Perth Glory’s future had a brief encounter with its present at McGillivray Oval yesterday when around 100 members of the A-League club’s development squad watched the first team in action.
The youngsters, aged between seven and 11, appeared more interested in meeting their heroes after the session than listening to the instructions barked to the senior players by coach Ian Ferguson and his assistant Stuart Munro.
But former Glory midfielder, Michael Garcia, who is a senior Summer Development Program coach, said the annual training visit was an important part of the program.
“These guys are all aspiring to become football players, so naturally seeing the first team guys do their thing is important,” said Garcia, whose younger brother Richard plays for Melbourne Heart. “They can see what the players are doing in a training environment.
“They’ll probably only take in a few minutes of what they see. But that’s OK. It’s more about exposing them to the elite environment and physically showing them that they could be on that park as well. So, it doesn’t seem like a dream; they can see it right in front of them.”
Although the SDP players have been drawn from Football West-run competitions, the program does not interfere with club commitments as it runs between the local junior league seasons.
The program, in only its second year, was implemented by Glory’s community and development manager Callum Salmon.
At the senior level, Glory have been criticised for overlooking local talent, particularly after the departure of Australian youth international Jesse Makarounas to Melbourne Victory recently. And while it is likely to be many years before the SDP produces a first-team player, Garcia said the program’s value was already evident.
“After about the first three months of the program you could start seeing the players come on,” he said.
“The kids are improving naturally but being in a competitive environment creates more rapid development.“The aim is to try to get players involved from seven or eight years old and try to build them up all the way through to the first team.”