Jumping the gap between youth and senior football is a challenge all players must face at some point of their career; Sydney FC’s development team jump this gap every weekend.
While recent results against their senior opposition have not gone their way, the Young Sky Blues are proving competitive beyond their years while finding continual benefit in their exposure to the most competitive level of men’s football in the country outside of the Hyundai A-League.
19-year-old captain Sam McIllhatton feels the NPL NSW Men’s top tier experience is serving his enthusiastic young side well, accelerating their development both as individuals and as a team.
“It is a learning curve for us,” explained McIllhatton.
“We enjoy it because it’s a new level for us, and each week brings a different challenge.
“It’s much more physical, so it’s made me adapt physically, and mentally as well.
“It’ll help us to be able to play in all moments, because currently we’re switching off in certain parts of the game and those moments are costing us.”
Coach Robbie Stanton is a firm believer that playing at this level is crucial for the progress of young players, which in turn drives Australia’s advancement as a footballing nation.
McIllhatton reads from the same page having witnessed the growth of his teammates under Stanton from the centre of the park each week.
“He got us from NPL 2 up to NPL and has won the NYL (National Youth League) a couple of times,” said McIllhatton.
“What I like about him is he is not only developing young players, but he is also very result driven as well, and that helps the team overall.
“Coxy (Jeremy Cox) got off to a good start with his finishing, but generally there is no individual standout performer.
“Everyone has to be on their game each week.”
McIllhatton faced his most seasoned opponents last July, featuring for Sydney FC’s senior team in a friendly against Arsenal.
The teenager came off the bench in front of over 80,000 spectators at Stadium Australia to face the 13-time English champions in their first visit to Australia in four decades.
“That was amazing,” reminisced the youngster.
“They’re simply on a different playing field.
“Australian football has a long way to catch up to be on their level.”
Next up the Young Sky Blues will be facing Marconi Stallions this Saturday, 3pm at Lambert Park, Leichhardt.
Sydney FC's night of nights the Sky Blue Ball in on Saturday 19 May at The Star, Sydney! Book your table now, or purchase gallery seating for only $25 and see your Sky Blue stars rewarded for all their achievements in 2017/18!