Diminutive Petratos, the type of player we should nurture

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    There have been plenty of good signings, it seems, ahead of the latest A-League season. But one of the most heart-warming, at least for this observer, is one of the most unheralded.

    Indeed, having signed a youth team contract, Dimitrios Petratos will probably go unnoticed for much of the upcoming season. But he is definitely one to watch.

    ‘Dimi’, as he is known to teammates, isn’t a name familiar to many across the A-League landscape, but to those keeping a close eye on the NSW Premier League and the emerging Australian football talent, the 16 year-old’s signing last week by Sydney FC will be welcomed.

    Touched by the Johnny Warren Football Foundation, Westfields Sports High and the NSW Institute of Sport, and with a background in Futsal, there’s little doubt Petratos has hitherto ticked most of the development boxes.

    But perhaps his biggest influence, as is so often the case with such technical talent, has been his father, former NSL player Angelo Petratos, who is still running around in the NSW premier league in his early 40s.

    Indeed, father and son have spent the winter knocking about in the same side, Penrith Nepean United, where the younger Petratos has been making a bit of a name for himself, essentially as an impact player off the bench.

    He hit the headlines with this piece in the Herald a few months ago and has since been called up to Jan Versleijen’s next under 20s for a recent week-long camp in Sydney, which was the official start of preparations for the 2011 Under 20 World Cup.

    With all this attention, it will be crucial Petratos remains grounded. But the word is he has a very level head and strong work ethic.

    Naturally, he will need a strong temperament to take the next step, but what really stands out about his game to-date is his technique, and primarily his ability to get the ball on the ground, dribble and do a bit with it.

    He is the type of player we should be encouraging and looking to develop. A modern-day dribbler that likes to take players on and can make a difference in the final third.

    When he sees and opportunity to burst past a defender, he has the pace, skill and want to do it. Where there’s a dead-end, he turns out and extricates himself from trouble.

    Diminutive he might be, but it’s his mastery of the ball that should be judged.

    Cautioning that Petratos still has much to work on, his current coach at Penrith, Ante Juric, himself a disciple of the technical philosophy the governing body have implemented through the National Curriculum, says he is nevertheless the type of player we should be looking to produce.

    “He’s positive, sharp, likes to take on players and is good at the one-on-ones,” said Juric, who doubles as Australia’s under 13s coach and was an assistant for Sydney FC’s W-League team in the inaugural season, during a recent catch-up.

    “You can’t teach that sort of stuff at a later date.

    “He still needs to work on his defensive game and consistency in the front third, but his technique and ability to get out of trouble is what can make the difference.”

    For an Australian system which hasn’t exactly had a production line of wide players with an ability to dribble, it is refreshing take.

    Certainly, when I recently took in the Sky Blues’ pre-season game against Penrith, Petratos had a blinder, coming on at half-time and catching the eye with his work down the left flank.

    For the former Penrith player I was watching the game with, who was seeing Petratos for the first time and was blow-away by his comfort on the ball, it was obvious. Vitezslav Lavicka had to sign him.

    Word is there was a bit of interest from Perth Glory, but Sydney got their kid, with youth coach Steve O’Connor and Lavicka now entrusted with nurturing him and helping him take the next step.

    Certainly O’Connor’s work last season with the likes of Kofi Danning, Chris Payne, Zach Cairncross, Brendan Gan and Ryan Grant, and Lavicka’s encouraging work with the Sydney kids in the pre-season suggests Petratos might be under the right tutelage.

    For Australian football, the hope is he can kick on and become a real front-third influence, wherever his career takes him.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

    Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • July 14th 2009 @ 8:50am
      Towser said | July 14th 2009 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      The one line “Mastery of the ball” seals it for me. Luv this type of player. Providing he can withstand the “butchers” as he gets older because of one his superior skill & two size. Hope to see him rise up the ladder.

    • July 14th 2009 @ 9:34am
      whiskeymac said | July 14th 2009 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Living nearby i have noticed the kid has had a few stories in the local (Penrith) press too. A skilful player from penrif. good stuff. Further with all the juniors and local particpcation it’s good for them to have someone, hopefully, to look upto.

      Hopefully he will be another player from the west to wear the green and gold, especially if they are skilful as opposed to athletic.

      It does seem that SFC buy the best sydney youngsters (having learnt their lesson from losing burns and djite maybe)…. having also bought Gibbs recently (a central coast resident manly player like Payne). getting worried about a western sydney team setting up in their otherwise until now neglected nursery.

    • July 14th 2009 @ 10:06am
      Albal said | July 14th 2009 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      I agree. Very good story and good news. I think the Australian system is finally learning that you don’t have to be the size of a gorilla to play football – as we have seen when we get flogged by Asian teams.

      Australian coaches have always prefered big physical players with substandard technique. This could be due to the English influence or even the influence of other codes who need to place a greater emphasis on the phsycal side of players. I have always said that if Messi, Maradona, Saviola, Robinho, Junihno, etc. were born in this country, not one of them would have made it to first grade because their game was never built on the physical side of the game.

      Football is more about technique. You can always gain mass or even get fitter throughout your football career, but technique is something you can’t improve on too much at a later age.

    • July 14th 2009 @ 10:20am
      Vicentin said | July 14th 2009 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Nice piece Tony. I remember reading the original article about playing in the same team as his dad (which is a fantastic story) but had no idea that Sydney were tracking him too. If they want to get some extra punters through the gate when they play Olympic in a few days time they need to start the rumour that he’ll be getting a run.

      Players like Dimi do exist in the junior ranks (and always have) but I’m hopeful that this change of football culture (see the Curriculum) they will be nurtured and encouraged to play at the top level rather than being continually overlooked by the bigger/stronger/faster set – not that we don’t need a few of them too. The implementation of the curriculum will see a far more skilful pool of players being developed – I’m very confident of this.

      I know it’s been said many time already, but I can’t wait for the season to start!

    • July 14th 2009 @ 11:14am
      The Bear said | July 14th 2009 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      Tim Cahill was told he was too small and slight of frame in his mid teens, so we hear. He went OS…and proved them wrong. Good luck to the kid, and the others out there.

    • July 14th 2009 @ 11:18am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | July 14th 2009 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      I must confess that I am loving the National Youth League and all that it offers. Kudos to the FFA.

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