Where is the next Maty Ryan coming from?

COMMENT: The future of Australia's goalkeeping stocks looks rather grim if the number of veteran custodians that are dominating the A-League is anything to go by.


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Australia used to be a consistent producer of quality goalkeepers but the alarm bells are ringing loudly as the current league competition draws to a close.

You don't have to go back too many years to recall the names of some great goalkeepers who have worn the Socceroos' No 1 jersey with distinction.

Terry Greedy, Robert Zabica, Mark Bosnich, Zeljko Kalac, Mark Schwarzer and now Mathew Ryan have distinguished themselves on the international stage and enhanced Australia's reputation as a breeding ground of top class goalkeepers.

You have to be mad to be a goalkeeper, they say. Being an Aussie helps, too, apparently.

The Socceroos are fortunate to be in a situation where they can avail themselves of young Ryan for a number of years to come.

Ryan, who plays in Spain's La Liga for Valencia, is seen as a natural talent with a fierce determination to match and he will get even better when he nails down a starting spot at the Mestalla stadium.

The problem is there are not many alternatives emerging from the A-League.

The six teams and their regular goalkeepers that made the finals are a case in point.

They are: Adelaide United, Eugene Galekovic (34); Western Sydney Wanderers, Liam Reddy (34); Brisbane Roar, Jamie Young (30); Melbourne City, Thomas Sorensen (39); Perth Glory, Ante Covic (40); Melbourne Victory, Danny Vukovic (31).

The only exception is Victory's Vukovic, who lost his place to Lawrence Thomas in the latter stages of the season and the young man fared impressively when given the opportunity.

The other goalkeepers are no spring chickens and although they are playing on merit they also may be depriving young custodians from gaining valuable game time.

The reason these veteran goalkeepers are not challenged for their position is because there are not enough young players coming through.
It is easy to understand why - the national youth league is not providing clubs with enough personnel who are strong enough to step into first-team calculations due no doubt to the disadvantages of a short season.

Sydney played only nine games to be crowned youth champions. This is ridiculous.

The prevalence of veterans in the A-League is another sign that young alternatives are drying up all over the park, not just in the goalkeeper areas.

The Wanderers are the oldest team with six regular starters over 30 years of age. They are Liam Reddy, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Alberto, Andreu, Dimas Delgado and Romeo Castelen.

Brisbane have six players aged 30 or more (Young, Corona, Henrique, Thomas Broich, Jade North and Matt McKay) while Adelaide have five (Galekovic, Iacopo La Rocca, Marcelo Carrusca, Pablo Sanchez and Sergio Cirio).

On a broader scale across the league, with so many regular spots being taken up by foreigners, where will all this leave the national team in the next few years?

Admittedly, many bigger and more established football countries have a similar problem but somehow they manage to get around it.

Is Australian football strong enough to survive? I'm not so sure.

Most leagues have two or three divisions with between 14 and 20 teams in each so in Australia's little league there exists only a limited pathway for our young players to show what they can do, assuming they are good enough to make the A-League.

So they need to go abroad at 18, often with disappointing results.

Needless to say, they are encouraged to do so by their agents who have too few young players and therefore too few opportunities to make money in such a small league.

A-League clubs are allowed five visa players on their roster so if they are used simultaneously only half of the outfield players on show every weekend are Australian and eligible to play for the Socceroos.

Clearly this is unsatisfactory, particularly when you consider the short A-League season with its maximum of 30 matches a year.

Who knows, perhaps an idea might be to let clubs have their five foreigners but forbid them from using more than three at the same time.

That way a healthy 70 per cent of Aussie players would be on show on any given weekend instead of just 50 per cent as it can be now. It's a significant difference.

Putting it simply, there are too many foreigners in Australia ... and some of them are not that good.

Actually, some of them are no good at all, to be honest.

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4 min read
Published 21 April 2016 at 4:37pm
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS