The tyranny of distance remains a challenge for many young Australian footballers looking for opportunities abroad, yet domestic developmental issues for talented teenagers like Shay Boyle also play a role.
Australian parents spend tens of thousands of dollars on academy and registration fees from a very young age; often over-estimating the talent their son or daughter possesses. They are tempted by fame and fortune and lured into the trappings of football professionalism, potentially unaware of just how difficult the road can be.
With obvious failings in Australia when it comes to development, it is highly likely that a significant percentage of our best young players are not fulfilling their enormous potential by remaining on local shores. That fact is causing more and more players to look and head abroad in search of the skills and knowledge required to be a top class professional.
There is a vast chasm between the talented Aussie youngster, seemingly with magic at their feet and the polished and experienced professionals in the lower leagues of European football. No doubt, our best young players can succeed if given the opportunity abroad, however, knowing the recruitment and scouting game is paramount. Parents with experience in it could potentially have much to share with those less versed in the idiosyncrasies of the system.
One man with plenty of experience and nous when it comes to such matters is James Boyle. A Scotsman, he immigrated to Australia in 2010 and in 2018 launched the Football Business Network; an organisation designed to forge connections between the football and corporate worlds, providing mutual benefit.
An astute coach, Boyle has experience at numerous Sydney based NPL clubs and will be working under Rydalmere FC head coach Gavin Rae in season 2020. He also has a talented young footballer for a son.
The eldest of his twins, Shay, has recently taken a leap of faith and ventured abroad; granted a spot at the Fleetwood Town FC International Football Academy. The club competes in England’s third tier, League One and stands a chance at promotion after some excellent recent form.
The academy aims to locate and enlist international talent oft dismissed in its domestic setting, something Shay has lived his entire footballing life thanks to his diminutive frame.
The young Boyle has found his football pot of gold with Fleetwood Town. After years of toil, disappointment and some success, a trial with Getafe FC’s youth academy and some interest from Scottish giants Celtic, led to a scout making contact with the Boyle’s in the land down under.
Fleetwood Town were interested and after viewing a professional and extensive YouTube clip that featured edited highlights from hours and hours of his play, Shay was offered a six month placement and flew to the northern hemisphere just before Christmas.
The senior Boyle to me expressed his undeniable belief in the importance of such a professional digital package being presented to prospective clubs. Mounting a compelling case for an international academy to take a punt on a young man from the other side of the world is a challenge, yet Shay’s presentation convinced Fleetwood Town that there was indeed something worth pursuing. The teenager’s professional journey has begun, albeit far from home.
Not a tall boy, Shay has battled against perceptions of physical weakness throughout his career. Year after year, the now 16-year-old was told that his skills were more than adequate, yet that the modern game accommodated few players of his stature. Footballers continue to improve as athletes and the thinking appears to be that potential at a young age is measured by frame size and not always the skills possessed by the athlete.
Boyle has been dogged by such opinions in the Australian domestic scene. Frustrated, his view is that his son may never have received such recognition in his adopted home, thanks to a valuing of size above skill.
It is undoubtedly true that more and more imposing men are taking up the game around the globe and the next generation will once again prove to be bigger and more powerful than the next. Yet for every menacing centre-back, there is a dexterous genius capable of embarrassing the taller and more cumbersome man.
Shay Boyle has always been that player. After watching the scouting clip, it is clear he is undoubtedly skilled and blessed with a football mind and spatial vision. James constantly used former Italian International Andrea Pirlo’s words, “Football is played with the mind and the feet are the tools” as he worked with Shay as a junior footballer.
That sentiment has been the cornerstone of his development as a player.
Socceroos and Olyroos coach Graham Arnold recently called for further investment in the national youth teams, also stating that he sees little being done to develop domestic talent. Whilst Boyle is now receiving the tuition and competition he requires to test himself, Australian football has lost another promising player and depth.
Boyle senior has set up a Facebook page to assist parents of Australian players and arm them with the knowledge required when it comes to pathways towards international academies and opportunities abroad.
Visit YSA – Youth Soccer Australia – Information and Agency on Facebook.com, follow the page and use the collective wisdom of coaches, administrators and parents to inform your knowledge of the sometimes confusing structures in professional football.