The Adelaide United Youth Squad is one to keep a close eye on as it is the breeding ground for the local stars of the future.
The Youth Team has completed stage one and two of the trial process. Stage one consisted of the coaching staff scouting at local games, and together with club nominated players, formulating a list of potential players. Stage two involved a trial process which included football sessions to assess their technical and tactical ability as well as testing their anaerobic and speed capabilities. Stage three starts this week and will consist of last year’s players as well as the newly identified players. Following more testing and trials, the squad will then be cut to 26 players.
The next two months will be rigorous as the coaching staff work towards cutting the numbers down to 16 eligible players, which is the maximum a club can sign at any one time. This means 14 outfield players and two goalkeepers.
“Unfortunately some players will miss out and we can only officially sign 16, but we can also select 8-10 to complete a squad of twenty-four as train on players," Youth Coach Michael Valkanis said.
The train on players are kept in the Adelaide United environment, which will enable them to be developed by the coaching staff.
These players are usually younger and not quite ready for the youth squad. An example of one such player that has successfully come through this system is Awer Mabil who started in the train on squad at age 15. By the end of the season he was given an opportunity to play as an injury replacement player. The following year he received a Youth League contract and has since landed a senior A-League contract.
“I was hungry to prove myself to the coaches and I wanted to always learn new skills. Even when I wasn’t at training I was in my backyard kicking the ball against the wall for hours,” Mabil said.
“I would talk to the coaches as much as possible because I knew they could teach me what I needed to learn.”
Valkanis added, “There is an upside to missing out on a contract because you are still part of the squad, you are training and developing in our environment and with the opportunity that you may get some game time in the NYL."
“We will be looking at players' ability - both tactical and technical - and then match this with their character traits, not to mention their desire to want to become a professional footballer and their winning mentality.”