It's not about caps, it's about keeping in contact

by Ben Somerford on Sep 08, 2011

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Once again this week we've been greeted with a story about a young Aussie-born talent flirting with the possibility of representing another nation.

In recent times there's been a long list of Australia-born youngsters pondering this possibility, including Ersan Gulum, Rhys Williams, Shane Lowry, Dean Bouzanis, Bradden Inman and Adam Sarota.

Before them there were some more famous examples such as Josip Simunic, Anthony Seric and Joey Didulica.

Now, Perth talent Chris Herd is the player in question after a breakthrough Premier League appearance at Aston Villa where he was handed the man-of-the-match award in a 0-0 draw against Wolverhampton.

Scottish officials have allegedly showed interest in the 22-year-old, whose parents were born in old Caledonia, before Herd's agent Paul Williams made it all public in a thinly-veiled threat to the Socceroos set-up to give him a call.

"Like any Australian player, Chris wants to play for his country. It's where he was born and bred but the reality is that if they don't call him up, somebody else will,” Williams said.

"The ball is really in Australia's court but Scotland are definitely interested. They have been watching him closely. It would be great to see him represent Australia. That said, it honestly wouldn't surprise me if Scotland didn't try and call him up sooner rather than later."

Williams didn't really mince his words and it's hardly endearing stuff, but he does make a fair point. The Socceroos set-up cannot afford to drop the ball on Herd, nor any young Australia-born talent.

There's those who say if he's tempted by another nation, then it's good riddance to him, he's not true blue Aussie or whatever. But that's not a sensible way to look at the matter.

The reality is an approach from a national team set-up is a temptation, as essentially becoming an international player would boost an individual's profile. Subsequently it helps their career and potential earning power.

Often the only thing holding a player back from caving into that temptation is a desire to represent the country of his birth. That's natural and quite powerful.

However, as Gulum's example shows, a player can lose hope of that ever becoming a reality if there's a lack of contact or perhaps a perceived mistreatment of him.

On many internet forums this week I saw comments along the lines of “Cap him already”, but again it isn't about handing the guy a cap and locking him in for the green and gold. After all, we shouldn't just be handing out Socceroos caps willy-nilly, players must earn their stripes and take genuine pride in reaching the international level.

This whole debate is deeper than that. It's about how Football Federation Australia (FFA) and ultimately the Socceroos set-up handles these types of issues.

I'm a huge believer our young talent in Europe must constantly be monitored and contacted by those in the Australian youth set-ups and at the FFA. It's about making them know they are in the mix but also giving them feedback on what they need to do, to get into a Socceroos guernsey.

However, given so many of Australia's young stars are learning their trade so far away in Europe this can be difficult logistically but it is of paramount importance for the future of our national team.

I know for a fact young Newcastle talent Bradden Inman, who represented Scotland at youth level, has had little contact from the FFA or the national team set-up in recent times.

It's these types of examples which concern me. A system or a team of individuals needs to be put in place to take care of this situation and ensure Australia doesn't drop the ball on young talent emerging far away from home.