We've almost reached the halfway mark of the season for most sides at UWANFC and we're pleased to say that a number of our junior sides are enjoying outstanding campaigns.
The U15's, coached by Vinny Kapur, currently sit top of the league, as do the U18's, while the U16's are currently in second place on equal points with league leaders Wembley Downs, but have a game in hand.
With the Skills Acquisition Program in full force and a number of invitations from European clubs being sent to a number of players at the club, the development and nurturing of talent is looking bright according to Gerhard Janssen, our Technical Director of Football and Head Coach of the U18's and U16’s.
UWA: Our U15's, U16's and U18's have been in in fine form so far this season, what have you made of their progress?
Gerhard Janssen: The U15’s are coached by Vinny Kapur and he’s had this group for the last three years, so they have a great understanding of each other. The side are currently on a nine- win streak having made finals last season and are on double the points as the team below them as they sit nicely on top of the league.
More importantly their style of play and structure is very similar to that of the First Team. They play a lot of possession football with plenty of passing in midfield, they aren’t afraid to play it back and refresh the play, which is very mature for their age. They pass the ball around exceptionally and have been able to come out on top of a number of close encounters this season, so it’s been great to watch.
The U16’s are also enjoying a great season as they sit in 2nd place with a game in hand and have only lost once so far this season. Their group is very difficult with Wembley Downs and Perth SC a real force in the competition, especially the latter who have been able to hold on to all the players that didn’t make their NPL squad.
We have a lot of quality in the 18’s and that’s been represented in the results this season. The team currently sits six points clear at the top of the league. We have 22 players in the squad, so each week they are vying for a position in the match day team so there’s plenty of competition, which has been paying dividends so far. We have three players in Tim Rossi, Jonah Madeira and Joshua Rodrigo who can definitely push for a spot in the First Team in the future.
UWA: The Skills Acquisition Program has been running this season, what can you tell us about it and what you hope to achieve with?
GJ: This is a club-related program, it’s not a private academy, that just wants to make children happy, this is game-related extra training. It is run by our First Team coach Michael Janssen. We offer the age group an optional third session per week, which I think is essential for football development at that age. It’s a German-inspired system where we bring more year groups together to train together. I think it’s important to have an A and a B team because they know if they don’t perform one week in the top team, then they can still play and earn their spot back by playing in the B team. This is much different to the NPL structure, where when you pay for a spot they can’t send you to their Division 1 side even if you aren’t getting any game time.
Vertical movement between the year groups and horizontal movement between the A. B and C teams is essential and it’s building responsibility, as well as personality for the players. It’s all dependent on what the player is delivering on the pitch week in, week out.
Sessions are extended by half an hour to allow Michael to coach the junior coaches on what to train them on, how to implement and especially how to evaluate. This is something I think we do well with the juniors. I receive reports every week from coaches and we have a discussion about how we think players can progress, for example a 14’s player moving up to the 15’s and so on.
UWA: The progress of the teams, and in particular individual players, hasn't gone unnoticed, with a few players receiving formal invitations to German Academies. Which players have been identified and which clubs will they be training with?
GJ: There is Oscar Berry (Schalke and Bayern Leverkusen), Karl Maluga (re-invited to RW Oberhausen), Jonah Madeira (next year will go to Wolfsburg and Eintracht Braunschweig) and former First Team player Ezekiel McPherson is heading to Cologne in a few weeks time.
These players have been directly invited, rather than paying to be in the academy, which means the clubs have looked at them and see some real talent.
All of those boys will return to Perth to continue to play for UWA and finish school, which of course is very important. They have the chance to take the higher intensity of the Bundesliga academies back to the training track at UWA and show to the rest of the squad that you can play at match intensity for the entire session, not just for periods of training.
Tom White was invited to the Boca Juniors Academy, he has the quality to go to Europe, but has school commitments to focus on right now.
The point from our perspective is to help ensure their attitude suits professional football. For us it’s 50% about football and movement and then 50% personality if you want to make it to the elite level. We nurture that professional attitude and bring these players into leadership positions and this spreads to the rest of the players in their teams, which is what teams see when these quality youngsters go to Germany.