After just three rounds, Newcastle Jets young forward James Virgili has attracted plenty of attention, but his former coach says he has what it takes to become a top player.
After just three rounds, Newcastle Jets young forward James Virgili has already attracted plenty of attention, but his former coach says he has what it takes to become a top player.
Gary Phillips coached the 20-year-old during his time with the NSW Institue of Sport (NSWIS) and believes the Broadmeadow Magic product has all the attributes to become a real threat for the Jets - if he can stay focused.
“You could always tell James was a player of potential,” Phillips told footballaustralia.com.au.
“He had an incredible turn of speed but he was good with the ball at his feet and scored goals for fun.
“We played him wide at times but he-s also a good no.9. He was a bit shy, has a slight build but he was going to grow once he developed confidence and faith in his ability, and now he-s been given a chance and it-s up to him to maintain some consistency in his performances.”
Virgili-s performances against Sydney FC and Central Coast in the F3 derby last weekend alongside marquee man Emile Heskey have shown the attacker could be another gem in a Jets side already boasting some of fine young footballers, and Phillips said he could excel played ahead of the likes of Craig Goodwin and James Brown.
“Predominately I played him as a no.9 and he was always a player that looked to get in behind defenders and cause problems because of his pace.
“He-s got that mobility and potential but he-s also good on the left, because he can go past a player as we-ve seen but he-s also got a great drag so he can drag it across his body onto his left foot .
“Defensively obviously needs a lot of work but that-s his game, and it time that will improve but because he-s so quick he can recover very quickly.
“With Goodwin and him on either side they-ve got some real weapons up there sleeve. That seems to be the coaching trend - young, quick mobile players and the supply he-ll get from players like James Brown will be crucial.”
But starring performances mean extra attention both on and off the field, and Phillips admitted that how Virgili deals with that will be key to his development.
“The challenge for him now is teams will be wary of him so how will he deal with that extra attention? His pace will cause problems and he-ll continue to, provided he maintains some consistency. Hopefully his form continues, he-s certainly worked hard enough.
"He comes from a good family, he-s humble he-s got his feet on the ground, he comes from a football family. We talk about 10,000 hours or so for junior development and he-s well on the way; if he wasn-t training he was always out kicking a ball and you like to see those players that are prepared to work hard and have that desire.
"He-s been for trials overseas, I think with Rangers, and he-s played under Paul Okon for the Young Socceroos. James has worked hard and he-s a great example for other young players coming through the season.”