Youth development is Australian football’s greatest task. In bygone eras the emphasis has been very little and the infrastructure available has usually been fairly limited. However, in recent times the importance of generation next has grown. Emerging Australian coaches like Ange Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and more recently Alistair Edwards, are demonstrating an ambition to aid in the development of youth.
With the progression of the Hyundai A-league, on a tactical and technical front has moves made by youngsters heavily scrutinised. Unlike years past when the structures and level of football were both unorganized and unchallenging. The A-league’s continual improvement goes to show, the possibilities in Australian football’s youth development.
However, in certain case moving abroad has proved a wise decision, at such an early age. There have been examples of groups of youngsters signing on together to make the transition into European football easier. Most recently, a trio of Brisbane Roar youngsters – Adam Sarota, Michael Zullo and Tommy Oar – left for Utrecht. Thus far, three of them have had mixed experiences in the Dutch Eredivisie. Nevertheless, Oar has been touted around Europe as a hot prospect and clubs such as PSV Eindhoven, S.L Benfica and Sunderland A.F.C have been linked to him. Not so recent, Australia saw Marco Bresciano and Vincenzo Grella move to Empoli F.C, then later to Parma F.C together with great success. Both were instrumental in Australia’s World Cup appearances in 2006 and 2010. We can understand that there is strength in numbers. Especially, when footballers venture overseas, as to be expected, with the new surroundings, adjusting to the language, cultural changes and dressing room transition – can’t be easy.
But when moving abroad, youngsters must ask themselves; will I play regularly, will I play in a league not lesser than the A-league and will the move further my career both domestically and internationally. In recent times, Australian footballers have decided moves with monetary gain a being priority over career development. Example of young Matthew Spiranovic opting to take a move to the Middle East rather than further his career in Europe, despite past sources claiming Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers was interested in his services.
Other Australian footballers have decided on this route. Making the advisement of player’s a serious issue. Earlier in the year, former Australian and Manchester United Goalkeeper Mark Bosnich criticised Central Coast Mariners Goalkeeper Mat Ryan’s agents/advisors. Ryan was willing to trial for a third division Scottish club, Rangers. Bosnich said the possible move was:
“Absolutely ridiculous…He’s going for a 10-day trial for the right to play against the likes of Elgin City, Montrose, Clyde and Stirling, and he’s going to miss a top of the table clash with Melbourne Victory.”
“I don’t know what he’s thinking; I don’t know what the club’s thinking.”
“He pays his fees to the PFA, and if I was Matty I would ring up Brendan Schwab immediately and get independent advice.”
Conversely, there might not be enough room to accommodate young Australian players. Days ago, Central Coast Mariners Coach Graham Arnold, questioned the number of foreign players in the A-league. Some A-league coaches have even mooted for a reduction of A-league foreign spots from five to three. It’s definitely food for thought, especially when the likes of Chris Ikonomidis were a virtual unknown to mainstream Australian football media up until a number of months ago. Now, he’s been rumoured to be on his way to the likes of AC Milan and Juventus.
Ahmed’s the sole writer of the soon to be critically acclaimed Young Roos. He’s on Twitter too, @ahmedyussuf10. Give him a follow.