Perth aiming for Youth League glory

Perth Glory National Youth League coach Gareth Naven says he’s looking forward to a new season of challenges ahead of his team’s first match of the new campaign on Saturday against the AIS.

Perth Glory National Youth League coach Gareth Naven says he’s looking forward to a new season of challenges ahead of his team’s first match of the new campaign on Saturday against the AIS.

The Glory’s inaugural captain when the team entered the National Soccer League (NSL) in 1996, Naven has taken the competitiveness that was his hallmark as a player and applied it directly to his side.

Drilled in the same manner as the senior team, the Glory’s National Youth League side made the competition’s Grand Final in the 2009-10 season, although they ultimately lost at Etihad Stadium to Gold Coast United, the premiers for the last two seasons.

However, the team failed to take the next step last year and despite a 5-0 win over Melbourne Victory to start the campaign, they finished second last on the table as several squad members were either injured or promoted into a struggling senior side.

Naven, though, is keen to put all that behind him as he looks to build a new breed of Glory Youth team players over the next 18 games.

“From last year we’ve acquired a lot of NTC (National Training Camp) players to replace players who have sort of moved up from last year,” said Naven.

“There’s obviously other (first team) players who will get the opportunity to play for us if they’re coming back from injury or haven’t had game time yet, so that’s what the National Youth League does do, which is good for the first team.”

And, his goals for the new campaign are simple ones.

“Obviously to make improvements on last year’s results,” he said.

“We had 11 losses, six wins, two draws.”

“But also it’s about improving our ability on the football field and as a footballer individually as well.”

“So the technical side, the intelligence side and making decisions out there.”

“Obviously the players will want to win (but) we want to see progress as well, them as a person, them as a player.”

Although the Glory may not have secured the results they wanted towards the end of last year, Naven said he was proud the side maintained their competitive edge.

“That’s the positive thing about our Youth team, what we’ve created,” he said. “They’re always a very competitive squad.”

“Obviously with the Youth teams, not only our team but all the Hyundai A-League Youth teams, the consistency of getting the same team is a little bit unpredictable from week to week because of injuries, because of the need to make sure our first team players are getting game time as well.”

“But that’s part and parcel of having the Hyundai A-League team and the Youth team and it’s important that the style’s are similar as well.”

Naven, though, said he was a little disappointed there would be no finals this season, with the competition winner to be decided by who had the most points after 18 rounds.

“The year that we got in the final at Etihad Stadium, it was a nice little prize for the players at the end of the year, to play in that final,” he said.

“But at the same time, it’s first past the post, that’s not a bad way, it’s been around for a long time, so there’s no second chances.”

One of the players that helped Perth into that final was 20-year-old forward Reece Vittiglia.

Having endured a tough time in Italy over the last season, Vittiglia has returned to the Glory’s National Youth League side, saying he’s determined to pressure for a first-team position by season’s end.

“I went over to Europe to Rovigo and things didn’t work out the way I wanted to over there with things like payments and that,” Vittiglia said.

“The club was financially ill and couldn’t pay their players so it came to a stage where I didn’t just go over there to play football; I wanted to get paid as a player and that wasn’t happening.”

“There was a few clubs interested from seeing me at Rovigo. Piacenza was one of them in Serie B, and I went there ’cause it was only an hour’s train ride away.”

“So I went there and they were keen and unfortunately I got injured the second day I was there. It was a pretty serious back injury which resulted in me coming back.”

“I had to have three months of solid rest almost and rehabilitate slowly with core work and obviously gym work.”

“But the back’s fine now, I’m playing well and feeling well and just looking forward to this season and getting a good season under my belt.”

“Collectively as a team we want to do well because, as you know, if the team does well, people look at individual players in the team.”

“I want to do well for the Youth team and I want to push the senior players at the club.”

“If they’re under-performing I want to be the next player up and prove to Fergie (senior coach Ian Ferguson) that I’m capable of playing Hyundai A-League.”