Does the A-League hold back our national team?

Lucas Gillard Roar Guru

By Lucas Gillard, Lucas Gillard is a Roar Guru

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47 Have your say

    A popular US brokerage firm in 1970s and 80s popularised the tagline “when EF Hutton talks, people listen.”

    Around 30-40 years later in the post-social media landscape, EF Hutton would face into a very different audience dynamic.

    In Australian football few icons are afforded or deserve as much adoration as Mark Schwarzer. Schwarzer carried the can so often for the Socceroos that he should have multiple copies of all keys to all Australian towns. However, this is 2018 so when Schwarzer talks, half the audience applaud and the other half purges his ideas into the toilet with excessive levels of bile.

    Schwarzer was quoted last week in a variety of articles – including on FourFourTwo and Wide World of Sports – as claiming a strong A-League could have some negative impacts on the future (and present) of the national team. To be precise, as quoted by Con Stamocostas from FourFourTwo.

    “It’s not a dig at the A-League because we want the A-League to be as good as it possibly can be, we want it to progress….But the emergence of the A-League is going to be a hindrance to the national team, because a generation of players are going to be more than happy to stay in Australia and not necessarily test themselves at the highest level as they possibly can.”

    On football forums and groups Schwarzer was in equal measure been called a ‘eurosnob’ and a soothsayer. The divisiveness of this point of view is caused by the fact that it is paradoxically both correct and incorrect.

    There are numerous case studies of players rejuvenating careers in the A-League, as much as there are ones who have been content to play in Australia and not test themselves at higher levels. Schwarzer’s paradox is simultaneously what works well in the A-League and also what doesn’t work.

    Mark Schwarzer and Tim Cahill after beating Iraq. (Photo: Paul Barkley / LookPro)

    Mark Schwarzer and Tim Cahill (Photo: Paul Barkley / LookPro)

    Now let’s just get this out of the way early. By all FIFA co-efficient, club results in Asia and basic empirical evidence, the playing standard across most nations of Europe, and the big ones in Asia, is higher than the A-League.

    Only the most protectionist A-League fans would resist this notion on the grounds of Eurosnobbery. So it stands to reason that a player in Switzerland, Belgium or the Bundesliga 2 is coming up against greater competition week-in and week-out. One needs only look at where our Socceroos are playing today to appreciate the quality of the Swiss league or the Bundesliga 2.

    One thing most football fans can agree on (or, at least, should agree on) is that the A-League can play a vital role in bringing on youth development in this country. As not all players develop as quickly as, say, Harry Kewell, the A-League should facilitate game time into the 19-20-year-oldplayers who have not yet been scouted by European clubs.

    In fact the entire Socceroos starting XI for the most recent game against Colombia featured players who had developed their game in the A-League – with the one notable exception of Massimo Luongo.

    Clearly game time at an adult level playing against good professional players is an essential part of honing and crafting your game when you’re an 18 or 19-year-old with a raw skill set, even if that skill set exceeds the quality of the average A-League player.

    If you weren’t picked up as a teen and trained in the Spurs academy before going on loan to League One or the Championship, then the A-League is a fantastic pathway.

    Daniel Arzani – who now seems destined to be included in Australia’s final World Cup Squad (or just miss out) – represents the next wave of raw talents who could seek a move away a higher level of competition.

    Riley McGree is another example where another cache of A-League games under his belt is probably better development then playing with Club Brugge junior teams. Riley may not be picked-up and used in Brugge’s first team next season, but after that scorpion goal in the semi-final, other teams in Belgium or the Netherlands may come knocking on Brugge’s door for a loan spell.

    McGree has the time now to work his way slowly into Brugge’s first team by continuously challenging himself at higher levels.

    Riley McGree of the Jets scores a second-half goal from a 'scorpion' kick

    AAP Image/Darren Pateman

    However, the Schwarzer paradox includes the accusation that the A-League doesn’t do enough to nurture youth talent. Our Socceroos fiancé Graham Arnold famously referred to the A-League as not a “development league”.

    John Aloisi fielded a comical Dad’s Army of forwards in Brisbane’s elimination loss to Melbourne City. Aloisi seems to have avoided a lot of criticism for his team’s effort in that game: criticism that should been stronger and bordering on tactical condemnation.

