The A-League’s youth brigade charging
By John Davidson, 5 Feb 2011 John Davidson is a Roar Guru
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Season six of the A-League has been a good one despite low crowds, financial worries for some clubs and non-existent marketing. The football has been fantastic and there have been some quality imports.
But perhaps most importantly, some new young A-League talent has emerged.
Here’s my pick of the competition’s 2010/2011 young players that have made their mark:
Certainly a standout has been Mathew Leckie. The speedy winger has been a highlight, and probably would have been in the Asian Cup squad if not for a bad injury. He’ll soon be off to Germany to Borussia Monchengladbach. Reserve goalkeeper Mark Birgihitti, the number one for the Young Socceroos, and the likes of Daniel Mullen and Iain Ramsay have also had good seasons.
Where to start? Luke DeVere has been a revelation at the back, and earned a move to the K-League. Many consider him a future Socceroo. Luke Brattan has impressed, while James Meyer and Rocky Visconte have also done well. A team brimming with young talent.
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Like the Roar, this is a team with some exceptional youngsters. Early on Matthew Ryan was given the number one jersey and he has handled it with ease. Clearly a player with a big future.
The same can be said for 17-year-old Mustafa Amini, though with limited game time. We will see more of him next season. He has huge potential and did well with the Young Socceroos in China.
Honorable mentions also go to Trent Sainsbury and Matthew Lewis.
GOLD COAST UNITED
Adam Traore has been a strong constant for United at left-back. Sensational in the youth league, striker Chris Harold has also made the step up to the senior level and done well. Midfielder Ben Halloran is another of Gold Coast’s promising youngsters.
Probably the pick of the newcomers the Heart has been Adrian Zahra, the winger who was cruelly felled by Kevin Muscat. Lets hope the 20-year old recovers quickly and gets back to his best next season.
Other highlights for the Heart, which has several older, experienced players, have been Nick Kalmar and Eli Babalj.
With Josip Skoko retiring and the futures of John Aloisi and Gerald Sibon unclear, expect more Heart youngsters to get a run next season.
Like the Heart, Victory has an older, more experienced squad. But Mate Dugandzic, a former Melbourne Knight, has certainly made his mark. The attacking player has played 24 games this season and bagged five goals.
He’s one to watch in the finals.
With injuries and the departure of Ljubo Milicevic, youth team captain Taylor Regan has stepped up and not looked out of place. At 23 he’s not the youngest player, but central defenders need experience and he looks like being a solid A-League first-grader for years to come. Winger James Virgili has also some gotten some game time, and done okay.
The 18-year-old made his debut back in 2009 when he was 16 years and 180 days old – the youngster player to make it into the A-League.
NORTH QUEENSLAND FURY
It what has been a long and mostly disappointing season for the Fury, the clear highpoint has been David Williams. Returning from Brondby, Williams has terrorised defenses and regularly been the best player on the park for the Fury in every match. Isaka Cernak also started off brightly, before fading somewhat, and is departing to the Melbourne Victory next season.
Like the Fury, the Glory has had a very tough year. It’s hard to see many positives for Perth but young striker Anthony Skorich has gotten some game time, playing 13 games so far. Midfielder Howard Fondyke has also been given a run, along with defender Scott Neville.
The shining lights in Sydney’s annus horribilis has been Matt Jurman and Dmitri Petratos. Both came into the side mid-season and both have played important roles in Sydney’s resurrection. Jurman has looked comfortable at the back while Petratos has dazzled up front. Both should see a lot more game time during the Asian Champions League.
One of the most promising talents in the entire A-League resides across the Tasman in Marcos Rojas. The marauding Phoenix winger, a Kiwi with Chilean heritage, has become a mainstay in Ricki Herbert’s team of late and is both setting up goals and scoring them.
At just 19, his future is uncertain, as he is negotiating with the club about a new contract, but he looks to be a real find. You can see him becoming an All White in the future.
That’s my pick of the current crop of A-League youngsters.
Who do you think have been the competition’s best young players this season?