Gombau’s SA talent drive hailed by ex Red

Former Adelaide United winger Lucas Pantelis has hailed the Reds’ recommitment to South Australian talent as the club aims to end their Hyundai A-League silverware drought.

Under coach Josep Gombau, Adelaide’s recruitment ahead of the 2014-15 season has had a clearly South Australian flavour with Craig Goodwin and Dylan McGowan returning to their home state alongside Victorian James Jeggo and Spaniard Pablo Sanchez.

With Goodwin and McGowan now on the books, Gombau has 17 South Australians in his squad and Pantelis is convinced the Reds will be stronger by focusing on developing local talent.

“If you can build a team with predominantly home-grown talent – A, you can sell them off and make money as a club, and B, you can have players…players who come from the home town generally give that little bit extra,” the Adelaide-born former attacking midfielder told Goal.com. 

“Because you’re playing in front of friends and family every single week, you generally give that little bit extra and the club means that little bit more to you.

“You look in Europe, it’s exactly the same. You look at Steven Gerrard – he’s had numerous chances to move away from Liverpool but he’s decided not to because that’s his club.

“He was born and bred Liverpool and he can’t see himself playing anywhere else. And that’s a culture that you want to try and create here at Adelaide United, to create that culture where players don’t want to leave.

“Yes, they might get more money elsewhere but if the culture’s that good and that strong then they don’t want to leave.”

The Reds have not won a Hyundai A-League trophy since they claimed the Premiership in the inaugural season of 2005-06 when 14 of their 20-man squad were born in South Australia, while another four had spent most of their playing career in Adelaide.

“We just kind of had that family bond, I guess, cause we were all from Adelaide,” Pantelis said.

During the tenures of John Kosmina and Aurelio Vidmar, Adelaide won a premiership and made two grand finals – losing both – in the first four seasons of the Hyundai A-League.

They also played in the 2008 AFC Champions League final, and remain the only Australian club to have reached the continental decider.

Since then, Adelaide’s best finish was third in 2010-11 before being eliminated before the grand final.

Pantelis is thrilled to see his local club returning to its roots.

“I think Adelaide has a lot of talent in terms of players and I’m really happy that Josep Gombau is putting the time and effort into searching [for] and creating a programme for these players,” he said.

“I think once Aurelio Vidmar left [as coach] that era of the Adelaide boys kind of deteriorated.

“When Rini Coolen came in [as coach]…I had left, Travis [Dodd] had left, there was only like two or three players from Adelaide.”

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