    Aloisi contrived a counter attacking game plan, spearheaded by a forward block of players all well over 30. What was he expecting when he saw all his counters mopped up with ease by City’s back four?

    Aloisi will have looked at Melbourne City, identified their lack of real speed and tackling in their midfield pivot and tried to exploit that on the counter attack. But how did he expect this to work with treacly 38-year-old Massimo Maccarone leading the line? When it comes to the A-League being a good development league, it seems that some clubs (like Melbourne City) just ‘get it’ while others don’t. This is much like the tactical know-how of coaches (or lack thereof in Aloisi’s case).

    That is emblematic of a young league managed by club boards and a central body (FFA) with back catalogue of hits and (many) misses. In a league so young the governance of teams, both ideologically and tactically, is going to vary wildly as teams develop their smarts and the abilities of their coaches. Inevitably some teams will do a good job of youth development, and others will bottle it badly.

    John Aloisi speaks to his players on the sideline

    John Aloisi (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    One further disappointment to chalk up to youth non-development is Brandon Wilson dropping off a cliff at Perth Glory. Little can be found about why he was shut out at Perth other than losing his position to Neil Kilkenny after (possibly) picking up some injuries.

    Wilson is one of this writer’s favourite prospects. He is tall, strong in the tackle, plays a screening role (which is always in high demand in International football) and has an exceptional passing range especially with long balls. Here’s hoping that Wilson either finds his feet with new manager Tony Popovic or finds a set-up that can leverage and nurture his skills.

    Ideally Wilson, along with McGree and Arzani should certainly be establishing themselves as regular or supporting Socceroos in Qatar.

    While there are development horror stories, the Aaron Mooy case study demonstrates the A-League’s development abilities at its best. It is no coincidence that Mooy found his career flourish at Melbourne City (after being wrangled from Western Sydney Wanderers), as City see youth players as smart future investments. Mooy had spent much of his junior days in Great Britain before taking the step back into the A-League to build experience.

    In the A-League Mooy could evolve his game into the outstanding playmaker he is with less pressure on the ball or in training than he would face at a bigger club.

    Five years later he was transitioned to Melbourne City’s mothership for a tidy profit before being loaned to Huddersfield. The rest, obviously, is history. The A-League played a crucial role in Mooy becoming the Premier League star he is today, as it provided him the crutch he needed in his development to play regularly and shine.

    Aaron Mooy Huddersfield Town

    (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

    However it isn’t Aaron Mooy that Schwarzer is invoking in his A-League concerns. Mooy clearly is (and probably was) a top talent who just needed game time to make his mark on international clients.

    Schwarzer is rather clearly referencing the fringe players who wouldn’t necessarily walk into a Championship side on day one, but who would historically (in his day) have worked through the ranks of European Leagues to grow and challenge themselves to eventually find a pathway into elite competition in their mid or late 20s.

    This is the Mile Jedinak path. Mile fought through three seasons of mid-tier Turkish football before finding a pathway into the Championship (when that wasn’t a common course for Australians) before contributing to Crystal Palace’s promotion.

    It is this pathway that Schwarzer is highlighting in his commentary. In the NSL days making it as a professional footballer required players to work hard through the leagues of Croatia or Belgium or Scotland, challenging themselves at a higher level than the best their home country could offer.

    With the advent of the A-League we have seen many fringe Socceroo prospects hit a wall in Europe in their mid-20s before moving back to Australia.

    Players like James Troisi, Oliver Bozanic, Dario Vidosic and Josh Brillante have tried their hands in Europe, bounced around various leagues or levels before returning to play key roles in the A-League.

    Troisi was a potential top talent prospect who never settled in Europe. In fact his CV reads like a player marginalising himself with every career choice. In the NSL days Troisi would have been forced to either leave his dreams at the door or fight to stay in Belgium or the Serie B.

    Had he rejected the money offered to him in Saudi Arabia or China (or even Victory), Troisi would by all reasoning be a more rounded player today and better equipped to perform for his national team.

