Adelaide United has arguably the best combination of international players in the league, but what most people may not realise is the amount of focus Josep Gombau has stressed on developing young local players.
Adelaide United is not foreign to coaches wanting to develop local players. But the difference now is the club has someone who holds this same passion, but with greater experience in developing young squads for the future. Answering the critics who say you need a local to hold that same passion.
There is no denying Gombau’s experience with youth, as shown in his previous role at FC Barcelona. Now Adelaide United and local talent are benefitting from his appointment as Head Coach. There are currently sixteen players who have grown up in South Australia that are involved with the Hyundai A-League squad but this is a small number in Gombau’s mind. Along with Michael Marrone, Osama Malik, Awer Mabil, Paul Izzo, Jordan Elsey, Mark Ochieng, Ben Warland, Dylan Smith, John Hall and the recently signed Dylan McGowan, Gombau acknowledges and promotes that there should be much more local talent within the squad.
Awer Mabil is affectionately the supporters’ favourite young son, and there is no denying who his success can be attributed to this season.
“Representing my state by playing for Adelaide United means a lot to me,” said the 18-year old.
“To be given this opportunity to play in this current environment, I know I will only grow and develop.
“What helped me was my development coming through the Youth Team and now into the Hyundai A-League, preparing me for the next step.”
All SA players that are currently involved with the club have come through the Youth Team ranks, besides three who were part of the AIS, Mark Ochieng, Dylan Smith and Benjamin Warland. This signifies Adelaide United’s intent to hold onto the State’s best talent. Before they were able to join the Hyundai A-League squad, they trained for a while with the Youth Team, where they could learn the fundamentals of the style and philosophy, under the guidance of Youth Team Coaches Michael Valkanis and Angelo Costanzo.
Dylan Smith, who was at the Reds’ first ever training session held back in 2003, has been given the opportunity to play for his childhood club. Signing a 2-year contract, the 18-year old’s next step is to break into the first team.
“As soon as Adelaide came to me, I knew straight away what I wanted to do – play for the club,” said Smith.
“I have always been a fan and went to all the games, hoping one day I would be in red. I now have that opportunity and I want to make sure I do whatever it takes to make it happen.
“For the last couple of years I’ve watched Vidosic closely, (who played in the same position) and now to be able to watch, train and play with the likes of Carrusca, I can hopefully follow in their footsteps.”
After signing for the club, Gombau showed faith in Assistant Coach, Michael Valkanis, acknowledging his understanding of what Adelaide needs. Valkanis, along with the Team of the Decade defender, Angelo Costanzo, have taken the Youth Team and implemented the same style and philosophy of that of Gombau. This has led to the development of Youth Team players making the next step – A-League football namely, Bruce Kamau, Anthony Costa and Nathan Konstandopoulos have all been a part of the squad.
Train-on player one year and then Hyundai A-League debutant the next, Nathan Konstandopoulos knows what it takes to make the next step.
“Playing in the Youth Team no doubt gave me amazing opportunities. The nature in which Micky (Valkanis) and Ange (Costanzo) run drills allows you to achieve in the first team. You know the drills, you know the style, and you know the job that needs to be done. The transition is much easier and certainly wouldn’t be as achievable without being a part of the Youth Team,” said the 17-year old midfielder.
“When making my debut I wasn’t nervous, I was just excited, I couldn’t wait to show them what I could do.
“I have never had a coach like Josep. What I have learnt from him, the way in which he creates an environment around the club is just fantastic.
“I’ve been supporting Adelaide United ever since they were established 10 years ago, to play for them is a real honour and privilege.”
And the next group of South Australians returned from developing their trade in Spain by participating at the International Cup 2014 (MIC) tournament held in the Catalonia region earlier this year. Adelaide United’s participation in this tournament along with previous Youth Team trips to China to play in the prestigious Weifang Cup tournaments, confirms its commitment to providing a strong development program for the best young South Australian players including competitions against the best youth players around the world.
With the new season around the corner, Gombau is working towards the development of the next local talent. The club has already put a youth program in place, which has helped guide and train these younger players over the winter. This program will teach the style and philosophy of Adelaide United, with the opportunity of being selected for the Foxtel National Youth League 2014/15 season.
Passionate. One word for Gombau, the reason he has created so much buzz because his passion does not stop at the Hyundai A-League squad, it filters through to local coaches, and young players. Gombau with the club’s backing is all about promoting the youth of South Australia.
Sixteen players from South Australia are now involved with the Hyundai A-League squad: