Shay Boyle: Developmental issues send more and more young domestic players abroad

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, 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.

Staff Writer
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Parramatta City FC: Celebrating 50 years and a place to truly call home

As a Club entrenched in history, Parramatta City FC has secured a double milestone in its future towards providing a football team for the region.

For many years, Parramatta City had no authentic home ground, having been based in the neighbouring suburb of Rydalmere.

However, coinciding with the half century of existence is the confirmed move to Old Saleyards Reserve in the suitably located heartland of North Parramatta.

Thanks to the individuals and committee members and their negotiations with City of Parramatta Council, the new fields bring a range of benefits – such as increased capacity for participation, improved facilities and enhanced community engagement.

Two of those committee members to turn the plans into reality are Club Secretary Lou Mantzos and President Angelo Aronis.

Having been at the Club since day one in 1974 from their junior days in numerous capacities, both are still heavily involved in driving future growth in participants in junior and senior level.

Mantzos described what it was like at Rydalmere and how the move across to Old Salesyards Reserve unfolded.

Training at Eric Primrose Reserve in Rydalmere.

“We had been at Rydalmere since 1981 and it’s an older area that is now growing with some new housing,” he told Soccerscene.

“However, the only way for us to survive long-term was being back in Parramatta, rather than competing with Rydalmere FC who are based up the road and with brand new facilities.

“The breakthrough occurred last year with executive general managers of council in the parks & recreation area.

“We had follow up meetings early this year and eventually our mission was accomplished in leasing Old Saleyards Reserve which is a nine-year-old facility.

“The fields are in excellent shape and rated as one of three A-grade grounds in the Parramatta precinct.

“We now have a dozen teams training and playing at the venue and once the junior rugby league moves across to Doyle Park nearby, we will be permanently based at our new home in 2025.”

The new home of Old Saleyards Reserve.

Similarly to all clubs involved in the negotiation process, challenges are always going to occur, whether it be due to capacity or financially.

Aronis shared his involvement at the Club alongside Mantzos during a difficult period.

“We came into it 4-5 years ago as a sub-committee, working on the new grounds and other issues involved in the Club,” he said to Soccerscene.

“The previous committees did their best in trying times, worked hard, kept the club afloat especially during the Covid pandemic but lost numerous teams during and post this period, and potentially other clubs had similar problems.

“It did make us realise that Rydalmere was not a growth area.

“For example, across Silverwater Road, Newington and Sydney Olympic Park precinct was thriving and nobody wanted to cross over and get to us which is essentially walking distance.

“The other side of Silverwater Road, which includes Wilson Park, now NSW cricket academy, was growing exponentially and the previous committees just weren’t able to attract the numbers we needed.”

The Covid-19 pandemic was not immune to Parramatta City, who needed to navigate through postponed games and seasons.

It presented the confronting reality that even a Club like Parramatta City could fold due to mounting hardship and pressure.

However, Aronis and Mantzos persevered and played a crucial role in keeping the Club afloat.

It was one initiative in particular that Mantzos believes changed the Club’s fortunes entirely.

“In September last year, after failed attempts due to Covid-19 lockdowns, we finally held a reunion game to bring back some familiar faces,” he said.

“It was Andrew Charlton (Federal MP for Parramatta) who assisted with funding for some new equipment and together helped bring many former players back to participate on the day.

“There was a collective buy-in from all participants – the former Parramatta City state league (a powerhouse during the 90’s) and all-age players paid $20 to enter as a way to raise funds and interest.

“We got 40 players on the day and the game attracted a lot of attention as people started talking about it and that was the reason why we did it – we wanted to get traction back rather than see a slow demise.

“We had a ‘Beyond 50’ push that really urged Club members to get behind us and do what they could to keep us around for the next 50 years.”

The reunion game welcomed many familiar faces.

The reunion proved a major hit, paving the way for long-term success in participation.

Aronis added what the overall impact was like post-event and a great indication of what we expect to see.

“We had two teams in 2023 as a band-aid solution, and if it stayed that way, we would have had no choice but in folding the Club,” he said.

“For this season, the number of teams is up at 12 and the reunion was one of the springboard we needed as we reached that figure without really trying.

“Now, we anticipate that we will double that figure by 2025 which would be a fantastic result.

“We were really proud of the efforts of all involved on reunion day and every bit that went into it was worth it.”

“In closing, I sincerely thank all those individuals and recent committees of this proud club for the contributions.”

Caroline Carnegie: “I don’t think there’s a reason why the game shouldn’t be a success”

Season 2023/24 has been crucial for Melbourne Victory as Managing Director Caroline Carnegie is guiding the Club in the right direction.

There was a tricky period for the organisation, but that has not slowed Victory both on and off the park, as the A-League Men’s and Women’s sides have both performed well in their respective campaigns, with the former bouncing back superbly.

Coupled with significant business partnerships and acquisitions, Victory is establishing a gameplan for long-term growth ahead of its 20th year of existence in 2025.

In this interview with Soccerscene, Carnegie discusses the A-Leagues landscape, the partnership deals Victory have made, tackling the infrastructure problem and maintaining the World Cup legacy.

How are things travelling with Melbourne Victory?

Caroline Carnegie: We’re heading in the right direction with both the men’s and women’s team doing very well.

There’s always going to be noise in different sports – with the Australian Professional League’s situation there’s no doubt we have a lot of work to do and room to grow, both from the league and Club.

Part of it is that despite being a world game, it just hasn’t taken off from a professional perspective in comparison to the participation.

That doesn’t happen in 30 seconds, so there’s a lot of work to get where we want to be as a code, and we all have got to contribute.

That includes every stakeholder that sits around it too and I totally understand that can be difficult to do if there’s no agreement in decisions or directions.

