After a promising end to last season the big narrative driving Australian football heading into 2021 centred around its youth.
The discussion was never about this being a ‘now or never’ season for these players – the way it perhaps was for the competition – because while the talent had always been there, opportunities were few and far between.
Akin to the reaction WWE received when it put the world title on Daniel Bryan – the diehard section of A-League supporters have rejoiced at seeing younger faces not only on team-sheets but starting on a regular basis.
The vibrancy around the competition this season has largely been a result of these players showing the league what they’re capable of when given the freedom they had been deprived of.
Whether it’s been 16-year-old Mohammed Toure brushing away defenders to score the winning goal or Lachlan Rose becoming the A-League’s newest cult figure after a seamless jump from NPL2 into the professional ranks.
‘’When I would walk into the change rooms in the youth team three years ago to now to see a few of them playing in the A-League is fantastic,’’ Adelaide United midfielder Louis D’Arrigo told FNR.
Adelaide United has adopted a strong youth and local focus in 2021.
The Reds have fielded 12 players aged 23 or under this season, with seven of these youngsters starting in the club’s most recent match against Brisbane. Of this list includes Toure (16), Jonny Yull (15) and Yaya Dukuly, who only recently turned 18.
‘’There’s a lot of carpooling on the way training,’’ D’Arrigo said.
‘’You’ve got the head of directors sometimes coming to training and forcing the boys to get their school uniform and get them to school as soon as possible.
‘’It’s a lot of motivation coming to training you watch the older boys and you hope to play like them some day but you also see the young boys are pushing the older boys as well. The youth team train an hour before us and even they stay back to watch us.”
The 19-year-old alongside Joe Caletti, 22, make up the league’s youngest central midfield pairing and have more than held their own when up against the league’s best.
”Joe came on first day of pre-season into the rooms and ever since he’s come in we’ve had a good relationship on-and-off the pitch. We’re doing quite well at the moment and just have to keep going and he’s doing quite well himself.
”It’s been tough but also really good. We’re up against the best players on the opposition and those are the kind of guys who want to mark for instance [Alessandro] Diamanti or [Diego] Castro.’’
Castro will certainly be on the pair’s radar when the Reds host Perth Glory on Friday night.
This fixture has seen 5-3 thrillers in its last two meetings, with the Glory experiencing a significant shift in style post-Tony Popovic.
”The boys are keen to get out there and bounce back after the last game against them,’’ D’Arrigo said.
”I wouldn’t say it was a bad loss but it was a loss and everyone wants to get out there and redeem themselves. The main focus has been from our top end, we have to stop them moving out from the back forward so our pressure has been good from the start and make sure they don’t get it forward.”
Featured Image – Adelaide United FC