Have Some Faith, There's Stars In The Making

by Ben Somerford on Jul 18, 2012

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Things seem rather gloomy for Australia's youth set-up given the Olyroos won't be competing in London later this month and our Under-19s side just copped a 5-0 hammering from Japan, but here's five prospects to give Aussie fans hope.

Mat Ryan
Age: 20, Position: Goalkeeper, Club: Central Coast
Amid all the doom and gloom about the next generation, this unassuming 20-year-old goalkeeper has landed a trial with Premier League club Tottenham after a written request from Andre Villas-Boas. This is on the back of him winning consecutive A-League Young Player of the Year awards, as well as a Joe Marston Medal as an 18-year-old and the competition's Goalkeeper of the Year honour a year later.

Yep, that's a pretty comprehensive list of achievements for a guy who is only 20. Nonetheless, there's not widespread excitement about the youngster, arguably due to an error or two or three in the A-League, but you wonder if he was picking up these awards abroad (and making the same errors abroad, where most of us wouldn't notice them) whether we'd be a bit more enthused about this prospect. I've had the pleasure of interviewing him too in person and he's got his head screwed on and you know he's learning all the time. Make no mistake, this guy is a massive prospect.

Luke DeVere
Age: 22, Position: Central defender, Club: Gyeongnam FC
DeVere's story may be a prime case of out of sight, out of mind. Before his move to Korea, when he was part of the all-conquering Brisbane Roar side, there were plenty of calls for him to be par tof the national team. The volume of those yelps has dimmed a lot since his move, however all reports from the Land of the Morning Calm are very positive about his progress.

In fact, there's reports he's about to leave Gyeongnam for a rival Asian club on big-money, in a sign of how well he's regarded in the region. I spoke with DeVere midway through last year and he was very articulate when he told me he was enjoying the challenge of facing agile opponents in Korea and what he was getting out of the experience. There's plenty to like about that. Holger Osieck seems to like him too, and it's only a matter of time before a Socceroos call-up equals a cap.

Mustafa Amini
Age: 19, Position: Central midfielder, Club: Borussia Dortmund
I'm a huge unashamed fan of the teenager who Dortmund fans now know as 'Pumuckl' for his likeness to a German children's cartoon character. Twelve months ago, there was huge excitement about this kid, but an underwhelming 2011-12 season where he appeared to stagnate has dulled the anticipation about his move to Germany, but it must be remembered a groin injury meant he missed all pre-season after the Under-20 World Cup and never really was able to catch up.

Amini is a player unlike many Aussie footballers, with his impressive technique, composure on the ball and understanding of the game. The teenager has a four-year contract with BVB (he spent the first on loan in Gosford) and hopefully they can craft those talents and help him achieve his potential. An impressive goal in a pre-season friendly last week offered a glimpse of his promise.

Tommy Oar
Age: 20, Position: Left winger, Club: FC Utrecht
When Oar moved to Utrecht as an 18-year-old, patience was always going to be required for the Southport flyer. However, a lot of Aussie fans seem to have been expecting an immediate impact and after two seasons in the Netherlands, there's a few people here and there writing him off. That's tough on a 20-year-old with as much talent as Tommy.

The reality is Oar has given occasional glimpses of his ability at Utrecht, but he's yet to mature to the point where he can consistently deliver. That's an ambiguous statement but when I spoke to Oar a few months ago he stated he needs to learn how to deal with specific defenders, opposition tactics, match situations and new team-mates. To expect this all to happen straight away (which arguably comes after some of the amazing stuff he produced in the A-League) is a bit over the top. Have patience, he'll come good.

Terry Antonis
Age: 18, Position: Attacking midfielder, Club: Sydney FC
When people like Alex Tobin and Tim Cahill heap praise on a kid, who know they've got some talent. A-League fans were able to see that talent first hand last season with Antonis impressing for the Sky Blues, particularly early in the season, before – as most youngsters do – he tapered off towards the end of the campaign.

Antonis has all the skills and football knowledge you need to succeed, but he's at a crossroads in his career, despite being still so young. Having been denied a move to Everton as a 14-year-old due to the Fifa rules, he publicly stated in February he's committed to Sydney FC for the next three years. Personally, I don't believe that's the best move for his career as he needs to be around top coaches and players to evolve into the player he can be. Antonis had a trial with Champions League-bound Borussia Moenchengladbach in April, although a move didn't materialise but perhaps showed him what a move abroad could do for him. We'll wait and see.