    Indeed Troisi’s one great game for the Socceroos against Chile in the Confeds cup underlines what he is capable of at his best. The problem with Troisi is that the disparity between his best and worst on the pitch is too great: and one wonders if working week-in week-out against better opposition would have smoothed off his technical flaws to lift his average.

    Alas we will never see that talent bear fruit on the international stage, in part because his peak playing years were in lower leagues (including the A-League). Perhaps the most galling part of the Troisi story is that unlike many other Australian players (like Mark Milligan) Troisi has an EU passport which means he could be playing in any league that will take him.

    The Troisi use-case threatens to repeat itself with Josh Brillante. Josh – who has an Italian passport – was signed by Fiorentina in 2014 after impressing with the Newcastle Jets as a 21-year-old ready to challenge himself at a higher level.

    Brillante’s career at Fiorentina quickly turned into a cautionary tale which seems to have spooked him out of continuing to challenge himself in Europe. After pleasing manager Vicenzo Montella immensely in pre-season, Brillante was somewhat controversially (and prematurely) selected in the opening game of the Serie A season.

    He lasted 35 minutes before being subbed off, only to appear once more for the Viola. He spent the rest of that season, and the next, in the Serie B before returning to Graham Arnold’s double pivot at Sydney FC.

    Brillante is now 25 and is in danger of being relegated from great international prospect to A-League regular.

    With Jedinak and Milligan certain to retire in the next few seasons (if not immediately after the World Cup) the Socceroos have a glaring hole in central midfield for a screen. Many Socceroos fans (and coaches) after 2014 would have earmarked Josh as Mile’s replacement when he hangs up his ample boots.

    Four years on we must wonder if Josh is ready to assume this role at International level after leaving Italy after only two seasons. Whether Brillante is willing to move and play in Switzerland, or Belgium, or return to the Serie B underlines exactly the point Mark Schwarzer is making: as right now Brillante would need a big step-change or a white knight to give him an opportunity in a top European league.

    In the golden generation Brillante wouldn’t have had the easy path open to him, and he would likely still be in Italy challenging himself against technically better midfielders and working on his craft. The fact that he is playing in the A-League at this ripe age of 25 when his country desperately needs a defensive midfielder for the next world cup cycle represents an opportunity lost.

    Josh Brilliante

    Josh Brillante (AAP Image/David Moir)

    Under Graham Arnold (his coach at Sydney FC) Brillante is likely to see game time for the national team regardless. Sadly for Socceroos fans it will be the flat-track Brillante who will get these caps, not a Brillante who has battled and worked on his game against better opponents for three seasons.

    Perhaps the real exposition inside Schwarzer’s paradox is that Australian players could benefit from more firmly established pathways into Europe. Throughout time Australian players have worked with existing networks of agents to find a club who will offer them a trial.

    This approach is effectively a free market that treats all players, globally, as equal under meritocractic principles. Australian football needs to take a leaf out of the Roman Abramovich book and realise that not all free markets are actually (or need to be) free.

    The exciting part of the mooted Aussie consortium seeking to buy Charlton Athletic is that they are (reportedly) seeking to create a feeder system for Australian talent.

    If true this idea is long overdue and a fascinating experiment in artificially boosting the European development of Australian players. In principle this could mean that a player like Troisi looking for a gig in Europe could knock on Charlton’s door and find a more accommodating recruitment team.

    Now Charlton just lost a Championship promotion playoff, but let’s say for convenience that a Championship level Charlton would be a fascinating concept that could be replicated across Europe.

    Imagine a Championship level club ready willing and able to pick up a 20-year-old Daniel Arzani – even on loan for a season from City – to work on his talents with game time against seasoned professionals.

    Or Josh Brillante being invited to compete for a spot in central midfield and really challenge himself rather than risk falling into complacency at a level that he has mastered. This could be a game-changer for the National team.

    Perhaps the Lowys or the guy who owns Mona, or Dick Smith could put their hands in their pockets and buy up Zulte Waregem, FC Groningen or 50-1 per cent of VfL Bochum to solve the demand-side problem our Australian talent faces.

