Mystery A-Leagues wonderkid ‘everyone will be talking about in two years’

Wellington Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano has hinted at an up and coming youngster in the club’s academy who will take the league by storm.

Italiano spoke to the media on Wednesday morning (NZT) after teenage striker Luke Supyk signed a three-year deal with the club’s senior team, becoming the latest academy product after Lukas Kelly-Heald, Fin Conchie and Isaac Hughes to put pen to paper.

The Wellington coach was asked if the younger players coming through the club suit the style of football he’s looking to implement this season, where he dropped a hint about a mystery youngster in the Phoenix academy to keep an eye on in the next few seasons.

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“The advantage I have now is because we’ve started so early, I can bring in these players at an early date, expose them to the environment and the ones that flourish, they need to show some consistency,” he said.

“I see things, because if they have speed, they have creativity, they have a bit of flair, whether they are good tactically, whether they adapt in the environment, they can handle themselves with the senior players.

“The answer is it allows me to pick who I think even at a younger age can be exposed to the environment and then have a higher chance of of flourishing.

“I mean, there’s one boy at the moment that we have, I think he might be 16, turning 17 and for me, I get excited when I see a player like that because I think if he’s in the environment for at least a year and he gets minutes in the A-League, everyone’s going to be talking about him in two years as the next big thing.

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“That’s the advantage of having this club philosophy and identity is that we can pull these players in at an early stage and give them that exposure and then we’re able to kick their career forward.”

While we cannot know for sure the identity of the player Italiano is referring to, there are only a handful of players in the club’s academy that seem to fit the bill.

Currently, the Phoenix reserve team boasts seven players who were selected in New Zealand’s Under-17 youth setup in 2023: Anaru Cassidy, Fletcher Pratt, Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues, Harrison Tisch, Jesper Edwards, Luke Flowerdew and Raphael Conway.

It is likely one of them is the player in question.

Despite the club confirming they wouldn’t be adding to their squad in an earlier media release, Italiano stated they could be looking at up to four more youngsters to sign scholarship deals.

“There’ll be potentially another attacking spot, looking at another fullback and then the other two players, potentially utility players that can play in the front line,” he said.

Wellington begin their season against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, October 22 at CommBank Stadium.