Young Aussies Feature: Melbourne Victory
We take a look at Melbourne Victory's stars of the future
Young Aussie: Melbourne Victory Melbourne Victory are known as the biggest club in the Hyundai A-League in terms of support and setup and their foundations are strong right the way through to the youth team. The club has a structured youth policy and draws from the community so that many of the future players for the club are Victorian through and through.
Their National Youth League side also has the benefit of some of the best facilities in the country which helps the players develop to their full potential. Couple that with passionate staff and you have a great setup to get the best from the young players.
Their situation is slightly different to most of the other clubs in terms of their NYL side as Football Federation Victoria looks after the youth setup so players only get first team contact when they-re invited to train with the senior squad. In terms of players looking to make it, there are several who look likely to have some impact this season.
However, Victory do have an extensive squad with strength in depth so it-s tough for players trying to make the step up. The NYL coach Mehmed Durakovic says his young players have to wait for their chance.
“They-ve got 2-3 years to make it but it is a big step up. They-re learning their trade well and Ernie (Merrick) wants to give them a chance but the seniors do have a big squad so they need to force their way in.”
Recently Diego Ferreira has just cemented his place in the first team squad after being a star in the NYL team. His phenomenal work rate and discipline mean that he should go on improving as he has done over the last couple of years. His attitude is second to none and he-s so far been involved in 10 matches before Christmas so he should be part of the push for the play-offs.
Petar Franjic is another name to look out for and he-s currently knocking on the door of the first team squad, waiting for his chance to step up. His coaches say the big centre back-s learning so much from the senior team members such as Muscat and co. It-s hoped he-ll eventually replace the current crop and be a Victory player for years to come. The passionate head youth team coach feels he has a great set of youngsters vying for a spot in the first team squad.
“The kids here have come on so much in the last year. They-re all making the most of the facilities we-ve got here and players such as Matthew Foschini in particular have come on leaps and bounds.”
Another recruit from the Melbourne Victory Youth team, Foschini was a standout in the NYL inaugural season and became the second player from the side to graduate to the senior squad behind Mathew Theodore.
The young Victorian, who is the son of former St Kilda and Sydney Aussie rules player Silvio Foschini, was part of the club's 2009 tour of China and Grand Final rematch against Adelaide United in Launceston.
Other NYL squad members who are a bit further off making the first team include Mattei, Pilkington, O-Dea and Ansell. Seb Mattei could be either the first or last to get his chance, as he-s the reserve ‘keeper for the first team. Youth coach Durakovic says “he-ll get his chance if he-s patient. He-ll be ready if he-s needed.”
Another promising central defender is 17-year old Nick Ansell who has already played in the Australian U17 team. Described by his peers as a man mountain, he currently trains with the seniors and could be another first team regular in the future if he continues his current progression. In terms of promising attacking players, the two Lukes, Pilkington and O-Dea definitely stand out. Pilkington made his name on the reality TV show Football Superstar and was offered a contract for the Victory off the back of that. He-s steadily improved since his television showing but an injury has hampered his progress somewhat, so it-ll be interesting to see how he comes back.
O'Dea is a “striker for the future” according to the head coach. His natural instinct in front of goal makes him a real bonus to have in the team at youth level and he-s definitely one to keep an eye on as he pushes for a place in the senior team.
The Melbourne Victory setup is known in Australian football to be something of a benchmark and NYL head coach Mehmed Durakovic can-t speak highly enough of the professionalism at the club-s set-up.
“We-ve got a wonderful program for them to learn their trade. Hopefully for years to come we-ll be bringing on major players for future Victory teams. We can do so much with them here, these kids can learn everything from start to finish about football.”
“They work on strength, sports science, nutrition, everything! We do things properly, spending time and effort to make them the best they can be. It-s world class the facility here, like being in Europe.”
With coaches like Durakovic in charge and the facilities on offer at Melbourne Victory, don-t be surprised to see a continuation of impressive home-grown players coming from the youth set-up.
The advanced Victory model from top to bottom in the club is a real positive aspect in Australian football and something other clubs could learn a great deal from and it-s positive for both club and country in producing such players.