As Australia celebrates the Socceroos qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the City Football Academy is already at work, developing the next generation of Socceroos for Qatar 2022 and beyond.
City’s Academy – under the guidance of Head of Academy and Y-League Head Coach Joe Palatsides – has worked tirelessly to produce good people first, as well as good footballers and this has translated into results, with two Championships in three seasons.
It is not only Championships the Club has produced but international representatives as well, with City contributing young guns James Delianov, Ramy Najjarine, Dylan Pierias, Denis Genreau, Joshua Cavallo, Daniel Arzani, John Roberts and Nathaniel Atkinson to Ufuk Talay’s Australia U19 Squad that recently took part in AFC U19 Championship Qualification in Vietnam and Luke Duzel, Ahmad Taleb and Nicholas Theodosiou to Peter Cklamovski’s squad for AFC U16 Championship Qualification.
This recognition from the FFA and their teams has pleased Palatsides, who is happy with the transformation that City’s youth setup has undergone in recent years.
“We’re really proud that there’s been a bit of recognition about our academy program,” Palatsides said.
“We’ve come a long way from the past, where we struggled with facilities, where we struggled with getting players to come aboard and join on, but I think over time they’ve [young players] realised what a great football program we’ve got.
“The facilities now are world class and they can see that the good, hard training and the methods that we put in place get acknowledged by the national team coaches.
“We’re now seeing these boys knocking on the door of Warren Joyce’s team and I think we’ll see a lot of them debut this year which is something to be really excited about.”
City’s academy players are based at the City Football Academy, Melbourne, also home of the Senior Men’s and Women’s teams, and have the opportunity to regularly rub shoulders with established professional such Tim Cahill, Bruno Fornaroli, Alanna Kennedy and Jess Fishlock.
Being based at the CFA also means that academy players not only have access to facilities widely regarded as the best of any football side in Australia, but also access to high level coaches, support staff and sports scientists.
High performing youth players will be often called up to train with the senior side, getting ‘called upstairs’ as Palatsides puts it.
It’s a setting that is difficult to replicate, and Palatsides has lauded the environment that he and his staff are able to develop their players in.
“In Australia, it’s [CFA Melbourne] number one without a doubt,” he said.
“That’s just talking to other people who have told me what they’ve got in place and when we speak to some of the other youth coaches and they tell us what they’ve got, where they train and how they train.
“So we know that we’re very, very high up in Australia – if not the best.
“We’ve had a few players that have trialled overseas in England, in some Championship clubs, and they’ve said that they don’t even come close to what we’ve got. So that’s quite impressive to hear.
“The way we’ve gone about it and what we’ve got in place, we’re very confident we’ve got the facilities and the resources to match a lot of clubs at the higher echelon of world football.
Recently, a number of City U16 academy players travelled to China to take part in the Suning Cup. During the tournament, players from the City academy clashed with players from the academies of European sides Inter Milan, RSC Anderlecht, 1. FC Köln and Red Star Belgrade.
City finished third in the tournament, defeating 1. FC Köln in a playoff for third in their final match of the Cup and Palatsides reflects fondly on the efforts of his players during the tournament.
“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long, long time and the opportunity came up this year and hopefully in the years ahead to bring a lot of our young teams across to the international tournaments,” he said.
“This was our first tournament and it was a way that we could test some of our 15/16-year-olds against the world’s best 15/16-year-olds.
“To get third place in a tournament behind Inter Milan and Anderlecht and beat 1. FC Köln in the playoff for third I think was an excellent result.
“It wasn’t even about the result, it was just about being proud of the way these boys performed knowing that, against the world’s best, they held their own”
City kick-off their 2017 Y-League campaign on Saturday against Brisbane Roar at CFA Melbourne, kick-off 3.30pm.