    Paradoxes like Schwarzer’s expose the fundamental challenge of governance. For every well intentioned decision there are inevitably going to be some negative consequences. All a governing body can hope is that they source enough use data and expert opinion to make decisions that create the fewest negative (and often unforseen) by-products. For every Mooy there will be a Troisi.

    At best now the A-League should consider ways to make youth development a priority for clubs as opposed to a “nice to have”, to prevent coaches like John Aloisi making a mockery of counter attacking tactics.

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:14am
      Buddy said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Surely dollars and cents has to be a big part of the debate? There are plenty of examples of players being offered contracts overseas for teams and leagues that are no better or worse than where they were but there is far more money on offer. Not Australian I know, but Oscar surely is playing in China to finance his family’s future and make sure he has a happy retirement?
      I don’t see the A League as any different to any other Competition around the globe. You have to start somewhere and that is local and when you succeed, you get whisked away to play at whatever level suits and wherever a player can earn the best living possible. The difference these days to when The likes of Bosnich and Schwarzer were up and coming lies with exposure. Parents often hawk their kids around europe trying to get them a place in an academy or youth team and packing the bags, moving to another country used to be the only way. However, with cameras everywhere, profiles of players in public domain, scouts and agents that have portfolios across the globe, the task is that much easier and players like Nabbout who had a strong season at the Jets, get noticed and are snapped up. Arzani is in the City group catalogue and no doubt if he blossoms on the world stage, or even the A League next season, he will find himself somewhere other than Melbourne City. Our task is to enjoy seeing him whilst we have him here.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:17am
      Fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Interesting article. In the absence of Nemesis may I be the one to say that the difference between now and the “golden generations” at the same age is that football is now totally global:; players from every continent are looking to break into European leagues. There is far more competition now then then. Far more.

      Players return to the A-league not generally because they lacked ambition (Lucas Neill) but because it’s better to get regular game time in a good league like ours than to not play in a slightly better one.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 9:24am
        Lucas Gillard said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Hi Fadida, excellent point about the global nature of the sport now. Coming through players in the “Zelic” or later “golden” generations didn’t have the option of playing in a reasonable China or the Middle east – let along a strong(ish) Australian league. Both in demand and supply of talent the market is global.

        The truth is that pathways are so diverse now that every player will have a multitude of options, and each pathway in itself should be unique to the player’s development. What worked for Luongo didn’t quite work for Mooy or Troisi… but then what worked for Mooy hasn’t worked for Troisi and so-on. The key difference between these 3 players is that Troisi continued to go backwards in the quality of league he played in. Luongo and Mooy went backwards to go forward.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 12:34pm
        reuster75 said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

        Not only more competition now but less restrictions on the number of ‘foreign players’. Back in the early-mid 90’s when a lot of those Australian players moved overseas there were restrictions on the amount of foreign players in a lot of European leagues. A lot of those Aussie players had parents born in those countries so that meant they could get a passport of that country and thus not be considered ‘foreign’. Then the EU forced a rule change that mean EU nationals weren’t considered ‘foreign’ so this opened up other possibilities for that generation. Also now there is less patience from clubs who want immediate success and so will discard players that don’t instantly improve the side. Who’s to say that if the likes of Schwartzer, Culina, Aloisi etc. wouldn’t have developed into just as good a players had there been a truly professional league in Australia they could play in, as they did by moving overseas at such a young age.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 12:42pm
          Redondo said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report


          I agree the changes in EU leagues make it almost impossible to compare the 90s to today.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 1:48pm
          fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          Agree. Look at how many players there are from the ivory coast kicking around now. There were none back in the 90’s. The same applies to any Asian or African country.

          The EPL has so many nationalities, which wasn’t the case then. And the number of clubs hasn’t changed! There is more competing for places in overseas clubs, so you could argue that without the A-league we’d be weaker, as these players would drop further down. Where would have Mooy gone when he failed in Scotland?

