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The Roar



With finals out of reach, Poppa should give Victory's youth a chance to shine

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Roar Guru
21st April, 2023

After another soul-crushing loss last weekend, Melbourne Victory was officially the first side eliminated from the finals race.

Many pundits and supporters had tipped the Victory to be regular season premiers or finals series champions. Fast forward several months and with two games to go, the four-time champions are fighting to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

When the season’s post mortem is performed, management, coaching staff and several underperforming players will all have questions asked.

The crosshairs must firmly be planted on coach Tony Popovic for his reluctance to blood younger players into his mature squad. In season 2022-23 his side rank third from bottom in minutes given to younger players, with just over 3800.

If we lower that age bracket to under 19s, Victory rank last in the competition with an alarming figure of only 374 minutes played.

Victoria has severely underperformed in recent years, when it comes to bringing younger talent through – with Victory a high-profile culprit.

Cross-town rivals Western United have the oldest squad in the league this year, but have made recent strides at improving their youth set-up, while Melbourne City have a current batch in NPL Victoria that look destined to become professional players in the coming year or two.


The pressure cooker of expectation will be turned up even further on the head of Victory’s academy set-up, Joe Palatsides, who also doubles up as the under-23s coach.

Former Socceroo Palatsides is well known for his time in the NSL, playing in Greece and recent stints in coaching positions with Melbourne City and the Singapore national side.

Palatsides was in charge of the youth team last season when they narrowly missed out on promotion and has once again injected more players – the side’s average age is 18, the youngest in the competition.

Both the under-23s and 21s sit imperiously top of their NPL 3 Victoria leagues – unbeaten, scoring goals for fun and hardly conceding any.

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

With the A-League season a complete write-off for Melbourne Victory, these last two matches should be a chance to see some of the up-and-coming talent that is being neglected at the club. Popovic’s side has struggled for goals, but they have a homegrown player itching to make a name for himself in Adem Duratovic.

Duratovic was the top scorer for the youth team last year, with nine goals and has found the goal trail again in the current campaign. The former Bentleigh Greens junior is a hard runner, who is a menace in the box with his movement, strength and aerial prowess.


Tommaso Minutoli has recently broken into the same squad after a superb 2022 season with the under 21s – scoring a mind-boggling 38 goals in 23 games. Minutoli has been a regular golden boot winner in juniors since under-12s and is a name to keep an eye on.

Jordi Valadon crossed over from Melbourne City and is the side’s top scorer and standout player this season, netting three goals in four games.

Combative midfielder Alex Menelaou and spritely goalkeeper Ahmed Taleb are also ex-City players who much is expected of – while Adriano Gannino and Josh Inserra have been excellent this NPL season.

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Melbourne Victory is a win-now side, they are used to always competing for trophies – in doing so, they have neglected youth development. The time is right to give the several mentioned teenagers above a chance to shine. We will never know how good they are at a professional level until they are blooded into the squad.

While this may seem like a pipedream with Poppa still in charge, murmurings of an off-season coaching change have left a group of disillusioned young players with hope again.


The A-League has always been a developmental league. It’s time for the bigger sides of the competition to follow suit – especially for Melbourne Victory, a team that has badly needed an injection of youth for a few seasons now.