Joe Palatsides and City's youth ready for the challenge of NPL Victoria

With the 2018/19 Y-League season now naught but a distant memory, the thoughts of Melbourne City’s Youth sides now turn, once again, to the crucible that is NPL Victoria.

City will enter sides in the senior, U20, U18 and U15 sides into Victorian competitions in 2019; with the seniors once again set to be led by highly credentialed Head Coach Joe Palatsides for their upcoming campaign.

Palatsides guided City to a respectable sixth position in the NPL2 Eastern Conference in 2018; his young side blooding a host of exciting young talent throughout the course of the season that City will likely reap the benefits of for many-a-year.

His side will begin their senior season this Saturday with a trip southeast in order to take on Langwarrin SC at Lawton Park Reserve, who finished eighth in the NPL2 East in 2018.

Led by former Newcastle Jets Head Coach Scott Miller, ‘Langy’ feature the likes of solid NPL talent Wayne Wallace, Roddy Covarrubias, David Stirton, Damir Stoilovic, Johnny Kuol and Jordan Templin within their ranks and present a stern first test for City’s youth.

“It’s a really good experience for them,” Palatsides said on his boys playing grown men in the NPL.

“I’ve stated before that it’s [NPL Victoria] a completely different competition to the Y-League.

“The Y-League is against our own age group and it’s a good test to see how our young boys compare to the best young talent around Australia so that’s always a valuable tool for us.

“But when we go into the NPL it’s usually a different style of play. It’s a lot more physical and it’s a great learning curve for our players because they play against men; and if we’re going prepare these boys for A-league they need to be able to play against men and do well against men.

“I’m expecting we’ll still play a good quality brand of football, which is what is always first and foremost in our mind but the physicality, being able to deal with 30-year-olds against 17-year-olds, that what’s we’ll be looking to step up with.

“That doesn’t mean to do things in an underhanded way at any point, it’s just about being able to be strong, outthink your opponent and really play some quick tempo, possession football where we can really work the opposition around the pitch so we can create a few chances.”

As well as established can’t-miss prospects in Moudi Najjar, Ramy Najjarine, James Delianov, Josh Cavallo, Connor Metcalfe and Dylan Pierias, City’s NPL squad in 2019 will be highlighted by a number of young standouts looking to push their name to the fore ahead of the 2019 U17 World Cup in Peru.

Luke Duzel, Jordan Bos, Josh Varga, Thomas Lambiris and Ahmad Taleb all featured for Head Coach Joey Morgan’s Joeys side that qualified for the U17 World Cup at the AFC U16 Championships in September of 2018, and they – alongside several other youngsters – will likely feature in South America later this year according to Palatsides.

“There’s quite a few to keep an eye on,” City’s NPL Head Coach said

“We’ve got seven or eight Joey candidates, we’ve already had a good representation throughout the Joeys squad with our Melbourne City boys.

“Luke Duzel is one of the Joeys that we think will do really well, as he did in the last tournament, as well as Josh Varga, Jordy Bos and Ahmad Taleb this year.

“We’ve recruited Tim Boke from Canberra and we expect him to do really well this year even though he’s just getting used to our system.

“On top of that we’ve got Idrus Abdulahi who will now qualify – he’s got residency – and I know that he’s been on the radar for the Joeys for quite a long time.

“We’re really excited about the young talent in our squad and we’re looking forward to seeing them develop in the NPL and then going on to the World Cup in Peru.

"I expect to lose quite a few for [The Joeys’ upcoming tournament in] Turkey.

“I don’t know exactly what Trevor’s got in his mind or the players that he wants to bring in but I would assume that at least four or five of our boys would be involved in the Turkey tournament coming up.”