          • May 16th 2018 @ 1:50pm
            fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

            Jamie macLaren and Adam Taggart saved by the A-league. Look at how many players have come back here to relaunch their careers, or started here before moving on? Most of the WC squad

          • May 16th 2018 @ 3:37pm
            Kris said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

            The African players were in France and Belgium in particular. They were prevented from signing in England (for example) because their French passports made them ‘foreign’, once that changed their French passports let them play anywhere in western Europe.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 5:44pm
              fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

              They are of a much greater quality now too, which again ramps up the competition.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:54am
      j binnie said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      This is a rather long winded article that attempts to break down many of the “problems” that the writer perceives as being part of out game here in Australia. He starts with a comment concerning the HAL from an ex player ,now domiciled in England, concerning a competition that he himself never played in.
      Some years ago the FFA made a decision to try and “sell” ex Socceroos to the Australian public and Schwartzer has obviously now “joined the ranks” of Bosnich, Slater, Zelic,Oga, Aloisi, Foster,Thompson et al as TV pundits,with Grella and Moore,reported as “agents, not to mention Postecoglou, the two Vidmars, Aloisi, Arnold,,Okon. Farina,Talay, Franken and Milicic all being employed as coaches.

      This reactonary decision was made after what could be called the “Dutch influence” when firstly Gullit,then Verbeek,Duut, Baan, Berger had all come —and gone, leaving the HAL in a sort of limbo.

      The question now is has this “Australianisation” of our publicity and coaching fraternities been a success.?

      The latest employment of BVM and Arnold to oversee our Socceroos over the next four years is synonymous of what has gone before, a bet both ways.

      Lukas, in writing this article has attempted to answer a host of questions many of what has been featured in these columns before,so that in many ways he is simply regurgitating ‘old” problem areas that inevitably take us back to the performances of those at the top of the management tree.

      Back to Mark and his opinions

      There are approximately 90 locally born players playing in the HAL every week.
      At the last count there is, and has been for years, approximately 300 local born players playing overseas.
      The question is ,have those 300 a better chance of “making the grade” than the 90 who are plying their trade here.
      The main motivating force for older players to move overseas is not to improve their game, it is to improve their income.
      Younger players may well seek improvement of their skills but that is no guarantee,so that a youngster playing with a well run HAL team numerically has an advantage over a player playing at a club with 6 teams and an academy.

      Lucas ,because of the age of the HAL, now 13 seasons, it is almost inevitable that a 25 year old player from today would have played in the HAL ,due to the fact that he,the 25 year old player,was only 12 when the HAL began,so that point of discussion is pointless. Cheers jb..

    • Roar Rookie

      May 16th 2018 @ 9:25am
      Waz said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      “So it stands to reason that a player in Switzerland, Belgium or the Bundesliga 2 is coming up against greater competition week-in and week-out” …. I stopped reading there.

      I’ve seen those leagues, and yes the A League standard can and does match them.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 9:40am
        Buddy said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Yes, From what chances I get I watch bits and pieces from many leagues and I do not subscribe to the view that all these leagues are better quality. They have more money available though. I sat and watched the league 1 play off between Scunthorpe and Rotherham at the weekend. I often get told the A League is the same standard – well if that is the case, I will stop going! All I saw was long balls pumped forward to large strikers, spiteful tackles and when there was any attempt to pass the ball through the midfield, it was a game of ping pong as pass after pass went astray. Maybe there was more at stake so it was a physical battle etc etc but I couldn’t help thinking I was watching football from 30-40 years ago.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 11:21am
          chris said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

          I saw the game and came away with the same conclusions.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 1:53pm
          fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

          Yep, more money but a poorer style of football without doubt. It’s so…English, and that’s not a good thing.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 5:10pm
            LuckyEddie said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

            A bit racist.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 3:45pm
          Kris said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

          “According to the Professional Football Association (PFA), Premier League footballers typically earn £25,000-£35,000 per week, Championship players can expect £4,000-£5,000, League One players £1,700-£2,500, and League Two players £1,300 to £1,500.Aug 15, 2014”

          So that is about $160k for an average player in the English 4th tier. With of course the appeal that if you play well enough to catch the eye you can move up a division or two and get double that.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 4:00pm
            Redondo said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

            Those are ‘typical’ earnings. It’s a bit hard to tell but some of the stuff I’ve read suggests a young player in a weaker Championship team might earn three to four times more than their equivalent in the A-League. And if they have to live in the north of England then they are really only earning twice as much.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 9:43am
        Redondo said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        I agree – there are a lot of words in this article but no evidence provided for this claim.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 10:13am
      Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      Paranoia—comes to mind reading this article. Why on earth should anyone think the A-League would be so harmful for the development of future Socceroos? There will always be Australian players with big egos who will want to test themselves in the very best leagues in the world—some will have success and others will return home.

