A Family Affair

by John Davidson on Oct 01, 2012

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The Socceroos are set to become a family affair in the next five to 10 years.

In football, like other sports in Australia, talented players tend to have talented siblings and often, talented parents. Whether its nature or nurture, there remains a healthy trend of professional footballers who have produced children who go on to become professional footballers.

Not that just being the son or daughter of a great footballer is the fast track to becoming one yourself – just ask Edson Cholbi Nascimento, Pele’s son. It can be very difficult living up to the expectation and pressure that goes with being the offspring of a famous father. But having a father who can coach you on the finer qualities of the sport and help nagivate the perils of professional football, not to mention the obvious genetic gifts, is surely a benefit. So is having a brother or sister to practice with in the backyard, someone to train with hour after hour, to compete with and to push you on to new heights. Skilled athletes are not always developed in isolation but often in conjunction with a talented sibling.

Most recently it was Jason Davidson, the son of national team veteran Alan, who made his debut for the Socceroos against Scotland. The Davidsons became just the fourth father-son combination to have played for Australia, joining Cliff and Jason van Blerk, Alex and Lex Gibb, and Andy and Billy Henderson. They won’t be the last, surely, and that actually could change in the very near future.

Since returning from England in 2010 and joining the Mariners, Oliver Bozanic has cemented himself in the Mariners first XI. He has racked up 56 appearances in the past two years, made the left midfield position his own and caught the eye with some impressive performances. Bozanic, a NSW Institute of Sport graduate, has played for both the Young Socceroos and Olyroos in the past, and is the son of former Socceroo Vic Bozanic.

He spent some of his formative years in lower league English football, and received his first full senior international call up in 2009 for a friendly against Ireland. Bozanic didn’t get on the park in that match, and later was selected in a 50-man squad for the 2011 Asian Cup. Bozanic is still waiting for that elusive Socceroo cap but at 23 years of age, and with a good left foot, I’m betting he’ll get it one day.

Another father-son combination to keep an eye on is Ryan and Cameron Edwards, the sons of former Socceroo Alistair Edwards. Ryan is an 18-year old midfielder, currently with English Premier League club Reading FC, who was recently the only overseas-based player selected for the Young Socceroos for the AFF Under-19 Youth Championship. Both Ryan and his older brother Cameron, a 20 year-old formerly with Reading and Perth Glory who is now at the Nike Academy, clearly have talent. There is a reasonable chance either of them may make the step up to the Socceroos in the future.

Their father made 19 appearances for the Socceroos in a career that took him to Scotland, England, Singapore, Malaysia and around Australia. He is now FFA assistant technical director and the head coach of the Joeys. Ryan Edwards recently spoke to The World Game website about the help of his father: “It's great that he's been there and done that. He's been here in England and played for the Socceroos and is source of motivation for me to go on and try to achieve bigger and better things in my own career. He's always there if I need to talk about the football side of things and is just a massive support all round.”

The father-offspring combinations of course don’t stop there. Brisbane Roar coach Rado Vidosic was a professional footballer before moving into coaching, while his son Dario is a Socceroo and at the moment plying his trade for Adelaide United. Former NSL and A-League coach Branko Culina also played in the NSL, something both his sons have managed. Dean played for Sydney United, South Melbourne and Northern Spirit, as well as for the Olyroos. His brother Jason is a name known to all Aussie football fans – a member of the Socceroos ‘Golden Generation’ whose talents took him to great success in Holland’s Eredivisie. The list continues.

There have been plenty of brothers who have played for the national team as well – arguably none more successful than the Vidmars. Tony played 76 games for the Socceroos while Aurelio managed 44 matches and both were stalwarts. There were the Aloisis, John and Ross, another pair who were also products from Adelaide and fabulous servants to Australian football. And more recently there has been the Griffiths trio – twins Joel and Adam, and younger brother Ryan, who have all worn the green and gold. All three have enjoyed playing careers overseas and now Ryan and Adam are both back in the A-League while Joel continues his Chinese sojourn.

But it is two sets of Western Australian brothers that look set to shape our national team over the next decade. Rhys Williams is already an established Socceroo with 10 caps and the 24-year old would have picked up a lot more by now if it weren’t for injury. His younger brothers, the 18-year old twins Ryan and Aryn, may join him in the Socceroos set-up in the near future. Both are special players who moved to England at young ages and are marking their mark – Ryan with Fulham and Aryn at Burnley. All three Williams brothers are the products of a sporting family, with a father who played for QPR and England at youth level and a mother who represented Western Australia.

Then there are the Tombides boys. Joeys star Dylan might have already made his Socceroos debut or at least made it into an extended squad, despite only being 18, if he hadn’t battled testicular cancer over the past 18 months. But the texciting striker is on the road to recovery and recently made his EPL debut for West Ham. A forward who has been likened to Mark Viduka, Dylan could be the next young Aussie to take England by storm.

His young brother Taylor, a 16-year old also with West Ham, is not to be ignored either. Taylor is currently banging in goals for the Australia under-17 national team and is rated highly by many experts. And we cannot forget the McGowan brothers – the Hearts defenders who grew up in Adelaide. Ryan has already made the step up to the senior team while younger brother Dylan has made 28 appearances for the Young Socceroos.

Family seems to be the tie that binds in Australian right now. Whether it is a case of brothers-in-arms or like father like son, our national team may take on a distinct family look as it evolves following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.