Adelaide United Youth Team Head Coach, Michael Valkanis, says his squad’s successful National Youth League campaign was a fantastic achievement, after becoming Conference A Premiers and Grand Finalists
After winning the NPL State League Championship in 2015, Valkanis and his team entered the National Youth League (NYL) full of momentum knowing anything was possible in a different type of set up as seen from previous years.
Going into the season with one of the youngest squads, Valkanis’ men finished first in Conference A, after only utilising one overage player throughout their nine domestic games, qualifying for the NYL Grand Final.
“Many have said that we are one of the oldest team’s which we are definitely not,” said Valkanis.
“But one of the greatest achievements which this team has been able make, as a ‘Youth Team’, is make the Grand Final using only one senior player.
“In comparison to a lot of other sides, who used many senior players in their respected conference, it’s a fantastic effort and a lot of credit should be given to an amazing bunch of young players.”
At the end of the season, the Young Reds finished three points clear of Melbourne City’s Youth Team. And throughout their season, that certainly wasn’t without ups and downs, Valkanis’ faith in his squad never shifted, regardless of the circumstance.
“Honestly, I knew after our match against Brisbane Roar that it was going to be very difficult and we had to work extremely hard both on and off the field to make sure our heads didn’t drop for the rest of the season” he explained.
“After that defeat we sat down to make sure that we continued on the path we started on because we had to make sure we were not going to head in the opposite direction.
“After the match, it was handled very well between players and staff and I think the bond that we created in the last 18 months had a lot to do with getting us back on track.
“There is a lot of respect, honesty, and love within our group, topped with great attitude and a desire to work hard that helped us override this massive hurdle.”
Valkanis also mentioned many people, in particular the staff and players of the Adelaide United Youth Team, who without them wouldn’t have made their journey possible.
“It has been great to work with our young talented future stars and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I must thank them for their efforts and commitment to work and learn to play the style, to win and get promoted from the State League including performing well in our NYL campaign. They have been fantastic.”
"It’s the staff’s passion for the environment; it’s the people’s love for the club and the work to provide an environment where the players developed but also enjoyed playing football our way that has played a large part in our success.”
“It was our duty as a coaching team to implement the style and to teach our young players our way of play. We saw this come to fruition through building the team over 18 months of hard work. Now there are foundations for the program to grow and prosper.”
“As the coach I’d like to say a special thanks to my coaching staff whom have been with me committed to the project from the very beginning, Angelo Costanzo and Robert Matosevic. But also others who have also worked tirelessly Lathan Byfield, Alex Townsley, Costa Kapnitsis, Robert Muscio, Remo Paris and Daniel Girardi.
“Overall it has been a fantastic journey. There have been lots of rewarding moments in seeing over 12 debutants in the Hyundai A-League and some proud moments where the team came together and played good football to win a championship.
“Though, there is a standard higher than merely winning a game or competition; the immense efforts of everyone involved is the ultimate measure of our success.”