      As there will always be Australian players who will want to stay safe in a football culture of their homeland—like wise there will always be Australian players who will look for the big dollars in the Middle Eastern Leagues, making the best of their limited talent.

      The answer for Australian Football is: for the A-League to continually grow in quality, with more home grown coaches, players, and more clubs playing in an expanded two division national Football League in Australia. In time, this should be our goal.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:37am
        Lionheart said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        yep, great comment and not dissimilar to JB’s comment above, and others.
        The A League is our league and our best option is to take it as far as we can.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 11:03am
        Redondo said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        I agree Caltex. Not just paranoia, but Football cultural cringe as well.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 1:55pm
        fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

        Well said Cahilltex

    • May 16th 2018 @ 12:25pm
      Barca4life said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      Its an interesting discussion because prior to 2005 we had alot of players playing in the top 5 leagues (which were England, Italy, Germany and a couple from Spain and Holland)

      I listened to Ron Smith talk at the PFA History Yesterday and he made some interesting points about how the league’s inception has had a negative effect on youth development since the Youth League got cut off and remerged in a modified format in 2008, and how a-league prior to recent times did not invest in youth development and the lack of pathways which meant some players left for overseas instead of staying here.

      And i think right now we are paying the price for it and Ron Smith explained it well with the lack of players playing there trade in the big leagues, of course there are external factors such as more globalised market but overall our talent pool has shrunk quite considerably since 2005.

      But you would think a more professional set up would help more as it means better players that could go to better leagues but it hasnt been the case unlike the NSL days who did it on a part time budget.

      But an interesting discussion overall.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 12:40pm
        Redondo said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report


        Do you think our talent pool has really shrunk? It could just be relative – maybe the 2006 bunch were outliers and this bunch are a reversion to the norm.

        I don’t know enough about the state of Australian junior football to know if the talent pool is likely to grow in the future. I watch underage games and see Aussies with better individual skills and playing better football than previous generations. But despite that, our underage teams have not been that successful recently.

        One thing I do know for sure is that several seasons sitting on the bench in a European league is no substitute for playing football in an arguably lesser league.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 1:27pm
          Lucas Gillard said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          I don’t have reams and reams of data to back this up but I’m inclined to agree with you Redondo that the 2006 crop were statistical outliers that all happened to come through together.

          Indeed there are good quality players being produced by this country, and a portion of them kick on both in this country and others – enough to put a half decent national team together. Personally I’m quite excited to see a national team with players like Hrustic in it (in due course).

          The development of players after they turn 18, let’s say, and enter the professional system is where the clouds get darker as the influence of the national set-up decreases. Obviously, as I state above (and cite Aaron Mooy as the example), playing in the A-League from age 20-25 is preferable to a reserves or under 23 set up elsewhere.

          But by 25 you will hit a ceiling in your development in Australia – in what you can achieve, in the type and quality of opposition. Some players find their niche in the A-League and are stay in it. Others try Europe and Asia (like Bozanic etc) and return. Those players will never form the nucleus of a successful National team (that is Schwarzer’s point).

          But if that 25 year old is ambitious and aspires to regular national team caps then he needs to raise his eyeline. Increase the speed of the play, reduce his time on the ball, find the angles narrower etc… and try to adjust to this new benchmark.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 1:57pm
            fadida said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

            Good comment Lucas

          • May 16th 2018 @ 2:16pm
            Redondo said | May 16th 2018 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

            Lucas – I reckon your last para is a good argument for a div 2 in Australia. Some of the young guys coming up from NPL to the A-League look like they missed a crucial step in their development.

