Confidence a balancing act for Mitch

Mitch Langerak knows all about the danger of the word potential. Having been rated as an outstanding goalkeeping talent from such a young age, he has been loathe to let the confidence he takes onto the pitch creep into his approach to life off it.

Mitch Langerak knows all about the danger of the word potential. Having been rated as an outstanding goalkeeping talent from such a young age, he has been loathe to let the confidence he takes onto the pitch creep into his approach to life off it.

Coach Ernie Merrick, goalkeeping mentor Steve Mautone and captain Kevin Muscat have spoken in somewhat hushed tones about Langerak's potential since he joined the club a few years ago.

While the prime reason was to ensure that the precocious talent was given time to develop, there was also a sense of not wanting to advertise Langerak's skills to rival clubs too early.

But while Langerak has not sought attention, attention has sought him and a breakout performance in Melbourne's AFC Champions League match against Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night has blown the lid right off.

Langerak pulled off several world class saves, including a superb reflex effort in the final minute which helped Melbourne hold on for a 1-0 win which has revived its hopes of making the second round of the continental championship.

When you consider that most goalkeepers don't reach their peak until their 30s, for a 21-year-old to be performing like Langerak did on Wednesday is quite amazing.

Muscat was delighted with Langerak's efforts, but can't help but feel that perhaps that the young stopper's days at the club are numbered and bigger things await him in the near future.

"I think Steve Mautone said when Mitch first came to the club that he was the best keeper at that age that he's seen. He's certainly had to bide his time and he's certainly proven that now. It's going to be tough for the football club, because I'm sure other people are noticing his stocks as well," Muscat said.

While goalkeepers are often said to be a strange breed, Langerak defies the stereotype with a boy-next-door approach to his life off the field.

"Not only is he a good keeper, he's a very good kid willing to learn. He's got a very big future," Muscat said.

Langerak is starting to get noticed off the field as well and was recently nominated as one of the 50 most eligible bachelors according to CLEO magazine. That has earned him plenty of ribbing in the clubrooms, but the 192cm blond is enjoying his first taste of celebrity.

His focus remains on improving his game and performances like last Wednesday's won't hurt his profile on the field or off it.

"I was very happy with my own performance. I got a bit lucky. But we'll take it," he said.

While he was keen to deflect credit for the victory elsewhere, he admitted it was his best performance at the club.

"I'd like to think so. There's a few little things we'll look at that we'll try and do better. I'm very happy, and I'm happy to make a few saves and keep a clean sheet," he said.

He knows the importance of confidence in goalkeeping and thinks its something he can harness to improve his performances.

"Once you get going, you are in the groove of things. You feel very confident. You don't feel like you can get beaten. But you have to stay switched on and you just hope that everything is at a good height for a goalkeeper, and I think I got lucky (on Wednesday). There were a few shots straight at me. I'm very happy," he said.

While the offers might start to flow from football clubs and fashion magazines alike, Langerak, who sees himself as just a boy from country Queensland, feels he has got plenty of time to reach that potential.

He watched on this year as Michael Theoklitos, the man he learned so much from as an understudy at Melbourne, went to Norwich City and came back with his tail between his legs after one horrible game.

He said a few weeks back that it acts as a cautionary tale on how fickle the life of a keeper can be. This kid has not only got ability beyond his tender years, but wisdom as well. And that will serve him well as he looks to capitalise on what everyone else sees as his huge potential.