the options they threw up was for me to stay and train with them for three or four weeks. I knew I needed to start playing again."
Europe remains the ultimate goal for Milligan, but while some coaches would be put off by his desire to head overseas, Jets boss Gary van Egmond encourages it.
"I like players who have ambition," he said. "I don't want people who are content. He wants to do a job right here and now with the Newcastle Jets, but he is looking at furthering his career as far as it can go.
"With that they will keep pushing themselves hard at training and in games. If it is the case that they do really well, as we have seen previously, they either get into national team squads or go overseas to greener pastures. That is what it is about."
Milligan was the bolter in Guus Hiddink's Socceroos squad which performed so admirably at the 2006 World Cup.
He did not get on the field in Germany, but he has since earned six senior caps to go with 11 for the Olyroos (under-23s).
Current Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has also been a fan of Milligan but dropped him from the squad for the recent World Cup qualifier against Qatar because of his lack of match fitness and urged him to find a club.
"Pim has been very good with me," Milligan said.
"After the Olympics he took me into camp for games against South Africa and Holland.
"He will be keeping an eye on me, but my main focus has been on getting settled and playing again."