            With a div 2 and an A-League salary cap triple its current level, good quality players from the 300 currently o/s might stay home longer. The best way to improve the A-League is by raising the standard of the local players. That would be far better than always trying to find cheap – but magic – marquees.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 2:42pm
            reuster75 said | May 16th 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

            Very valid points and raises a far bigger issue that doesn’t get talked about much and that’s the quality of Australian coaches. Much more so than players we need coaches plying their trade overseas in different leagues as this will have flow on effects in terms of player development. I really hope that Postecoglu succeeds in Japan as with the backing of the city group behind him it will open doors to top leagues in europe. Hopefully Popovic and Muscat can take advantage of their status as former club greats and get a chance at Crystal Palance and for example in the near future (although rumour has it Popa turned down an approach from Palace previously as he felt he wasn’t ready). The two European nations with the best track record in player development over the last decade or more are Germany and Spain, in large part because of their investment in coaching. You’ve got Klopp and Wagner who have done tremendous jobs at Liverpool and Huddersfield. Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim is in high demand. Bayern Munich have just appointed Niko Kovac after the job he did at Frankfurt. Spain has Benetiz doing a great job at Newcastle, Guardiola at Man City, Ernesto Valverde in charge at Barcelona, Javi Garcia has done well at Watford, Unia Emery had a lot of success with Sevilla. Even Italy have still got Conte, Allegri, Ancelotti and Sari having success. So Australia needs to massively invest in out coaching programs as well as our playing stocks if we want to improve.

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2018 @ 8:01pm
              Lucas Gillard said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:01pm | ! Report

              I agree with you a billion percent on this. It should be really troubling for the industry that so few Australians are working overseas and learning new methods.

              Guys like Okon and Muscat have connections overseas. Muscat has done about as much as he can with Victory. He should really be trying to take his game to England or elsewhere to pick up some new tricks and expertise

        • May 16th 2018 @ 10:27pm
          Barca4life said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

          I say as this we have less players plying in the big leagues once we had ago, we have a lot more juniors than we once had but the opportunities at the top has shrunk which has probably resulted as one of the main reasons for a small talent pool.

          I have a feeling the quality and the fact there are less opportunities is a probably the reason why I say this.

          But at the same as you said due to the changes at youth development or by more juniors playing football we seem to be producing better technically gifted youngsters especially from under 20 and it seems to be having an effect with the likes of Arzani in the Socceroo squad and McGree and Gersbach being involved.

          So hopefully in the next few years we see more coming through pushing the current guys but first there needs to be more opportunities to do so, that means more football first team opportunities.

          Apparently under the new crop Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory teens Dylan Pierias and Pierce Waring are on trail with Genoa and Corezo Osaka, now imagine if there were more professional opportunities how many more we could be developing…that’s why expansion and a second division is so important for fixing one of our youth development problems

      • May 16th 2018 @ 1:39pm
        reuster75 said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        In a fully professional salary capped league with restricted squad sizes the emphasis is going to be on no risk recruitment that favours signing someone like Liam Reddy (who has played for 6 a-league teams) over a younger riskier option. That’s not an excuse for the lack of investment in youth, just an explanation that highlights one part of the problem. I have heard Craig Foster and Mark Rudan among others talk about a lost generation of players that were just entering their prime development years as the NSL folded and the a-league began meaning a lot of them had to head overseas in an attempt to further develop as the a-league clubs didn’t do anything about youth development. Compounding that problem is a lack of available pathways in Australia given we only have 7 professional teams in Australia so opportunities are limited. The FFA has put all its eggs in the Socceroos basket over the years hoping that success there would solve all the game’s problems instead of focusing on youth and taking the big picture view.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 3:49pm
          Kris said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          The counter-argument is that kids are cheaper and you need some minimum wage players on the bottom of your list to generate the cap space to pay the stars. Arguably without a cap Atkinson and Azzani don’t get games at City.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 16th 2018 @ 2:17pm
        Waz said | May 16th 2018 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

        yeah but ….

        “how a-league prior to recent times did not invest in youth development” err, they weren’t allowed to! State Feds we’re supposed to get their SAP programs up and running blah blah blah …

        The “reset” of football in this country in the early 2000’s was pretty much across the board, it’s only ten years later that we’re seeing A League clubs invest because now they’re allowed to –

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