De Silva needs to be nurtured

It’s great for West Australian football to think that Danny De Silva might one day be snapped up by a big European club.

It-s great for West Australian football to think that Danny De Silva might one day be snapped up by a big European club. There-s no doubting his exceptional talent and it-s not surprising he-s been linked to an overseas move. But it-s been obvious during the early stages of the A-League season that, at just 16, he has a long way to go before he-s ready to make a move of that magnitude.

The work he still has to do was clearly evident when Perth Glory played Sydney FC recently. He's quick and exciting, but he's still a kid with a kid-s body. He's not battle hardened. In one challenge, he bounced off Brett Emerton, and moments later he was thrown to the floor by Richard Garcia. These are strong players, but are not renowned for their physical style of play. For me, these incidents highlighted that Danny, as he grows and learns, needs to be protected.

The coaching staff will have good reasons for how they use Danny, who has missed a couple of games through injury, but I-d like to see him playing a more central role where he can be better protected by Jacob Burns, Steven McGarry and Shane Smeltz. He definitely wouldn-t be as isolated as he is playing out wide, and would more quickly adapt to the role he needs to play to learn his trade.

Although he is diminutive, he has the attributes to be one of WA-s greatest ever footballers. Former coaches have described him as a hard-working team player, who is humble, has no ego, and who is exceptional from a technical and tactical perspective. One of the keys to his success will be how well he is shielded from the hype that greeted his debut. I've been at stadiums when others have played big games - such as Duncan Ferguson returning to Everton after being jailed in 1995 - and the reaction to Danny-s debut was up there. The noise went up a good few decibels, and you could sense the anticipation around the stadium.

But as it stands, that-s all it is - anticipation. We, in WA, are proud of Danny and it's easy for people to be carried away by the new kid on the block, who has already been described by some people as the next Harry Kewell. Add to that a million dollar price tag, and being linked to big clubs such as Barcelona or Everton, and the hype goes through the roof.

The reality is that while a club might be prepared to spend a million dollars or more on a hot prospect, it-s no different to a mining company prospecting to strike gold. If someone pays a million or more for Danny, and he reaches his potential, they will save tens of millions of dollars. If he doesn-t quite live up to expectation, a club will sell him and probably still recoup the initial investment. It-s great business, either way.

But while he is not yet ready to join the English Premier League, Primera Liga or Serie A, Danny has already come a long way. To some it might seem like he-s burst on to the scene, but he-s been firmly on the radar for a number of years.

When I first came back to Australia four years ago, Glory-s then assistant coach, Kenny Lowe (who is head of Football West-s National Training Centre) told me Danny was the best young talent on the horizon by some margin. I-ve followed his career since then, and am delighted that a fellow Kingsway Olympic boy has already made such an impact on WA football.

Danny, his advisors and family, have been clever so far. The decision to keep him in his hometown and sign for Perth Glory under the watchful eye of one of his mentors, Alistair Edwards, has been the teenager-s best call yet. There are already kids in school playgrounds pretending to be Danny during their lunchtime kickabout, and he has barely kicked a ball in anger for Glory.

In Perth, he also has coaches who have been aware of his strengths and weaknesses for a long time. Alistair Edwards and Gareth Naven have a vested interest in Danny, who obviously trusts the coaches and is comfortable in the training environment. My only hope is that football fans in Australia get to see this special talent realise its potential. For that to happen he must be allowed to be a kid and to grow into his role. Forget about Camp Nou or Old Trafford. The A-League and Perth Glory is the best place for him. For now.