Ultimately, our number one to build our Club and code is to fill stadiums week in, week out and we can’t do that without passionate people who want to be part of it.

You say that the A-Leagues is still in its infancy stage, your thoughts?

Caroline Carnegie: We have a lot of work to do, but there’s so much potential.

I know people have heard that a lot and get tired of the same messaging, but there have been numerous phases from a regulation perspective that we all have to grow, adapt and move with.

Next season is our 20th season and that is super exciting, but the Club is still so young in context with what’s happening in other professional sports so that needs to be factored in.

You’ve acquired numerous partnerships in the past few months including Turkish Airlines, ASICS and Lite n’ Easy, your thoughts on acquiring and retaining them?

Caroline Carnegie: We work incredibly hard to retain our partners and proud of the quality and calibre of them such as Turkish Airlines.

We’ve got wonderful partners that have been with us on the journey such as La Ionica, KFC and Checkpoint that have been around for a very long time, among many others.

When we sat in a room and announced the Turkish Airlines deal, Prof. Ahmet Bolat was talking about flying 90-95 million people around the world next year – all of whom will have exposure to their partnerships, which is a massive win for us. It’s also a win for the football code to get exposure as well.

In addition, having 777 Partners as a strategic shareholder is important to us.

We have General Managers across the business who meet regularly to look at leveraging better opportunities across the network. There’s a good analytical group that really supplements what we can do.

It’s still early days with 777 Partners, but still a positive relationship so far.

Turkish Airlines are one of Victory’s major partners.

Infrastructure is an ongoing challenge for all clubs, how is Victory managing it?

Caroline Carnegie: It’s a big challenge. There are so many people that want to play our sport off the back of the men’s and women’s World Cups, but not enough pitches to play at.

It’s a constant challenge but not necessarily unique to us – we want to try and solve the infrastructure problem but the one good take out of it is the number of people wanting to engage in our sport.

There’s work to do for infrastructure and that comes from us as well – these things don’t happen in 30 seconds either.

You need to find the right place, they need to be funded and it’s hard to find green open spaces to the extent that we would like, but it’s an exciting journey with it being better than people not interested in our sport.

We’ve found that people such as in council are happy to work with us, but as we can imagine the number one priority for us may not be the number one problem that those people have to solve as well.

Whenever we have those discussions, there’s a myriad of stakeholders that each party must deal with.

There is an impetus towards football grounds, more so than 5-10 years ago and that’s really pleasing to see because that is what the community is asking for.

Victoria is multicultural and people come together from all different backgrounds, so all of those people have probably played football from where they’ve come from, not so much from domestic sport.

There’s no shortage of appetite to work with people, it’s just a shortage of time for everybody to have their priorities lined up.

Caroline Carnegie speaking with Craig Foster.

You’ve spoken about preventing a ‘sugar hit’ from the World Cups, how do we sustain the momentum?

Caroline Carnegie: I don’t think there’s a reason why the game shouldn’t be a success.

Because we have a lot of different layers when we all work together, all stakeholders and state/national bodies need to help each other build what we aim to do.

The number one factor is people – when they lose interest, then sponsors and broadcasters would do the same and has a massive flow on effect.

We need to work together to ensure that the product going out there is what people want to see. Watching the Socceroos and Matildas was amazing, but we need people to have their heroes from domestic competitions.

The kids that love the game off the back of the World Cup are not able to see their heroes if they don’t follow the A-League every week.

In an ideal world, they love it when they play for their team, but then for the country loving them plus others that galvanise the national sides.

Victory has set up the Female Development Fund, how has that been incorporated?

Caroline Carnegie: For our A-League Women matches, we have not charged patrons for entry this year.

What we did was create the Female Development Fund and what we ask people to do if inclined is to put their money into that for female programs only and for people to apply for grants to help with program development.

It’s a tricky one because it’s not that we don’t value the girls, but it’s because we didn’t want to have any barriers to people not jumping on the women’s game when we had such a successful World Cup tournament.

In the women’s space, it’s those things to make sure that people have greater access to games and that they can watch their heroes and want to aspire to be like them.

No tickets for games is a different approach, but we have a long-term view to keep people involved and engaged with the game, eliminating those barriers.

Caroline Carnegie congratulates goalkeeper Lydia Williams.

How has the move been to The Home of Matildas?

Caroline Carnegie: It has been really well received.

As with any stadium, it’s more convenient for some compared to others, but it’s the elite nature of the facility from both a training and playing perspective has been welcomed by the girls.

A couple of years ago we had a member forum and we had more double headers coming up – there were people concerned around that.

We were clear at the time that we wanted to do the right thing by our members but also for our players, because the more they play the more you want to watch them.

If you speak to any of the girls, the difference in terms of how elite they feel having the home base with the quality it presents is huge. We are really pleased with how it’s turned out.

It’s a mindset shift as well, as our female players are still semi-professional and need to do other things given the nature of how the league is structured.

In your role, what does the future look like?

Caroline Carnegie: Our partners and shareholders are crucial to what we do.

However, our members and fans are number one. We can’t fill stadiums without them, and the players don’t want empty seats.

We had a course that we provided content for around 12 months ago, where the Director of Football, Coach, Chairman and I came and did a presentation.

Somebody asked me what does success look like for you; Success is not one thing, it’s always football first, but we want to be successful across everything we do.

From a membership perspective it is not just numbers – it is engagement, people who want to be part of Victory and us doing the right thing by them; In a tough environment where they decide what to do with their money, we don’t get questioned because they feel that relationship and value.

Commercially, we want partners to feel like they get a lot out of the alignment with Victory through business.

People should say win trophies, but if you do that in an empty stadium then that’s not success.

We are continuing to evolve and having a member working group helps us understand and validate the decisions we make through feedback.

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