Sydney young gun Blackwood heeding words of wisdom

George Blackwood said he was blessed to be able to count on a band of seven key advisers among teammates and coaching staff at Sydney FC who were helping to steer him through the rookie stage of his A-League career.

George Blackwood

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The 18-year-old striker, who made his A-League debut at 17, told The World Game that very experienced figures at the glamour club had gone out of their way to give him valuable advice and make the inevitably bumpy road for a young player like him a bit smoother.

"It's good to be at a big club when you're a young player like me," Blackwood said. "You've always got big names around, players who have played in Europe, and the players at our club are very helpful to the young boys.

"They give us a lot of advice and with a coach like 'Arnie' (Graham Arnold), who likes to give the young players a chance, I've been given an opportunity in the first team and as a result I'm full of confidence.

"I've got a lot of people behind me, backing me. I can bounce ideas off people like Shane Smeltz, Matt Simon and also the players who have come from overseas, players like Filip Holosko and Milos Ninkvic, and Milos Dimitrijevic as well, so it's great.

"I feel comfortable about approaching the senior guys and a lot of the time they just come up to me and offer advice. They say 'maybe in this situation you could try this', or 'you're a good player, but you've got to work on this area of your game', or something like that.

"Steve Corica (Arnold's assistant) has been really good to me as well. He was the youth team coach last year at Sydney, so he prepared me to go up into the first team. He's been a really big help. I've got a lot of really good people helping me."

Arnold is renowned for identifying young talent and then bringing those players through quickly. When he was coaching Central Coast Mariners, he helped players like Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury and Mustafa Amini establish themselves in the A-League before they got contracts in Europe.

Blackwood said Arnold was having a tremendously positive influence on him as well.

"Arnie was a striker when he played and he was a very well-established player, so that also gives me, as a striker, an extra edge with all the advice he gives me," he said. "It's good that I've been given the chance now and hopefully I can repay him with some goals soon."

Blackwood said that when he first came into the senior squad he was shy and didn't say much, but that his more experienced teammates had helped bring him out of his shell.

"I was very shy at the start," he said. "I was in the youth squad last season and I trained for about two or three weeks with them and played a youth trial match and then the next weekend I was starting against Melbourne City (in the A-League).

"I didn't know anyone and I think that showed. I was very shy and didn't really shout for the ball when I was on the field and my performance reflected that I hadn't been in and around the team for long. But once I get to know everyone I'm a bit of a loud character.

"Being 17 and coming into the first team was very intimidating, but after a while I was fine because the senior guys were so good at making me feel a real part of the team. I've got a lot of really good mates now at Sydney FC."

Asked to nominate the best advice anyone had given him, Blackwood replied: "I think, being a striker, with finishing you tend to over-think things, 'Bimbi' (Corica) and Arnie always tell me to just pass it into the corner and that's a really good piece of advice for a young player.

"You get in one-one-one situations with the goalkeeper and your eyes bulge. You see your name up in lights. But you've got to remain composed and finish things off calmly and that's one of the things I'm concentrating on getting better at."

Blackwood is hoping to continue his development when Sydney FC play Newcastle Jets at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

"I'm feeling good," he said. "I think I've played pretty well the last couple of weeks. I've been used at striker or out wide as well and I feel comfortable either way. I just need to find that final product, but it'll come.

"It's working at training, so I think it's just a matter of time before I start banging in the goals, but I pride myself on working for the team above everything else. My mum always tells me that setting up a goal is just as good as scoring one."

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5 min read
Published 7 January 2016 at 1:58pm
By Greg Prichard